Like a Prayer: 14 Women (and Joe Biden)
But it does actually make some sense, considering the director is the sister of Sen. Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-Ark.) and that she teamed up with the daughter of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to make the movie. And really, said director Mary Lambert, making the movie about women in the Senate "was similar" to making those Madonna videos "because they are all divas."
"We wanted to make the senators rock stars, make them look like Madonna with clothes on," co-producer Sharon Oreck, a longtime business cohort of Lambert, said Thursday night at the premiere's after-party, where a handful of Senate "divas" showed up after watching their debut on the silver screen.
"14 Women" premiered moments earlier at the Silverdocs Film Festival at AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Md. Needless to say, none came across as rock stars. Instead, viewers get to know normal, down-to-earth women juggling often grueling and stressful legislative and political schedules with the demands of caring for their families.
Sens. Boxer and Lincoln are the obvious stars of the film. Boxer's daughter, co-producer Nicole Boxer, appears in the film as herself as Senator Mom's biggest fan. At one point she's standing on the floor of the 2004 Democratic convention holding her cell phone and screaming into the camera, "It's Mom! Look," she says, chewing her gum and pointing to the screen on her cell phone so that we the viewers can see "Mom" is on the line. "Hey, Mom!"
Boxer, 39, was also pleased with her father Stewart Boxer's cameo appearances in the documentary. "He's managed for 30 years never to do an official interview," she told us.
Boxer's ex-sister-in-law, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), gives an interview for the film, though apparently it was a struggle to get the Democratic presidential hopeful to lend much of her time. (Boxer the filmmaker is divorced from Clinton's brother, Tony Rodham.)
Other senators go beyond interviews and open up their lives and their homes to the filmmakers. Most surprising, at least to congressional insiders, is Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). We see her cooking and having a meal with her husband and two surly teenage boys who blame their mother for making them move to Washington and stifling what surely would have been amazing downhill ski careers for them both.
Also entertaining: To hear the gruff, anything-but-prissy Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) say, "We talk about girlie-girl things" in describing the bond among women senators. And, of course, Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) talking about her relationship with hubby Bob made us think of those Viagra commercials, which made us think of things we wish we hadn't.
A group of sixth-grade girls from working-class backgrounds appears throughout the movie to give commentary. One says women make better senators because "women can use both sides of their brain." And asked how a senator is elected, one girl said the president appoints them. And all the girls, according to co-producer Oreck, were outraged to learn there isn't 50/50 split between men and women in the Senate.
Oreck -- who produced such '80s music video classics as "The Glamorous Life" by Sheila E. and "When Doves Cry" by Prince, said she and Lambert both "fell in love with" Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Snowe comes across as incredibly down-to-earth. She even talks about her first husband dying in a car wreck and how the event influenced her political career.
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), for the second time since it happened, recounts the 1978 horror when San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and the city's first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk, were shot to death by outraged political rival Dan White.
Also noteworthy in the movie is Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), the only male senator who is interviewed. Ostensibly, Biden was chosen to talk about his role in recruiting women to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee after the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings. But Biden winds up playing the male feminist, talking throughout the movie about the wonders of women and how well they work with each other and how he hopes to see more of them in the Senate -- and, wow, women, they are just so neat!
As Sen. Boxer's former communications director, David Sandretti (now at the League of Conservation Voters) said, they should have called the movie "14 Women (and Joe Biden)."
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