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Like a Prayer: 14 Women (and Joe Biden)

Does it make any sense at all that two creators of risqué music videos for pop culture icons Madonna and Janet Jackson would wind up making a documentary about women senators?

The "14" in a 2003 photo: Left to right in the front row are Olympia J. Snowe, Blanche L. Lincoln, Barbara Boxer, Susan M. Collins, Dianne Feinstein, Maria Cantwell. In the back row left to right are: Mary L. Landrieu, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Dole, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Barbara Mikulski, Lisa Murkowski (hidden), Debbie Stabenow and Patty Murray. (Ray Lustig - The Washington Post)

Imagine going from producing and directing "Like a Prayer" to "14 Women," the new film about the daily lives of women in the Senate, whose wildest day of the year is Seersucker Thursday.

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)."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  June 15, 2007; 3:25 PM ET
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Okay, so how do we see this if we can't make the film festival - for instance if we don't live in the DC area?

Posted by: inBoston | June 15, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Ah, this is very cool. I would love to see this move, and ask the same question as inBoston, How can someone in Oklahoma see this movie?

Posted by: Intersetted Teenager | June 16, 2007 2:57 AM | Report abuse

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."

Yes, like Hillary uses both sides of her face.

Posted by: Rick/Sneads Ferry, NC | June 16, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Don't we already have enough bad actors
on the Hill?

How about less Hollywood east and
lets do a five day work week?

Hollywood is west coast if the Brooklyn
Boxer wants to act she already has
an academy award as the Subway Senator
from Brooklyn.

Biden is just biden his time to get
a State Dept post

Posted by: Mike | June 16, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Correction: Barbara Boxer is not 39 years old. According to her official site, she has been in office since 1993, which, if she were that young, would mean that she became a senator five years before being constitutionally eligible. She is, rather, 66 years old, and her birthday is in November.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 16, 2007 11:01 PM | Report abuse

I believe it is Nicole Boxer who is 39. But really, politics has become more and more about celebrity and less and less about substance and the good of community, state and nation. But I guess we are better off than the Italians. We havn't elected a porn star....yet(I think).

Posted by: r man | June 18, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Mary Ann, this colmn is funny! Your subjects are perfect satires of themselves. Funny how so many women become famous on the same platform: It's all about me! Me! the matron and nanny of the entire world ... as far as I can see ... (You know 20 miles or so.) 20 miles about me, my queendom! Oh worship me! My hair, my clothes, my makeup, my almost man like stride. My eagerness to ask hard (but domb) questions of any man who is summoned to sit in the pit before any committee investigating anything ... I am WONDER WOMAN. You ought to hear me curse!!!

Posted by: Jake | June 18, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I completely agree with the outrage felt by the sixth-graders when told there isn't an equal representation of women in the Senate. I believe our constitution should be amended in order to solidify a 50/50 representation of the sexes. This would not only give women new hope, it would be viewed as awesomely glamorous in the eyes of the world.

I really wanna watch the documentary.
If anyone has any info on where one can acquire it, please contact:

Posted by: Barone | June 19, 2007 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Gee I hope Barone is being facetious. What next? We could determine the percentage of population between the ages of 21 and 30, 31 and 40, 41 & 50 etc and require that there be the same percentage of representation by age group. We could determine the IQ distribution of the population and require that we must have a certain percent of representation with IQs of less that 85, 86 to 100, 101 to 115, 116 to 130 etc. Eight to ten percent must be gay. After all it would only be right to have "fair" representation for all segments of the population, right?

Barone, I believe that women constitute more than half of the eligible voting population of the nation. If they want to organize and increase the number of women elected to Congress, they have the power. Think beyond the end of your nose. No Constitutional amendment is required and besides how many times would you amend it to be "fair" to every segment of the population?

Posted by: r man | June 20, 2007 7:38 AM | Report abuse

I hope that PBS or some other network will show "14 Women". It sounds interesting and something that should be available to the public.

Posted by: Peggy | June 20, 2007 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Joe Biden commenting on strong women is like Ted Kennedy commenting on strong bridges.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 6:40 PM | Report abuse

I hope this film is released to wider distribution. I would like to see it released in Washington state -- the only state with 2 women senators and a woman governor.

Posted by: Ogre Mage | June 21, 2007 1:46 AM | Report abuse

The thing that impresses me is that none of the 14 is far from being moderate.

I know there will be flak coming from the right but maybe women should be running this country.

Posted by: Les | June 21, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

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