• Film

Martha & Ethel


Time Out says

The nannies profiled in director Johnstone and co-producer Barbara Ettinger's absorbing documentary - Ethel, a black woman born in the Deep South, who worked for the Ettingers; and Martha, Johnstone's mother substitute, a former Rhine maiden who emigrated to the US in the mid-'30s - couldn't come from more different worlds, or embody more polarised values. Yet their lives ran curiously parallel. The film cuts between both them, incorporating archive footage (Mädchen in Uniform for Martha), photographs and contemporary music, together with extensive interviews and reflections from the nannies' now grown-up charges and employers. Ettinger takes Ethel back to South Carolina; Martha, likewise, is taken back to Oberkirch where, in an open carriage, she's feted by the mayor and dances a jig of joy that was a long time coming. The two women were born a couple of years apart in the first decade of the century; each struck out alone in her 30s, almost single-handedly raising someone else's large family. Seeing them in their 90s brings home very powerfully what can only be described as the workings of destiny in our lives.

Release Details

  • Duration:77 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Jyll Johnstone
  • Cast:
    • Martha Kneifel
    • Ethel Edwards
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