Forty years of food and friendship in “Bloodroot”

Noel Furie (left) and Miriam Selma (right) doing kitchen prep-work at Bloodroot, a vegan restaurant and feminine bookstore that they co-own. Bloodroot, a documentary about Furie and Selma directed by Doug Tirola, showed at Brattle Theater on Oct. 5 , 2019 during the GlobeDocs Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Fourth Row Films.

By Kristen Chin
BU News Service

BOSTON — Softly lit, dream-like shots of soup being stirred and cut vegetables at the feminist bookstore and vegan restaurant Bloodroot in Bridgeport, Connecticut, belie the callous times in which Selma Miriam, 84, and Noel Furie, 74, opened it.

Doug Tirola’s documentary “Bloodroot” played on Oct. 5 at Harvard Square’s Brattle Theater during the GlobeDocs Film Festival, a documentary film event produced by the Boston Globe. Tirola’s latest work may be the restaurant’s namesake, but it’s truly a celebration of its co-owners, Miriam and Furie, two women who fought against the gender expectations of the 1960s and 1970s to create lives of their own. 

At first, Miriam and Furie’s stories unfold separately but side-by-side. Items collected and gifts—photos of feminists, giraffe figurines, stacks of books and old papers—cover every wall and surface of their homes, in which the interviews were shot. After the screening, Tirola answered a few questions and said the objects in the women’s houses represented the ideas they have accumulated over time.

Interviewing each woman at home also honors another aspect to her hard-fought independence: a home of her own in a world where women often needed a husband to co-sign for any kind of loan.

Tirola said he interviewed Miriam and Furie 12 times each. Executive producer Susan Bedusa said Tirola spent three to four hours pre-lighting the scene before each shoot. His efforts paid off, turning household clutter into homeyness. 

Old commercials, footage of feminist protests and scenes from the original “Stepford Wives” play between Miriam and Furie’s accounts from their lives in the 1960s and 70s. Miriam met her husband at Tufts University and became pregnant after a doctor fitted her with the wrong-sized diaphragm. Furie modeled in magazines and worked at the Playboy Mansion in New York City where she met her husband. Both women became frustrated housewives eager for change.

Miriam and Furie met at a local meeting for the National Organization for Women in 1972. As their marriages collapsed, they developed a close friendship and had a brief fling before opening Bloodroot with several other women. Their relationship ended, but mutual respect and a desire to see Bloodroot succeed kept them both at the restaurant. 

It is extremely gratifying when the viewer finally sees Miriam and Furie together onscreen, partly because Tirola waited until the second half of the 97-minute film to show them together. They hold hands while chatting quietly on chairs in the restaurant and gather friends together for a dinner party on a cold night. They travel to Italy and muse over the type of stone used to build the Duomo di Siena. Their lifelong friendship is powerful to watch because it defies societal conventions. They are extremely close, warm and tender with each other without being romantically involved.

“Bloodroot” might be about two chefs, but do not mistake it for another episode of “Chef’s Table.” Tirola dives far more deeply into Miriam and Furie’s personalities and lives. The viewer learns far more about radical feminism in the 1960s and 1970s than any high school textbook – without snoring. Most of all, the movie seeks to highlight the hard-won ability to create a life of one’s own when the world says otherwise. 

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