Liane Brandon Receives Grant to Restore, Preserve Early Feminist Film

UMass Amherst professor emerita Liane Brandon, a founder of New Day Films, has received a grant from the New York Women in Film and Television’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF). The grant will be used to restore and preserve one of Brandon’s early films, “Sometimes I Wonder Who I Am.”

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Liane Brandon

The film, which Brandon made in 1969, was one of the earliest films of the women’s movement. It is a brief portrayal of a young mother which grew out of the experiences of a consciousness-raising group called Bread and Roses in Cambridge, Mass., who found they were not alone in their feelings, emptiness, anger and fear. Bread and Roses was one of the first “women’s liberation” groups in the country, and the film was one of the first independent films of the fledgling women’s movement.

The film is historically and artistically significant.  It raised issues that had rarely been dealt with on film.  At the time, there were few women making films and even fewer films dealing with women’s political issues.  This was one of the first films to be used in consciousness-raising groups. Because it broke new ground, “Sometimes I Wonder Who I Am” was at the forefront of both the women’s movement and in the (until then predominantly male) independent political film movement.  It helped to demonstrate that film could be a powerful tool to raise social consciousness and promote change in regard to critical women’s issues. 

News of the film spread primarily through word of mouth and women’s movement newsletters.  Although the distribution network was informal and I shipped the prints from my home, the film was screened by hundreds of libraries, colleges and women’s consciousness-raising groups across the US and in Canada.  It aired on WGBH-TV Boston in 1970 and was one of the earliest feminist films shown on public television.  

Brandon, who served on the College of Education faculty for 30 years, helped found New Day in 1971 as a way to distribute films that feminist filmmakers were making about the women’s movement. She says New Day was the only way filmmakers could distribute independent films about feminism and the women’s movement in the early 1970s.

Founded in 1995 by New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) in conjunction with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the WFPF has preserved nearly 150 American films in which women have played key creative roles. These works by early feminists, social activists and artists embody unique and irreplaceable contributions to American cinematic heritage.