Sundance: ‘Maiden’ documentary pushes feminism to the spotlight |

Sundance: ‘Maiden’ documentary pushes feminism to the spotlight

"Maiden" is a film by Alex Holmes in the Sundance Film Festival Spotlight program. The documentary tells the story of the all-women sailing crew who competed in the 1989 Whitbread Round The World Race.
Tracy Edwards/Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Tracy Edwards did not form an all-women yacht sailing crew with the intent of becoming a symbol of feminism. In fact, as she claims in the film “Maiden,” she disliked the term feminist. She simply wanted to do what she loved and accomplish her aspirations.

Edwards’ struggle to realize her dream of participating in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race is depicted in the documentary “Maiden,” which is set to premiere in the U.S. during the Sundance Film Festival. Edwards faced a sailing community that was vocally against her and her team’s determination, as well as personal doubt about her own abilities. She became an image of feminism.

Alex Holmes, who directed and wrote the script for the film, first heard about Edwards’ story when she spoke at his daughter’s graduation from elementary school. Holmes was moved by Edwards’ “remarkable story” and her “engaging character,” but also the fact that the barriers Edwards had to break through were still the ones Holmes was reminding his daughters to conquer.

“It’s astonishing that, even after all these years, the world somehow tries to limit our daughters and not present them with all the opportunities that they should have available to them,” he said.


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He knew the world needed to be reminded of Edwards’ experience. So he walked up to her after her speech and told her he was interested in portraying her story in a film.

Holmes was continuously impressed by Edwards as he learned more about her story, as well as the story of the other 12 women on the Maiden crew. He interviewed each of them for the documentary.

The film starts with a look into Edwards’ younger years. She was a troubled teen who fled from home and sought refuge on a boat. She learned about the Whitbread Round the World Race and immediately wanted in, but she struggled to find a crew that would allow a female to join them. So, in the late 1980s, she decided to form an all-women crew.

“Maiden” is honest, Holmes said, because the crewmates were candid in their interviews. They mention how difficult it was to work with Edwards at times, and Edwards was upfront about her anxiety and self doubt.

But what helps the documentary provide the honest, raw feelings throughout the journey is the footage from the race. The crewmates kept a camera on board, and Jo Gooding, one of Edwards’ long-time friends and the chef on board the Maiden, used the camera to capture the spirit of the characters. She showed the stressful, sullen moments as well as the elated ones, Holmes said.

With footage from the time, it was easy to depict the truth about how the female crew was treated as well. Questions directed to the women during interviews included, “How are you all getting along together?” and “What do you do for chapped lips?” while the male sailing crews were asked about their tactics.

Holmes said prejudice and chauvinism were undeniable themes of Maiden’s journey, and were included in the documentary. Since those problems still exist today, he felt it was important to remind people, particularly young women, to push past limits.

“What I hoped the film would do would be to invigorate my children and others to say, ‘Actually you know what, if Tracy could do that, if she could take on all that, and follow her dream and really push herself to the limits, then maybe I could do that too in whatever field I’m in,’” he said.

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