Feminist Film ‘Dear Gabe’ at UCI

‘Dear Gabe’ is an intimate and haunting film in which six college friends, now all in their thirties, reflect on the lives they have chosen to live their lives thus far. The reflect upon their individual roles as mothers who have departed from the traditional ideas of motherhood. The film was shown the evening of Oct. 30 at UCI’s Film and Video Center on campus.
In addition to being a documentary about lesbians and their search for happiness through family values and maternity, ‘Dear Gabe’ is also a mother’s letter to her son. Alexandra Juhasz wrote, produced and directed ‘Dear Gabe.’
‘[‘Dear Gabe’] is a feminist film about families,’ Juhasz said.
When Juhasz’s son Gabe is old enough to understand the film, it will serve as an explanation of his own family.
Still, this film lacks the sappy sentimentality that often plagues others of this genre. Juhasz relates to her interview subjects, but refuses to coddle them. She firmly probes them for answers to questions that are taboo to even ask. Despite the deeply personal questions, these women respond in kind, with articulate and sometimes painful answers. For the purpose of exploring the choices they have made, these women are honest. Some admit to being unsure at times, doubting whether they ought to have had children. Another woman admits that her continued refusal to settle down is ‘an increasingly rebellious act.’
These women are not so much unlike heterosexual women as one may be inclined to think. The only difference is that they talk about the roles they have chosen for themselves so articulatly that the fact they have thought very long on this subject is apparent.
‘Dear Gabe’ is shot on video, and the scenes of the women’s children play like home movies. With its use of this type of filming, ‘Dear Gabe’ is able to create within 15 minutes a sense of loss and longing that a Hollywood film couldn’t produce in two hours.
‘In this type of film, trivial moments begin to carry a lot of weight,’ Juhasz said.
These recently filmed scenes are peppered with much older video footage from Juhasz’s college days, which feature Jim, a gay man who was a friend to the women featured in the film, and whose death from AIDS now affects the decisions these women make in regards to their families. The loss of Jim is an emphatic point that forces the viewer to make a realization. Juhasz has a theory as to what this realization ought to be:
‘Home movies are always about loss,’ Juhasz said.
The character of Jim is what works the most to make this film unique. Jim is not just someone who was lost, but is a man who Juhasz loved so much that she now hopes that her son Gabe will grow up to be like him. Jim is also the reason that Juhasz cites for undertaking the project.
‘I need to. I’m responsible for making a video about Jim,’ Juhasz said.
But I do not believe she means this as a responsibility to the memory of Jim himself. I think Juhasz is talking about the responsibility of homosexuals who survived the 1980s to address the memory of those who died from AIDS like Jim. The problem lies in how much these people were loved: The loss of them has inspired a ‘nostalgia for activism’ that Juhasz feels must be addressed. Perhaps putting these issues into a letter for her son is her way of admitting that their questions will not be soon resolved.
Whatever it means, ‘Dear Gabe’ is a moving and introspective film that speaks to the audience as if its members were all individual Gabes. It invites the viewer to place him or herself within each of these families and to experience the fact that the emotions are not very different. Whatever the genders of the people who make it up, a family will always be defined by love, security and a little uncertainty.
Aside from the meaning of the film, ‘Dear Gabe’ is also important in that it is representative of the personal expression that can be accomplished by creative people willing to use any means necessary to express themselves.
More films like it can be seen at UCI’s Film and Video Center, which plays a movie in HIB 100 every Thursday at 7:30 and costs $3 for UCI students and $5 for everyone else.