Michelle Citron

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Michelle Citron
Born Boston, Massachusetts
Years active 1973 to present
Website http://www.michellecitron.com

Michelle Citron (born in Boston, Massachusetts[1]) is a film, video and multimedia artist, scholar and author.

Early life[edit]

Michelle Citron was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Citron attended University of Massachusetts and earned a B.S. in Psychology. She has an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in cognitive studies and aesthetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.[2] Citron was a Professor of Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University from 1978 to 2006, where she also served as Associate Dean of The Graduate School and Chair of the Department of Radio/Television/FIlm. She was Chair of the Interdisciplinary Arts Department, Columbia College Chicago from 2006-2012.


Citron's films explore the lives of women – mothers and daughters, women in the workplace, the trauma of incest, lesbian culture – as well as ethnic identity. These works, influenced by avant-garde film and feminism, blend experimental styles with melodrama and an exploration of the border between documentary and fiction. This experimentation continues with a series of more recent interactive narratives as well as her writing, particularly her book, Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions.[3] An additional theme that flows through all Citron’s work is an examination of the autobiographical impulse, particularly as it is expressed through home movies, snapshots, and memoir.

Citron’s work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art/Chicago, and the American Film Institute/Kennedy Center, as well as the New Directors, Berlin, London, Edinburgh, Oberhausen, and SeNef film and New Media festivals, among others. Her films and interactive narratives are distributed worldwide and are part of the permanent collections of over two hundred universities and museums. She has received many awards and fellowships including two National Endowment for the Arts Filmmaking Fellowships, a National Endowment for the Humanities Media Grant, and three Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowships - for digital arts, filmmaking, and screenwriting. Citron has lectured extensively with her work at universities, museums and cultural centers worldwide including: The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard University, The University of Graz, Austria, The Film Archive of the People’s Republic of China, The University of Hong Kong, University of Southern California, and The Walker Art Center.

Filmography (partial list)[edit]

Year Title Length Description
1973 Self-Defense 4 minutes Experimental Film
1973 Integration 8 minutes Experimental Film
1975 Parthenogenesis 25 minutes Experimental documentary about two women violinists: a student and her teacher.
1978 Daughter Rite 55 minutes A feminist pseudo-documentary about mothers and daughters, it has been called " a classic, the missing link between the 'Direct Cinema' documentaries and the later hybrids that acknowledged truth couldn't always be found in front of a camera lens."[4]
1983 What You Take for Granted… 75 minutes A fiction/documentary hybrid about women who work in traditionally male jobs, both working class and professional.
1983 Mother Rite 25 minutes A documentary video about Citron’s mother who worked for many years at Hamburger Mary’s, a famous gay bar and restaurant in Honolulu.
2014 Leftovers 25 minutes An experimental documentary about two women who lived together in Chicago for almost fifty years. Leftovers explores the hidden trajectory of lives lived at the margins through the snapshots left behind.Leftovers is the fourth, and final, course in Queer Feast. See Multimedia.
2017 Lives:Visible 35 minutes An essay/documentary. 2000 snapshots taken over four decades by a close group of lesbian friends reveal the rich history of butch/fem working class life in pre-Stonewall Chicago.


Since 1999, Citron has explored new ways to experience story with a series interactive narratives that collectively comprise Queerfeast.com.[5] Each piece in the series is a distinct work; collectively they create a multi-course meal of lesbian life played out through its pleasures, complications, and contradictions.

Year Title Description
1999 As American As Apple Pie What happens after the first kiss is over? A typical American love story about food, family, work, compromises, and adultery. Twenty-two scenes randomly accessed reveal a different trajectory of Cilla’s and Lucille’s relationship each time the piece is player. Along the way you learn how to make an apple pie.
2001 Cocktails & Appetizers A vibrant and sexy homage to lesbian pulp fiction of the 1950s. We eavesdrop at a cocktail party and from the swirling snippets of gossip construct a story of Max and Jesse falling into lust and love.
2002 Jewish Looks[6] A meditation on four family photos and the myths, history, and desires that surround them.
2004 Mixed Greens A do-it-yourself movie about identity, belonging, and the things we desire. A salad of forty-eight scenes tosses together two stories: four generations of Citron’s Irish Jewish heritage played against four decades of lesbian life in America, challenging our ideas of the rewards and price of assimilation.
2014 Leftovers The only linear work in the series, is the final course.


Citron is the author of Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions, a hybrid memoir. The book examines the relationship between history and memory, psyche and art, non-fiction and imagination, memory and aesthetic strategies. Joe Bonomo, in The Georgia Review, called it "a uniquely powerful book… The result is nothing short of an illuminating cross-genre deconstruction of childhood myth and fantasy, representation and objectively."[7]

The book was awarded the Krasna-Krause Moving Image Book Award, Special Commendation 1999 (International). The award jury cited the book for being "an extraordinary blend of autobiographical and film writing which offers a radical new way of thinking and writing about film." It won two additional awards: The Kovacs Book Award, Society for Cinema Studies 1999, Special Commendation; and Outstanding Book Award, Organization for the study of Communication, Language and Gender 1999.

Citron is also the author of numerous book chapters and articles including:

  • "Slipping the Borders/Shifting the Fragments," in There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond, ed. Corinne Columpar & Sophie Mayer, Wayne State University Press, 2009
  • "Fleeing from Documentary: The Ethics of Autobiographical Filmmaking," in Feminism and Documentary, ed. Diane Waldman and Janet Walker, University of Minnesota Press, 1999
  • "Women's Film Production: Going Mainstream," in The Female Spectator: Looking at Film and TV, ed. E. DeidrePribram, Verso Press, London and Routledge, Chapman & Hart. 1988


  1. ^ Biography of Michelle Citron, website
  2. ^ Curriculum Vitae of Michelle Citron
  3. ^ Michelle Citron, Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions, University of Minnesota Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8166-3262-6
  4. ^ B. Ruby Rich, " Chick Flicks: Theories and Memories of the Feminist Film Movement"
  5. ^ QueerFeast.com
  6. ^ Jewish Looks
  7. ^ Bonomo, Joe, The Georgia Review, Fall 1999 (Home Movies)


  • "If I Am (Not) For Myself," Sophie Mayer, in ""The Cinema of Me: Self and Subjectivity in First-Person Documentary"", Ed. Alisa Lebow, Columbia University Press, NY, 2012.
  • "Making Media: Foundations of Sound and Image Production," Jan Roberts-Breslin, Focal Press, NY, 2002.
  • ""Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions"", Aufderheide, Patricia, Feminist Studies, Spring 2001.
  • "Daughter Rite" and "Daughters of Chaos," ""Studien zum amerikanischen Dokumentarfilm, Susan Rieser and Klaus Rieser-Wohlfarter, Wissenschaftlicher, Trier, Germany 1996"" .
  • Kuhn, Annette, ""Women's Pictures: Feminism & Cinema"", 2nd edition, Verso Press, London, 1994.
  • William's, Linda, "Women's Work," Reader, Chic, May 13, 1983. reprinted as "What You Take For Granted...", in ""New Challenges"" for Documentary, ed. Alan Rosenthal, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1988.
  • Kaplan, E. Ann, ""Women and Film: Both Sides of the Camera"", Methuen, NY & London, 1983. Chapter 12.
  • Williams, Linda and B. Ruby Rich, "The Right of Re-Vision: Michelle Citron's ""Daughter Rite""," Film Quarterly, Vol. 25, No 1, Fall 1981, Reprinted in Movies & Methods, ed. William Nichols, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1986.

External links[edit]