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May 14, 2017 at 7:30 pm

DIY QUEEN: Underground Documentaries of Sarah Jacobson

A fundraiser and tribute with the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant. Discussion following the program with Akosua Adoma Owusu and Laura Parnes

Born in Connecticut in 1971, and raised in New Jersey and Minneapolis, Sarah Jacobson became known as the “DIY Queen” of underground film in the 1990s and early 2000s, known for her tireless self-promotion and support for fellow filmmakers. Jacobson studied with George Kuchar at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she completed the short “I Was a Teenage Serial Killer” (1992), considered by critic Ed Halter, writing in the Village Voice, to be “…a key film of that decade’s angrily subversive underground cinema.” Her breakout feature “Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore” premiered at the Chicago Underground Film Festival and screened at the Sundance Film Festival to sold-out audiences in 1997.

With her mother and producer Ruth Jacobson, Jacobson formed Station Wagon Productions and toured cross-country in a station wagon in order to promote and distribute her films. She was screened at film festivals and underground film venues around the world, including the New York Underground Film Festival, the San Francisco Film Festival, and South by Southwest. Outspoken in their praise of Jacobson’s work were film critics Roger Ebert and Amy Taubin, filmmaker Allison Anders, and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. Since Jacobson’s death in 2004, retrospectives and screenings of her work have been organized at the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Small Change (Philadelphia), Spectacle (Brooklyn), BAMcinématek (Brooklyn), among many more.

The Sarah Jacobson Film Grant, established by Ruth Jacobson and collaborator Sam Green in Jacobson’s memory, offers annual grants to female, transgender, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming filmmakers whose work embodies some of the things that Sarah Jacobson stood for: a fierce DIY approach to filmmaking, a radical social critique, and a thoroughly underground sensibility.

UnionDocs is excited to present an evening dedicated to Jacobson’s documentaries. Filmmakers, and  former grantees of the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant, Akosua Adoma Owusu and Laura Parnes will join us for discussion following the program.

Part of the proceeds from the event will go toward the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant, which is currently accepting applications. Find out more here.


High School Reunion

16 min, 2003

Jacobson attends her ten-year high school reunion in Edina, Minnesota a year following Mary Jane’s film debut. Now armed with a video-camera (which stays mainly in night-vision mode), Jacobson candidly interviews her old classmates as they mingle awkward and tipsy under a giant screen projecting their senior class photos. Once undoubtedly one of the most popular kids, one guy is now camera-shy and embarrassed to admit he once played football. Another classmate is asked if he wished he had “come out” in high school to which he responds, “Edina is a really hard place to grow up gay…”

Bra Shopping

11 min., 2002

Rarely shown publicly and filmed in Pixelvision, “Bra Shopping” chronicles a trip to Southdale Mall as Jacobson shops for a new bra. She explains, “I’m taking a break from shooting my new film Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore, and the whole time I was shooting I had only one bra, just one bra. It was a nightmare. And at the end of shooting I put it in the dryer by mistake and it blew up.” With Ruth by her side, Sarah visits with the bra sales ladies and chats about what’s “all the rage,” i.e. the Wonder Bra.

The Fabulous Stains: Behind the Movie

11 min. 1999

Filmed with Sam Green for John Pierson’s “Split Screen” TV show, “The Fabulous Stains: Behind the Movie” (2003) explores the troubled backstory and cult success of “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains” (1982) written by Nancy Dowd, directed by Lou Adler, and starring Diane Lane.

Road Movie or What I Learned in a Buick Station Wagon

10 min., 1991

College filmmaker leaves Minneapolis after her teachers and peers make fun of her. She goes to New York to see a guy who doesn’t know she’s coming and her adventures along the way. Autobiographical

Sweet Miss: The Disco Years

4.5 min., 1989-1990

53 min

Akosua Adoma Owusu (born January 1, 1984) is a Ghanaian-American avant-garde filmmaker and producer whose films have screened worldwide in prestigious film festivals, museums, galleries, universities and microcinemas since 2005. Her work addresses the collision of identities, where the African immigrant located in the United States has a “triple consciousness.” Owusu interprets Du Bois’ notion of double consciousness and creates a third identity or consciousness, representing the diverse consciousness of women and African immigrants interacting in African, white American, and black American culture. Named by Indiewire as one of the 6 Avant-Garde Female Filmmakers Who Redefined Cinema, and one of The Huffington Post‘s Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know, Akosua Adoma Owusu is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow. Founded in 2007, her company, Obibini Pictures, LLC produces unconventional films about multicultural experiences including Reluctantly Queer and Kwaku Ananse, which received the 2013 African Movie Academy Award for Best Short Film. Kwaku Ananse was warmly acclaimed at the Berlin Film Festival competition and was financed by Focus Features Africa First, Art Matters and the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant. Since 2009, Owusu has been featured in major international exhibitions including Shorts and Influences with Akosua Adoma Owusu at UnionDocs curated by Amélie Garin-Davet.


Laura Parnes has screened and exhibited her work widely in the US and internationally, including: Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; PSI Contemporary Art Center MoMA Affiliate, NY; Miami Museum of Contemporary Art, FL;  Brooklyn Museum,  Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens, and Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid and NY and on PBS and Spanish Television. She recently had solo exhibitions at LA><, LA, Participant Inc. and Fitzroy Gallery and solo screenings at the Museum of Modern Art and The Kitchen, New York City. Parnes is a 2013 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow, a 2014 NYFA recipient and a 2016 Creative Capital Awardee.

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May 14, 2017
7:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Free – $12.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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