BORN IN FLAMES
(director/writer: Lizzie Borden; screenwriter: story by Ed Bowes; cinematographer: Al Santana/Ed Bowes; editor: Lizzie Borden; music: The Bloods, Ibis, The Red Crayola; cast: Honey, Adele Bertei (Isabel), Flo Kennedy (Zella), Jean Satterfield (Adelaide Norris), Kathryn Bigelow (newspaper editor), Becky Johnston (Newspaper Editor), Warner Schreiner (TV reporter), Pat Murphy (Pat Crosby, Dublin Editor), Sheila McLaughlin (Army woman); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lizzie Borden; TCM/First Run Features; 1983)
“Though the film is a visual dud, strident and heavy-handed, its high energy propels it forward.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The title comes from the song “Born in Flames” written by Mayo Thompson of the band Red Krayola.
Lizzie Borden (“Love Crimes “/”Working Girls”), in her debut film, is director/writer/editor/producer of this inventive radical semi-documentary political film on a failed peaceful socialist revolution that’s observed ten years after it began. The futuristic sci-fi film, with only a slight plot, asks lots of questions and wonders why life has still not improved for women after the revolution. This results in women rebelling against the government, while throwing out a lot of feminist ideas that are not fully developed.
Looking out to protect vulnerable women, armed bands of whistle-blowing female bicyclists patrol the downtown city streets. They are first seen stopping a rape in progress.
There are a series of encounters and improvised political discussions that grow into terrorist activity. A rapper named Isabel (Adele Bertei), is the white lesbian leader of one group of women rebels, whose songs relay what’s going down as she performs at night on pirate Radio Ragazza.
Zella (Flo Kennedy) is a wily political activist. Adelaide Norris (Jeanne Satterfield) is a basketball player and a black lesbian leader of the second group of women in revolt. Her divergent lesbian group stirs up trouble against the compromised government. In prison, she’s savagely beaten to death. Her death brings about sweeping social change, as the guilt-ridden media spreads her message.
But when we look back at the film today, in 2020, the changes called for that were met in the film have still not been achieved (like equal pay) in real-life.
Though the film is a visual dud, strident and heavy-handed, its high energy propels it forward even if that’s not enough for its feminist arguments to reach a wider audience than its true believers.
REVIEWED ON 12/15/2020 GRADE: B-