Rediscovering Dorothy

Rediscovering Dorothy


In our new documentary film, we meet the authentic Dorothy of Oz and her unconventional boom or bust father, a radical grandmother and Native American matriarchs. They all inspired Oz.

About the Film

We challenge you to find a character or story that holds such a significant place in Americana as Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz. Since the first Oz book was published in 1900, L. Frank Baum's fairy tale world has captivated a large audience.

This unique and amusing documentary explores the inspirations and influences that first shaped the original fairy tale, retold as a movie in 1939 -- and asks why it has such a powerful influence in our imaginations

Radical Territory

Everyone knows the story of Dorothy, the innocent child swept off to Oz, a wondrous utopia where women prevail and men are works in progress. But few of us know the story of suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage, a great influence on her son-in-law L. Frank Baum, the author of the Oz books.

Gage (1826-1898) was raised in an abolitionist home where her physician father taught her to think for herself. While raising four children, she became a radical feminist and was one of the architects of the first wave suffrage movement, along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The three shared years of activism, leadership, and camaraderie. But that friendship would end in betrayal.

When Anthony and Stanton collaborated with the Christian right to get the vote, Gage struggled to keep the movement secular. Eventually, after decades of close collaboration, Anthony and Stanton abandoned Gage. Despite Anthony's strategy, women did not win the right to vote until 1920. Sadly, the official memoirs and histories relegate Gage to the footnotes.

But Gage's life and work was about much more than votes for women.

Bright, honest, and selfless, she was always independent in mind and spirit. Some of her theories on the equality of sexes were based on the culture of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of upstate new York. She advocated for Native American Sovereignty and treaty rights and, in turn, passed on a vision of a utopian society and female leadership to her famous son-in-law, L. Frank Baum.

Throughout her life, Gage was also a noted critic of the church and the effects of religious patriarchy on women throughout history. Her book, Woman, Church and State was banned when it was published in 1893.

Our film will tell this surprising piece of the Oz story and restore Gage to her rightful place in history.

Mona Kanin,
Writer, Rediscovering Dorothy

The Road to Oz

The Land of Oz--and its characters, kingdoms, and magic- have permeated worldwide popular culture on a singular level. It's now virtually impossible to find anyone over the age of three who doesn't instantly recognize and thrill to images of Dorothy, her friends, and her adventures.

From the books to the stage shows and films--from the toys and dolls to the games and crafts--from the fanciful re-imaginings to the horror-strewn re -inventions, Oz has overcome changing tastes in entertainment, literature, and music to endure and enchant into its second century.

Even the most casual observer encounters references to that legendary "American fairyland" on a weekly (or daily) basis -- whether in sitcoms, movies, political cartoons, sermons, or editorials. A paraphrase of dialogue or song from the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Judy Garland film happily conjures up memories, parodies, or inspirations built upon the idiosyncratic Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, Wicked Witch, or "humbug" Wizard.

And Toto, too.

John Fricke, Author, 100 Years of Oz

Baum's Emporium

Lyman Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz (1900) was Matilda Joslyn Gage's son-in-law. Although she initially opposed the union, he married her youngest daughter Maud in the Gage parlor in Fayetteville NY. Her work in Woman's Suffrage greatly influenced his writing for children. Spunky Dorothy encompasses the ideals of Gage's feminism. Baum borrowed the idea of the Good and Wicked Witches of The Wizard of Oz from Gage's magnum opus, Woman Church and State (1893).

Although he chided militant feminism in the second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904), the story concludes with the establishment of the first matriarchy in American juvenile literature.

Michael Patrick Hearn, Author, The Annotated Wizard of Oz

All of the incomparable fantasy--The Emerald City, the Poppy Field, the Yellow Brick Road, the Winged Monkeys, and the rest--grew from the brains, courage, and heart of one man. His life-long desire to please children evolved into what now seems likely to sustain itself as an eternal blessing of joy, laughter, stimulation, and encouragement for the souls and imaginations of the young...and the young at heart.

L. Frank Baum is thus much more than the Wonderful Wizard of Oz himself; he is an American original who selflessly shared his own gifts -- and conclusively proved that "the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

John Fricke Author, 100 Years of Oz


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Executive Producer ALEXIS ALEXANIAN started her career on films such as "Mississippi Burning", "Jacob's Ladder", "A League Of Their Own" and "Striptease". In 1999, Alexis co-founded IFC's Independent Digital Entertainment (indigent). She produced nine films including Richard Linklater's, "Tape" , Ethan Hawke's, "Chelsea Walls" , Rebecca Miller's "Personal Velocity", Gary Winick's, "Tadpole", and Peter Hedges' "Pieces Of April". Variety named Alexanian one of "10 Producers to Watch" in 2002. She started Elixir Films and produced the international television series "Long Way Round", starring Ewan Mcgregor. Alexis produced Ethan Hawke's, "The Hottest State", released by thinkfilm in August 2007.

Producer, CAREY GRAEBER'S last long form documentary,"Heartbeat to Heartbeat", aired on PBS stations in 2005. She previously produced "The Making of the Death Pilots" and "The New Heroin Epidemics" for MSNBC. Working with the NBC Detroit affiliate, she worked on several award-winning documentaries including "The Freedom Train", "Rosa Parks: The Path to Freedom" and "The Rouge". Graeber recently completed her term as President of New York Women in Film & Television, the pre-eminent women's entertainment association. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and is on the faculty in New York City for its School of Communication.

Writer, MONA KANIN'S expertise includes creative development, script writing, interviewing on-camera subjects, and leadership in the field and editing rooms. Her writing and production credits for broadcast include: "Heartbeat to Heartbeat" ,"Only in America" ,"Pyramid", Cathedral" (PBS); "The Pain Killers", "21st Century Surgery" , "Joined at Birth", "The Mysteries of Cold Water" , "Breed All About It "(various Discovery Channels); and PSAs featuring Bill Cosby and Jamie Lee Curtis. Her film for The Human Genome Project, "The Secret of Our Lives", garnered a number of awards including the Worldfest Houston Platinum Medal, the CINE Golden Eagle, the International Monitor Award, and the Gold Medal, New York Festival. Kanin is currently involved in bring the creative moving imagery collection, Framepool, to the US.

Director, "Rachel Libert", the award-winning filmmaker and cinematographer, recently directed the documentary "Beyond Conviction", broadcast as a primetime special on MSNBC and featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. She is also the director of the short film "Undertaker" (Lifetime Television). After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival and screening at over 30 festivals worldwide, "Undertaker" received the ACECable Award, among others.

As a cinematographer, Ms. Libert's credits include shows for PBS, Channel 4 (Great Britain) and The Discovery Channel. She has also shot and directed numerous commercials and sponsored videos.

Since 1996, Editor, SATOKO SUGIYAMA has worked on more than 100 film and television projects ranging from commercials to documentary features. As a filmmaker/editor, her focus has been projects with positive impacts. She has collaborated with award winning directors and producers Ivy Meeropol ("Heir to an Execution", "The Hill"), Esther Cassidy ("American Dream", "Enemies of War"), Nina Rosenblum ("Liberators", "Through the Wire"), Xan Parker ("Risk/Reward", "The Hill"), Chris Garrett, Vanity Fair Magazine (The Kid Stays in the Picture). Satoko is currently working on a five-part TV series featuring the 100 most significant achievements in Black History.

CAROL HILLIARD has been an award-winning Creative Director/Animator since 1994. She creates special effects and design for documentaries, museum exhibits, and broadcast TV, with an emphasis on 3D animation. Her clients include Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, HBO, PBS, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian (Natural History Museum), Library of Congress, Franklin Science Museum and the Grammy Museum. She has won a National Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Graphic and Artistic Design, for "Vermeer: Master of Light", National Gallery of Art, 2002 and was a SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival Selection in 2002 and 2003.

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Our gratitude and appreciation to the following organizations and individuals who have helped us start the journey.

  • New York State Council for the Arts
  • The Ettinger Foundation
  • The Pat Cross Trust
  • Mount Roeschmore Trust
  • The Yip Harburg Foundation
  • Norman Thomlinson
  • Debby Landesman
  • Andrew Kozinn
  • Harry Carpenter
  • Scottie Daugherty
  • Karl and Doris Graeber
  • Avid and Linda Milberg
  • Betty Carey Noble
  • Mildred and Murray Kozinn
  • In Memory of Lee Wasserman

Fiscal Sponsor--New York Women in Film and Television

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