Never have I known a documentary to aggrivate audiences like Jennifer Fox’s epic 6 part Confessions of a Free Woman (the first 2 installments aired on Storyville last night). Jennifer is an 46 year old American documentary maker, who wanted to push the idea of getting past ‘the performance’ of when people act up for the camera. She spawned a way of filming, which like cinema verite, means she is control of a small camera without a crew. She also “passes the camera” so that the her subjects film her when she is talking, it is more like a circular conversation without a power hierarchy or contrived end point. The way she talks about (I saw her give a talk at this years Birds Eye View) is analogous to the way lesbians make love, which is fitting because the central feminist investigation is into how women see themselves in the world today. It’s also structured around women experience time – fluidly, like a chat over a cup of tea.
Much like Carrie Bradshaw, Jennifer wants to discover what it means to be a woman today, working and living ‘without man and children’. She has affairs and talks freely about sex, like a man, but she isn’t man, cue existential crisis that takes her around the world to ‘pass the camera’ with woman and chat about rape and marriage and masturbation and even FGM in a bid discover why women (but not her) defer to men, and how men stake their claim through cultural rearing practices. This of course give Jennifer ample opportunity to reflect on her own childhood (the only girl with 4 boys), and lifestyle choices. She concludes that only men can be truly free. Except her, presumably.
Jennifer is annoyingly self-involved, and you may want to slap her frequently. She is very rich and spoilt and her flaunting of her coloured married lover in bed is such strange showing off it’s almost untrue. Also her voice is very annoying. However, her extreme self confidence grates so much she prompts you to ask questions and deconstruct her own assumptions. I would term this provocative anthropology and dare you to watch.