Joan Baez sings as part of the Women in Film Festival


The fifth annual Martha’s Vineyard Women in Film Festival begins on Friday, Oct. 13, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 15. As a celebration of women, both in front of and behind the camera, it examines films not usually focused on.

According to Forbes, in 2022, women comprised 24 percent of directors, writers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 grossing films. The Island’s festival also features six films with female actors playing characters in distinctive roles. The six are “Joan Baez I Am a Noise” and “Isle of Hope,” playing on Friday, Oct. 13; “Orca” and “Good Egg,” on Saturday, Oct. 14; and “Dancing Queen” and “The Arrival,” on Sunday, Oct. 15.

The women’s film series begins with the documentary about Baez as an activist as well as a celebrated singer. Directed by Karen O’Connor, Miri Navasky, and Maeve O’Boyle, the film includes journal entries, concert footage, family videos, and vintage photographs, as well as audio of one of Baez’s many therapy sessions.

Much of the material comes from the first time she visited her mother’s storage unit, to her surprise filled with Baez memorabilia. Drawing from 60 years in the public eye and featured in 40 studio and live albums, the documentary includes concert excerpts of Baez’s exceptionally beautiful soprano voice at the Woodstock music festival, among other locations. In the case of “Joan Baez I Am a Noise,” she began by planning a film about her last concert in 2018, but then decided instead to open up her personal life to the directors, including her mental health issues and need for solitude.

Her role as a civil rights activist came in 1963 with Martin Luther King Jr.’s march in Selma, Ala., where she sang “We Shall Overcome,” which became the anthem of the movement. As one of the earliest singers to use her celebrity for social activism, she called for an end to the Vietnam War. In 1968, after going to jail herself as an activist, she married antiwar activist David Harris, who spent 20 months in prison for refusing to report for military duty. Baez and Harris had a child together, Gabriel, in 1969, and Baez talks in the film about her challenges with Gabriel as he was growing up; later on, as an adult, he performed with her. She and Harris divorced in 1973.

Baez was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. Before that, she became reliant on Quaaludes. Now retired, she lives in San Francisco.

“Joan Baez I Am a Noise” is a welcome account of the iconic singer and activist. It is a tribute not to be missed.

Information and tickets for “Joan Baez I Am a Noise,” as well as other Women in Film shows, are available at