Author(s): Shilyh Warren
Revolutionary thinking around gender and race merged with new film technologies to usher in a wave of women's documentaries in the 1970s. Driven by the various promises of second-wave feminism, activist filmmakers believed authentic stories about women would bring more people into an imminent revolution. Yet their films soon faded into obscurity. Shilyh Warren reopens this understudied period and links it to a neglected era of women's filmmaking that took place from 1920 to 1940, another key period of thinking around documentary, race, and gender. Drawing women's cultural expression during these two explosive times into conversation, Warren reconsiders key debates about subjectivity, feminism, realism, and documentary and their lasting epistemological and material consequences for film and feminist studies. She also excavates the lost ethnographic history of women's documentary filmmaking in the earlier era and explores the political and aesthetic legacy of these films in more explicitly feminist periods like the Seventies. Filled with challenging insights and new close readings, Subject to Reality sheds light on a profound and unexamined history of feminist documentaries while revealing their influence on the filmmakers of today.