Virtual Women Filmmakers Festival at SAAM: Her History Lessons

March 2021

A photograph of a woman in nature.

Still from Cecilia Vicuña, Semiya (Seed Song), 2015. Colchagua, Chile. Video still by Christian Chierego. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

Join the Smithsonian American Art Museum for our third annual Women Filmmakers Festival. This year, the festival is presented exclusively online with screenings and programing that highlights a different, singularly-inspiring artist each week.

Organized around the theme of “Her History Lessons,” the featured filmmakers all create works that look to the past for insights into urgent issues of today. Acknowledging the momentous events of 2020, the selected videos reflect on colonial histories and the growing climate crisis; legacies of artists, activists, and state repression; and more than a century of pandemics tied to social upheavals. By inviting these artists and their works into conversation with Smithsonian curators and audiences, the festival this year reckons with challenges that traverse generations and have much to teach us in navigating the road ahead.

Each week of the festival we will highlight a different woman filmmaker. On Mondays, we will release a longer video work by the featured artist that will be available for viewing at any time during the week. Viewers are encouraged to enjoy the film and submit questions and comments. These will be compiled and discussed each Wednesday in a live virtual conversation that features the filmmaker and Smithsonian curators. All festival offerings are closed captioned.

Mark your calendar and tune in for all of our film screenings. Register now for each artist conversation! 

Credit

Women Filmmakers Festival at SAAM is made possible by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Because of Her Story.

A logo for the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative

Cecilia Vicuña

Internationally renowned artist Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948, Santiago, Chile) creates works that engage with deep histories of place, particularly the coastal traditions and ecology of her homeland of Chile, from which she has been exiled since the US-backed coup in 1973.

Watch Kon Kon (2010) Monday, March 1–Sunday, March 7

A photograph with mountains in the background and a hand in the foreground.

Cecilia Vicuña, Kon Kon, 2010. Con Cón, Chile. Video still. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and London.

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Watch Vicuña’s captivating film Kon Kon (2010). This hour-long video essay converges on the beaches of Con Cón, Chile. It weaves together South American Indigenous wisdom, environmental and colonial histories, and the artist’s biography. This film is in Spanish with English subtitles.

Tune in at any time between March 1–7 to watch this this poetic video essay. Viewers are encouraged to submit questions and comments for our live conversation with Cecilia Vicuña on Wednesday, March 3, at 5:30 p.m. ET. Questions received by 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday will be considered for the program.

Submit Questions and Comments

A photograph of a woman in nature.

Still from Cecilia Vicuña, Semiya (Seed Song), 2015. Colchagua, Chile. Video still by Christian Chierego. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

Join us Live Wednesday, March 3, 5:30 p.m. ET

Lessons from Environmental Histories with Cecilia Vicuña

Renowned Chilean American artist Cecilia Vicuña participates in a virtual conversation about her work that explores the deep histories, coastal traditions, and the ecology of her homeland of Chile. Enjoy two short video artworks, Semiya (Seed Song) (2015) and Un nudo vivo (A Living Knot) (2017), featuring artistic rituals for healing human-environment relations.    

Vicuña is joined in conversation by Amalia Cordova, Latino curator for digital and emerging media at the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and Saisha Grayson, time-based media curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.   

This program is co-presented with the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. A recording of this event featuring video artworks is available on this page for a limited time through March 10. 

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Coco Fusco

Award-winning artist and writer Coco Fusco (b. 1960, New York, NY) has been forcefully teasing out the complex relationships between artistic, political, and identity production since the 1990s, and emphasizing the roles of intellectual and creative communities in resisting state oppression and injustice.

Watch La botella al mar de María Elena (2015) Monday March 8–Sunday, March 14

An image of a billboard in a town.

Coco Fusco, La botella al mar de María Elena (The Message in a Bottle from María Elena), 2015. Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York © Coco Fusco/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Watch Fusco’s La botella al mar de María Elena (2015). This lyrical forty-five-minute video reflects on Cuban poet María Elena Cruz Varela’s effort to mobilize artists and intellectuals within a politically repressive and personally dangerous context. Recent arrests in Cuba and state-mounted attacks on free speech worldwide make Varela’s story resonate today. This film is presented in Spanish with English subtitles.   

Tune in at any time between March 8–14 to watch this film. Viewers are encouraged to submit questions and comments for our live conversation with Coco Fusco on Wednesday, March 10, at 5:30 p.m. ET. Questions received by 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday will be considered for the program.

Submit Questions and Comments

A photograph of a figure with an afro hair style

Coco Fusco, a/k/a Mrs. George Gilbert, 2004. Courtesy of Video Data Bank, www.vdb.org, School of the Art Institute of Chicago © Coco Fusco.

Join us Live Wednesday, March 10, 5:30 p.m. ET

Lessons from Activist Histories with Coco Fusco

Award-winning artist and writer Coco Fusco participate in a virtual conversation about her work that examines the complex relationships between art, politics, and identity since the 1990s. Watch a screening of Fusco’s 2004 a/k/a Mrs. George Gilbert, which explores the role of photography in the FBI’s hunt for and trial of Black Power activist Angela Davis.

Fusco is joined in conversation by Rhea Combs, curator of film and photography at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Saisha Grayson, time-based media curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Learn more about this earlier example of government surveillance and how it foreshadows contemporary activists’ experiences in an era of camera phones and facial recognition technologies.  

This program is co-presented with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. A recording of this event featuring video artworks is available on this page for a limited time through March 17.

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Mariam Ghani

Mariam Ghani (b. 1978, Brooklyn, NY) is an internationally exhibited artist, filmmaker, and writer, known for projects developed through extensive research and collaboration, and that iterate across the years to produce multiple, interconnected artworks and social interventions.

Watch What We Left Unfinished (2019) Monday, March 15–Sunday, March 21

An image of a video production clapper

Mariam Ghani, still from What We Left Unfinished (Indexical Films, 2019); originally from Juwansher Haidary’s unfinished film Kaj Rah (Wrong Way). Courtesy the artist.

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Watch Ghani’s What We Left Unfinished (2019). This feature-length documentary examines the Afghan film industry from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Ghani’s documentary not only reports on history but was instrumental in unearthing and restoring these long-lost films. Her engaging interviews with filmmakers reveal the passion and uncertainty of artmaking under shifting political regimes. This film is presented in English and Afghan with English subtitles.  

Tune in at any time between March 15–21 to watch this documentary. Viewers are encouraged to submit questions and comments for our live conversation with Mariam Ghani on Wednesday, March 17, at 5:30 p.m. ET. Questions received by 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday will be considered for the program.   

Submit Questions and Comments

A drawing with a monster, knife, and cross

Mariam Ghani, Still from Dis-Ease (in progress); archival image originally from the Italian Red Cross- Appeal for Tuberculosis, 1920, Wellcome Collection, London, UK. 

Join us Live Wednesday March 17, 5:30 p.m. ET

Lessons from Pandemic Histories with Mariam Ghani

Internationally exhibited artist, filmmaker, and writer Mariam Ghani participates in a virtual conversation about two of her upcoming projects developed around the 100th anniversary of the 1918 pandemic. Watch clips from the film DIS-EASE, which examines themes of illness, otherness, and invasion. Then enjoy excerpts from The Fire Next Time, an in-progress short that traces the connection between epidemics and social upheaval from the 1800s to the present.   

Ghani is joined in conversation by Saisha Grayson, time-based media curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Sabrina Sholts, curator of biological anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Learn more about Ghani’s films, Sholts’s 2018 exhibit Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World, and how past health crises inform how we navigate COVID-19’s impact on our individual lives and societal landscapes. 

This program is co-presented with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. A recording of this event featuring artworks is available on this page for a limited time through March 24.

Register Now