(USA, 93 min)
Dir. Douglas Tirola
You have to be of a certain age to remember when being part of a vegetarian restaurant and feminist bookshop run by a collective was a very radical thing to do. Douglas Tirola’s warm new documentary Bloodroot brings back those times with a dual portrait of two remarkable women, Selma Miriam and Noel Furie. Both were raised in the conservative Fifties and encountered the first Feminist wave in the Sixties through such writers as Betty Friedan and Germain Greer while still being enmeshed in the old-style American Dream. Selma and Noel—you get to know them so well, it feels inaccurate not to use their first names—married, had children and moved to Westport, Connecticut while watching and reading about the changed lives and perceptions of liberated women.
As they recount their stories, it didn’t take long for things to change. Noel, an ex-teen model and former worker in a Playboy restaurant, divorced her husband as did Selma, who was raised as a working-class Jewish leftist and seemed quite ready for a different lifestyle. In 1972, they met at a National Organization for Women meeting and briefly had an affair. The love relationship didn’t last but the friendship is still solid nearly fifty years later.
When Bloodroot started later in the decade, Selma took the lead role in what was started as a collective. During the Eighties, the bookshop/restaurant turned into an idealistic business run just by Selma and Noel. Bloodroot has had very successful times, first as a bookshop and latterly as a restaurant and it has received great press from the New York Times several times, which has helped to maintain business even during fallow periods.
Tirola’s doc is slow-paced but it finally reaches fruition as Bloodroot celebrates its 40th anniversary, with good speeches and, one assumes, excellent food, at several filled-to-the-brim evening events. Bloodroots brings back the spirit of early radical feminist and lesbian thought and collective action. For those of us—and, yes, I know I’m a man—who remember the period with great fondness, it’s a bit of a nostalgia trip. For those who are younger, it provides the opportunity to acknowledge women like Selma and Noel, who made a difference in the world through the courage of being themselves.
Bloodroot screened at DOC NYC.