“I was one of the lucky ones. Born at the right time. I had witnessed the birth of film. Nurtured it. And in turn, found the perfect medium, with which I could preach to my heart’s content.”
Lois Weber (Katie Killourhy) is a successful filmmaker torn between her work and the responsibilities of marriage. When her new film threatens to reveal her true feelings about her relationship, and about men in general, will her place in the industry be threatened forever?
With She, Who Dared, Gabrielle Rosson sheds light on a forgotten part of cinema history. Did you know that many women were at the origin of Hollywood cinema as we know it?
It’s often said, and rightly so, that women aren’t offered the same opportunities as men in the film industry, especially behind the camera. And we all know why. It’s simply because the Hollywood industry is run by men, and they simply don’t want to give women more space. But the problem of the place given to women goes much further, and it was to denounce it that Gabrielle Rosson made She, Who Dared.
Did you know that long before the arrival of these great directors, cinema had had women at the helm of many films? Apart from a few people, I’m convinced that the vast majority will answer “no” to this question. Why is that? Because the men who have been running the industry for too long now have made sure that this part of the story doesn’t get known.
Rosson’s film is a first step towards that recognition:
” I wanted to honor Lois Weber by recreating the lost ending of “What Do Men Want?” because this was the film that essentially ended her career. I had to know what it was about this film that producers hated so much. And when I discovered the text of the lost ending, I realized it said quite a lot. But I won’t spoil it for anyone. You’ll have to see She, Who Dared for yourself. “Gabrielle Rosson
The director manages to show her character in a realistic light, without idealizing her. As a result, she offers a work that could prove important.
What the American director shows with She, Who Dared is that Lois Weber was a visionary of the studio system, breaking barriers and pushing boundaries at a time when women were not often seen in positions of power. She also manages to show, despite the film’s short running time, that Lois Weber was torn between her work and the responsibilities of marriage.
I mentioned that the film was possibly an important work. It’s unusual to say that about a short film. When asked where the idea for the film came from, the director explained this:
“I have often said that everyone has their own distinct reaction the first time they learn about Lois Weber. For some, it’s shock, others amusement, but for me it was bewilderment. I had spent nearly four years working as a woman in film and had never once learned that women were foundational to the industry.”Gabrielle Rosson
And she’s not the only one. Despite my film studies, it was only later that I also learned that many women were at the heart of cinema’s creation. Without the women of the early twentieth century, cinema might not have become as important as it has been and still is today.
“I chose to frame her life through the lens of her memoir, The End of the Circle, which was never published and later stolen. She wrote this book at the end of her life while battling what her family now believes was Crohn’s disease. Since the book is missing, it gave me a wonderful opportunity to speculate about what she might have written.”Gabrielle Rosson
And it has to be said that Rosson has put together a very credible story.
I know some of you will say it’s not true that the important place women had in early cinema is hidden, almost censored. And yet… She was asked if she thought conditions for women filmmakers, and women in general, had improved since the days of Lois Weber.
And this is where She, Who Dared could become important. It deals with and shows what almost nobody wants to say. Yes, women are not only important today in allowing multiple points of view, but they were, too, in the advent of the seventh art. If this short can lead to a feature film that shows this reality, then Rosson’s film will indeed have been important.
“I recently saw a Hollywood film about the silent film era. It was told from a man’s perspective and told a man’s story. It was called Babylon. While I enjoyed it very much, it completely sidesteps the contributions of women, and in my mind misses a huge opportunity to tell the real story of early Hollywood, which was in fact a time of equal opportunity for men and women. We’ve seen it happen time and time again, from space innovations to animation, the contributions of women are often erased or overlooked. This can easily be changed by correcting the record.”Gabrielle Rosson
In 2023, it’s about time someone dared!
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