Documentary “My name is Andrea” told in Dworkin’s own words
My name is Andrea receives its Bay Area premiere July 23 at The Castro as part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (July 21-August 7). Dworkin’s first public lecture was a lecture for teenage girls she gave at her suburban New Jersey synagogue about the gap between Jewish ideals and practice regarding economic inequality.
Parmar, whose many documentaries since the 1980s include Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth (2013), was born in Kenya, grew up in Britain and now lives in East Bay. Dworkin was not one of her formative feminist influences; instead, she was drawn to American women of color such as Walker, Angela Davis, June Jordan, and Cherrie Moraga.
“The idea [of Dworkin] it was rather prevalent in grassroots feminism and the left-progressive movement [was] of this woman who was anti-sex, anti-masculine, anti-pornography, who had very simple ideas,” Parmar said in a Zoom interview from the UK, where she presented My name is Andrea at the Sheffield DocFest. “That sort of reductive portrayal of her was completely and immediately demolished when I started reading her books.”
“I think she was first and foremost a poet,” Parmar says. “The way she wrote, she was a craftsman of words. These different ways of putting words together, phrases, juxtapositions, all of it was just something that was really both enjoyable and powerful to encounter on the page.
Of course, literary material and content – words and text – are not typical cinematic elements.
“Andrea herself gave me the idea of how to do it,” Parmar says. “In the preface to Heartbreak it has this quote from Rimbaud: “I am an ort”, “I am another”. To me, what she was saying was, “I am many things.” I am not only this representation. It’s similar to Walt Whitman’s “I contain multitudes,” which she also quotes.
Dworkin crystallized this idea, says Parmar, in Mercy. Each chapter begins with “My name is Andrea” and then describes a particular event and experience in her life – a different Andrea each time, so to speak. So Parmar crafted a script almost entirely from Dworkin’s words, then cast five actresses – Amandla Stenberg (Wild Child), Soko (Poet), Andrea Riseborough (Lover), Ashley Judd (Rolling Thunder) and Christine Lahti (Pariah ) – to play different personas and deliver his lyrics. (You can correctly deduce that My name is Andrea is neither a linear biography nor a complete biography.)