Alone and ahead

Pub date March 11, 2009
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

Amid a persistent backlash against feminism stateside — see: He’s Just Not That Into You — at least two SFIAAFF docs offer compelling reminders that women’s struggle for equality in education, work, property ownership, and their very lives continues to be very relevant: Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority and The Forgotten Woman (both 2008).

Now best known for her coauthorship of Title IX — the 1972 legislation prohibiting sex discrimination in schools that now bears the name the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act and is still being fought by athletic departments — the late Mink was a force of nature in national as well as Hawaiian politics. Growing up in Honolulu, I knew her as the fearsome liberal rabble-rouser who stormed the islands’ oft-complacent consciousness with such fire that she rated a daily newspaper comic strip. Kimberlee Bassford’s documentary reminded me of Mink’s achievements, her battles, and the incontrovertible fact that the Japanese American Maui native, once denied entrance into medical school because of her gender, became the first woman of color to serve in the U.S. Congress in 1965.

Dilip Mehta — a National Geographic photojournalist and the production designer of older sister Deepa’s Water (2005) — turns an equally empathetic lens toward the real-life subjects of his sibling’s feature: the tragically marginalized widows of India. In The Forgotten Woman, they gravitate to the holy city of Vrindavan to live on the streets after being abandoned by families who have claimed their land and property. Mehta doesn’t shy away from questioning the ashrams that dispense some charity but benefit financially from the donations; the men who claim that women are forbidden to remarry; and the upscale city dwellers — so far from the glam exotica purveyed by Slumdog Millionaire (2008) — who pay their alms and then banish the women from their minds. His images of the women themselves — surrendering their stories as monkeys scamper about, their glasses held together by string as he shoots them with the utmost grace, respect, and heartbreaking beauty — genuinely sing.


Sun/15, noon, and March 18, 6:45 p.m., Kabuki

March 21, 12:45 p.m., Camera 12


Mon/16, 6:45 p.m., and March 18, 6:30 p.m., Kabuki

March 19, 6:30 p.m., Pacific Film Archive

THE SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL ASIAN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL March 12–22. Main venues are the Castro, 429 Castro, SF; Sundance Kabuki, 1881 Post, SF; Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk; and Camera 12 Cinemas, 201 S. Second St., San Jose. Tickets (most shows $11) are available at For this week’s schedule, see film listings.