“First I was my father’s Janie, then I was my Charlie’s Janie, now I’m Janie’s Janie.”
Set in Newark, New Jersey, in the early 1970s, Janie’s Janie tells Jane Giese’s journey to “self-determination” (Metrograph.com, n.d.). It was directed by Geri Ashur, with Peter Barton, Marilyn Mulford and Stephanie Pawleski, and produced by The Newsreel collective.
Janie’s Janie is the story of a single mother who refuses to be disempowered and made feel worthless by her abusive ex-husband. Determined to raise five children on her own, she achieves a feminist consciousness that helps Jane find her voice and navigate the welfare system in a post-1967-riots Newark.
Last year marked 50 years since the Newark riots. In 1967, a changing population had led to racial tensions in what was a majority black city controlled by white politicians, historians say (NJ.com, 2017). At least 26 people died and hundreds were injured in the rebellion of 1967. The city was devastated for decades to come (The Guardian, 2017).
Not only the film is a document of an era and the efforts of feminists and interracial movements, but it is also the first “personal documentary” produced by Newsreel (Twn.org, n.d.). Using a mix of handheld verité material and interviews, the directors make the viewer part of Jane’s everyday life.
It is a complex, beautifully edited, and decisively intense film for its 30 mins duration. The documentary has been praised by international critics on multiple occasions as “breathtakingly candid” (Monica Castillo, Village Voice) and “one of the most moving documentaries of the era” (Nellie Killian, Tell Me: Women Filmmaker, Women’s Stories).
Metrograph.com. (n.d.). Janie’s Janie + Three Lives | Metrograph. [online] Available at: http://metrograph.com/film/film/1253/janies-janie-three-lives[Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
NJ.com. (2017). 50 years ago Newark burned. [online] Available at: https://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2017/07/what_you_need_to_know_about_the_1967_newark_riots.html [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
The Guardian. (2017). The Newark race riots 50 years on: is the city in danger of repeating the past?. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jul/11/newark-race-riots-50-years-rebellion-police-brutality [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
Twn.org. (n.d.). Janie’s Janie (Newsreel). [online] Available at: http://www.twn.org/catalog/pages/cpage.aspx?rec=1324 [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
strublog. (2013). Feminist film in Newark: Janie’s Janie (1972). [online] Available at: https://strublog.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/feminist-film-in-newark-janies-janie-1972/ [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
Richardbrick.com. (n.d.). Geri Ashur: “Janie’s Janie” | Richard Brick. [online] Available at: http://richardbrick.com/geri-ashur-janies-janie/ [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
BAM.org. (2018). Growing Up Female + Janie’s Janie + Betty Tells Her Story. [online] Available at: https://www.bam.org/film/2018/growing-up-female-janies-jane-betty-story [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. (n.d.). Tell Me: JANIE’S JANIE + THE WOMEN’S FILM + More… [online] Available at: https://drafthouse.com/show/tell-me-janies-janie-the-womens-film-more [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
Originally published at francescoimola.tumblr.com.