Tribeca Film Festival 2022 “My Name is Andrea” (Wendy Moscow)

Andrea Dworkin

Feminist Icon Andrea Dworkin

June 12, 2022. She was tarred by the mainstream media as irredeemably angry, unreasonable and man-hating, but Andrea Dworkin was so much more complex than her media image. “My Name is Andrea,” an intensely emotional film directed by Pratibha Parmar, presents a nuanced portrait of a woman justifiably outraged by the treatment of women in our patriarchal culture, and especially by the violence, often sexual, perpetrated against them/us.

She realized, as a young activist with an intersectional understanding of the world, that self-determination was denied to most people — only those who were white, male and wealthy had the privilege of fully owning their lives. Living in Amsterdam in 1968, but yearning to help oppressed people back home in the U.S., she asked, “Can I write for the disposed, the marginalized, the tortured?” But her focus, as an activist and an author, would be decrying a culture that promotes the sexual depredation of women, often without consequence for the male perpetrators. Sexual violence, she said, “pulls [a woman’s] integrity apart and robs her of her sense of brilliance and beauty as a human being.” For Dworkin, “freedom of speech for women begins with the integrity of the body.” In that light, she saw pornography as a dangerous manifestation of the sexual subordination of women, and was a leader in the anti-porn movement.

A victim of rape at ten years old, Andrea begins to understand the power of the written word to strip bare and hold to the light the pain and sorrow of the female condition. She hoped to “write poetry or prose that’s so strong that nothing can break its back.” To convey the strength of her words, the filmmaker uses the unusual (and effective) technique of having a variety of actors, including Ashley Judd and Christine Lahti, embody Dworkin’s brilliance. No attempt is made to make the actors look like Dworkin, which enables the viewer to hear her words without bias. Her extraordinary rhetoric, both soaring and searing, is interwoven with home movie footage of her as a child, the writer completely absorbed in thought as she works at her typewriter, archival photos, footage of public appearances, and a few well-placed re-enactments. Dworkin was an enormous fan of Allen Ginsberg and actually got to know him when she was very young. In a lovely dreamlike sequence, Andrea and Allen connect emotionally. “He said he loved me eleven times,” she says. In scenes like this one, the filmmaker humanizes Dworkin in a way that the public has not, thus far, been privy to.

We also experience her radical empathy: She witnesses the self-immolation of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk protesting the war, and speaks of “pain past words.“ She is also profoundly moved by the defiance in the eyes of Black Panther Huey Newton, strapped to a gurney and handcuffed after having been shot. We understand her passion for justice as a response to societally inflicted torment — her own and others.

Dworkin was radicalized regarding the pervasiveness of violence against women after being arrested at an anti-war protest and processed through the notorious Women’s House of Detention. The severe physical and emotional abuse she endured there at the hands of the guards would scar her forever (a play called “The Cloister” was her direct response to that event), but also inspired a body of work whose analysis is, sadly, still relevant.

Though she urged women to speak out about the brutality they’d experienced at the hands of predatory men (35 years before #MeToo), Dworkin also understood amnesia as a survival tactic. “The way in which you bury it inside of you helps keep you alive.”

Parmar shows us that Andrea Dworkin was so much more than a contentious personality in iconic denim overalls, but rather, a brilliant writer and speaker whose righteous anger spurred a revolution in consciousness about rape culture, pornography and the abuse of power.

The final screening of “My Name is Andrea” will be on Saturday, June 18 at 11:45 am. For tickets visit http://www.tribecafilm.com.

About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on June 13, 2022, in Tribeca Film Festival 2022 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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