Born in Flames (1983)

“How do you get it together unless you come together?”

BIF Poster

Synopsis:
Ten years after a peaceful socialist revolution has taken place in the United States, women have still not achieved true equality. When a young black lesbian (Jean Satterfield) who has been agitating on behalf of the revolutionary Women’s Army dies in a prison cell, her female comrades take up arms.

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Review:
Independent filmmaker Lizzie Borden‘s directorial debut — which took five years to shoot, on almost no budget — remains a thoughtful, controversial, decidedly unique sci-fi cautionary tale. Borden radically posits that not even a socialist revolution would eradicate gender inequalities; in her imagined future, it would still fall upon women (rather than the government) to protect one another and fight for equal rights. As a narrative, Born in Flames leaves much to be desired, but this is relatively easy to forgive given the remarkable imagery Borden dares to present: several strong, black, lesbian protagonists; butch females on the subway moving in immediately to protect a woman as she’s openly harassed by a man; a group of women riding up on bicycles to scare away a rapist; women taking collective action to fight for the right to keep their jobs. Like the best incendiary films, Born in Flames makes one think differently about life itself, and remains a powerful reminder of independent film’s potential to “subvert the dominant paradigm”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Several strong black female protagonists
    Strong Female BIF
  • A refreshing look at a society in which women pro-actively protect one other against harm
    This Man is a Rapist BIF

Must See?
Yes, as a one-of-a-kind, much-debated indie flick. Listed as a cult film in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Born in Flames (1983)”

  1. First viewing. Giving this a ‘once-must’ since I’m in agreement with the well-stated assessment above (which doesn’t leave me much to add). I think the film’s powerful message comes through clearly enough – even though the film itself is a bit rough and occasionally needlessly repetitive. ~which only means, I suppose, that I would have appreciated the film being even tougher and more complex than it is. That said, it definitely merits a watch for its urgent subject matter.

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