Anna has self-esteem issues. She works at a plastic surgery clinic, is still chasing after the former girlfriend who cheated on her, and is an A cup living in a C-cup world. Welcome to The Itty Bitty Titty Committee, the latest feature from out director Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader and the first feature-length film produced POWER UP.
The film stars Melonie Diaz (Raising Victor Vargas) as Anna, alongside an ensemble cast that includes Guinevere Turner (Go Fish), Jenny Shimizu (Foxfire), Melanie Mayron (thirtysomething), Daniela Sea (The L Word) and Nicole Vicius (Delirious). The screenplay was co-written by Tina Mabry (Brooklyn’s Bridge to Jordan) and Abigail Shafran (Outlaw Comic: The Censoring of Bill Hicks).
Anna is swept away into the world of a punk, radical feminist group called CIA (Clits in Action) and falls for the group’s leader as well as its principles. Formerly apolitical and unsure of herself, Anna becomes politically radical and self-confident. As she grows disillusioned with her mentor, Sadie (Nicole Vicius), Anna gains a sense of empowerment, eventually leading the CIA in its most radical action to date.
A feminist venture at heart, Itty Bitty was brought to the screen by a nearly all-woman crew, with women in the roles of first assistant director, cinematographer, producer, writer, composer, editor and production designer. There was also a cadre of girls who were flown in from around the country to be on the set as mentees. “It was girl talk every day,” recalled Melonie Diaz.
Cast-mate Melanie Mayron was in awe: “All the key people were women, which is pretty much unheard of. All the way across the board, it was women in the main technical areas. It was kind of empowering in that way, just being a female on the planet.”
Daniela Sea concurred: “I loved that it was all these women, and it was a women’s story. You look at these film festivals sometimes and there are so many stories about men, or the men are the main characters and the men are the filmmakers. It’s really great to support women filmmakers and also the stories of women told from a women’s perspective.”
Director Jamie Babbit has said she wanted to create the cinematic equivalent of the early ’90s riot grrrl music that shaped her ideas about feminism. She even met with former Guerilla Girls to get permission to use that group’s slogans and artwork in Itty Bitty.
Clits in Action is modeled after the Guerilla Girls, with the CIA members pulling off similar feats of consciousness raising. “For example, we go into one store.” said Nicole Vicius, who plays CIA leader Sadie, “where they have all these beautiful mannequins with swimsuits on, and we bring our own papier-mâché sculptures of all these different size women.”
Babbit wanted to take a zine-like approach to making the film, so she worked to cast people (mostly New Yorkers) who were really a part of the social and political scene depicted in the film. She also encouraged her actors to wear their own clothes and improvise some of the dialogue so it would be more authentic.
The movie was filmed on Super 8 and Super 16 mm, with some of the scenes shot guerilla style. “We’d go into the bus station and get what we could, and then they’d throw us out, so we’d go to the train station,” Sea recalled. “It was really do-it-yourself style, which I love. And it was just made with a lot of love.”
Fittingly, the film’s politically charged soundtrack includes classic riot-grrrl bands such as Heavens to Betsy, Sleater-Kinney, Team Dresch, The Need, Slumber Party and Bikini Kill. Peaches and Le Tigre round out the musical backdrop with more recent examples of the genre.
While Itty Bitty has a grittier aesthetic than the almost cartoon-like But I’m a Cheerleader, Babbit still considers her latest film “a punk feminist fairytale for everyone wishing the world was a more enlightened place,” according to Itty Bitty‘s press kit.
Besides Cheerleader, Babbit has directed The Quiet (2005) and several short films. She also directed and produced the television series Popular and has directed episodes of Ugly Betty, The L Word, Alias, Nip/Tuck, Malcolm in the Middle and Gilmore Girls.