Passionate Politics: The Life & Work of Charlotte Bunch

Women's Rights are Human Rights!
Year Released
Film Length(s)
58 mins
Remote video URL


Outspoken lesbian feminist trailblazer, charismatic builder of bridges, and founding mother of a whole generation of transnational feminist activists!

Passionate Politics tells the story of Charlotte Bunch, from idealistic young civil rights organizer to lesbian activist, to internationally-recognized leader of a campaign to put women's rights on the global human rights agenda. Charlotte has been both a product and creator of her times: every chapter in her life is a chapter in the story of modern feminist activism, from its roots in the 1960's struggles for social justice to international campaigns against gender-based violence today.

Featured review

Extraordinary documentary! Charlotte Bunch--outspoken lesbian feminist trailblazer, charismatic builder of bridges, founding mother of a whole generation of transnational feminist activists, and author of the transformative concept that Women's Rights are Human Rights--is the film's riveting centerpiece.
Rosalind Petchesky
Distinguished Professor of Political Science Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY


PASSIONATE POLITICS beautifully intertwines Charlotte Bunch's personal and public persona, exemplifying the leadership that lesbians have always played within many movements including the women's, sexual and human rights movements. In a powerful and poetic way, PASSIONATE POLITICS captures the wholeness of Charlotte Bunch and erases the invisibility of lesbian leadership in feminist and social justice work.
Katherine Acey
Executive Director Emeritus, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
Inspirational! This film explores the history of feminism through the political career of an activist from New Mexico and powerfully documents Charlotte's lifelong dedication to liberation and social justice, embraced and valued by women across the globe.
Amina Mama
Phd; Editor of Feminist Africa; Director, Women & Gender Studies, University of California, Davis
Inspiring documentary that powerfully illuminates how transformation happens when people work collectively. It reminds us that integrity, commitment and passion must be at the core of our feminist work for social justice. This film is a great teaching tool that can be used globally.
Lydia Alpizar
Executive Director, Association of Women's Rights in Development
Looking through the lens of Charlotte's life and work is an exciting way to tell the story of the global women's movement. I am imagining it being used with the young feminist leadership-training program run by the Fiji Women's Rights
Tara Chetty
M.A. Student, Women & Gender Studies, Rutgers
PASSIONATE POLITICS is a comprehensive and revealing documentary, which distills Charlotte's life in a way that made me feel enthralled by every turn of events. There was a subtle drama as you cleverly intertwined her personal and public persona.
Lynne Sacks
Professor and Filmmaker
PASSIONATE POLITICS is a riveting, thoughtful, touching story of a life well lived--an invaluable primer on how to use the passion for justice as a driving force for the politics of change.
Mahnaz Afkhami
Founder and President, Women's Learning Partnership
This wonderful film documenting Charlotte's unwavering and long-term commitment to making the world a better place will serve as an inspiration for women here and around the world. It reminds us that each of us can and must make a difference.
June Zeitlin Director
CEDAW Education Project The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Congratulations on a great film! PASSIONATE POLITICS brilliantly captures Charlotte Bunch's immense integrity, incisive intelligence and tireless advocacy for gender equality and human rights.
Widney Brown Senior Director
International Law and Policy Amnesty International -- International Secretariat
To my delight I recently watched PASSIONATE POLITICS -- an inspiring story that will spark action. It focuses on the ever-brilliant and committed Charlotte Bunch, and includes wonderful footage of women's social change movements in various parts of the world.
Mary E. Hunt
Ph.D. Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
Winner of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights (1999) and inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame (1996), Charlotte Bunch is known internationally for the breadth of her commitment to social justice and the depth of her transformative work.Passionate Politics succeeds admirably both in capturing Bunch's multifaceted activism and portraying the excitement of the global women's rights movement over the past half century. From a childhood shaped by her family's dedication to "activism as good works," the film traces the evolution of a renowned feminist theorist and strategist who has played a critical role in forging a global activist network to secure United Nations recognition of "women's rights as human rights."The film provides classic insights into the transformative effects of consciousness raising accomplished through painful and recurring encounters with inequities. Illuminating the complexities of the "personal as political," Bunch's life moved from participation in integrated "pray-ins" organized by the Methodist Student Movement at Duke University to a break with the Christian religion because of its rampant homophobia. Inspired by Black Nationalism, she helped found The Furies, a lesbian feminist separatist collective after years of sexist denigration within New Left organizations such as the Institute for Policy Studies. Rejecting the narrow vision of straight feminists who denounced "the lavender menace," and later, exclusionary separatist tactics, Bunch championed a "symphony of revolutions," seeking to build coalitions among feminists who struggled to improve the life prospects of half the human race, anti-racist activists who fought to end all forms of racial and ethnic injustice, and gay and lesbian activists mobilized to achieve equal rights and recognition.As a street demonstrator, a strategic organizer, a teacher, a writer, a consultant in court cases, and founder of the Center for Women's Global Leadership, Bunch forged alliances with activists in Latin America, Africa, South and East Asia, and Europe, advancing an analysis of power relations that linked structural inequities to physical brutalities under the broad rubric of violence against women. Following Bunch's footsteps from Bangkok to Peru to Nairobi to Vienna to Beijing to South Africa (and many places beyond), Passionate Politics contains remarkable film footage of the global struggle to change the world by ending women's servility.Challenging the assumptions of this "postfeminist" era, the film documents the vibrancy of contemporary transnational feminist activism and catalogues the manifold forms of injustice that feminists continue to contest.
Mary Hawkesworth
Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University - Films for the Feminist Classroom
I learned about the amazing life and work of Charlotte Bunch and that not everyone is a leader or a strategist, but that Charlotte is. I also learned about the power of being quiet and about thinking before doing. I was reminded that the personal is political and that the political is personal." Tami Gold Interview with Director/Producer Tami Gold about the making of Passionate Politics by Frida Peoples. How did you come up with the idea for this documentary? My friend Joyce Warshow was working on this film for a few years as part of her commitment to telling the stories of older lesbians who have been committed to social justice and activism. Joyce was always concerned that the lives of older lesbian activists was hidden from view and she was determined to challenge and change this. So she began to work on a film about Charlotte Bunch in around 2005. Shortly after beginning this project Joyce was diagnosed with cancer and though she underwent surgery and many medical obstacles, she never stopped working on this film. Joyce died on Oct 2, 2007. One of the last requests Joyce made was for me to take her vision and make it into a film. How did you come up with the opening animation in the title sequence? Why did you decide to begin the film this way? I wanted the film to be both dynamic, a bit hard hitting and at the same time gentle. When I close my eyes and think about feminism, about women's power, about lesbianism and our possibilities, I see dancing, singing, even flowers growing. This might sound sappy and non-militant, but I know that this was at the core of Joyce's passion and it is what made her so strong. It was what I most learned from her. So the opening animation is an acknowledgement of what Joyce taught me about life and our potential power as women. There is so much footage - beautiful footage of Charlotte Bunch as a child and young adult? Tell me about this. As with any biographical documentary, the film needed a visual language and the challenge was how to create this covering a span of fifty years. When I first began working on the film I went though all the material; the interviews Joyce conducted, the visuals of Charlotte at her home and with her life partner Roxanna Carrillo, newspaper clippings, books, letters and more. I remember the day I went through the photos Joan Biren and Bettye Lane had given Joyce to use. They captured the unique moment of the women's movement of the 1960's and 70's and I knew that these images would be critical in creating the texture of this time. But I was concerned that still photographs alone would not be enough. Then I learned from one of the interviews that Charlotte's father had taken 16mm footage of her family beginning in the mid 1940's. This became a treasure, the gift of 16mm Kodachrome color film. After Charlotte gave me the fifteen or more cans of thousands of feet of family footage, I carefully worked with film preservationists to restore the material and this is where we found the wonderful footage of Charlotte getting married in a red dress. Where did you find the other personal archival footage? As soon as I received all the material, I spent weeks screening and organizing the footage. This became my road map. I learned in one of the interviews that Charlotte was one of the speakers at the Gay and Lesbian March in Washington DC in 1979 and quickly contacted the filmmakers who documented this event in the film Greetings From Washington DC. And this is how I found most of the archival footage of Charlotte. While shooting in South Africa with Charlotte in 2008, I met an organizer from the Caribbean who told me that in 1980 she and Charlotte made a videotape with women from many different countries entitled World Feminists. This started the next search. And so it went. This is why documentary filmmaking is so exciting--searching for specific archival footage--and we found some gems. I remember the day when the editor, Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez, was going though hours of black and white archival footage of the civil rights movement. Charlotte had been part of the freedom riders and went to Montgomery in 1964. Sonia was looking for the best images to illustrate this experience. After hours she found 45 seconds of Charlotte right there--with a group of other freedom riders in the middle of Alabama. There are many different ways to tell a story. How and why did you decide to tell the story chronologically? At first I wanted to begin the film with exclusively contemporary scenes of Charlotte working with different women's groups all over the world inter-cut with flashbacks of Charlotte's childhood and early experiences. This seemed exciting and less predictable. But when we tried this structure and held rough-cut screenings, most people did not understand Charlotte's political growth. As we worked with the material it became clearer and clearer that we needed to begin at the beginning, so to speak, and by telling Charlotte's story chronologically we were creating a stronger narrative which would explain her political and personal growth. What did you learn while making this film? I learned about the amazing life and work of Charlotte Bunch and that not everyone is a leader or a strategist, but that Charlotte is. I also learned about the power of being quiet and about thinking before doing. I was reminded that the personal is political and that the political is personal. However, most importantly I was introduced to the potential power of the global women's movement and that women really do hold up half the sky.Who is the primary audience for Passionate Politics? Why? Everyone can learn something from this documentary. It's a deeply emotional portrait of a lifelong activist, and an inspirational chronicle of the building and maturing of a political and progressive movement of women. But more specially, this film is really designed to speak to women in both the developed and developing world. I can see it having an amazing impact in Women Studies, Human Rights and Political Science classes and translated into many languages. I also know that it will be a dynamic tool in organizing throughout the world. It raises so many questions and though it is about one woman's life, it connects to all of us.How do you describe Passionate Politics? It's a new one-hour documentary that brings Charlotte Bunch's story to life, from idealistic young civil rights organizer to lesbian activist to internationally recognized leader of a campaign to put women's rights, front and center, on the global human rights agenda. Charlotte has been both product and creator of her times: every chapter in her life is a chapter in the story of modern feminist activism. As co-founder of the Center for Women's Global Leadership, Charlotte works with women leaders from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, developing strategies to expose and combat violence against women in all its forms. Braided throughout the film are scenes of this work--Charlotte's connections with women in Peru and South Africa.
Frida Peoples
This movie really highlighted how activism has shifted with each generation. It shows the transitions between social justice issues and parallels what is going on in society today. Looking back at the history of activism through the lens of Charlotte Bunch may foreshadow how people speak about protests going on today and in the future.
Smith College Student 2016

Awards and Screenings

China Women's Film Festival 2017
The Beijing International Women's Film Festival 2016 - Official Selection
CINEFFABLE - The 25th Annual Paris International Lesbian & Feminist Film Festival
Reel It Up! Film Festival - Urbana, IL
The Athena Film Festival
The Portland Documentary Film Festival
Cinemarosa – Queens, New York - Museum
The Global Peace Film Festival
Women’s Environmental & Development Organization
The Lesbian Lives 2012 Conference/Dublin
America Reframed Series - PBS
Association for Women's Rights in Development Conference
International Hamburg LGBT Film Festival
The National Women's Studies Association Conference
The New York MIX Queer Experimental Film Festival
OUT @fter Carleton Reunion
Frameline Film Festival 36, San Francisco
Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute

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