Djuna Barnes privately published The Ladies Almanack in 1928. The characters in the film are the women Barnes wrote about in thinly coded language in her Almanack; Natalie Barney, Dolly Wilde, Romaine Brooks, Colette, Mina Loy, Radclyffe Hall, Una Troubridge Lily Gramont, Janet Flanner, Renee Vivien, Sylvia Beech, Solita Solano, Lucie Delarue-Madrus, Gertrude Stein, Arthur Cravan, Thelma Wood, Liane de Pougy and Djuna Barnes herself. The narrators in the film are voiced by Hélène Cixous playing herself, Eileen Myles as Monique Wittig, and my college dance teacher, Elesa Rosasco, as Luce Irigiray.
In 1927, Natalie Clifford Barney established L’Académie des Femmes in response to the lack of support and recognition for female authors in France. These authors gathered each week for Natalie Barney’s salon at her home, 20 Rue Jacob on Paris’s left bank.
The film takes place in an imaginary city comprised of Paris and Chicago, using architectural similarities to suggest that both cities are one. The communities from which we speak are made possible because of the particular spaces we inhabit. This remains true for the creation of this film. It is not just a movie, it is a movement. In Paris, the center of our creative community is a living room in Aubervilliers. (An inner-ring suburb just Northwest of the city proper.) In Chicago, the spaces that have served and fed our artistic community for many years figure prominently in the film. Theses rooms on both continents from which the work emerges are spaces very much like Natalie’s salon. The Ladies Almanack addresses the cultural importance of semi-private spaces as essential ground for social and professional self-determination.
Most of the cast is comprised of non-professional actors. They are instead artists asked to stand in for these historical figures while maintaining themselves. The intention is to highlight the living alongside the dead.
We shot the film entirely on super 8, recording sound separately and shooting only one take to create a performative-not-quite narrative cinema space, where the seams are showing. This aesthetic recalls many of my favorite films: Lizzie Borden’s Born in Flames, Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman, and G.B. Jones’s The Yo-yo Gang.
The list of collaborators who have volunteered their labor and talent to make this film is extensive. Leciel’s unclassifiable music provides the gorgeous original film score, and Sarah Patten’s beautiful collages inform the look of the whole project.
For three years, I have been working on the research, writing, fundraising, building and shooting of this movie. The community engaged in a radical remaking of this historic circle of 1920’s queer female writers has steadily grown.
This film is already a REALITY! This movie is already a MOVEMENT! And it is beautiful. With generous in-kind donations of location, labor, costumes, and volunteers, as well as money from our community and cultural grants, we have already raised 90% of our total budget.
Now, we are asking for your support to raise the last 15,000 of a $150,000 film. These funds will allow us to finish editing, color correction, sound mix, scanning to exhibition format, and also to promote, exhibit and distribute the film.
In other words, this fundraising campaign will allow us to bring the film to YOU!
This is my first feature film and I am so excited to share it with the world. Please join us as we remake history.