Movies at SAAM: Five Questions for Pamela Tanner Boll

In honor of Women's History Month, Movies at SAAM will present the 2008 documentary Who Does She Think She Is? on Saturday, March 3, at 3 p.m. This award-winning film follows five female artists—Maye Torres, Janis Wunderlich, Angela Williams, Camille Musser, and Mayumi Oda—who refuse to choose between motherhood and their careers. After the screening, director Pamela Tanner Boll, will join us for a post-film discussion. In anticipation of this event, we sat down with Ms. Boll to ask her a few questions about her life in film.

Eye level: What inspired you to make the film?

Pamela Tanner Boll: Who Does She Think She Is? came out of my own experience as a mother and an artist. I felt torn between these two vital roles and did not see any women who were doing both with success. So I set out to explore this dilemma. Despite years of feminism, it is women who still do the majority of work to create a family and raise children. To do art is often seen as an “extra” or a “hobby.”  I set out to see how talented women were handling these and other issues around the United States. I wanted to profile women who were not necessarily big names, nor those working in cities on the coasts. But I wanted to find women who were actively showing and promoting their work in their communities.

Have you always wanted to be a director?

I never considered directing movies until I attended the screening of a friend’s film about fifteen years ago. It was called The Day My God Died [and it was] about sex trafficking of young girls. It played at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. I was so moved and amazed. Also she had never made a film but was called to do so because she felt strongly about this issue. So I decided I would make one too. And I did.

What was the hardest part of making the film?

Making the film was surprisingly easy. I found wonderful subjects working in painting, sculpture, acting, and printmaking. The difficulties showed up in my personal life. I was not always sure I knew what I was doing. I was also changing between my roles from being (mainly) an at home hands-on mother and wife to filmmaker. Lots of changes for everyone!

What is your next project?

My next film is a look at how we can reverse climate change through growing food in new ways. It is about working with nature to grow more food and to heal the planet. Again, I’ll be looking for ordinary folks—farmers and ranchers—who are finding that they can increase their yields and profit, and thus stay on the land while also drawing down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into healthy soil.

What is your favorite movie?

My favorite film is probably Coal Miner's Daughter about Loretta Lynn. I grew up in West Virginia and this story resonates with me on so many levels. It’s about a shy young woman with a good voice who becomes one of the foremost singers in the world. And she does it with the help of her husband.

Come watch the film Who Does She Think She is? And hear more from director Pamela Tanner Boll on March 3, 2018 at 3 p.m. in SAAM's McEvoy Auditorium.

Public program assistant, Ryan Linthicum, is coordinator of Movies at SAAM.