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The Films of Su Friedrich Volume III: Sink or Swim cover image

The Films of Su Friedrich Volume III: Sink or Swim 1990

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Outcast Films, PO Box 260, New York, NY 10032; 800-343-5540
Produced by Su Friedrich
Directed by Su Friedrich
DVD, b&, 48 min.

College - Adult
Film Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, Women's Studies

Date Entered: 07/14/2006

Reviewed by Oksana Dykyj, Head, Visual Media Resources, Concordia University, Montreal

Outcast Films is distributing a 5-DVD collection of 13 of Su Friedrich’s 16 films to date. Her most recent work is also available separately on DVD. This very ambitious compilation should serve as an example for future undertakings to preserve experimental and independent film/video. If the material is not accessible, it will not be shown, if it is not shown, an artist stands a very good chance of being forgotten. Academic oblivion has already occurred in the cases of several 60’s avant-garde filmmakers simply because academics have little time, money or inclination to find their works. This collection of Friedrich’s work will undoubtedly bring her to a wider audience.

Great care has been taken to transfer the 16mm and video works and many films have a choice of multiple sub-titles. One of the most innovative features is the scene accessibility which provides a written length of each section. This feature will certainly be appreciated by anyone showing Friedrich’s work in class or during a presentation. The program notes are informative and the Outcast website ( also provides links to criticism and full-text essays on Friedrich’s work.

With Sink or Swim, Su Friedrich produces an imaginative sketch that is both autobiographical and biographical in that it is formed around 26 short stories, some steeped in mythology, others in the contemporary relationship with her father. Six years after making a film about her mother she embarks on examining her relationship with her father in a deliberate and uncompromising way.

The third disc of the collection also features two other shorts: Cool Hands, Warm Heart (16 mins., 1979) and Scar Tissue (6 mins., 1979) both are silent films. The first exposes the private rituals of a woman through performance pieces with women positioning themselves on makeshift stages on the Lower East Side of New York and shaving their legs, shaving their armpits and peeling apples. The second film examines the differences between the genders in the late 1970s with close-ups and medium shots of feet and accessories. The professional New York women all wear high heels while their counterparts are shown through shots of their midsections and gesticulating hands. The depiction of women in high heels shows the workplace prior to when it became acceptable to wear walking shoes, or running shoes outside the gym. It is however a good reminder of fashion and feminist history.

This collection as a whole is very highly recommended for public libraries with gay and lesbian collections as well as for academic libraries with programs in gay and lesbian studies, as well as film studies.