L E   F I F A
L E   F I F A
The 9 Lives of Barbara Dane

Canadian Premiere

The 9 Lives of Barbara Dane

Maureen Gosling

United States, Cuba | 2023 | 1 h 47 min
English, Spanish |
Subtitles: English
Jouer Trailer
Presented only in theatres

The 9 Lives of Barbara Dane immerses us in the tumultuous life of blues, jazz, and folk singer Barbara Dane, an underrecognized yet pivotal figure in American musical history. Now 96 years old, Dane has left her mark on the social justice movements of the 20th century with her powerful voice and unwavering convictions. This film, rich in archival material and testimonials, including those from Bonnie Raitt and Jane Fonda, explores the legacy of a woman whose career defied conventions, even attracting the attention of the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover… A touching portrait of an American dissident legend.

In presence of the director Maureen Gosling on March 22, 2024 at Concordia University — J.A. de Sève in Montréal

Word of direction

Because I have chosen to live my life against the grain, loving our still imperfect Constitution too much to believe in the tropes of professional patriots; because I reject the idea that any nation is number one’; because I admit to either all gods or none; because my idea of being a woman does not include big hair and plastic tits, tight dresses and dangerous shoes; because I can’t bend low enough to kiss asses; because of all this and more, I’ve arrived at my old age with a clean conscience.”

— Barbara Dane


Do you know this woman? The jazz singer who performed and recorded with Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Jack Teagarden, a hero” to Bob Dylan, the first to stand on the police car and lead thousands in song for the Free Speech Movement before the cameras showed up? The one with the record label and a 5FBI file? Who called out no-good lovers along with racism and capitalism with her bone-deep, dusky alto? That powerhouse with an effortless cool who propelled countless social justice movements, still speaking truth to power and calling out BS into her mid-90s? The 9 Lives of Barbara Dane is an underground history of an intersectional singer-agitator overlooked by many storytellers of American history (though certainly not J. Edgar Hoover). Overlooked, that is, until now.

In this exuberant riot of a film by veteran filmmakers Maureen Gosling (Burden of Dreams, This Ain’t No Mouse Music!) and Jed Riffe (Ishi, the Last Yahi, Waiting to Inhale), familiar movements in the 20th century get a high-energy shakeup, driven by dynamite blues, folk, and jazz performances and compelling archival footage spanning decades. Dane’s story bucks narrative after narrative, shredding preconceptions around 1940s communism, 1950s white femininity, the joy and politics of the 1960s folk scene, the 1970s GI Anti-War movement, and the 1980s Iran-Contra affair. For the dynamic activist artists of today, Dane and her co-conspirators provide a warm, familiar link to the past and a sense of continuity. The story of this singer, activist, feminist, record producer, and committed troublemaker features Bonnie Raitt, Jane Fonda, Gary Giddins, James Early and many more along with Dane’s performances with the Chambers Brothers, Tammy Hall, Pablo Menéndez and Louis Armstrong.

Come along with Dane as she joins (then gets kicked out of) the Communist Party in 1950, sings with a who’s who of legendary jazz and blues performers, opens her own wildly popular North Beach blues club featuring Big Mama Thornton and T‑Bone Walker, sings at Freedom Schools in Mississippi, shares the stage with Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs, and collaborates with activist/​actress Jane Fonda in the anti-Vietnam War GI Coffee House Movement. Travel with Dane as she becomes the first American performer to break the post-revolution U.S. embargo with Cuba at the Encuentro del Canto Popular (Protest Song Gathering) organized by Cuban musicians, an experience that prompted her to found Paredon Records. Through this label, she amplified the struggles and celebrated the triumphs of artists and activists worldwide.

Throughout her long career, Dane grapples with the twin pulls of art and family responsibility, finding her own heartfelt way through and seeing her children and grandchildren share their voices onstage. Through the lens of a recent concert tour, we examine an outspoken and tireless artist whose devotion to music and social justice showcases the vigor and spirit at the heart of American dissent.
Other festival:
Mill Valley Film Festival, World Premiere, United States (2023)
Director Maureen Gosling
Director of Photography Ashley James
Production Jed Riffe
Executive Production Nina Menéndez
Graphic Creation Sianey Montes de Oca

In Partnership with


• Université Concordia - J.A. de Sève, LB-125, Pavillon J. W. McConnell
Friday, march 22, 2024, 08:30 p.m. — 10:30 p.m.


Maureen Gosling

Maureen Gosling

A documentary filmmaker for 51 years, Maureen Gosling has served as a director, producer, editor, sound recordist, distributor. She directed, produced, and edited, with Chris Simon, THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC! on the legacy of American roots music record producer, Chris Strachwitz. She is best known for her 20-year collaboration with the late Les Blank on over twenty films, including the British Academy Award-winning BURDEN OF DREAMS (Co-Filmmaker, Editor, Sound). For the last 16 years she has worked with producer, Jed Riffe, on nine films, including PLEISTOCENE PARK and THE LONG SHADOW. She directed, edited and produced, BLOSSOMS OF FIRE, on the Zapotecs of southern Oaxaca, Mexico. Her films have been broadcast nationally and internationally, shown theatrically, and distributed educationally. In April 2023, Gosling was honored at the Centre Pompidou’s cycle Americana: Les Blank & the Ross Brothers.”

Biographical notes provided by the film production team
Selected films:
Pleistocene Park (2023)
A Dangerous Idea: Eugenics, Genetics and the American Dream (2016)
The Long Shadow (2017)
Smokin’ Fish (2011)
California’s Lost” Tribes (2005)

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