Ten years ago in the United States of America there was a revolution, though a peaceful one that saw a supposedly socialist gonvernment put in place. But how equal are the population under this new administration? A group calling themselves The Women's Army remain sceptical that things have progressed much since they came to power and are now set on shaking things up. Not all women agree with their motives, however, and it will take a controversial event to unite them...
Born in Flames was created on a ridiculously low budget over half a decade, and rumour had it without even a proper script as it simply followed the storyline laid out by co-cinematographer Ed Bowes. It is set out more as a manifesto for feminism rather than a conventional telling of political struggle, and takes its view for equality for women as a right worth fighting for, even to the point of violence backing up what you believe in. After 2001, the film gained fresh notoriety for its final shot that came too close to real life for comfort.
The film is made up of a selection of styles, from spoof news footage to actual news footage, from documentary realism to more intimate scenes better suited to drama. But at all times the message is hammered home, if not always entirely coherently, so that the experience is something closer to being pontificated at where otherwise it might have been highlighting the facts and leaving you to make up your own mind about it. This is both its strength and its weakness.
By making a science fiction effort with next to no money, you couldn't accuse director Lizzie Borden of lacking ambition, and this is reflected in her provocative subject matter. We follow the struggles of various characters who object to their place in an ostensibly fairer society, which is in effect no better than it was before the revolution with attacks on women and lack of career prospects keeping them down. An inspirational leader then arises in Adelaide Norris (Jean Satterfield) who finds herself under surveillance from the authorities.
When Adelaide is arrested and dies in suspicious circumstances, it electrifies the women of the United States who demand to know exactly what is going on, and begin behaviour that could very well be labelled terrorism. The filmmakers misjudge how sympathetic acts like these can be, and as they take place in a future society that doesn't really exist, it might have been wiser to anchor them in the present day in any case. I'm not sure how relevant Born in Flames is, and given how it sought to equate the feminist movement with the civil rights struggle you could accuse them of overstating their case. The last scene, which sees the World Trade Center blown up, is needless to say, not so very inspiring in this actual twenty-first century climate. If you can stomach its rough and ready presentation, however - and its tone deaf songs - it might make you think, which was its purpose.