Double Bind

1992 Directed by Various.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 28, 1992

Double Bind is a compilation of four short films that all share themes of ambivalence between mothers and daughters. All four films are directed by women who hail from England, Australia and the United States. Stylistically, they all differ and thematically, their content also varies. Relationships between mothers and daughters are shown to be distinctive, ongoing and formative as well as adaptable. The first film, Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy by Tracey Moffatt, is the most perplexing. Visually audacious, the movie tells the story of an Aboriginal woman's relationship with her dying white mother. Set on an isolated Australian homestead and punctuated by the crooning of an Aborignal Christian male singer, Rural Tragedy wordlessly conveys, to a frightening degree, the daughter's anguished hostility toward her mother. It's stark, unsentimental and anti-conventional. In Pam Tom's Two Lies, a Chinese-American daughter experiences something of her mother's dilemma after having plastic surgery to make her eyes rounder and more Western following her divorce. From the daughter's perspective, the mother's eyes are false lies. Anna Campion's movie, The Audition, is the most immediately familiar and least challenging of the bunch. Director Jane Campion's sister Anna filmed their mother's audition for a small role in Jane's recent movie, An Angel At My Table. The mother was once an actress and this film records family tensions and stumbling blocks but maintains an aloof distance that cloaks more than it reveals. The most extraordinary film here is The Body Beautiful by Ngozi Onwurah. Onwurah is the British daughter of a mixed marriage. The film tells her personal story about her relationship to her white mother who underwent a mastectomy following the birth of Onwurah's younger brother. The mother also suffers from painful arthritis. The child experiences her mother's physical conditions as normal, though as she grows older she becomes conscious of her mother's crippling self-perceptions regarding her imperfect body. The daughter goes on to become a teen fashion model. The mother has vivid sexual fantasies. The honesty and genuine courage with which this movie is told, makes it unique amongst films I have seen. It does not fade quietly away. What these four various films speak to more than anything else, is the female legacy of body awareness and fluid personal boundaries that is passed on through the generations, from mother to daughter.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Various Films
2019 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentary
Tales of love and hate dominate these Oscar hopefuls

Marc Savlov, Feb. 8, 2019

2019 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animation
The Academy's five favorite animated shorts, plus two ringers

Marjorie Baumgarten, Feb. 8, 2019

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
A gentle, poetic look at gentrification that shimmers with the winds of history

June 14, 2019

The Tomorrow Man
Lithgow and Danner give a charming edge to this predictable doomsday prepper meet-cute

June 7, 2019


Double Bind, Various

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle