Ventfort Hall


Berkshire screenwriter and historian Nannina Gilder, as well as former film curator for the Little Cinema at The Berkshire Museum, will host a four-part Women in Film Seminar titled “Invisible: Female Filmmakers Before 1960” at Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum. The classes are scheduled for Thursdays, Jan. 23 and 30, Feb. 6 and 13, all at 7 to 9 p.m. Ventfort Hall board member Birgit Vetromile is the sponsor for the film series.

Gilder asks these questions, “Imagine telling the history of film without the first director to use the camera to tell a story, or the first feature length animated movie?” “Who was the first surrealist filmmaker, or the director of the first movie of the French New Wave?”

“For decades these milestones have actually been relegated to a dusty corner of film history,” according to Gilder, “pushed aside in favor of a straightforward narrative of brilliant men behind the camera and beautiful women in front of it. Films directed by women in the early decades of cinematography have been considered obscure curiosities, but the truth is much richer and more complex.”

Gilder will delve into how actress Ida Lupino became a writer/director/producer who changed the face of American independent film, how Dorothy Arzner’s technical innovations in the early sound era untethered actors, giving them the freedom to move and express themselves, how Lotte Reiniger’s magic scissors and multi-plane camera opened up worlds of animation or how Alice Guy came to make of the first non-documentary film.

Female directors included in the seminar were nominated for Oscars and won awards at Cannes and Venice. Their films influenced such directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola.

The seminar will offer a glimpse into movies that changed the face of cinema, but today are hard to find. Each of the four classes will examine short and feature-length films in the context of these themes: Jan. 23, The Birth of Cinema – Alice Guy (short) and Ida Lupino (feature); Jan. 30, Dancer & Director – Shirley Clarke (short) and Dorothy Arzner (feature); Feb. 6, Worlds of Animation – TBA (short) and Lotte Reiniger (feature), and Feb. 13, Obsession – Wendy Toye (short) and Jacqueline Audry (feature).

Gilder comments, “The seminar will reveal that not only were women making films in the classical period of cinema, but they were crafting beautiful, vibrant pieces of entertainment. The history of film is inseparable from the history of women in film.”

Gilder has appeared on the film podcast Citizen Dame. Her play “The Curious Abduction of Mona Lisa” was performed at Ventfort Hall in 2013.

Tickets for the Women in Film seminar are $15 for each of the four classes or $50 for the four-part series. Reservations are highly recommended as seating is limited. For information or reservations call Ventfort Hall at 413-637-3206. The historical mansion is located at 104 Walker St., Lenox.

An Official Project of Save America’s Treasures program sponsored by The White House, Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum, built in 1893 for George and Sarah Morgan, offers tours of the historic mansion, as well as Tea & Talks, such exhibitions as the Bellefontaine Collection, concerts, theater, and other programs. This elegant Jacobean-Revival Berkshire “cottage,” listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is open to the public year round and is available for private rental. Sarah Morgan was the sister of financier J. Pierpont Morgan. Ventfort Hall has undergone substantial restoration, which continues.

Event Dates
Thursday from Thursday, January 23, 2020 through Thursday, February 13, 2020
Event time
7:00 PM
Cost / donation
$15 per person for each class; $50 per person for four-part series


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