Film & Media Studies News
By Ingrid Ma, Class of 2015
On February 19, the Film and Media Studies Program hosted a screening of Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way. Directed and produced by Ferraro’s own daughter, Donna Zaccaro, the documentary offers an intimate insight into the life and legacy of the first woman ever to be nominated as a vice presidential candidate. Zaccaro was among the screening’s attendees, along with Maryland senator, Barbara Mikulski, who appears in the documentary and was a close friend of Ferraro. Mikulski, a trailblazer in her own right, being the first independent Democratic woman to enter office, joined Zaccaro in a Q&A session following the screening.
The film paints a more complete and humanizing portrait of a figure that was both idolized and misrepresented by the public and by the media. Guided by interviews of her family and childhood friends, by political affiliates and even adversaries, and by Geraldine Ferraro, herself, the documentary uncovers sides of Ferraro that stayed out of the limelight of fame and popularity.
Ferraro, who points to her father’s early and untimely death as the impetus for her self-motivation and diligence, grew from a difficult and underprivileged childhood in New York. Her scrappy and hard-working character earned her a scholarship and success at Marymount College. She continued her academic career at Fordham Law School, where she graduated in the top ten percent of her class. After joining the D.A. office in Queens County, she went on to make a name for herself as a hardy and determined prosecutor. Ferraro’s entrance into the political scene came at a time where the female representation in Washington consisted of sixteen women in the House and only one in the Senate. I think it’s difficult for our progressive minds to fully understand the set of expectations and limitations she faced. Regardless, she quickly navigated the ranks of the House as the representative for New York, proving herself a smart and formidable presence. Before long, she caught the attention of many other leaders, including her future running mate, Walter Mondale.
“You can do whatever you want to do. You can be whoever you want to be,” says Ferraro about her personal beliefs. Coming from anyone else, this statement would sound impractical, absurd, and delusional, but when it came out of Ferraro’s mouth, I found myself sincerely believing it. The intrigue of her story lies in the realistic realization of the American Dream. The vice-presidential nomination in 1984 did not simply fall into her lap, and it wasn’t simply symbolic. Her achievement was undeniably hard-won and wholly well-deserved.
Ferraro took a fresh approach to feminism—one that traded confrontation for savvy and charisma. In effect, she reinvigorated the agency in women across America. It’s for this reason Nancy Pelosi calls her “a leader, not a politician.”
By the end of the documentary I was stunned to feel tears forming at the corners of my eyes. When the credits began rolling everyone in the audience held their applause. It was almost as if we all collectively took a moment a silence to honor this truly magnificent figure in history. Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way is a powerful and moving tribute to a woman whose impact will continue to be felt in generations to come.
By Andrea Massaro, Class of 2015
Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way , screened at Hopkins on February 19, not only featured, but was framed by women's voices. JHU History Professor Mary Ryan opened the evening, noting that while we have indeed 'paved the way' for women in politics, we still have a long way to go. The film, she said, is a reminder of hope for that struggle. And after the screening, Ferraro friend and supporter Senator Barbara Mikulski spoke, then joined filmmaker Donna Zaccaro in a Q&A session with the audience.
Mikulski called the documentary “historic, heartwarming and moving.” As the first Democratic woman elected “in her own right,” she recounted the history of women in the House, starting with the first in 1968. She told a story of calling up Ferraro and saying, “I would like to speak to congresswoman-elect Geraldine Ferraro.” Ferraro responded that those were the best words she had heard since her husband proposed. Mikulski was also part of the “A-Team” that helped Ferraro receive the nomination for the vice presidency.
She remembered Ferraro as a “fighter… wanting to work on the bread and butter issues.” Of the cancer diagnosis and ensuing struggle, Mikulski said that Ferraro “never gave up and never gave in,” that she was “a fighter up until the very last breath.”
The impact of the 1984 race on later elections, and on 2016, was addressed by students in attendance, who raised the issue of preferential treatment based on gender and race. Zaccaro addresses Obama in the film, and acknowledged that a question remains whether Ferraro would have been tapped for the nomination had she not been a woman. Mikulski took another tack, stating that if Clinton runs again, “ageism will be the new code word for sexism.” Professor Ryan suggested there is no longer an audience for an election like that of 1984, but Mikulski disagreed, claiming that 2008 was watched worldwide.
To a question of how much longer will it be until the number of congresswomen ceases to be counted, Zaccaro responded, “I assume until it’s even.” She hopes the film may encourage more young people, presumably women, to run for office. And she hopes, as well, that future nominees won't be subject to the same treatment as Ferraro. Mikulski asserted that “men of quality will always support women of equality,” and noted that men in Congress were integral at every step of her own journey to becoming a good senator.
Personally, I found the documentary inspiring. As a woman who hopes to break into the film industry, I feel I face challenges similar to those faced by Ferraro. It wasn't a paved path for her and it isn’t for me either. As Professor Ryan said, women still have a long way to go. But pioneers like Ferraro remind me that women with ambition have done it before. She was respected and composed in the face of prejudice and doubts, an example to women in their struggle to become leaders as we move forward into the twenty-first century.
The documentary will be shown nationally on the Showtime network on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 9 p.m. and all that week as a celebration of Women’s History Month.
More of Jodi Wille's Hopkins Visit
"...it seemed like a natural thing to make a movie." -Jodi Wille
Photo Cred: Janice Duncan
The Experience of Sundance
by Abigail Harri, Film & Media Studies Major, Class of 2014
First and foremost, it’s gorgeous, and not necessarily just in terms of the films showing.
Second thing you should know about Sundance: it’s a lot of lines, and if you see a lot of films, you do so on very little sleep. A few nights I only got one or a few hours. But if you’re there for the films (and be real, unless you’re a filmmaker or other official person, this is what you should be there for – I think most of you will know what I’m implying) the adrenaline from excitement and the occasional energy drink is usually enough to keep your eyes open.
Main Street is almost always full of people, even (and sometimes especially) after midnight screenings of films at the Egyptian Theater, which is located on Main Street and fits its name wonderfully in its decoration. Also on Main Street are several places to get free Sundance swag. But most importantly, the bustling street really places you within the framework of Sundance; everyone around you is talking about film and excited about films, and this type of community is unique to this type of festival. On Main Street, your location could never escape your mind because the Festival is visually and audibly all around you, and if you care about film, within you.
There is more than just the typical film programming at Sundance. Sundance offers more “experimental” film experiences, such as the one pictured above. This was the “Cloud Room.” Upon walking into the room, one would lie in a particularly squishy-soft circular seat, become enveloped in its comfort, and an experimental film would play as a cloud-like steam filled the room from behind the screen. The exhibit also included an impressive 3D stitching of many, many films together on a loop, which all interacted with each other within the screen. It’s a little hard to describe, but imagine 3D arrows from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers flying over scenes of several films only to dive into the heads of characters from another film while dozens upon dozens of other things play out simultaneously on screen. We sat for over a half an hour in front of the maybe three minute loop and were still finding new things and trying to name the films for the entirety of our viewing.
And finally, the movies! I ended up seeing twenty-four films at Sundance (well, one of those was a shorts program, so more than that but twenty-four screenings). Yes, twenty-four films in under a week. Once this meant five films in one day, and it always meant movies (and lines) all day, every day, and squeezing in time to eat. And I can’t stress enough how different experiencing a film at Sundance is than anywhere else. This might be the world premiere of the film you’re seeing. You may be seeing it with 1,200 other people who are just as into movies as you are, and when you’re in that setting, I can’t tell you how different your movie-viewing experience becomes. Laughing along with 1,200 other people is powerful, but the silence of that many people in a room during a heated moment may be even more so. And where else would one experience standing ovations even during a film -- for Gareth Evan’s masterfully choreographed fight scenes? I’m sure there are few other places, and it is for this and for my other memories that I suggest you visit Sundance.