WFPF’s Women Writing the Language of Cinema: Carte Blanche at MoMA, NY

Established in 1995 by New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) and The Museum of Modern Art, the Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) is the only programme in the world exclusively dedicated to the preservation of the cultural legacy of women in the film industry. The fund’s core mission is to identify and preserve works in which the role of women was fundamental to the production; to present the films in a public forum; to encourage scholarship about women in film history; and to partner with organizations demonstrating similar goals. Since 1995 the WFPF has provided support for more than 100 American short and feature films.

Women Writing the Language of Cinema celebrates WFPF’s 20th anniversary with a series of film screenings to reflect the essential role of women in the continuing development of cinema as an art form.

The screenings include films dating back to the beginning of the 20th century such as Matrimony’s Speed Limit (1913), by Alice Guy-Blaché, the world’s first female filmmaker who directed and produced hundreds of films, and was the first (and, so far, the only) woman to own and run her own film studio. From recent times, there is the 2010 film, Winter’s Bone, by Debra Granik and winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. This work tells the story of a determined young woman in an Ozark rural community: the caregiver for her mother and two younger siblings, she must locate her father in order to save the family home. The film’s compelling action plays out against the desolate beauty of the Ozark landscape, the harsher lifestyles of crystal meth and tribal alleignaces, and the poignancy of mountain ballads and plaintive fiddle music.

There are classics such as Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), directed by Susan Seidelman and featuring Madonna; tributes, such as that to Iris Barry in She Done Him Wrong, directed by Lowell Sherman; and experimental pieces with Bridges-Go-Round (1958) by Shirley Clarke, which uses leftover project footage to elicit a sense of motion in inanimate objects that appear to be swaying to both electronic and jazz scores.

With films deriving from all over the world and covering every genre, this expansive programme shows the sheer breadth and depth of the female contribution to the film industry throughout history.

Women Writing the Language of Cinema, 2 February – 13 February, The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters, MoMA, 11 West 53 St, New York, 10019.

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1. Still from Desperately Seeking Susan (1985).