What began as a film document (recording Nana before she died) evolves into the filmmaker's search for her roots, her relationship with her family, and her identity as a woman.
The Bicentennial Heritage Program yielded a large number of films based on local family histories; old photographs and family movies were mined, and documentary techniques were employed. As is so often the case when films are made for some ulterior purpose-in this case, reestablishing a sense of the past-most of them were of little intrinsic interest, but Nana, Mom and Me, made by a gifted filmmaker, is an exception. It is a very simple but moving account of three generations of women, held together by recorded narrative and an emotion so intense that sophisticated audiences become still and contemplative as they watch it. A film about filming, it shares with the thousands of novels in which the hero is a writer, a peculiar quality of verisimilitude which goes beyond the semi-authenticity of the documentary style into real creativity.
Using photographs, old home movies and direct interviews Amalie R. Rothschild explores the mother-daughter ties in 3 generations of her own family and in the process explores the classic female problem faced by her artist mother: the conflict between work and children--the necessary compromises, the incumbent anxieties. The structure is intentionally loose and open-ended, like a good conversation, emphasizing the need to ask the right questions rather than give pat answers.
In NANA, MOM AND ME, Amalie R. Rothschild meets an immovable object in a grandmother who refuses to talk about her life (and 27 year marriage to an invalid), but out of this failure comes an unexpected success. Unable to draw out the member of her family with whom she feels a special affinity she turns to her own mother for information, and in the process it is her mother's interesting, complex portrait that emerges. We see through old photographs and home movies the classic conflict between a woman (the grandmother) who is beautiful and social, and her only girl, a plain child, being forced into unsuitable frocks, and later into make-up, that only emphasize the gap between society's ideal femininity and her own. She eventually becomes an artist, and the story of her application, in an environment that offered little encouragement, is a heroic one.
...Filmed over a two year period, NANA, MOM AND ME deals with the lives and relationships of three women: Nana, her daughter Amalie Rothschild, and her granddaughter Amalie R. Rothschild, the filmmaker. What had begun as a film document (recording Nana before she died), evolves into the filmmaker's search for her roots, her relationship with her family, and her identity as a woman. ...In its truthfulness and...its commitment to finding a means to bridge the generations, NANA, MOM AND ME is an important contribution to film biography and contemporary documentary.
...causes viewers to consider their family relationships. Provocative for film programs on the family in public libraries, religious and community organizations; also valuable for courses in marriage and the family, sociology, and counseling on the high school and college level. Ages 15 to adult.
Amalie R. Rothschild’s pioneering personal documentary Nana, Mom and Me, from 1974, turns a family memoir into an exploration of social history. She begins with a plain premise—preserving anecdotes from her maternal grandmother, Addye Goldsmith Rosenfeld, then in her mid-eighties. She folds the genesis of the film into its substance, declaring onscreen the ethical imperative to swap her sheltered place behind the camera for an exposed one alongside her subjects. Planning to have a child, Rothschild questions her mother (also named Amalie R. Rothschild), an artist, about her struggle to balance creative work and family life. Interweaving home movies, family photos, and audio recordings—and bringing her father and her sister into the action—the filmmaker discovers her grandmother’s fealty to oppressive conventions and her mother’s lifelong effort to challenge them. What emerges, as if in real time, is a new age of feminist self-awareness, with new artistic practices to match.
From the moment the filmmaker places herself in front of the camera to introduce her purpose, the viewer is involved (even taking sides) in her unabashedly personal search for the origins of her identity.
...A remarkable film document that is amusing, charming–and deeply moving. Excellent for all kinds of discussion groups in the behavioral sciences.