RESIST, REFORM, REPEAT: The Wobblies, is part of the series: FROM THE VAULT: WOMEN’S ADVOCACY ON FILM, a program co-presented with Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) and New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT). In this program, we present nonfiction films that have shaped movements, provide perspectives on political, environmental, and human rights issues; and confront ideas around gender identity, gender roles, sexuality, health and family, all from a woman’s perspective. Following the program, we will host discussion around these explorations of story and truth, their innovative approaches to documentary filmmaking, and their subjects that continue to be relevant today to filmmakers, activists, and media consumers working to creatively affect change.
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Sunday, Jan 28 at 7:30 pm
RESIST, REFORM, REPEAT: The Wobblies
Screening to be followed by discussion with Deborah Shaffer, Stewart Bird & Tanya Goldman
90 min., 1979
The Wobblies boldly investigates a nation torn by naked corporate greed and the red-hot rift between the industrial masters and the rabble-rousing workers in the field and factory.
“Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer have performed a valuable service in marshaling the combination of interviews and original material ranging from pro-posters to scare-cartoons and old sepia-tone footage and stills. Central exposition is via interviews with surviving Wobblies — the film’s strength really derives from, these folks, the ex-loggers, dockworkers, silkworkers, miners, etc. — the small comforts on the bureaus, the accumulated knickknacks of a lifetime somehow saying more than the text of their memories.” —Variety
“The Wobblies is a history of the IWW, researched lovingly and corroborated by the reminiscences of some of the union’s former members, who are now in their 80’s and 90’s. When the facts are presented as fully as they have been here, the feelings that accompanied them aren’t difficult to imagine.” —Janet Maslin, New York Times
“Without any pretense of ‘objectivity,’ Bird and Shaffer not only have resurrected a slice of American history usually buried out of sight in the classrooms, but produced a spirited and exhilarating distillation of that pre-World War I period in 89 minutes.” —Judy Stone, San Franiciso Chronicle
“The greatest value of this film is in restoring full humanity to the elderly — not by making them cute old codgers as Hollywood often does but by demonstrating the survival of their tough, rebellious spirit… This vibrant, joyous film celebrates the continuum of history.” —Stephen Farber, New West
“The happiest hit of the New York Film Festival.” —Harold Clurman, The Nation
“A vivid look into America’s radical past. Its heroes and heroines are filled with vitality — a rare attribute these days.” —Studs Terkel
Deborah Shaffer began making social issue documentaries as a member of the Newsreel Collective in the 70’s. She co-founded Pandora Films, a woman’s production company, which produced How About You? and Chris and Bernie. In 1979 she made the labor history documentary The Wobblies (New York Film Festival). During the 80’s, Shaffer focused on war and human rights in Latin America, directing Nicaragua: Report from the Front; Witness to War (Academy Award® winner, Best Documentary – Short Subjects); Fire from the Mountain (New York and Sundance Film Festivals; POV); and Dance of Hope (Prix d’Or, FIPA, Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals). Shaffer was one of the first filmmakers to work in post-Sept. 11 New York City. From the Ashes – 10 Artists (Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals; Cinemax) captures the impact the attacks had on 10 downtown New York artists, followed a year later by From the Ashes – Epilogue (Tribeca Film Festival). She is the Executive Producer of the short documentary, Asylum, which played at the Sundance Film Festival, Human Rights Watch, won Best Documentary at Aspen Shortsfest and was nominated for an Academy Award®.
In addition to her work as a director of independent documentaries, Shaffer has directed numerous programs for public television, including Secrets Underground (Christopher Award, Emma Award), Art:21 – Art for the 21st Century (Emmy Nomination) and Ladies First: The Women of Rwanda (Emmy Award, Sigma Delta Chi Award, Cine Golden Eagle). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and grants from the NEH, NEA and NYSCA. She was recently awarded the Irene Diamond Lifetime Achievement Award by the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.
Stewart Bird was born in the Bronx and grew up in Long Beach, New York. Murder at the Yeshiva is his first novel. Bird has also written Solidarity Forever, an oral history of the I.W.W. (University of Minnesota Press) with Dan Georgakas and Deborah Shaffer, co-authored a play “The Wobblies: The U.S. vs. Wm. D. Haywood et. al.,” (with Peter Robilotta) which was performed at the Hudson Guild Theatre in New York and published by Smyrna Press.
Bird wrote a one-hour story for PBS entitled “The Mighty Pawns” about a black inner city chess team, which was shown nationally on Wonderworks and distributed nationally by Disney. As a writer/ producer for Fox television’s Current Affair Bird produced various segments: “Alan Berg,” “Elvis Presley,” “A Cycle of Justice,” and “The Night Natalie Died.” He worked as a writer/ producer for CBS News’ 48 Hours and produced segments such as “Another America,” “Underground,” “Stuck on Welfare,” and “Earth Wars.”
He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, N.Y. Council for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Ford Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation and the New York Council on the Arts. Bird has produced numerous feature length documentaries including “Finally Got the News,” about black auto workers in Detroit; “Retratos,” on the Puerto Rican community in New York; “Coming Home,” on Vietnam Veterans; and “The Wobblies” (with Deborah Shaffer) focusing on the Industrial Workers of the World a turn-of-the-century labor union.
Tanya Goldman is a PhD Candidate in the department of Cinema Studies at New York University. Her research focuses on mid-twentieth century nonfiction film and its history as a political and cultural practice. Her dissertation focuses these questions vis-à-vis the career of New York Workers Film and Photo League member and independent nontheatrical distributor Tom Brandon (1910-1982). Her work and reviews have appeared in Feminist Media Histories, Film Quarterly, Jump Cut, Senses of Cinema, and is forthcoming in Film History. She is currently the graduate rep for the SCMS Nontheatrical Film SIG and recently served as IndieCollect’s inaugural Scholar-in-Residence.