In Itty Bitty, Babbit wanted to look at how people become extremists and what kind of compromises they’re willing to make in their politics and their personal lives, as well as how sexual relationships factor into the equation.
One example of this is Daniela Sea’s character, Calvin, a vet who gets swept up by Clits in Action upon returning home. "She goes for it slightly for the romance of it," Sea explained. "Calvin was in the U.S. Army and then gets recruited into this other army. How much of her own beliefs is she fighting for? It’s an interesting question."
Sadie’s romantic and political worlds are also intertwined: She awakens Anna’s activist leanings at the same time that she seduces her. And Sadie, herself, was first introduced to political activism by her girlfriend Courtney (Melanie Mayron), who was a guest lecturer at Smith College when Sadie was a student there.
Sadie takes a more underground route than the more conservative Courtney, who heads a staid group reminiscent of the National Organization of Women. So the film also examines generational differences in approaches to changing the status quo, looking at the relative merits of each and the friction between the two communities.
Hopefully these kinds of themes will have a wide appeal. "I don’t think the film’s limited to gay or lesbian audiences at all," Vicius said. "I think everyone would enjoy it and be a little inspired, maybe to try and do similar things to try and break down the system or ideology."
Diaz also feels that Itty Bitty‘s themes are universal. "There’s an Anna in all of us," she said. "We’re all insecure in a certain part of our life, and then we gain that confidence through other women. I think that’s a really beautiful story, and an important story to tell other women."
Diaz, who took a leave of absence from college at NYU to work on Itty Bitty, felt a special kinship with her character. "I’ve always felt like I was a feminist, but I never really knew what that meant," she said. "And I’ve always felt like I was political, but I never really knew about radical feminism."
These characteristics made Diaz well suited for the role, but the role itself was also adapted to suit the actor. Before Diaz was cast in the lead, the character was going to be named Hannah rather than Anna â€” a Jew rather than a Latina. And before she was cast as Courtney, Mayron initially read for the part of Anna’s mother. "I auditioned, and then I didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks," Mayron recalled, "and then my agent said, ‘You know what, they loved you so much and they thought you were so hot that they want to give you a bigger part, and they don’t want you to play a mother.’"
Not only was Mayron in for a bigger role, in the end she also gained a renewed passion for filmmaking. "When you’re in mainstream Hollywood productions, the energy is very different than when everybody is young and not really getting paid," she said. "It’s all for the love of the craft. And I was so moved and so touched and made excited about filmmaking again from the experience of this movie."
Sea had a similar experience. "The process was really different because it was a collective effort, with everyone pulling together to make this cool thing happen," Sea said. "None of us were making a bunch of money off it, if any at all. And so it had that feeling that we really all wanted to be there for the art of it."
Itty Bitty is the first feature film produced by POWER UP (Professional Organization of Women in Entertainment Reaching Up), which awards grants to filmmakers. The organization bills itself as "the only nonprofit, all volunteer run gay studio," and works to promote the visibility and integration of gay women in entertainment, arts and other media. POWER UP has produced 12 short films, including Angela Robinson’s D.E.B.S., which was later made into a feature-length film.
Itty Bitty had its world premiere in February 2007 at Berlinale, where Sea was one of the cast members in attendance. "People were pretty excited about the political content of it," Sea recalled. "I noticed a difference with the first night, where it was more of a mixed crowd, and the last night, where it was kind of in their Park Slope area with a lot of lesbians watching, and they had different kinds of questions. But it was all stimulating."
The film’s North American premiere took place in last month at the South by Southwest Film Festival, where it won the Jury Award for Narrative Feature. Next it moves on to London and Melbourne, and after that, perhaps, a festival near you.