News from the Women Film Pioneers Project: Indiewire feature and a documentary

by Leyla on April 10, 2015

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Back in October 2013, the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship worked in collaboration with Columbia’s School of Arts and Columbia Libraries/Information Services to publish the Women Film Pioneers Project, a freely accessible, collaborative online database showcasing women working in the silent film industry.

The First African-American Women Directors

Indiewire has just written up another piece about the Women Film Pioneers Project following their first and second write-ups about the project last year. The article discusses the challenges in answering the question: who was the first African-American woman to direct a film? According to the Women Film Pioneers Project, the honor could go to one of many: Tressie Souders, Maria P. Williams, Eloyce King Patrick Gist, Alice B. Russell, Eslanda Robeson, Mrs. M. Webb, Birdie Gilmore, Madame E. Touissant Welcome, Zora Neale Hurston, Drusilla Dunjee Houston.

As Sergio in Indiewire writes, various claims, counter-claims, nuances of historical detail, and semantics (the words “producer” and “director” were often interchangeable in the early days of silent cinema) complicate the ability to answer the question straightforwardly, but “whether it was Welcome or Hurston or Williams or Souders, or even someone who has yet to be discovered… black women directors have been a strong presence, not only in the development of black cinema, but of cinema in general, and filmmakers today owe a tremendous thanks of gratitude to (these) remarkable trailblazers for paving the way.”

Documentary: Girl from God’s Country

On Monday, May 4, 2015, a new documentary, Girl from God’s Country, on women film pioneer Nell Shipman, will premiere at the New York City International Film Festival. Many of the contributors to the Women Film Pioneers Project, including editor Professor Jane Gaines, are interviewed, and the Women Film Pioneers Project is mentioned heavily throughout.

Here’s the trailer for the film:

and its corresponding 10 minute short:

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