Hand on the Pulse

2002 | Activism / Biography/History / Body Image / Documentary / Jewish / Lesbian / Women's Studies | 52m | USA
Directors: Joyce Warshow

Using interviews, photos and archival footage, Hand on the Pulse is the poignant story of Joan Nestle, political and sexual “bad girl.”

Hand on the Pulse traces Joan’s life; finding her community in Greenwich Village in the 1950s, celebrating the body in her writings and in her public readings in her black slip, having a lesbian archives in her home for 25 years, participating in the Black civil rights movement as a freedom rider, becoming a feminist, and helping to forge a new queer consciousness through grass roots organizing. This 2002 documentary features interviews with Joan in her sixties, as she continues to celebrate the body as an aging woman and as a woman with cancer.

Founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City, Joan’s significant contribution to our understanding of women's sexuality, gender issues, and the preservation of lesbian history and culture for the last half century comes to life in this riveting documentary.

Reviews and Awards

Special Jury Award for Pioneering Vision, Miami Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

Audience Choice Award, Paris Lesbian Film Festival

Lynn Cambell Award, Astraea National Lesbian Action Foundation, New York

“[Hand on the Pulse] speaks to anyone who is interested in a life lived in pursuit of social justice, free expression, and reclaiming women's and lesbian histories.” —Rosalind Pechesky, author, Abortion and Women’s Choices

“[Hand on the Pulse] is a bold, beautiful, sexy film; a lyrical tribute to Joan Nestle’s courageous pioneering life.”—Clare Coss, editor, The Arc of Love

“ … a brilliant film that fully embraces Joan’s luminous vision and legacy: the political battles for dignity and rights, the centrality of butch-femme desire, the wondrous range of lesbian history and culture.” —Blanche Wiesen Cook, author, Eleanor Roosevelt