New Documentary to be Shown at WSU

PULLMAN, Wash. — A new film documenting life in the West 100 years ago will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8 at Washington State University’s Fine Arts Auditorium. Writers Jana Harris and Jeannette Armstrong along with filmmakers Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin will screen and discuss their film “How Can I Keep on Singing?” during the free, public presentation.

Through the tales of laundresses, schoolteachers, farmers and berry pickers, the film depicts everyday life in the West 100 years ago and reenacts women’s daily activities. Linda Karell, a literature professor at Montana State University, said the film was “informative, eloquent and visually captivating.”

Inspired by a Pulitzer Prize-nominated book by Northwest author Jana Harris, the film tells stories of the settlers and the indigenous people of the Northwest whose lives were changed with the arrival of thousands of ranchers and miners. Stories of indigenous women were drawn from the works of writer Jeannette Armstrong, a member of the Penticton Indian Band.

Historical photographs and images of the landscape of central Washington and British Columbia are underscored by folk and contemporary music. The soundtrack includes a theme created especially for the film by cellist and composer Jami Sieber, as well as music by several other artists.

Women in Film/Seattle recognized Melissa Young with an award for production excellence for her work on “How Can I Keep On Singing?” “The verbal and visual portraits of Western women’s lives presented in the film bring home again how courageous, expansive, and downright exhausting those lives often were,” Karell said. “The film brings into focus many dimensions of women’s lives that so often go unrecognized in broad accounts of western settlement.”

WSU professors Joan Burbick of English and Sue Armitage of history, who worked together to bring the film and its creators to WSU, echo Karell’s comments. The Nov. 8 screening is sponsored by the WSU English, history, comparative American cultures and women’s studies departments.

In addition to the screening, Harris, Armstrong, Young and Dworkin will speak to WSU classes during their visit.