The Heretics

“We have to do it ourselves.”

Nothing sums up the documentary film, The Heretics, or the world of feminist art that it depicts, so poignantly than these six words. Joan Braderman went to New York City in 1971, wide-eyed with dreams of becoming a filmmaker. She stumbled upon the women’s movement come alive in the form of a feminist art collective called The Heresies Collective. Together they would sit around various cramped living rooms and artist studios and discuss the state of the world, art, gender, and revolution.

The film follows Braderman as she tracks down various members of the collective to see what they’re doing now and how they think about their time in the second wave collective. It’s a difficult approach, because there really aren’t stories as much as themes. It makes it difficult to stay engaged–rather than getting pulled in by the narratives of various artists, the viewer is hit with one topic after another.

Having said that, the film was fascinating to me. I couldn’t help but notice the interesting parallels between what The Heresies Collective went through in creating their art journal, Heresies, and what the crew here at Feministing has gone through. They were interested in redefining what art is and we’re interested in redefining what news is. They worked collectively, as do we. They did consciousness-raising through their journal; we do it via online community.

Some of the differences, however, were glaring. Their medium–good old fashioned paper–was much slower. They had the luxury of meeting in person weekly (we only get to have retreats a couple of times a year). And they, of course, were doing all of this in a very ripe time, when social change seemed inevitable. Count me jealous, at least on the latter two contrasts.

This wasn’t the most fluid or well-constructed film, but it’s a must-see nonetheless for anyone interested in the feminist art movement, the second wave community, and/or “making it yourself.”

Super cool bonus: you can download copies of the journal online here. They are amazing!

Join the Conversation

  • nazza

    I wonder sometimes if social change really was about to flower or whether this was merely the perspective of a generation inclined to believe that it was. Now, of course, I deal with baby boomers who want people to pay attention to them, even when their individual causes are out of date or no longer relevant.

  • tino

    How did you find the gender discussions? If I recall correctly, 2nd wave feminism was pretty transphobic. Is that discussed at all in this film? Looks really interesting.

  • Molly McLeod

    Hi! I was the art director/animator on Heretics, and did many of the motion graphics.

    The first week I started working on the film, as a lowly intern, a young male coworker asked if I considered myself a feminist. I responded that I had no idea. Honestly, I didn’t really know what feminism was, or even that it still existed. As I began to transcribe and log the many hours of interview footage, I did get to hear these women’s stories in full, and they were incredibly inspiring to me.

    I wanted to find out more about feminism, so my co-animator Sarah pointed me in the direction of Feministing, and I’ve been a follower ever since. Joan (the director) put a lot of trust in me, and I developed my own art and animation skills as I did work for the film, and ended up with the credit of co-Art Director.

    I agree that it may not be the most well-constructed film, but as a young [now proudly] feminist artist, getting to work on it was a life-changing opportunity. And getting to meet some the women at the MoMA premiere was the icing on the cake!