This newest film by critically acclaimed filmmaker Lilly Rivlin traces the ongoing legacy of activist and community organizer Heather Booth. In telling the story of Heather’s life and work, the film presents an overview of 50 years of the progressive movement, as well as a manual on how to become an organizer.
From a politically conscious college student who began her career in 1964 registering voters in Mississippi at the height of the Civil Rights movement, Heather became the go-to strategist for causes ranging from child care to women’s rights to immigration reform and advisor to leaders including Julian Bond and Senator Elizabeth Warren.
The film blends archival and contemporary footage with interviews with close friends, clients, political colleagues, students and others to understand this one person’s legacy in progressive politics. This is a timely film that arms viewers with methods they can employ to preserve our democratic principles.
The goal is for Heather Booth: Changing the World to serve as a tool for community organizing, through education and awareness, and as a guide for mobilizing that inspires activism and ignites change.
This film is a Women Make Movies release.
Heather Booth: Changing the World is the third in my trilogy about activist women and the times they live in. As I reflect on my filmmaking career, and review the films I have made, clearly, I make films about parts of me. As a childless woman, I understand by now, that these films are my children, and that I have gone through birth pangs for each of them.
My filmography of Grace Paley was not such a difficult birth because Grace was totally there for the audience to love, just as they have loved her Collected Stories. Esther Broner, was a relatively easy birth, mainly because her book, A Weave of Women, was an invaluable resource and the women of the Feminist Seder were all there to support me.
Heather Booth was a more difficult work because her art is organizing and, as Heather said to me in our initial conversation, “Organizing is exciting, thrilling and inspiring, but the role I play is boring.” Telling the story of organizing in America through the life and work of Heather Booth is a journey through all the modern progressive movements. The film also creates a unique handbook that illuminates the lessons Heather learned through 50 years of organizing.
HOW I DECIDED TO MAKE A FILM ABOUT HEATHER BOOTH:
Basically, I was researching abortion as I wanted to make a film on abortion. I had previously met Heather on two occasions, once at the International Jewish Feminist Conference in Jerusalem in 1989, which I organized with Bella Abzug, Letty Pogrebin and a few other women. Heather was there. I did not actually meet her, but there is a photo of Esther Broner, Michelle Landsberg and others, and Heather is there right below me. I also heard her speak once in Chicago, and then I saw her at a J Street conference and suggested lunch. We did. I liked her. And when I was researching abortion I called her. She told me about the film that had been made about the JANE, the underground network for safe abortions that she founded in the 1960s. I saw the film and realized there was no room for another. But in the course of all this, I used to call Heather. So, I called and told her I decided not to do it, but then said, “What about my making a film about you?” Little did I know what I was getting into. Today, she continues to organize as a member of the consulting group Democracy Partners.