Mutiny, 11 min, 1983
Mutiny employs a panoply of expression, gesture, and repeated movement. Its central images are of women: at home, on the street, at the workplace, at school, talking, singing, jumping on trampolines, playing the violin. The syntax of the film reflects the possibilities and limitations of speech, while “politically, physically, and realistically” flirting with the language of opposition.
Peter Bo Rappmund: I’ve read that Mutiny contains outtakes from documentaries you had shot previously for television, coupled with newer material that includes local artists in their local environments: Sally Silvers, Shelley Hirsch, and Polly Bradford. I’m interested to learn more about how you worked between those sources.
Abigail Child: Mutiny was always intended to have synchronous sound — that is, sound recorded at the same time as the image. The film cuts up vocal speech, conforming to mainstream sync-sound production, in which the focus is overwhelmingly on dialogue-driven faces. But instead of dialogue, Mutiny weaves and intercuts strings of vocabulary, pushing the vocal into the foreground, forging an aural poetry out of words and phrases. The film was originally planned as a montage of out-takes from a documentary I directed seven years previously, for the PBS television series, Women Alive! That film concerned teenage girls in Minneapolis before their senior year in high school. Ultimately, the high school material felt limiting. My need to get out of its sense of suburban alienation proved an imperative. I scavenged my early documentaries, including Game (1972) — about a prostitute and pimp in downtown Manhattan — and Savage Streets (1974) — a portrait of South Bronx Street gangs. Game was not commissioned. Savage Streets was made for an NBC show called New York Illustrated. It was ultimately excerpted on the Today show — but less than seven-minutes worth, so they wouldn’t have to pay me! That is a whole other story.
Read the full interview at BOMB here. Visit the Abigail Child Collection at Harvard Film Archive here.
Stills and artwork courtesy Canyon Cinema and ©Abigail Child. Screening co-presented with Canyon Cinema.