The journey of Thelma & Louise is revisited through the lens of viewers who shared powerful, personal stories about the impact the film had on them in 1991 and meanings the film holds for them today.
A powerful, intimate, documentary, Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise dives off the edge, into the truth of women’s experience in the world. Clips from Thelma & Louise serve as a catalyst for personal stories by viewers who were impacted by the film in 1991 and wrote letters about it. Today the same women and men connect past and present, asking what, if anything, has changed in the way women are treated by the world.
Two of the male actors and the editor of Thelma & Louise offer perspectives from a different vantage point. Christopher McDonald and Marco St. John step out of the film to share vignettes, becoming participants in Thelma & Louise’s continuing journey into the 21st century.
Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise had it’s beginnings in 1991 when Thelma & Louise blazed across theater screens throughout the country and around the world, creating a firestorm of controversy. Thelma & Louise was praised as an exhilarating prototype of female empowerment and freedom. It was condemned as an alarming specimen of toxic feminism and male-bashing.
At that time, viewers responded to a national survey, sharing their visceral reactions to the film in letters and on audiotape. Twenty-five years later, the former researcher, now the filmmaker, tracked down some of the same viewers from around the country and invited them to share the meanings Thelma & Louise holds for them.
They revisit the protagonists’ journey, beginning with Thelma and Louise taking off for the weekend and continuing until they fly off the cliff at the end. Clips from the original film serve as a catalyst for intimate, personal stories of women’s experience in the real world.
The filmmaker invited a few other people she met along the way to add perspectives from a different vantage point. These include the editor of Thelma & Louise (Thom Noble) and actors who played Thelma’s husband (Christopher McDonald) and the truck driver (Marco St.John).
The collective force of these women and men breathed life into the documentary through their refreshing candidness and honesty. They pose the question: Has anything changed in the past quarter-century in the way women are treated by the world?
Our participants provide depth and definition to what it is like to be female in a world where most of the power and institutions are controlled by men. Sometimes they disagree with their former selves and sometimes they disagree with one another. Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise enriches the viewer’s appreciation of the reasons behind Thelma & Louise’s hold on popular culture. And while it is a film made by, for, and about women, it is a film which deeply resonates with all genders.
Prior to having preview screenings, I thought of Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise as a film ‘for women.’ And it is that. First, and foremost, it is a film about how women experience the world. That is what Thelma & Louise was about. At its essence, it was about how being female shapes and constricts and controls what women can and cannot do. But I came to realize that ‘Catching Sight’ is a film that brings home to men how unsafe the world is for women and how this lack of security affects the day-to-day choices women are forced to make in wending their way through the world.
When I was successful in locating women and men who had written to me in 1991 about Thelma & Louise , I was pleasantly surprised at how open they were to being in the documentary and appearing on camera. This was in total contrast to myself. I was comfortable in back of the camera and had no thought, whatsoever, of being in front of the camera. It was only when I realized there was no other way to convey the backstory that I consented to being in the film.
Not everyone I located as potential ‘voices’ wanted to be included in the project – not because they were shy or uncomfortable, but because they rejected who they were in the past, or didn’t want to voice criticisms of Thelma & Louise, or had been raped and didn’t want to revisit that experience, even in the silence of their own mind.
It is not possible to fully express my gratitude to the wonderful participants in Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise . Their openness, authenticity, and generous spirits give the film its power and poignancy. It’s tempting to say ‘the times we live in give it relevancy,’ but, truth be told, since its very beginning, Thelma & Louise has been, and remains, relevant to the times we live in.