Filmmakers Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert Don’t Give Up

 
 

Dominique Cardona and
Laurie Colbert’s story is a sort of cinephile’s dream come true. The filmmakers
behind acclaimed documentaries Thank God
I’m a Lesbian
, My Feminism, and the
recent festival darling Finn’s Girl
met and fell for one another over a mutual love of film — and they’ve been
working in their chosen field ever since.

"She didn’t speak
English and I didn’t speak French — and we just had our 20th anniversary,"
Colbert recalled. They first met in Paris, where Cardona was moonlighting as an
attorney and running a feminist cinema club on the side. "It was just
interesting that we didn’t start out at all speaking the same language. But we
loved films, and I think that’s what started our relationship."

Dominique Cardona (left) and
Laurie Colbert

It’s not so hard to
imagine that a couple of strident film buffs would want to try their hand at
the craft, especially considering the passion both women have for activism and
their subject matter of choice: out and proud lesbians and feminists. "It
was 1988 or ’89, and we decided to do a documentary on something that we would
like to talk about and nobody thought to do," said Cardona, "which
was lesbians who are happy with being a lesbian."

That documentary became Thank God I’m a Lesbian. Cardona continued: "The only
documentaries at the time about lesbians were [like] ‘Oh, you have to forgive
them, because life is tough for them.’ We wanted to show lesbians who were
totally accomplished, and it was not about a coming-out story."

Thank God I’m a Lesbian was just the beginning, and it showed off
the sensibility that all of Colbert and Cardona’s films display at their very
core, right up to Finn’s Girl. That
film took on issues ranging from abortion rights to single lesbian motherhood, and
centered on Finn (Brooke Johnson), a middle-aged abortion doctor and her
11-year-old daughter, Zelly (Maya Ritter), not long after Finn’s partner (and
Zelly’s birth mother) has passed away.

It may sound like heavy
subject matter for a first-time feature, but Colbert and Cardona were ready for
the challenge — particularly with their penchant for thoughtful,
feminist-oriented work. "Was it difficult?" Cardona asked. "Not
really," she said, "because when you do a documentary, you have an
idea of what you want to speak about, but you have to wait for the people you
choose to interview to give you those little pearls that will be the core of
your film. The great thing about fiction is that you can decide to speak about
something, or some issue, or some people and you can have the actor say those
things!"

Colbert said: "Well,
first we did a short film called Below
the Belt
, which is a coming-out story about two girls. It did very well.
From there, it was interesting because — Alliance Atlantis wanted us to expand
it into a feature, and probably the dumbest thing we ever did was not do that.
We said ‘No, no, we want to do this film about a lesbian abortionist who’s in
her ’40s, that’s much more interesting!’ They were like, horrified, and that
was the end of that relationship." She laughed.

The desire to do a film
that resonated on a deeper level really kept the filmmakers on track. "It’s
funny, because we had the idea for a long time after My Feminism," Colbert continued, "because we really
wanted to do something about someone we felt was an activist, not necessarily
marching around — but we wanted to do a story about a woman who went to Gay
Pride, marched around, had a career, but was really like a dyke."

After a pause, she added:
"You have to realize, we made a film called My Feminism and another called Thank
God I’m a Lesbian
— we’re kind of immersed in these things. We just live a
politicized life, so therefore that’s what interests us."

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