Douglas Triola’s latest documentary, Bloodroot, features Selma Miriam and Noel Furie, two lesbian feminists who run the titular bookstore-restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut. As we learn, the two women founded the restaurant in 1977 as a vegetarian-feminist collective, claiming that they wanted to provide a space for women to gather and bond. Now in its fourth decade of business, Bloodroot remains one of the U.S.’s few self-proclaimed feminist restaurants, and it’s received plaudits in outlets as big as The New York Times and Vice.
In Bloodroot, Triola is mainly interested in Miriam and Furie, and throughout the film, he gives them ample time to recount their life stories to the camera. In their youth, the two women were both stereotypically feminine, dabbling in professions like modeling before marrying and becoming housewives. Eventually, however, their dissatisfaction with their stay-at-home lifestyle pushed them to join the National Organization for Women. Aside from convincing them of the virtues of radical feminism, Miriam and Furie’s experience at NOW also helped them realize that they weren’t straight, and it ultimately inspired them to divorce their husbands and open Bloodroot.
On the whole, the best thing about Bloodroot is how it allows you to appreciate the tangible, day-to-day effects of historical change. Throughout the film, Triola places interview footage of Miriam and Furie alongside clips of cultural phenomena from the ’60s and ’70s, like TV shows, interviews with famous activists, and footage from protest marches. By making this juxtaposition, Triola remedies the fact that history can often seem impersonal, allowing us to see how larger historical movements shaped changes in Miriam and Furie’s private lives.
That said, however, Bloodroot will probably leave the politically attuned side of you feeling somewhat disappointed. By focusing solely on Miriam and Furie – namely, two elderly women – the film remains firmly in the grip of nostalgia. Save for a small sequence towards the very end, there’s nary a reference to present-day developments around feminism, be they big (e.g. #MeToo) or small (e.g. recent accusations that Miriam and Furie are transphobic). Because of these omissions, the film makes feminism look like a set doctrine that belongs to the past, whereas in reality it’s an evolving ideology that still engenders meaningful discussion, change, and debate.
Still, on the whole, Bloodroot proves worth a watch. If, like me, you weren’t around for the ’50s, ’60s, or ’70s, the film will serve as a useful introduction to the turbulence of those decades. And if nothing else, the film also allows us to get to know Miriam and Furie, two seemingly ordinary people who turn out to be veritable fonts of wisdom. Bloodroot may not go as far as it could, but it’ll ultimately leave you quietly moved.