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Growing Up Barnard

Daniella KahaneInspired by these multitudinous personal connections, Kahane, as a senior, decided to develop a project that became Growing Up Barnard, a 30-minute documentary about the College that was shown publicly at reunion for the first time. “I was thinking of my family’s legacy at Barnard,” says Kahane, who was raised in New Jersey and graduated from Ramaz high school.

Beyond her own family story, however, Kahane says she “realized it was a wider story. What is Barnard’s legacy in general; what can we learn about women’s colleges and the legacy of women’s colleges?”

The documentary features footage from Barnard’s archives (including the Greek games), interviews with such illustrious alumnae as former Chief Judge of the state of New York Judith Kaye ’58; former Chair of the Barnard board of trustees Anna Quindlen ’74; Joan rivers ’57; Suzanne Vega ’81; Dorothy Urman Denburg ’70, vice president, college relations; attorney Helene Finkelstein Kaplan ’53; NPR’s Susan Leavitt Stamberg ’59; Professor Rosalind Rosenberg; and Ellen Futter ’71, president of the American Museum of Natural history; as well as former Barnard President Judith Shapiro and President Debora spar. There are also interviews with recent graduates and those who were first-year students in 2007, who confidently state that “women’s colleges empower girls to be better” and that “Barnard women speak up,” echoing their predecessors. “The confidence our students have is a confidence not mixed with arrogance,” says President spar.

“In my mind, that confidence is what differentiates Barnard students by the time they graduate. Barnard sees its role as transforming its students and nurturing them intellectually. I think we do that really well.”

The documentary is as much a celebration of what women’s colleges offer as a distillation of what distinguishes Barnard women. Through the voices of alumnae, students, and college leaders, the documentary shows how, through the generations, Barnard students were characterized by “a distinctive combination of academic focus, social consciousness and ambition,” as Judith Shapiro observes. Kahane’s mother, Tamar, also notes in the documentary that Barnard was “an empowering and fortifying experience.” through their experiences, the alumnae featured in the documentary also reflect upon the uneven progress women made in efforts to attain equality and recognition, academically and professionally. “There was a stereotype that all we did was study,” admits Anna Quindlen. “Not true, but there was some truth to it. Many of us were very driven. We had to do twice as well as our male counterparts.”

For Kahane, telling Barnard’s story as well as her family’s was a compelling mission. An English major with a film concentration and a psychology minor, she says she “loved the English department and always loved writing.” taking a film class, where she turned a short story she wrote into a 15-minute film, inspired her to tell stories through the medium. Kahane interned for Miramax for two terms as an undergraduate and most recently worked as an assistant to Wendy Finerman, a producer in Los Angeles. She is also a producer at her own company, Legacy film Productions. Currently working on a documentary about genocide with filmmaker Edet Belzberg, Kahane says that after completing that project, she “would love to take a break from documentaries and tackle my first scripted feature.”

-by Merri Rosenberg '78