At our Boston conference, Donna Read, innovator, filmmaker, producer and activist, received ASWM’s2016 Saga Award for Special Contributions to Women’s History and Culture. The award honors Donna’s role in making feminist scholarship and the history of spirituality visible and accessible to a wide audience,
The ASWM Board of Directors recognizes Donna as “one of the premier visionary artists of our time” for films that include the Women’s Spirituality Series (Goddess Remembered, Burning Times, and Full Circle), Signs Out of Time, Permaculture: The Growing Edge, and (with producer/directorDonna Roberts) Yemanjá: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil.
In particular, Donna’s visual chronicles in both the “Women & Spirituality trilogy” and “Signs Out of Time” document the history of the sacred feminine and its re-emergence in the cultural mythology and activism of our time. Her films introduced scholars, feminists, artists and interested women to new interpretations of the myriad array of images of the female divine. As her award letter states, this work “has enlightened and continues to inspire viewers to re-examine their assumptions about women, about men, about spirituality and about culture.”
We were privileged to have Donna present Yemanjá: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil to our 2016 conference, and moderate an important discussion about the film and the remarkable women upon whose work it is based.
Hearing of her award, Donna’s good friend and collaborator Starhawk had this to say:
Donna Read Cooper has made great contributions to women’s culture and history. She created key resources through her work as a filmmaker, first with the National Film Board of Canada and later with her own independent company, Belili Productions. She began as an editor, worked for many years at Studio D, the Film Board’s special studio for women, and progressed on to direct and produce documentaries concerned with women and the earth, including the Women’s Spirituality Trilogy: Goddess Remembered, Burning Times and Full Circle. Together, we made Signs Out of Time, on the life of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, and Permaculture: The Growing Edge.
As her long-time friend, and sometime film making companion, I know some of the obstacles she faced. From the early days, when women in film faced prejudice and dismissal, to challenges persuading the more hard-nosed political feminists that women’s spirituality was a valid subject, to the difficulty raising funds for independent documentaries, to the health challenges that come with aging.
But she always persevered. Donna made films about key issues, but she also took action. We’ve marched together in the streets, stood together in front of tanks on the West Bank supporting the nonviolent resistance in Palestine, attended endless meetings, and most recently, Donna has opened her home to Syrian refugees. Through it all managed to raise five children, and remain a mentor, teacher, and a good friend to me and to many younger women.
I am thrilled that Donna is receiving this well-deserved award that honors a lifetime of devotion to women and social justice.
Congratulations to Donna, along with deep gratitude for her work which has both chronicled and transformed generations of scholarship.