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The Ballad of Little Jo

Director: Maggie Greenwald Run Time: 121 min. Format: DCP Rating: R Release Year: 1993

Starring: Suzy Amis, Bo Hopkins, Ian McKellen, David Chung, René Auberjonois, Carrie Snodgrass

Join The Future of Film is Female for a special screening of Kino Lorber’s new 4k restoration of THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO. To make an additional $10 donation to The Future of Film is Female, select the “Event + Donation” ticket on the checkout screen.

Ostracized from 19th-century society when she gives birth to a child out of wedlock, Josephine Monaghan (Suzy Amis) decides to disappear into the American West and create a new life for herself. After befriending an educated Englishman (Sir Ian McKellan), Josephine comes to realize that the frontier is no place for a young, attractive woman, traveling alone. And so she crops her hair, dons male attire, and transforms herself into a young man. As “Jo,” she not only survives in the rugged world of miners and ranchers, she flourishes. Freed from societal restraints, she pursues true independence, acquiring a homestead and embarking on a relationship with a Chinese laborer (David Chung). But Jo comes to realize that even in the wilderness, there are certain rigid social mores from which one can never escape.

Reminiscent of McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Heaven’s Gate, The Ballad of Little Jo is a resplendent film that offers an allegorical critique of sex and power in America, even as it remains loyal to the spirit of the Western. The film features sharp-edged performances by Bo Hopkins, Rene Auberjonois and Cathy Haase, as well as early appearances by Melissa Leo and Heather Graham.