The 24-Hour Women

Two Filmmakers and Their Ever-Present Cameras

Feeling somewhat isolated when she first moved to Portland, Oregon from Berkeley in the mid '90s, July started the "Big Miss Moviola" chain letter. She invited women to send her their "lady-made movies," which she compiled on video and sold through the mail for $15 each. "For me, making a space where I felt that I could do anything I wanted meant that I didn't have to be thinking about fitting into other systems. But I'm not completely self-propelling; I want to be part of something." There are now five chain letters—each consisting of 10 movies—and the series has spawned the slightly less underground collection (you can find it at video stores) Joanie 4 Jackie 4Ever, comprising seven "Big Miss Moviola" pieces, including July's The Amateurist.

July's performing persona—a puzzled but plucky stranger on earth, with a fondness for bubble wigs—is a throwback to the young Cindy Sherman and Laurie Anderson. Similarly, the split role she's taken on of organizer-curator and individual artist is not unprecedented within the feminist history of avant-garde film and performance. Filmmakers Germaine Dulac, Maya Deren, and Barbara Rubin, and performance artist Martha Wilson expended at least as much energy in creating a community and getting other people's work out as they did in making their own. Appearing on a recent installment of Split Screen, John Pierson's IFC indie magazine show, July was nothing short of inspiring, making it seem as if there was a place for a specifically female sensibility in the Amerindie boys' club.

Until this year, the world the 25-year-old July inhabited was more subterranean than the hype-heavy indie film scene. But having played a small role in Alison Maclean's upcoming feature Jesus' Son and with Love Diamond now bringing her smack into New York's performance art scene, she says she's already feeling pressure to define herself in terms of a specific medium. Still, the ingenious Love Diamond is a poverty-row hybrid. Because July can't afford a tech crew, she carries a bunch of remotes onstage and cues the slides and videos herself. "I didn't realize how hard it would be to perform all these different characters while keeping track of all the visual changes." Sounds like just another variation on her trademark personality splits.

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