Bonnie Sherr Klein's 'Not a Love Story'

Bonnie Sherr Klein's 'Not a Love Story'

REBECCA SULLIVAN
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 144
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt7zwbv8
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Bonnie Sherr Klein's 'Not a Love Story'
    Book Description:

    Bonnie Sherr Klein's "Not a Love Story"provocatively examines the first Canadian film to explore pornography's role in society from a feminist perspective. Directed by Bonnie Sherr Klein for Studio D, the National Film Board's women's unit, the film featured both Klein and Lindalee Tracey, an activist, performance artist, and stripper, as they toured the seamier fringes of pornography and sex work in Montreal, Toronto, New York, and San Francisco. Censored in Ontario upon its release in 1981,Not a Love Storycollided with the escalating "Porn Wars" that contributed to the tearing apart of the second-wave feminist movement.

    Using interviews with members of the crew and extensive archival research into the production process, Rebecca Sullivan delves into the creation and reception ofNot a Love Storyto explore the issues of censorship, sexual labour and performance, and documentary practice that the film raised. An insightful analysis not just of the film itself but of the issues which surround feminist analyses of pornography as a genre,Bonnie Sherr Klein's "Not a Love Story"offers a fresh assessment of Canada's women's movement and the politics of feminist filmmaking during a volatile era.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2171-8
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    It has been hailed as revolutionary, and denounced as reactionary. It is arguably the most controversial and certainly one of the most commercially successful documentaries in the history of the National Film Board. Over thirty years since its making,Not a Love Story: A Film about Pornographyremains a touchstone in debates about sexuality and gender, and about the politics of feminist activist filmmaking. The film was produced in 1981 by the NFB’s Women’s Unit, more colloquially known as “Studio D,” and directed by resident filmmaker Bonnie Sherr Klein. It features Klein exploring the seamier edges of pornography and sex...

  5. 1 Bonnie Sherr Klein and the National Film Board
    (pp. 15-22)

    Not a Love Storyis as much a product of an institutional culture as it is of a particular filmmaker’s vision. Both Klein and Hénaut, as well as Studio D’s founder, Kathleen Shannon, were original members and early collaborators in the National Film Board’s Challenge for Change/Société Nouvelle program (1966–78), an ambitious venture launched by the Canadian government to empower isolated and impoverished communities through film.¹ In 1974, when Shannon launched Studio D, Klein and Hénaut were among its first members. Their passionate commitment to activist filmmaking was forged in the crucible of Montreal’s Quiet Revolution, first under the...

  6. 2 Making Not a Love Story
    (pp. 23-34)

    Not a Love Storyhad its roots as a project independent of the NFB. In 1979, Klein joined a group of sexually diverse women filmmakers in Montreal who called themselves Foreplay and set out to make an erotic film for and by women. The project was intended to “be fun. It was a chance to be together and talk about what we loved about sex. It turned out to be a real challenge because we kept ending up with images that seemed banal, like kotex advertising. We just couldn’t get very far.” Klein continued to observe and question the sexual...

  7. 3 Polyvocality in Not a Love Story: A Film about Pornography
    (pp. 35-90)

    In order to draw attention to the different perspectives represented inNot a Love Story, I have chosen not to review the film in sequential order but according to the different voices at stake in it. Klein insists that she wanted the film to provoke questions, represent multiple voices, and open up debate. Indeed, the media release announcing the film’s premiere states, “Not a Love Storydoes not attempt to provide solutions to the questions it raises. Rather, it is intended to act as a catalyst for personal reflection and discussion.”¹

    My intention here is to tease out those different...

  8. 4 Not a Love Story and the Porn Wars
    (pp. 91-108)

    Susan G. Cole recalls watchingNot a Love Storythe first time and thinking what a powerful and overwhelming film it was. “You saw Klein and Tracey shaken by what they saw but audiences, especially women, were also sharing that experience. They came in with one idea about pornography but once they saw the violence they became understandably upset. For some, that meant rethinking their politics.”

    Cole was already a well-known feminist activist in Toronto who had led protests against the screening of the filmSnuff, which advertised itself as documenting the rape and murder of a woman. Across the...

  9. Epilogue: Two Filmmakers – A Love Story
    (pp. 109-116)

    This book opened with a generous account of Klein’s early days in the NFB as a historical snapshot of activist and feminist filmmaking in this country. It should end, therefore, with an appreciation of the two filmmakers who encountered each other at a critical juncture in this history and went on to reimagine its potential. Tracey always claimed that she learned a lot from Klein about how not to be a filmmaker. In viewing her first film,Abby, I Hardly Knew Ya(1995), about a father who abandoned her while she was still a baby, I would argue that there...

  10. Production Credits
    (pp. 117-118)
  11. Further Viewing
    (pp. 119-120)
  12. Further Reading
    (pp. 121-122)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 123-128)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 129-129)