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Girlfriends 15

Part of Trailblazers: Women in New Hollywood
Part of Members' Events
Claudia Weill, USA, 1978, 88m.

All screenings of Girlfriends will be shown with English subtitles (not HoH).

The screening on the 3 of April will be accompanied by a conversation between Dr Alice Pember (University of Warwick) , Dr Martha Shearer (University College Dublin and co-editor of Women in New Hollywood) and Film Journalist Christina Newland.  

The screening on the 7 of April will be introduced by season programmer Dr Alice Pember.

Kicking off our Trailblazers: Women in New Hollywood season, a series of films highlighting the visionary filmmaking and lasting legacy of women directors in the New Hollywood era, is Claudia Weill’s masterly examination of female friendship, 1978’s Girlfriends.  


A photographer and her girlfriend are roommates. She is stuck with small-change shooting jobs and big dreams of success. When her roommate decides to get married and leave, she has to learn how to deal with living alone.

The Garden Cinema view:

Despite becoming a cult classic in the years since it was released, Girlfriends has never garnered the mainstream popularity it deserves. Although well-received upon release, its director Claudia Weill only made one more narrative feature film before being forced from Hollywood by the misogyny she faced on set.

A funny and good-natured film, its focus on the rift in the friendship of photographer Susan and poet Anne opened up by Anne’s sudden marriage seriously examines the impact of patriarchal gender roles on women’s capacity to creatively come-of-age. The film’s depiction of the intense understanding shared between these two women has influenced countless female-centric New York films and television shows, including Girls, Frances Ha and Broad City.  

Although the film feels extremely prescient in its depiction of women’s relationships, it also emphasises the complex position of women creatives in the artistic landscape of the 1970s. Susan and Anne seem unbound by the creative restrictions that might have inhibited them in earlier decades but, like Weill herself, are shown battling against the prevailing misogynist attitudes of the time. Despite the talent that Weill showcases in her direction of Girlfriends, we are left to imagine the work that she might have produced had she remained a fiction filmmaker.

Dr Martha Shearer is Assistant Professor of Film Studies at University College Dublin. She is the author of New York City and the Hollywood Musical: Dancing in the Streets (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016) and co-editor of two books: with Julie Lobalzo Wright, Musicals at the Margins: Genre, Boundaries, Canons (Bloomsbury, 2021) and with Aaron Hunter, Women and New Hollywood: Gender, Creative Labor, and 1970s American Cinema (Rutgers University Press, 2023), which is on-sale in the Garden Cinema bookshop.

Dr Alice Pember is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick. Her research interests include independent cinema, feminist film philosophy and dance and pop music on screen. Her research has appeared in Modern and Contemporary France, French Screen Studies and Film-Philosophy journals. She teaches across areas related to independent French, British and American cinema, film philosophy and queer and women's cinema. Her monograph The Dancing Girl in Contemporary Cinema will be published next year with Edinburgh University Press.

Christina Newland is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster on film and culture, with bylines at Criterion, BBC, Rolling Stone, MUBI, and others. She is the lead film critic at the i Newspaper and a contributing editor to Empire Magazine. Her newsletter, Sisters Under the Mink, on depictions of women in crime film & television, won a Freelance Writing Award in 2021, and her first book, an edited anthology called She Found It at the Movies: Women Writers on Sex, Desire and Cinema, was published in March 2020.

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