Documentary time.

by tobelikeafeatherby

Dear Ellie,

I am not going to pretend there is any correlation between these two documentaires apart from them being American and that I have enjoyed and would recommend them both. First up is a mammouth 3 part PBS documentary entitled Makers: Women Who Make America. I have studied in detail American history, particularly gender, so this documentary did not really teach me anything new. It does however perfectly encapsulate the journey fought by brave American women for freedom and choice in the past 60 years. Last year Liza Mundy released a book entitled ‘The Richer Sex’ detailing how women in America hold 51% of jobs in “management, professional and related occupations,” and “wives are breadwinners or co-earners in about two-thirds of American marriages.” Women Who Make America documents those responsible for this shift.

The documentary is careful to chronicle the women’s movement from all points of view: Feminists/Anti feminists/white/black. In typical fashion for anything to be taken seriously in the US, Oprah makes her token appearance whilst Meryl Streep soothingly narrates. What I found most revealing from the interviewees was the admittance from daughters of 1960’s/70s feminists of how they struggled to cope with everything their mothers had achieved for them. Considering mothers had fought hard for their daughters freedom it became frowned upon for women not to embrace work. Yet who looks after the children? Is it wrong to want to stay home and look after them?. Maria Shriver believes it is all about balance. Life should be contemplated in three stages: first career, raising children, second career. I hope this is an achievable reality.


Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, marching with members of the women’s movement.

The second was a short and sweet documentary directed by Niel Barsky about Ed Koch, the legendary mayor of New York. (Ed Koch, Gucci got him). Koch sadly died very recently- coincidentally the weekend I was in New York in February. Koch is credited with transforming New York City from the verge of bankruptcy in 1978 to the thriving and inspiring city it is today. He revamped living conditions thorough immense housing projects and overhauled Times Square from the seedy porn mecca it became in the 1970s to what we see today. Koch forecast early that he had to be both a fiscal conservative and a social liberal to achieve what was best for his beloved city.


Koch, in typically posed fashion.

I loved the clips Barksy had unearthed of old New York City- at times I felt as though I was watching a Woody Allen film. Koch was the quintessential balsy and Jewish New Yorker. A pastor when being interviewed described Koch as ‘The Man’ in relation to other mayors Bloomberg or Giuliani. He even had his own catch phrase ‘How’m I doing?’ Endearingly Koch was evidently a man very much concerned with being liked. He was also very anxious about his legacy- he designed his own tomb and we watch him visit the cemetery where he has had it placed even before his death! It clearly meant an enormous amount to him to have the Queensboro Bridge renamed after him.

I am glad Barksy chose not to focus much on Koch’s sexuality. Koch never pandered to pressure about his private life but just told people to mind their own business  He did not want sexuality to become yet another thing to have to disclose on forms. I did feel annoyed by the ending however. Koch was shown faltering down his hall going into his apartment alone. It was as if Barksy was trying to say that all he achieved was irrelevant as ultimately he had ended up a sad and old man. Sort of like the makers of The Iron Lady reducing Thatcher to a loon. An unfair portrayal considering earlier we were shown him immensely and adoringly enjoying the company of his sister and nieces and nephews at a shabbat dinner.

Nearly the weekend. Feelin tiered. Love Sarah. xxx