89-year-old lesbian feminist icon Sally Gearhart’s legacy to be honoured with documentary

The feature documentary Sally is a humorous, thought-provoking and inspiring American road-trip in search of iconic lesbian-feminist activist Sally Gearhart. Brilliant, charismatic, provocative and visionary, Sally Gearhart worked side-by-side with Harvey Milk, was a heroine to the first generation of open lesbians, and one of second-wave feminism’s most radical voices. Yet her crucial role in the fight against the 1978 Briggs’ Initiative, which sought to ban homosexuals from working in California’s public schools, has been virtually erased. Outside lesbian circles, too few people know her name.

The film Sally takes us on a hilarious, complex and surprising journey to discover how a “good southern girl” became an “outrageous” lesbian separatist leader and ended up living alone in the woods, largely forgotten by history.

In 2014, while shooting a short documentary about lesbians and aging, Bay Area filmmaker Deborah Craig stumbled across octogenarian Sally Gearhart living alone in a remote and ramshackle cabin in the Northern California woods. Deborah was charmed by this outrageous and mischievous character—who sported rumpled t-shirts, paint-stained jeans, and bright pink lipstick—and then realized that in the 1970s and 80s she was a beloved lesbian-feminist icon. Dismayed that she had barely heard of Gearhart, Deborah began to research and record her story.

Fundamentally, Craig’s film hopes to highlight Sally’s continuing relevance. Although she’s now almost 90, and somewhat isolated in the California woods, Sally’s key concerns—violence against women and environmental devastation—are more relevant than ever. Her fantasy novel The Wanderground—with its flying, mind-reading lesbians and “remember rooms”, where women share their experiences of male violence, foreshadows current events like the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement.

The launch of the Kickstarter campaign on March 6th 2021 was supposed to be the beginning of a month-long endeavor to raise $30,000. Instead, supported by 200 people, the filmmakers reached their goal within 48 hours. “We always believed that Sally deserved a film dedicated to her,” director Craig says, “what surprised us was how many people connected with Sally’s story and how quickly the donations came pouring in.”

Because of their initial success, the filmmakers are taking advantage of the momentum, amping up their fundraising goal to $50,000. They will use additional money raised to pay for animations, the rights to archival footage, and additional filming.  

You can find out more about the Sally Gearhart Documentary project and donate on Kickstarter until Wednesday April 7th 2021 at 3pm EDT.

DEBORAH CRAIG: Trailer for the documentary-in-production “Sally”

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