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“Control of Women’s Sexuality Is What Makes Patriarchy Possible” | Nicole Newnham, The Disappearance of Shere Hite

A woman with long, curly blond hair floats next to a metal turtle fountain in a body of water. She wears an ornate green dress.The Disappearance Of Shere Hite, courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Every production faces unexpected obstructions that require creative solutions and conceptual rethinking. What was an unforeseen obstacle, crisis, or simply unpredictable event you had to respond to, and how did this event impact or cause you to rethink your film?

Our first shoot on The Disappearance of Shere Hite was in the fall of 2021, when we filmed a requiem on the anniversary of Shere Hite’s cremation, held in Paris by her friend and artistic collaborator, the German fashion photographer Iris Brosch. At that time, it was of course already very clear to us that the backlash against feminism that was at the heart of the story of what happened to Shere Hite in the U.S. in the 1980s and 90s was deeply relevant to contemporary conversations about sexuality, gender and bodily autonomy. But then, in the middle of our filming schedule, on May 2, 2022, Politico published a leaked draft of the Supreme Court majority decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

It was overwhelming to be with activist friends of Hite’s who had been a part of the struggle for abortion rights in the early 1970s, as the impact of this looming decision was being felt across the country. That week I made my way from a filming trip in NY down to Washington D.C. to stand in solidarity with others in front of the now barricaded Supreme Court building. The news heightened the sense of urgency around Hite’s story for everyone on our team. Suddenly lines of Hite’s like men’s control of women’s sexuality is what makes patriarchy possible were vivid in a new and terrifying way. In the edit room, the smallest thing — a sign carried in archival footage, a line of dialogue in a verite scene from a consciousness raising group, something said by one of the respondents to Shere’s questionnaires about sexuality — would rise to a level of great import and would find itself in the film. Mindful that our viewers would also be emotionally and intellectually responding to the story we told through the lens of our current reality, we crafted the film to be in thought-provoking dialogue with this pivotal moment.

See all responses to our annual Sundance Question here.

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