Two documentaries are playing today at SXSW: Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines and Brooklyn Castle.
WONDER WOMEN! THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICAN SUPERHEROINES traces the fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman. From the birth of the comic book superheroine in the 1940s to the blockbusters of today, WONDER WOMEN! looks at how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society’s anxieties about women’s liberation.
Produced by Kelcey Edwards, WONDER WOMEN! goes behind the scenes with Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman), Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman), comic writers and artists, and real life superheroines such as Gloria Steinem, Kathleen Hanna and others who offer an enlightening and entertaining counterpoint to the male dominated superhero genre.
From Director Kristy Guevara-Flanagan:
“Like most women and men of my generation, I grew up with Lynda Carter’s “Wonder Woman” television show. It was the late 70’s, the show was already in the constant rotation of syndication, and there simply wasn’t anything else out there that captured my imagination as a little girl. I had friends who were Wonder Woman for Halloween year after year because there were so few options for girls as fantasy heroes. When I started telling people about this film, men and women had wildly different reactions. Most of the guys admitted that Wonder Woman was their first TV crush. Women reminisced about how they pretended to be her: twirling a rope to capture foes or spinning to transform themselves into superheroes.”
“Fast-forward some thirty years and I was reading a New York Times article that introduced Gail Simone as Wonder Woman’s first female writer EVER. Here was this incredible feminist symbol who had always been stuck, like a lot of strong female characters, between being created by men and being primarily consumed by boys.”
“The story stayed with me, and I began looking into Wonder Woman’s origins. Her creator, William Moulton Marston, was a fascinating character who set out to create an empowering role model amid a lot of super-violent male heroes. Of course, he also had some interesting ideas about what a strong female hero should look like. But his creation has endured while so many others have been forgotten.”
“I loved the idea of looking at something as populist as comics to reveal our cultural obsessions, and in particular, how women’s roles have changed over time. The narratives of our most iconic superheroes, told and re-told over decades, boldly outline our shifting values. That’s one story WONDER WOMEN! tells, but to me, it’s not the most interesting one. I hope the film also conveys the unpredictable ways those icons can shape and even transform us in return. For some it’s Lara Croft, for others it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but we all need those iconic heroes that tell us we have the power to slay our dragons and don’t have to wait around to be rescued.”
BROOKLYN CASTLE is a documentary about I.S. 318 an inner-city school where more than 65 percent of students are from homes with incomes below the federal poverty level that also happens to have the most winning junior high school chess team in the nation.
The school has cultivated many of the nation’s highest ranked players; if Albert Einstein, who was rated 1800, were to join the team he’d only rank fifth. Chess has helped transform the school from one cited in 2003 as a “school in need of improvement” to one of New York City’s highest achieving middle schools. But a series of recession-driven public school budget cuts now threaten to undermine those hard-won successes.
Coaches John Galvin and Elizabeth Vicary deeply believe that their students have benefitted from playing chess, and they are committed to keeping their program intact and alive. For Justus, Patrick, Alexis, Pobo and Rochelle, chess is more than just a game. It is a theatre of hard work and determination where they negotiate larger conflicts by maneuvering their armies of rooks, knights, pawns, and bishops – and where they can become kings and queens, far beyond the tabletop battlefield.