Synopsis: Rebel Bells is about an all-girls radical collective located in the Calumet region connecting southeast side Chicago, Illinois and East Chicago in northwest Indiana. The Calumet region is an economically precarious, environmentally-polluted industrial corridor in the U.S. Midwest. The Rebel Bells was started in 2016 by three mothers who are leaders in the environmental justice movements in their respective communities. The goal of the Rebel Bells collective is to teach young girls about social justice and community activism in an empowered and safe environment. Though they receive guidance from the moms that are involved in the group, the girls take ownership over the curriculum and typically lead the meetings and activities of the group.
The goal of the Rebel Bells documentary is to capture the girls and their moms in their own voices as well as to contextualize the urban environment in which the girls and women live, including environmental pollution. In this respect, this film is intended to embody the kind of feminist, consciousness raising documentary film popular in the 1970s and now making a comeback in the 21st century. As film scholar Julia Lesage argues, women’s bodies and minds are colonized under patriarchal society, and there is power in feminist documentary filmmaking for helping women to re-possess their own narratives. This film intends to highlight the importance of centering women’s voices that are otherwise silenced in patriarchal society, and within a film industry that traditionally centers men’s narratives, including male directors and male characters.
Anne Colton has over 30 years of filmmaking experience, including starting out in the industry as the only female online editor in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (1989-1991). Anne’s last film Jordanville (2017) aired nationally on PBS and is available for viewing on Amazon Prime. Michelle Yates is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies and Humanities at Columbia College Chicago. Michelle is also the co-founder and co-director of the Chicago Feminist Film Festival.