Her major films include: Pidgin: the voice of Hawaii (2009), Yidl in the Middle: Growing Up Jewish in Iowa (1999), When I Was 14: A Survivor Remembers,(1995), The Double Burden: Three Generations of Working Mothers, (1992), The Forward: From Immigrants to Americans, (1989), Orange Line Symphony, (1987),Raananah: A World of Our Own, (1981), and They Had a Dream: Brown v. Board of Education Twenty-five Years Later, (1980). Among Ms. Booth's awards is the Cine Golden Eagle, an Emmy nomination, a Bronze Apple from the National Educational Film and Video Festival, and Outstanding Independent Film at the New England Film & Video Festival. Her films were selected for screening at the Margaret Mead Film Festival, the Atlanta Film/Video Festival, Cinema du Reel in Paris, and Jewish Film Festivals in San Francisco, Boston, London and Moscow. She has received funding for her films from, among other places, the Iowa Humanities Board, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Massachusetts Humanities Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts through the New England Regional Fellowships. Ms. Booth was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. She received a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Beloit College and an M.F.A. in film from Yale University. She was a fellow at the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College.
Proclaiming yourself a filmmaker gives you access to peoples' lives. People let you in. They like to be asked questions. Quite often it happens that no one has taken the time to ask the questions you're asking. To be there at the moment when a person says something for the first time, replicates almost the same sense of joy as giving birth! It grabs you in the gut. My film The Double Burden profiles three generations of working mothers. What I tried to do was to sit those three women down over coffee and ask how they coped with the tensions of being mothers and workers. Those conversations had not taken place before because the women were busy living their lives. They would often turn to one another and say, "I didnt know you did that. I didnt know you felt that way." I was interviewing a 50-something African American woman who bore anger and hurt about many things, including racism and how hard her life had been. She had worked as a sharecropper, a restaurant worker, a nurse's aide. She was a mother of 13 children. She confided that she had always wanted to be a singer and then she looked directly into the camera and started singing. It was a remarkable moment. Growing up, I was surrounded by women who filled traditional roles who were never in the spotlight. This bred in me an abiding interest in people who are often overlooked. The exaltation of daily life is very important to me. If I had a camera with me at all times, I would record hundreds of little sights each day. I guess my feminism is about noticing. With each new film I make I feel there's something driving me, one pressing question that stays in my mind that becomes the nub of the next film. Being a member of New Day Films is being part of a community, artists from all over the country, who are colleagues and friends. Learning from people in the coop who are half my age is pretty wonderful. The friendships that have developed over time remind me that I make films to raise awareness and, I hope, make change that might lead to improving lives. Thats why I do these films in the first place, but it's so easy to get caught up in the fundraising, to lose sight of the larger context and the role documentary films play in the world. New Day reminds me of that again and again.
Films by Marlene Booth
Kū Kanaka/Stand Tall examines recovery from trauma for a Native Hawaiian man and his people. When 15 year old Kanalu Young takes a dive into shallow water he becomes quadriplegic. Angry and defiant through months of rehabilitation, he begins to change when he learns Hawaiian language and discovers an untold story of Hawaiian history.
Raananah is an intimate look at one remarkable community and its independent people as they gracefully age. Fifty years ago, a group of idealistic Jewish immigrants formed a summer refuge, Raananah. Through home movies, we see the founders as young people and hear of their lives and dreams. Today we meet these same people at Raananah as they reflect on their lives, their children, and aging together with dignity.
What is it like to grow up in a family where mothers have always worked outside the home? The Double Burden vividly portrays the lives of three families--one Mexican-American, one Polish-American, and one African-American--each with three generations of women who worked outside the home while also raising families. The film instills tremendous respect for the accomplishments of women and for women of different races, social classes and life-styles.
Yidl in the Middle looks at growing up "different" in America. In this evocative, entertaining film, filmmaker Marlene Booth probes her Iowa-Jewish roots. Through home movies, period photos, her high school reunion, and current interviews, she examines the complicated process of negotiating identity -- as an American, a Jew, and a woman. A compelling film, sure to provoke discussion.
What if you are made to feel ashamed when you speak your “mother tongue” or ridiculed because of your accent? “Pidgin: the Voice of Hawai’i” addresses these questions through its lively examination of Pidgin - the language spoken by over half of Hawai’i’s people.