Where is She Now?

Chainletter Filmmakers:

The Cherry Cherry Chainletter

Sue Wrbican, Back Roof
January 29, 2017

How did you find out about Joanie 4 Jackie and how old were you at the time?
I barely remember how I found out about it. Perhaps it was in Afterimage? I was 42 and “Back Roof” was my first film.

What interested you about the project?
I liked the idea of receiving a tape with videos made exclusively by women.

At the time you participated in Joanie 4 Jackie did you consider yourself a filmmaker? What was your relationship to making movies?
No, I considered myself primarily a photographer. Home movies were a part of family experience in the 1960s and my father made many of our family which I used in Back Roof. At the time I made this film I’d just learned an Avid digital system which permitted me to make something on a small budget. I now identify as an artist employing a variety of methods as needed.

Do you have any specific anecdotes or memories associated with your movie?
The film is about my difficult relationship with my father. It provided a way to reconnect with his home movies 12 years after he died (in 1984) and to reconfigure the feelings represented in those movies. I’d always felt powerless in my relationship with my father and making this film was a way to take that power by restructuring my memories of him. I could have been harsh towards him; it was a continual process of deciding not to do this as I moved through the process of making the film. This allowed me to go forward without the intensity of the wounds he had inflicted on me.

For me, this film represented the disruption of progress we undergo as women: that moment when our minds and experiences have developed enough to realize that we are not equal on the playing field. It is the recognition that society thwarts women’s dreams and possibilities, forcing us to say goodbye to what we thought might be the path to life’s satisfactions and successes. I think we all react to this personal realization through many different ways, certainly one of which is anger. And then of course, we get on with it.

I also included recollections of my grandparents as immigrants, specifically with losing their language upon arrival in a new place. I wanted to address the impact language has on one’s abilities to reconcile with a new reality. My family came to the United States from Slovakia in search of a better life. Here, they worked in mills, on railroads, and in coalmines. This very basic human desire to find a peaceful and secure life had been impossible for them in eastern Europe—as it continues to be impossible today for those trapped in countries experiencing constant strife and conflict.

What did you think/feel about the Joanie 4 Jackie at the time? And now, in retrospect?
At that time I believed women were on the crux of having equal footing with men. I found it incredible that this compendium of works that address empowering women’s voices via the tools of digital filmmaking was assembled. Now I cannot accept the fact that we are in the throes of a federal administration that is acutely focused on dismantling so much for women and society both here in the United States and internationally. Thankfully you have made this work available to all in affirmation these important voices.

What institutions, groups, people, publications and movements were inspiring you at the time of your participation in J4J?
Ann Fessler, Deborah Bright and C.D. Wright were key figures in my development as an artist.

What do you do now – professionally and otherwise? Are you still involved in filmmaking?
I make art in my studio in Washington, DC, where I still work with narrative structures. I’m finishing a hand-bound book that was in the making for ten years. Part of this project is inspired by the painter Kay Sage and her lack of equality with male artists during the Surrealist movement.

I also teach and direct the photo program at George Mason University. While I am no longer making films, I show my students many films. My classroom projects often engage local communities on issues such as the environment, immigration and empowerment.

Anything you would like to see on the J4J site?
Perhaps interviews with the artists about their new works.