You should watch… Sisters with Transistors at MIFF Digital

Sisters with Transistors is a highlight of MIFF Digital: ‘The history of women has been the history of silence – of breaking through the silence.’
Maryanne Amacher in Sisters with Transistors. Photograph: Peggy Wells

As Victoria responds to the latest outbreak of COVID-19, MIFF 69 has brought the silver screen’s treasures to the more pandemic-friendly small screens at home. The festival has cancelled in-person screenings, but MIFF Digital is going strong as planned, offering a wide array of documentaries, shorts and features to choose from. As we collectively give thanks for MIFF Digital’s sumptuous offerings, Screenhub’s film lead David Tiley recommends the music documentary Sisters with Transistors.

READ: Six films to watch according to MIFF programmer Kate Jinx

The feature traces the stories of some of the women who pioneered electronic music. It’s a story of innovation and marginalisation, and the triumph of creativity: as narrator Laurie Anderson reflects in the trailer: ‘The history of women has been the history of silence – of breaking through the silence.’

David had this to say:

Sisters with Transistors is a documentary about some of the forgotten women pioneers of electronic music. Narrated by Laurie Anderson, it covers the careers of esoteric artists like Clara Rockmore, Bebe Barron, Laurie Spiegel and Delia Derbyshire, who did the theme music for Dr Who.

We are left angry about the sector’s troglodytic hatred of women, but their grace endures. 

David Tiley

In her first outing as director, Lisa Rovsner brings a terrific drive to her archival research and a fine ability to manipulate some wonderful scenes to illuminate their essence, from children’s home movies to domestic scenes and formal presentations to camera which are now ghosts of the past. Her transitions are often a subtle delight. As usual we are left angry about the sector’s troglodytic hatred of women, but their grace endures. 

What is more, it provides a wonderful account of what electronic music is, and why we are so fascinated with textures and sounds which can’t be constructed in any other way.

Sisters with Transistors is now streaming as part of MIFF Digital. Watch the trailer below:

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