Allie Eagle and Me film synopsis
Allie Eagle has been a practising artist in New Zealand since the 1970s. During the Women’s Art Movement, feminist beliefs led her to focus on women’s experience and women’s rights in her art. Since that time Allie has embraced a return to Christian faith and this change has impacted on her art and politics. Briar March’s documentary Allie Eagle and Me is a personal exploration by Briar of Allie’s journey through Feminism and Christianity as Allie prepares for her 2003 exhibition Sudden Imperative. The film also addresses the Women’s Art Movement and the abortion debate as a context for Allie’s story.
In Sudden Imperative Allie revisits some early works, including a famous pro-choice piece This Woman Died I Care (1978). Her new piece Tough Call (2003) references the older work and allows Allie to meditate on solo motherhood as an alternative to abortion. As work on Tough Call progresses, Briar explores Allie’s struggle to come to terms with the legacy of her past feminist art practice, particularly her support of the idea that abortion should be readily available to women. Briar also shows Allie exploring her current position that women should be supported to carry a pregnancy to term. However Allie’s atelier studio (see photo) and its collective approach to art-making is presented as carrying on a feminist ideal, in the context of the mentoring that Allie received from older woman artists, including Olivia Spencer Bower (see photo).
Throughout the film Briar records her own responses to Allie’s ideas, linking her own development as an artist to the story that Allie is telling. By initiating the film’s narrative through space and time, in her questions to Allie and by revealing her own responses to what Allie says, Briar presents an alternative, questing perspective on the ideas that Allie wishes to express. Briar brings the film to a close as she and Allie consider the movement of new artists away from “labels” like Christian or Feminist, while paying close attention to Allie’s longer view of the art world and art as activism.
The characters that appear are part of Allie’s activist and artistic past and allow her to hold forth on past works and her more recent Christian position, while also revealing something of the political and cultural context of the Women’s Art Movement. Visiting the characters takes us on a journey that is both spatial (we travel around the Auckland area) and temporal (as we travel around we also revist the past). Characters include Sandra Coney, a past editor of the feminist magazine Broadsheet, feminist author and currently in regional body politics, Ron Brownson, a curator at the Auckland Art Gallery where This Woman Died I Care is now held, Jane Zusters, an old artist friend of Allie’s who still adheres to some of the philosophies that Allie has moved away from, Juliet Batten, another feminist artist friend who is able to take a long view of Allie’s past, members of Allie’s atelier workshop (see photo) who are part of Allie’s new world, and Carole Shepheard, a feminist artist and lecturer who provides a more academic view of Allie’s art across time.