Betty Tells Her Story is the poignant tale of beauty, identity and a dress - and is considered a classic of documentary filmmaking. Made in 1972, it was the first independent film of the women’s movement to explore the issues of body image, self-worth and beauty in our culture - and to explore the ways in which clothing and appearance affect a woman’s identity.
It is the saga of Betty's search for "the perfect dress"- how she found just the right one, felt absolutely transformed, and… never got to wear it. Then Betty tells her story again. This time, her feelings emerge and the story is strikingly different. The contrast between the two stories is haunting.
Betty Tells Her Story has been in continuous active distribution since it was made - used in film studies and communication classes, psychology, sociology, anthropology, women’s studies, and many other disciplines.
Brandon is to be congratulated... this is a film about human beings - how they talk and feel, hide and reveal, and hurt.
The story Betty tells is a simple one. She needed "the perfect dress" for a very special occasion. Betty describes in amusing detail how she found just the right one, spent more than she could afford for it, modeled it for admiring friends, felt absolutely transformed and then...never got to wear it. The story and Betty are witty, engaging and delightful.
Then Betty is asked to tell her story again. This time the story is strikingly different. While the facts remain the same, Betty reveals how she really felt: her anxiety over buying the dress, her discomfort at being praised for beauty she feels she doesn't have, and her subsequent bewilderment at the way things turn out. Betty becomes withdrawn, sad and vulnerable, and her voice, body and words express the painfulness of the memory. The contrast between the two stories is haunting.
Our culture's emphasis on female "beauty" underscores the poignant saga of Betty's search for "the perfect dress". The film is as meaningful and moving today as it was when it was made.
Betty Tells Her Story was restored with a grant from NYWIFT's Women's Film Preservation Fund. The restored version was recently featured at the Barbican Centre in London.
...a groundbreaking classic of feminist filmmaking and a subtle and heartbreaking parable about disillusionment, the oppression of imposed gender roles, and the workings of memory.
Betty Tells Her Story is, in my opinion, a masterpiece...It is impossible to imagine any woman over 12 not relating to the film. Its emotional impact is overwhelming...
This is my favorite talking movie… I couldn’t imagine how it worked; it turned out to be one of the most special things I’ve ever seen.
Liane Brandon’s Betty Tells Her Story (1972) serves as a brilliant example of how political commitments shaped the intersection of storytelling, formal innovation, and new structures for film production, funding, and distribution.
…a shattering verbal/non-verbal ballet of changed emphases, no longer hidden nuances, and dropped masks.
This classic study of the tyranny of the beauty ideal is perhaps more relevant today than ever before. Brandon's film tells a story that is funny, moving, and powerfully illuminating.