Rules of the Road

Su Friedrich

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Staff picks Rules of the Road
Su Friedrich

31 Minutes

Staff picks

December 1–31, 2021

Rules of the Road tells the story of a love affair and its demise through one of the objects shared by the couple: an old beige station wagon with fake wood panel.

A typical American family car for an atypical American family, it provides the women at first with all the familiar comforts. But when their relationship ends, the car becomes the property of one and the bane of the other's existence. Even long after their separation, this tangible reminder of their life together—and thousands of its imitators—continues to prowl the streets of the city, haunting the woman who no longer holds the keys either to the car or the other woman's heart.

Through spoken text, popular music, and images from the streets of New York, Rules of the Road takes a somewhat whimsical, somewhat caustic look at how our dreams of freedom, pleasure, security, and family are so often symbolized by the automobile.

"... the light, almost whimsical tone of the film should not blind us to the part of it that is irreducibly personal. Station wagons are everywhere; everybody's got a sad love story. But only one filmmaker, to my knowledge, has Su Friedrich's eye....With Rules of the Road, she creates a film like a perfect short story."
—Stuart Klawans, The Nation

Love, Queer Art & Theory, Family, Pop Culture, USA
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Su Friedrich has produced and directed twenty-four 16mm films and digital videos, including I Cannot Tell You How I Feel (2016), Gut Renovation (2012), From the Ground Up (2007), Seeing Red (2005), The Head of a Pin (2004), The Odds of Recovery (2002), Hide and Seek (1996), Rules of the Road (1993), First Comes Love (1991), Sink or Swim(1990), Damned If You Don't (1987), The Ties That Bind (1984), Gently Down the Stream (1981), and Cool Hands, Warm Heart (1979). With the exception of Hide and Seek, Friedrich is the writer, director, cinematographer, sound recordist, and editor of all her films.

In 2015, Sink or Swim was one of twenty-five films chosen by the Library of Congress to be included in the National Film Registry. Friedrich's films have won many other awards, including Best Narrative Film Award at the Athens International Film Festival, Outstanding Documentary Feature at Outfest in Los Angeles, and Special Jury Award at the New York Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Her work is widely screened and has been the subject of retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, The London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, The Stadtkino in Vienna, the Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver, the National Film Theater in London, the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Cinema, the New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the First Tokyo Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the Cork Film Festival in Ireland, the Wellington Film Festival in New Zealand, The Bios Art Center in Greece, and the Anthology Film Archives in New York. Friedrich is the recipient of the Alpert Award in the Arts (1996). Her DVD collection is distributed by Outcast Films and her films are also now available for streaming via Outcast. In 2022, The University Press of Mississippi published Su Friedrich: Interviews, edited by Sonia Misra and Rox Samer.

In 2019 Friedrich created EDITED BY, a website that covers the work of 206 women film editors and includes a 95-minute film document of their work, and in 2020 she created a comprehensive website about the African-American filmmaker William Greaves.

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