Posts tagged ‘mama at the movies’

Mama at the Movies: Sperm Donor X

I’m working on a trilogy of related columns right now, covering three documentaries about different paths to motherhood and changing attitudes toward how we become mothers. The first, Adopted, looked closely at two families who adopted daughters from China. The third column, on the documentary Sunshine, will explore one family’s history of single motherhood. And the second column, on Deirdre Fishel’s film, Sperm Donor X, is up now at Literary Mama. Here’s an excerpt:

I must have been in second grade when I first thought about how old I would be in the year 2000 — 32 — and what my life would be like by then. Basing my vision entirely on my mom’s life, I assumed I’d be married with four kids.

I didn’t spend the intervening years fretting about the gap between that vision and my reality — milestone birthdays came and went without a husband, and at some point I realized I didn’t really want four kids — but by the time the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, 1999, I was engaged and on the way to a more realistic vision for myself. These days, when I’m helping Eli find dress-up clothes for his stuffed dog’s wedding or discussing the rate for a night in Ben’s space hotel, I sometimes pause to marvel that this has become my life, a life I could never have imagined when I was the age my oldest is now.

I’m lucky that my childhood dream adjusted easily to my adult reality. I’m lucky that I didn’t have to give up one dream for another, or struggle to get the family I wanted. That struggle, and that difficult adjustment to an unanticipated reality, is the undercurrent of Deirdre Fishel’s documentary, Sperm Donor X (2002), which follows four women, including the filmmaker herself, who want to become mothers and find themselves unexpectedly doing it on their own, with anonymous sperm donors.

You can read the rest over at Literary Mama. The film hasn’t been released yet, as the filmmaker still needs to raise funds to license archival footage. If you’d like to help, consider making a donation at Kickstarter.

Who Does She Think She Is? benefit screening!

Last year, I wrote about Pamela Tanner Boll’s inspiring documentary about artists who are also mothers; if you haven’t seen it yet and are in the New York area, here’s a great way to see the movie, participate in a lively conversation about art and parenting, and do good — all at the same time!

“This film is not about being a woman or being a woman artist, but rather how to be a human, how to find your true place in life.”

Join us for an evening of inspiration, collaboration and art

Wine Reception* Film Screening* Panel Discussion

May 1, 2010

6:30 pm

Peekskill Hat Factory

1000 North Division Street, Peekskill

Tickets: $30 per person

Hosted by The Peekskill Hat Factory

Benefitting The Garden Road School’s Arts in Education Programs

For more information or to purchase tickets visit: The Garden Road or email infoATthegardenroadDOTorg



WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS? is a documentary by Academy Award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll that follows the lives of five fierce female artists who refuse to choose between their art and their families. Through the lens of their lives, the film explores some of the most problematic intersections of our time: mothering and creativity, partnering and independence, economics and art. Visit the film’s website to view the trailer and to learn more.


We are honored to have six very talented artist-mothers signed on for what is sure to be a lively, relevant and moving panel discussion following the film. These fascinating women represent a cross section of female artists working to balance their art and families. They bring to the discussion a diversity of artistic mediums, life experiences, and personal perspectives.

Maria Colaco

Leslie Fields-Cruz

Sarah Haviland

Kathleen Pemble

Lowry Reinaur, Artist in Residence at The Garden Road School

Dar Williams

Mama at the Movies: Adopted

“Nearly 60% of Americans are personally connected to someone who is either adopted, has adopted, or has relinquished a child to be adopted.”
— Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

I read this statistic, which runs at the end of Barb Lee’s documentary, Adopted (2008), and started counting in my head: ten cousins, two college roommates, one graduate school friend and two colleagues who are adopted, plus four other friends who have adopted children themselves. Two of my sons’ four cousins are adopted. Yes, indeed, I am one of that 60%, and my life is certainly richer for it, but watching Adopted made me think that perhaps I take these riches too lightly.

Adopted tells the story of two families. First we meet Jennifer Fero, a thirty-two year old Korean woman adopted as an infant by an Oregon couple who experienced secondary infertility after having a son; the second storyline follows John and Jacqui Trainer, a New Hampshire couple who decide to adopt from China after their own long struggle with infertility. The two families are at opposite ends of their adoption journeys.

Please click on over to Literary Mama to read the rest!

Support Independent Filmmaking!

Come to a preview screening/potluck dinner/discussion/fundraiser for independent mom filmmaker Deirdre Fishel, who is raising funds to complete her documentary, Sperm Donor X. Donations gratefully accepted, but not required; come for the movie, stay for the discussion!

Here is Deirdre’s story:

I began filming Sperm Donor X at 40, when I found myself at a precipice. I wanted to at least try to have a biological child yet doing it alone with donor sperm felt bizarre and terrifying.

I had no idea how my story would end and I was interested in finding other diverse women facing the same turning point. I filmed myself and three other women for two years, then stopped because I wasn’t sure I wanted to put out such a personal film. But I started again because not a day goes by that I don’t look at my kids and feel grateful that I made this choice. It’s almost painful to think what I would have missed if I hadn’t.

Every month I meet smart, talented, beautiful women in their thirties and early forties who want children and yet are so afraid of doing it alone. Some see it as a personal failure. But the truth is we’re well into a huge cultural shift, with the numbers of singles skyrocketing and more and more people getting into their primary relationships later in life.

My fervent wish with this documentary is to normalize a process that felt bizarre and foreign to me and to show that there are so many ways to be a family. Women having kids alone with donor sperm is just one of them and it’s okay.

Sperm Donor X is a fully edited 54 minute film. But without the finishing funds to do a sound mix, color correct, and license the archival footage it won’t get out into the world. Please help us by giving what you can. Many thanks.

You can see a trailer of the film here.

Saturday February 6, 6:30 – 9:30 PM, Oakland, CA

Contact me or Literary Mama’s CNF editor, Susan Ito, for address; write to LMnonfiction (at) literarymama (dot) com and please put “Sperm Donor X” in the subject line.

Mama at the Movies: Fantastic Mr. Fox

One of the sweet highlights of our Christmas vacation was our first-ever family movie outing, which provided fodder for my newest column at Literary Mama. Here’s an excerpt:

We’ve been looking for Ben’s first movie theater-movie for years. It had to be fairly quiet: no big explosions, no loud soundtrack (though we would bring ear plugs to protect against overzealous projectionists.) It had to be a gentle story: no heightened drama, no second act inflated by chase scenes. I could do without a lot of violence, car crashes or gun play (which make a surprising number of appearances even in G-rated kids’ movies) and a well-written movie that didn’t traffic in stereotypes would be welcome, though mostly I just wanted something that would make Ben laugh.

And so we found it, a movie about a fellow who makes a living as a thief until one day, while he is imprisoned for his crimes, he learns his wife is pregnant and he decides to go legit, writing a little-read column for the local newspaper. He settles into a modest life with his wife, a landscape painter, and his quirky son, a boy who embarrasses his father because he wears a bath towel as a cape and tucks his socks into his pants. When the boy’s cousin comes for an extended visit, the father isn’t ashamed to say that he prefers his socially-adept, athletic nephew to his son. But the quiet life bores him and he is tempted back into his life of crime, stealing from his neighbors, deceiving his wife, and ultimately putting his entire community at risk.


Fantastic Mr. Fox was perfect for us; ever since we saw it, the boys have been quoting lines, working on their whistling (to mimic Mr. Fox’s trademark), we even made the cookies. Click on over to Literary Mama to read more.

Mama at the Movies: Motherhood

How perfect! A movie about a woman trying to raise two kids in the city while also carving out time to write. I was eager to see Katherine Dieckmann’s new film, Motherhood, especially after reading the interview with her on Literary Mama. Here’s an excerpt from my latest column:

Dressed in jeans and an old fleece, my hair pulled back into a messy bun, I looked exactly like what I am: a mom who’d just barely made it out of the house, leaving the post-dinner mess, homework supervision, and the kids’ bedtime to my husband so that I could see a movie. Glancing around the theater, I saw my compatriots, in ones and twos, one pair with a sling-cozy baby, eating balanced dinners of popcorn and peanut M&Ms.; Not date night, but mom’s night out at the movies as we all waited for the start of Motherhood, Katherine Dieckmann’s day-in-the-life film about Eliza Welsh, New York City mommy-blogger, former fiction writer, wife, and mother of two.

Click on over to Literary Mama to read the rest, and let me know what you think!

Mama at the Movies: Where the Wild Things Are

We are not, I admit, a Where the Wild Things Are family; we’re In the Night Kitchen folks. Sendak’s fantasy of naked Mickey’s romp in a New York City kitchen offers an airplane ride, guitar-playing, and the promise of breakfast cake; it depicts a child’s solo adventure, but leads him gently back to bed at the end. It is the perfect story for my airplane-drawing, music-loving, kitchen-happy boys. Where the Wild Things Are, with Max’s fierce temper and the Wild Things’ raucous rumpussing, despite its blue-green cross-hatched beauty and peaceful ending, just scares my kids. There was no question of my movie-shy children attending the new film adaptation by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers, especially after I heard them clarify that Where the Wild Things Are is not a film for children, but a film about childhood.

And for that, I love it.

click on over to Literary Mama to read the rest!

The Boys Are Back

Why would I spend an evening at a movie about a dad who’s left to raise his two sons alone after his wife dies of cancer? I’ve written before about absent-mother movies; it’s not that I have some morbid curiosity about families without mothers or expect that these movies are going to show me what might be (I certainly hope not!) I love movies about family relationships, I love quiet, talky movies, and I have to admit I love a chance to attend a free press screening. So I went to The Boys Are Back with a friend (whose own two boys are old enough to be left alone for a couple hours while she goes to an early evening movie). I thought, based on what I knew of the plot, that it might be a bit sappy. But we were both very pleasantly surprised, because The Boys Are Back is a really lovely film about a man learning how to father after his wife passes away.

The film is based on Simon Carr’s memoir of the same name. Carr is a columnist for The Independent, though in the film’s one significant, and perfectly reasonable, deviation from the memoir, Clive Owen plays him as a sportswriter named Joe. It makes his job look a bit more glamorous (we see him writing coverage of Michael Phelps at the Sydney Olympics), though my friend and I did wonder exactly how this dad was supporting his family’s very comfortable lifestyle on a newspaper writer’s salary. We should be so lucky. But that’s a tiny quibble in what’s otherwise a very realistic, human, and beautifully-told story about a little family struggling to regain its equilibrium after a devastating loss.

The film opens with Joe driving a jeep along the beach. Water is spraying past, and we begin to see that people are shouting at him, presumably just because he is driving on the beach. But then the camera pulls back and we see a little boy perched on the hood of the car, griping the windshield wipers behind him, screaming with delight. This is our first clue that this family is different. The film flashes back briefly then, to tell the story of the mother’s cancer diagnosis and death, and the moment I knew this was a film that understands a bit about children and families was when Joe tells his son, Artie (a sweet and impish Nicholas McAnulty) that his mom is ill. The four year-old has good questions: “Is Mummy going to die? When? Will she die by dinner time? Will she die by bedtime? Will she die by breakfast?” And Joe understands that these are reasonable questions from a kid, and answers honestly, “I don’t know.”

Most of the film then narrates the life Joe builds with little Artie and his son from his first marriage, Harry, a young teen who comes to live with them some months after the death of Artie’s mom. “The fact is,” explains Joe to Harry, “I run a pretty loose ship. . . . We found that the more rules we had the more crimes were created; petty prosecutions started to clog up the machinery of life. Conversely, the fewer the rules we had, the nicer we were to each other.” It’s not all indoor water balloon fights and bike-riding in the kitchen (though there is that); the silly, like in real life, is tempered by the serious, and it all adds up to a fine film about ordinary life.

Who Does She Think She Is? DVD discount!

Who Does She Think She Is?, the terrific documentary about women trying to combine motherhood and artistic work, is coming out on DVD! I wrote about the film last year in my Mama at the Movies column. Here’s an excerpt:

I hadn’t really thought about the constraints of space and materials that visual artists work with until I watched Pamela Tanner Boll’s moving new documentary Who Does She Think She Is? (2008), which introduces us to several mother-artists and asks why, when making art and raising children are both crucial for our culture, it is so hard to do both. The film wants us to know about these mothers making art, and it puts their stories in the larger context of all women artists. Like all women, women artists find their work less well-known and less well-compensated than the work of their male contemporaries. Like all mothers, mother artists endure isolation from their peers, sleep deprivation, and myriad claims on their time which make it difficult to continue their careers. But they do.

The filmmakers are celebrating the DVD release by organizing house parties around the country on November 8th. Want to join them? You can buy the DVD at a 10% discount with a special promotional code for Literary Mama and Food for Thought readers; just go the DVD online store and enter the promo code LitMama.

There’s more info about the house party idea here and here. Check it out, and then gather your friends for a screening!

Mama at the Movies: Ponyo and The Secret of Roan Inish

It was sea-creature month at the movies for me, first taking Eli to see the new Miyazaki film, Ponyo, and then watching The Secret of Roan Inish on my own. Here’s an excerpt from my latest Mama at the Movies column:

With all the summer buzz about the new Hayao Miyazaki film, Ponyo (2009), I thought maybe this would be my son Ben’s first movie-theater movie. He’s been reluctant to go to the theater, cautious of the loud soundtrack and the sense of disappearing into the story (which of course I love). I showed both boys the trailer and Ben, not surprisingly, said “That looks like a movie I might want to watch at home on DVD.” But his younger brother Eli wanted to go to the movies, and so while Ben was at school one day the two of us went to the theater together for the first time since he was a sling-riding baby who nursed while I dropped bits of popcorn on his head.

Please visit Literary Mama to read the rest!