Flying

From June ’08 Spotlight: The Sundance Channel is currently screening a six-part series called Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman by filmmaker Jennifer Fox, but Chicago residents had a head start when the Gene Siskel Film Center featured the series last September.

The ambitious daughter of a progressive Jewish family, Fox came of age in an era when smart girls were encouraged to achieve great things. She rejected her mother’s homebound life and emulated her father’s freedom. Each segment begins with footage of her father at the control panel of his private plane, then cuts to Fox also airborne, jetting around the world doing interviews and lectures.

But approaching age forty, this award-winning documentary filmmaker started turning inward, becoming increasingly obsessed with personal concerns: should she “settle down,” get married, and have a baby? Pointedly ignoring the one woman on the planet with the most at stake, she asks advice from women on almost every continent until their hospitality finally opens the door to rapprochement. The final episodes, in which Fox’s mother emerges from the background and assumes center stage are enormously moving, as, together, Fox and her mother nurse her mother’s mother in her final days.

Tightly focusing her camera on her own face in all its variations, often exhausted, sometimes unkempt, is revelatory. Baring her soul, she confronts us with all the contemporary realities absent in most American films. So I was delighted when she told me in September that one of her role models is Barbra Streisand. Reflecting on the first time she saw Funny Girl, Fox said: “Back then [1968] you got dressed up to go to the movies. I had gloves on. I remember all this. I sat in that theater and I said, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to make people feel like this film is making me feel.”

For a link to the complete Sundance Channel schedule as well as information on the DVD version of Flying, visit www.flyingconfessions.com.

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