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Born in Flames
Directed by Lizzie Borden
Produced by Lizzie Borden
Written by Ed Bowes
Music by Ibis
Cinematography Ed Bowes
Al Santana
Editing by Lizzie Borden
Distributed by First Run Features
Release date(s) February 20, 1983
Running time 80 mins.
Country United States
Language English

Born in Flames is a 1983 documentary-style feminist science fiction film by Lizzie Borden that explores racism, classism, sexism and heterosexism in an alternative United States Socialist Democracy.



The plot concerns two feminist groups in New York City, each voicing their concerns to the public by pirate radio. One group, led by an outspoken white lesbian, Isabel (Adele Bertei), operates "Radio Ragazza". The other group, led by a soft-spoken African-American, Honey (Honey), operates "Phoenix Radio". The local community is stimulated into action after a world-traveling political activist, Adelaide Norris (Jean Satterfield), is arrested upon arriving at a New York City airport, and suspiciously dies while in police custody. Also, there is a Women's Army led by Hilary Hurst (Hilary Hurst) and advised by Zella (Flo Kennedy) that initially both Honey and Isabel refuse to join. This group, along with Norris and the radio stations, are under investigation by a callous FBI agent (Ron Vawter). Their progress is tracked by three interns (Becky Johnston, Pat Murphy, Kathryn Bigelow) for a socialist newspaper run by screenwriter Ed Bowes, who go so far they get fired.

The story involves several different women coming from different perspectives and attempts to show several examples of how sexism plays out, and how it can be dealt with through direct action. A famous scene is one during which two men are attacking a woman on the street and dozens of women on bicycles with whistles come to chase the men away and comfort the woman. The women in the movie have different ideas about what can and should be done, but all know that it is up to them, because the government will not take care of it. The movie shows women organizing in meetings, doing radio shows, creating art, wheatpasting, putting a condom on a penis, wrapping raw chicken at a processing plant, etc. The film portrays a world rife with violence against women, high female unemployment, and government oppression. The women in the film start to get together to make a bigger impact, by means that some would call terrorism.

Ultimately, after both radio stations are suspiciously burned down, Honey and Isabel team up and broadcast "Phoenix and Regazza Radio" from stolen moving vans. They also join the Women's Army, which sends a group of terrorists to interrupt a broadcast of the President of the United States proposing that women be paid to do housework, followed by bombing the antenna on top of the World Trade Center to prevent additional such destructive messages from the mainstream.


  • Honey as Honey
  • Adele Bertei as Isabel
  • Jean Satterfield as Adelaide Norris
  • Florynce Kennedy as Zella (as Flo Kennedy)
  • Becky Johnston as Newspaper Editor
  • Pat Murphy as Newspaper Editor
  • Kathryn Bigelow as Newspaper Editor
  • Hillary Hurst as Leader of Women's Army Hillary Hurst
  • Sheila McLaughlin as Other Leader
  • Marty Pottenger as Other Leader/Woman at Site
  • Bell Chevigny as the Talk Show Host
  • Joel Kovel as the Talk Show Guest
  • Ron Vawter as FBI Agent
  • John Coplans as Chief
  • John Rudolph as TV Newscaster
  • Warner Schreiner as TV Newscaster
  • Valerie Smaldone as TV Newscaster

This film marks the first screen appearance of Eric Bogosian.[1] He plays a technician at a TV station who is forced at gunpoint to run a videotape on the network feed.


In 1983, the film won the Reader Jury prize at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Grand Prix at the Créteil International Women's Film Festival.


The film is a major reference in Christina Lane's book Feminist Hollywood: From "Born in Flames" to "Point Break".

The film features the Red Krayola song "Born In Flames," released as a single in 1981.


External links

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