This essay offers a microhistory of the feminist film distributor Moonforce Media. Between 1975 and 1980, Moonforce Media built the National Women's Film Circuit, a lesbian feminist distribution system that circulated preconstituted packages of multigeneric feminist films through as wide a nontheatrical feminist U.S. market as possible. Drawing on the organization's records and ephemera, now located in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, and oral histories with its founders, this analysis of the development of Moonforce Media—its distribution policies, programming choices, and exhibition strategies—and audiences' reception of the National Women's Film Circuit provides insight into how feminist media workers strove to change society through the ongoing learning process of relating to one another and to their audiences. It also offers an opportunity to return to the emergence of cultural feminism and to rethink the economic and affective labor of lesbian feminist organizations and lesbian feminist cinema in particular. Often thought to have redirected second-wave efforts away from radical feminism's earlier revolutionary challenges of systemic sexism and toward the more retreatist and capitalist creation of a female counterculture, here cultural/lesbian feminism does not delimit political possibility, but instead supports a range of political practices in its variegated conception of lesbian media and deployment of said media across geographies and ideologies. In its exhibition, lesbian feminist cinema brought together diverse audiences with a wide range of expectations and demands for its feminist films, and, in turn, these cinematic encounters constituted an affective archive of 1970s U.S. feminisms.
Lesbian Feminist Cinema's Archive and Moonforce Media's National Women's Film Circuit
Roxanne Samer is a Ph.D. candidate in Critical Studies and the Russell Endowed Fellow at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. Her dissertation, “Receiving Feminisms: Media Cultures and Lesbian Potentiality in the 1970s,” conducts an archaeology of 1970s feminist media counterpublics in order to reimagine the relationship between queer and women's movement politics. She has previously published in Jump Cut and Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, and her essays in each can be found online.
Roxanne Samer; Lesbian Feminist Cinema's Archive and Moonforce Media's National Women's Film Circuit. Feminist Media Histories 1 April 2015; 1 (2): 90–124. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2015.1.2.090
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