By Kristina Hayhurst, contributing writer
Set in the streets of 1983 New York City, Lizzie Borden’s “Born in Flames” tells the story of a radical feminist movement ten years after the most peaceful revolution in United State’s history. This underground, documentary style film has made a lasting impression on feminist culture, gaining widespread popularity while first intended to simply be a small-scale production.
The film follows a group of women that rally behind the name The Women’s Army. Led by Hillary Hurst (Hillary Hurst), the activist group begins recruiting women everywhere, including two prominent radio reporters – Isabel (Adele Bertei), who leads Radio Ragazza, and Honey (Honey), who operates Pheonix Radio. Both women lead their own feminist groups, fed information by their pirate radio stations.
Banning together these women and many others, the group begins with peaceful strikes and slowly escalates to a full-fledged and dangerous army after the mysterious death of Adelaide Norris (Jeanna Satterfield). Norris, an aggressive force in the Women’s Army, promoted the use of weapons and played an active part in exposing the wrongdoings of the government. Her death, which was ruled a suicide while she was in the custody of the police, was later thought to be another cover up by the government of what actually was murder. The events directly influenced the Women’s Army to use further aggression, including employing guns, robbery and bombings.
The Women’s Army is in part a direct response to the peaceful revolution, which was thought to have instilled socialism and democratic reform in the United States, but was later thought to not be enough. After many women were laid off for little reason and continued oppression and sexism towards women in general, many decided to take a stand. Their main goal was for governmental representation, but they also aimed to stop the spread of rape-culture and the corruption of the government.
The film “is not only the story of women’s oppression, it is the story of sexism, racism, bigotry, nationalism, false religion and the blasphemy of the state controlled church, the story of environmental poisoning,” as Isabel says, and more. It reminds us of the fight that women faced in a highly patriarchal society in the late 90’s, and the fight that many women are still facing today. Borden holds true to the time, showing many controversial scenes of sex, violence, and the oppression that many people find uncomfortable to watch. However, these images give great insight and show the truth that often got pushed under the rug then and today. “Born in Flames” is a powerful statement that will not be lost in time because of its relevance to the modern age and its immense impact on not only the film world but on society itself.
Anthology Film Archives will be holding a revival of “Born in Flames” on Friday the 19th at 7:15pm. There will be appearances from two of the actors, Adele Bertei and Jeanna Satterfield, as well as a talk from director Lizzie Borden directly after the showing.