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Giovanna Chesler: Experimental Documentary Work

Giovanna Chesler

Local filmmaker Giovanna Chesler presents her experimental documentary work. This collection of 16mm documentary films explores themes of the body, disability, pharmaceuticals, gender and sexuality.


Giovanna Chesler directs documentary and narrative films addressing themes of the body, sexuality, and gender. Her films have been exhibited at over 120 film festivals worldwide and in museums and gallery spaces including Anthology Film Archives, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, La Jolla Contemporary Art Museum, New Orleans International Film Festival, Outfest, Frameline, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Festival, and more. She is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Film and Video Studies Program at George Mason University, and affiliated faculty in Film and Media Studies and Women and Gender Studies at Mason.

Giovanna is in development on a feature length film on memory loss and addiction titled Java that she has written and will direct. She has directed ten films including her recent short fiction dramas The Pick Up (2018, HD, 10 min), Java (2017, HD, 11 min) and Bye Bi Love (HD, 17min). Giovanna’s hour-long documentary Period: The End of Menstruation (16mm, 2006, Cinema Guild) looks at cultural and medical trends in menstruation and was covered on the front page of The New York Times as a touchstone on the debate over menstrual suppression. It was the most emailed article for two days and received international press attention, demonstrating how this taboo subject deserves wider discussion.

Over two decades, Giovanna has also produced videos for progressive organizations, video artists and filmmakers, working with a team of talented video makers affiliated with her production company, G6 Pictures. Early in her career, she worked as the Associate Producer and Production Manager on Wild at Start: High Technology Adventures and the American Dream (2000, Capela) following 15 startup companies in Silicon Valley during the high tech bubble of the late 90’s.



BeauteouS: Stephanie
16mm & Super 8mm, 15 min

A young woman born with a cranio-facial deformity, a cleft lip and palate, recounts the numerous surgeries she endured to transform her face. Her reflection challenges societal beauty standards which may have required these surgeries. The film is crafted through interviews with Stephanie where she recounts her experience in school and in the hospital. Images avoid her face, focusing instead on abstract representations of beauty and her past.

BeauteouS: Stephanie is the first in the BeauteouS trilogy – three portraits of three sisters and their relationships to beauty.


16mm, 13 min

As a lesbian relationship falls apart, this docu-failure, unravels.

Part of a series on beauty, this film begins as an exploration of beauty and sexuality. Giovanna travels to North Carolina to film a lesbian couple moving in together. Once the filmmaker arrives, however, the relationship falls apart. As she keeps filming, the movie becomes a documentary less about this relationship and more about the conflict between art and respect for personal privacy.


Period: The End of Menstruation
16mm, 54min

As millions of women and girls take shots and pills to stop their periods, the meaning of menstruation changes. The current marketing trend in hormonal birth control (Depo-Provera, Seasonale, Seasonique, Lybrel, Anya), is to attract customers by promising freedom from monthly periods. For many consumers, menstrual suppression eliminates painful monthly flow, giving them more control in their lives. For others, menstrual suppression represents a frightening shift in thinking about the human body and another dangerous experiment on woman’s health. Period: The End of Menstruation? interrogates the cultural and medical side effects of suppression before ‘the curse’ disappears.

Director / Producer Giovanna Chesler utilizes methods of direct cinema, cinema verite, and poetic construction to construct her 16mm film. Giovanna and her crew met with over 50 participants around the United States to understand the variety of viewpoints on this complex topic. Period highlights these health practitioners, cultural critics, artists, activists. Several of these individuals impact the future of menstruation trends while others are directly affected by these trends. Some see menstruation as an essential element of the female body and experience. Others believe that menstruation is not necessary. One doctor extols the benefits of Seasonale, a pill designed to allow only four bleeding episodes each year (which generated $50 million in sales in one year.) Another participant explains that hormonal suppressants can lead to loss of bone density and osteoporosis in young women. Side effects include depression, cardiac ailments, blood clots, break through bleeding and loss of libido.

Period equates the experiences and opinions of every day Americans to medical knowledge. Women and men of diverse ethnic communities, of varying sexual orientations are included in the film alongside the health practitioners and theorists. We meet an African American woman in San Diego who was so troubled by her period that she chose to have a hysterectomy at age 33, We see a white urban professional in her late 20’s getting a shot of Depo Provera. She tells us that she has not menstruated in three years. However, a transman living in New York City chooses to keep his period and claims it as part of his masculinity, and an artist in San Francisco paints with her menstrual blood.

What is healthy and normal? What is female and private? What is natural?

Period addresses these complex questions and more. Period: The End of Menstruation? makes a taboo subject visible and audible, serving as a beginning to much needed public conversation and bringing attention to a pressing women’s health issue that affects millions of menstruators on a national and global scale.


  • 3/6 | 8:00PM
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