Acts And Intermissions: Emma Goldman in America (2017)
The second in Child's Trilogy of Women and Ideology.

USA, 2017, color, sound, 16mm orig, DV edit, 60 min

Utilizing the life of Emma Goldman to explore the resurgence of protest in the 21st century. The work is hybrid and prismatic, including contemporary footage, archive and re-enactment to expose the continuing conflicts between labor and property, revolutionary purity and personal freedom.

The film performs a time travel, intercutting moments from Emma’s life with her prescient speeches, weaving industrial era factory labor with computer data centers with Emma’s intimate diaries—to explore human vulnerabilities, compromises and choices. Known as the “most dangerous woman alive,” Emma was also passionate and sexual; beauty/art/humor part of the freedoms for which she was fighting. The film creates a dialogue on individual liberties and anarchism: how we risk and how we are compromised? Questions that have become only more relevant in our current political climate.


“An hour-long collage essay, charging the discussion with Child’s enlightened aesthetic of poetry, the archive, and experimental montage. As the Most Dangerous Woman Alive, Goldman’s life is seen as an ongoing negotiation of revolutionary purity and personal freedom, a complexity that Child mirrors in her own formal strategies. She layers multiple fragments of Emma’s liberatory legacy—from archive, from reenactment and from observational cinema—her speculative play with the revolutionary ideas extending to the present moment of feminist revolt!” — Craig Baldwin, ATA

“Since the 1970s, Abigail Child has been a significant voice in experimental documentary. Her Acts & Intermissions (Feb. 17 & 19) combines several visual formats and sound collages to connect modern-day protest with early 20th-century dissident Emma Goldman, once called “the most dangerous woman alive." It's a bracing work that finds alarming patterns and repetitions in methods of repression over the past century.” — Daniel Eagan,Film Journal

“Her films display a unique mastery of both form and content, graced with delicate editing, and colored by whispering sound designs which are all her own. …..The style undermines expectations …. Indeed, remarkable early-20th century protest footage interlaces with recent scenes of mass resistance. The film also includes contemporary scenes of workers in a yarn factory. These surreal shots of beautiful mess and mechanization, establish the film’s ground….. Another recent biographical documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, about author James Baldwin, similarly interweaves images of past and present. The days of the traditional documentary, with its objectifying, distanced historical perspective, seem to be over. These films suggest there’s no longer space to simply observe. However we choose to act, history is living us, and we are participants.” — KristinCato

“Following the arc of Goldman’s life over the course of the 32 years she spent in the United States, Abigail Child’s Acts and Intermissions restores Goldman her complexity, though not as a fully-formed and unitary subject of biography or intellectual history. As an artist and writer, Child has worked seriously across a range of media. In all of them, her principal form has been montage, developing, as Tom Gunning writes, “a system founded not on coherence, but on breakdown, not on continuity, but interruption.” Here she subjects Goldman to the latest iteration of this always evolving system.” — Ji.hlava

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