AMERICAN WOMAN

Directed by Semi Chellas

Cast: David Cubitt, Ellen Burstyn, Hong Chau, John Gallagher Jr., Lola Kirke, Sarah Gadon

Official Selection, 2019 Toronto International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2019 Tribeca Film Festival

One of the more baffling and captivating chapters of modern American history is the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst—the granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst—and its subsequent events, including a “lost year” where Hearst seemed to have been radicalized by the group that abducted her while she was a student at UC Berkeley.

Based on Susan Choi’s 2003 Pulitzer Prize Finalist novel of the same name, AMERICAN WOMAN is a fictionalized account inspired by the eight months that real-life Symbionese Liberation Army member, internment camp-born, activist-slash-demolitions expert Wendy Yoshimura spent with Hearst (called Pauline here, played by Sarah Gadon). 

Already underground for a past bombing, Yoshimura’s fictional counterpart, 25-year-old Asian American Jenny (Hong Chau), cautiously observes as Pauline integrates with the crew. As Jenny manages the group’s precarious mix of volatility, bravado, and political hypocrisies, Semi Chellas’ (Mad Men) first feature draws out the confusing tension of being the only person of color in a room full of revolutionaries with the police circling overhead. Complicating Jenny’s detached cool is her growing attraction to Pauline after months on the run together, forcing Jenny to decide whether to protect Pauline or the group she’s worked so hard to empower.

–Wilda Wong

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