Co-curated by Laura Horak, Maggie Hennefeld and Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, the Nasty Women project has trawled the archives for trailblazing examples of female energy, anger, transgression, rebellions and explosive hilarity in early cinema. The films have been shown at festivals around the globe and this summer you can take them home with you, courtesy of Kino Lorber, in the form of an “irreverent” four-disc box set, available in both DVD and Blu-ray flavours. Here’s the official spiel:
“This four-disc set showcase more than fourteen hours of rarely-seen silent films about feminist protest, slapstick rebellion, and suggestive gender play. These women organize labor strikes, bake (and weaponize) inedible desserts, explode out of chimneys, electrocute the police force, and assume a range of identities that gleefully dismantle traditional gender norms and sexual constraints. The films span a variety of genres including slapstick comedy, genteel farce, the trick film, cowboy melodrama, and adventure thriller. Cinema’s First Nasty Women includes 99 European and American silent films, produced from 1898 to 1926, sourced from thirteen international film archives and libraries, with all-new musical scores, video introductions, commentary tracks, and a lavishly illustrated booklet. Curated by Maggie Hennefeld, Laura Horak, and Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, and produced for video by Bret Wood, Cinema’s First Nasty Women is a partnership of Kino Lorber, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Women Film Pioneers Project, Eye Filmmuseum, FIC-Silente, and Carleton University.”
And the teaser trailer:
The films have all been lavished with attention, in the form of new scores (by a dazzling array of musicians), a selection of commentary tracks and texts in the 120-page booklet. Full disclosure: I was honoured to be asked to provide commentary tracks and booklet notes for two of these fabulous films: The Finish of Mr Fresh and The Dairymaid’s Revenge, both from 1899. It was a challenge to fit in everything I had to say in the short running time, but it was also a hoot, and I hope you enjoy them .
There are extras too! I am super excited about the essays, which dig in to the trickier aspects of curating a project such as this, and especially the video supplements. Up first is What Is a Nasty Woman? a video introduction to the collection, featuring the series curators with music supervisor Dana Reason. Then there are 11 separate documentaries on specific films and performers, including interviews with Liza Black, TJ Cuthand, Hennefeld, Horak, Rongen-Kaynakçi, Reason, Arigon Starr, Susan Stryker, and Kyla Wazana Tompkins.
Oh, and if the name bothers you, use that energy – it’s a gift. The moniker was reclaimed from Donald Trump’s notorious remark about Hillary Clinton… you get the drift. Channel your anger appropriately and you might just create something beautiful. Like this box set, which is released on 30 August, and available to pre-order now.
The discs are region-free so will play on your machine, wherever you are. Currently Kino Lorber is only shipping pre-orders to the US and Canada, but as soon as it’s out there will be global distribution. The Nasty Women are coming to a territory near you.
But wait, there’s more. Online now and streaming free until 26 June is You Don’t Own Me, a compilation of Nasty Women films presented in collaboration with The Kennington Bioscope. Introductions are by Hennefeld, the wonderful Michelle Facey, and TJ Cuthand. The music is that commissioned for the box set. It’s a joy! I highly recommend La grève des nourrices/The Nursemaids’ Strike. Dir.: André Heuzé (Pathé, France, 1907).
• A must-read blog from Maggie Hennefeld: “The thesis of our project is that the archive oozes with every which sort of feminist imagery—and damn if those inheritances aren’t messy. “
• A little off-topic, but I am taking part in a panel discussion about Nosferatu on Tuesday. The film will screen with an organ accompaniment before the Evolution of Horror-hosted discussion starts, with myself, Kim Newman, James Swanton and Mike Muncer.
• Silent London will always be free to all readers. If you enjoy checking in with the site, including reports from silent film festivals, features and reviews, please consider shouting me a coffee on my Ko-Fi page