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Tender Fictions

Director, Script, Photography, Editing, Sound, Narration: Barbara Hammer
Music: Monika, Catherine Jauniaux, Pamela Z
Producer: Barbara Hammer
Production Company, Source:
Barbara Hammer Productions
55 Bethune St. #114G, N.Y., N.Y. 10014, USA
Phone: 1-212-645-9077 / Fax: 1-212-645-9077
USA / 1995 / English / Color / 16mm / 58 min

Barbara Hammer

Born 1939, in Hollywood, California. Started making 8mm films in the late 1960s. Discovered lesbian feminism, and has produced over 77 experimental films and works which convey her strong comments on society. Now considered a leading figure in video activism in the US. Her first feature documentary, Nitrate Kisses (1992), a stylish filmic meditation on the social/cultural history of homosexuality in the US, received a number of awards including the Polar Bear Award at the 1993 Berlin International Film Festival and the Best Documentary Award at the Women Director's Film Festival in Madrid. She was Chief of Judges at YIDFF 1995. Tender Fictions was selected for the Berlin International Film Festival, and received the Isabella Lidell Art Award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 1996. She has had retrospectives in many cities around the world, including one at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.


Chair of the International Jury at YIDFF '95 Barbara Hammer's latest work, a play on the title of Gertrude Stein's autobiographical Tender Buttons, is both an autobiographical search for traces of her own self and a personal portrayal of the gay community. At first glance the title seems to be constructed out of two contradictory words-- "tender" which symbolizes the aspect of personal documentary, and "fiction"--but this is exactly Hammer's message. Following the fiction of memory and the truth that turns into fiction when recounted, Hammer goes back and forth between excerpts of her mother's diary and the time she was infatuated with Shirley Temple to traces in the present. She weaves her own work from her thirties, 16mm footage, and the 1950s education film How to be a Modern Woman into a montage, also filming herself editing these images. That autobiography is made from selection is epitomized by this scene. The three voices of her own narration are filled with humor, jokes and quotes of many feminists and deconstructionists. Her position as a lesbian and feminist emerges strongly from this work.
--Inada Takaki

Director's Statement

My intent in making Tender Fictions was to investigate autobiography as a subject. I noticed when I was growing up that each person would describe the same event in different ways. As a child I understood that there was no "truth" but truths. I wasn't surprised then to find that I could change the meaning of a story by also changing the pronouns. I tell the story about going around the world on a motorscooter three times using "I" , "She" and "He" Use of different pronouns gives different meanings to the very same tale. I can also change meaning by changing the sound of the voice. I change the timbre to parody feminist and masculine critics and to ask the audience to contemplate which voices they give more credence.

Nothing is left unturned. I do not proceed in chronological order, I make the film circle back into itself, and I use as many textures of moving images as possible including computer, Super 8mm, 16mm film, video and video processing, educational and Hollywood films. Every different piece of material can make a different meaning. I edit disparate materials using a personal rhythmic montage to draw the audience into the stories while at the same time asking them to be analytical and critical. There is no hard truth but gentle multiple ones, Tender Fictions.


Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee