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“No one wants to listen to my story,” Kristin Calabrese screams in Sarah Jacobson’s 1992 riot-grrrl cine-manifesto I Was a Teenage Serial Killer, broken bottle held to a man’s neck. “You can have your fucking James Dean image and be a hero to society, and I have just as much pain, if not more.” Shot when Jacobson was only 20, Serial Killer emerged as a key film of that decade’s angrily subversive underground cinema. Righteously chill-inducing, the sequence took on an added layer of somber tribute during a self-curated memorial screening of Jacobson’s films at the Pioneer last week, just days after her passing, from uterine cancer, at age 32.
Jacobson packed more into her heartbreakingly brief lifetime than most do in lives three times as long. Mentored by low-budget legend George Kuchar, the outspoken Jacobson became a relentlessly social figure in the DIY world she helped build. She was one of the few writers covering contemporary underground film, often for semi-samizdat outlets like Punk Planet and Indiewire. After her critically lauded Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore—a John Hughes-ish feature with a punk-feminist heart—screened at Sundance in 1997, Jacobson and her producer-mom Ruth slogged the distributor-less 16mm print worldwide to hundreds of venues.
News of her illness spread through the indie community like a slow shock wave. The idea of life without Jacobson was unthinkable: Discussing her memory, the word most often used was “unstoppable.” Viewing her films again, we knew this still held true—already, the memorial show is getting booking requests from across the country. “Whether you want to ignore me or invalidate my stories, I’m going to tell them anyway,” Calabrese declares in the final shot of Serial Killer, presaging Jacobson’s defiant career to come. “You can’t keep me quiet.”