Behind the Scenes: Movie Night at the Schlesinger Library

How the area’s best-kept film series secret comes together
From Indelible LalitaFrom Indelible Lalita
By Honor Moody, Cataloger and Film Committee Member

Were you to wander into the Schlesinger Library at 6 PM on the first Wednesday of most months, you would find what a local NPR affiliate has called “the area’s best under-the-radar film series.”

Movie Night at the Schlesinger Library began during the 2000–2001 academic year. Since then it has become a great opportunity for enthusiastic Schlesinger staff members to share documentaries, feature films, and the odd television show with one another, the larger Harvard community, and the public.

Planning occurs during the relatively quiet summer months, when staff members come together to brainstorm themes and possible movies. With only seven or eight Movie Nights in a year, there are often many more excellent choices than opportunities to show them.

The planning for this academic year started with suggestions for three movies: The Motherhood Archives, directed by Irene Lusztig RI ’11; Indelible Lalita, directed by Julie Mallozzi ’92; and Womanish Ways, directed by Marion Bethel BI ’98. These movies seemed disparate at first, but it quickly became clear that what they had in common—Radcliffe affiliations—was a great idea for a theme. “We were lucky to have so many talented directors seek us out as a venue for showing their films,” says Summer Unsinn, a cataloger and the film committee chair. “With alumnae from Harvard-Radcliffe College, the Bunting Institute, and the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship Program, we had a large pool of talent to choose from.”

Among the other filmmakers with Radcliffe connections, Liz Canner RI ’03 turned out to be an especially fortuitous choice, because she credits the Institute with helping her create her film Orgasm, Inc. “I had some footage lying around that I had shot of members of the pharmaceutical industry being very open with me about their involvement with the creation of female sexual dysfunction,” she says. “It was not something I was sure I wanted to pursue as a film. Being at Radcliffe, however—where the halls and rooms echo with the history of so many women—and after engaging in lunch conversations with brilliant feminist scholars, I was inspired to investigate the story further.” Canner offered to attend the movie night and lead a post-screening discussion, which was thrilling: Her presence and engagement with the audience made for a truly high-caliber conversation. “It was a gift,” she says, “to finally bring the finished project home and share it with the Radcliffe community.”

Movie Night originated at the suggestion of alumna Clara Goldberg Schiffer ’32 and was funded with her generous annual gifts. By the time of Schiffer’s death, in 2009, it had become so popular with staff members and the public that the library has continued to support it, most recently with money from the Library Council Fund. The members of the Film Committee look forward to continuing this tradition next year. If you’re in the neighborhood, please drop in.

’Cliffe Connections: Films by Radcliffe Grads and Fellows

Movie Night at the Schlesinger Library has attracted attention from WBUR’s arts blog, The ARTery, for screening the best under-the-radar films. The following films, all with a Radcliffe pedigree, composed the 2013–2014 season.

September 2013

The Motherhood Archives (2013), directed by Irene Lusztig ’97, RI ’11*

A history of maternal education, explored through educational, industrial, and medical training films.

October 2013

First Comes Love (2013), directed by Nina Davenport ’90

Davenport documents her journey to have a child, from the decision to pursue single motherhood, to the birth itself, to the early days of parenting.

November 2013

Raising Renee (2011), directed by Jeanne Jordan BI ’93, RI ’03 and Steven Ascher; starring Beverly McIver RI ’03

After their mother dies, the artist Beverly McIver RI ’03 takes in her developmentally delayed sister.

December 2013

Orgasm, Inc. (2009), directed by Liz Canner RI ’03*

When she is hired to edit erotic films for a pharmaceutical firm that is hoping to develop a counterpart to Viagra for women, Canner is inspired to further explore female sexuality and greater questions of ethics in the medical industry.

February 2014

True-Hearted Vixens (2001), directed by Mylène Moreno ’87

This documentary follows two athletes playing in the first season of the Women’s Professional Football League.

March 2014

Indelible Lalita (2012), directed by Julie Mallozzi ’92*

Lalita, an emigrant from Bombay to Montreal, contemplates her identity as her body is transformed by vitiligo, cancer, and heart disease.

April 2014

Womanish Ways (2012), directed by Marion Bethel BI ’98*

A history of the women’s suffrage movement in the Bahamas.

May 2014

Girlfriends (1978), directed by Claudia Weill ’69

A struggling photographer and her best friend share an apartment in Manhattan until one of them decides to marry and move out.


*The filmmaker participated in a discussion of the film.

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