Sometimes it’s surprising how far we’ve come in the past half century. And sometimes it’s depressing how far we have left to go.

“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” contains plenty of examples of both, but it’s mostly concerned with the advent of feminism in the late ’60s and early ’70s. A long list of women’s liberation pioneers is followed, both in photos and films from that turbulent time, and in modern-day interviews with their now-senior but still-ferocious selves.

For those who can think back that far, remember: Abortion was illegal and thousands of women died annually from botched procedures. Rape was generally assumed to be about sex, not power, and the term sexual harassment didn’t even exist, although the practice certainly did. Newspapers ran Help Wanted: Men and Help Wanted: Women classifieds because, obviously, no woman could do a man’s job.

The litany of absurdities runs on. Somehow, while surrounded by the roar of the civil rights movement and encouraged by the anti-war movement, small groups of women across the country began discussing their own oppression. Somewhat puzzled by the sexual revolution — which was mainly a great deal for guys — they also began exploring their own bodies.

The National Organization for Women was founded in 1966 and soon groups with names like the Redstockings, the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union and Black Sisters United began surfacing across the country. Women took to the streets to burn bras for media cameras and child care, equal pay, abortion rights and domestic violence became major issues. “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” written by women about being a woman, became an international revelation.

It wasn’t all easy and it certainly wasn’t, and still isn’t, all coherent. There were splits within groups and forward steps were often met with backward steps. Battles still rage on.

Director Mary Dore acknowledges all this while trying to wrap her arms around the many aspects and factions of the movement. She keeps the momentum going by jumping back and forth between talking head reminisces, re-enactments and wonderfully revealing portraits of the time.

It’s a bubbling cauldron of newfound freedom and energy coming to life, an inspiring reminder of what people of a like mind and heart can accomplish. “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” is a thing of beauty indeed.

‘She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry’


Not rated

Running time: 92 minutes

“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” plays Sunday at the Maple Theater in Bloomfield with director Mary Dore in attendance; it then opens March 13 at Cinema Detroit.

Read or Share this story: