Born in New York City in 1936, Joyce Chopra is an American filmmaker with credits in directing, producing, editing and writing. She attended Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, studying comparative literature, and not long after graduation, cofounded Club 47, a combined coffee house-music club in Harvard Square. The club was noted for hosting music performances by such folk luminaries as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. After apprenticing with documentary filmmakers Richard Leacock and Donald Pennebaker, Chopra made a short in 1963 called Happy Mother’s Day about the first US quintuplets to survive childbirth. Her autobiographical documentary Joyce at 34 (1972)—which explores Chopra’s outlook concerning the effects of pregnancy and motherhood on women’s career endeavors—helped her to gain lasting acknowledgement and accolades by feminist film scholars and enthusiasts.
Chopra married American stage and screenwriter Tom Cole and remained with him until his passing in 2009. They collaborated on an assortment of films throughout their careers, and Cole inspired Chopra to venture into fiction filmmaking. By the mid-1980s, Chopra released her first feature length fiction film Smooth Talk (1985) featuring Laura Dern and Treat Williams, an adaptation from Joyce Carol Oates’ 1966 short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” This coming-of-age tale of female sexual identity tells the story of a group of suburban teenage girls and their attempts to meet men at the mall while dealing with problems at home. The film received critical acclaim—winning a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for Best Dramatic Feature in 1985. In 1989, Chopra created her second feature film Lemon Sisters, co-produced and starring Diane Keaton, which focuses on long-term female friendships. Following Lemon Sisters, Chopra has continued her filmmaking career through a series of television directorial roles. She also dedicates her time to participating in the nonprofit program BYKids which pairs skilled filmmakers with youths worldwide, focusing on mentorship and collaboration in the creation of short documentaries.
About the Collection
In 2015 Chopra donated negatives, sound elements, and outtakes for Martha Clarke: Light and Dark and Joyce at 34 to the HFA. In addition, the HFA holds a number of prints of Chopra's work in other collections, including prints of David Wheeler: Theatre Company of Boston, Happy Mother's Day (made in collaboration with Richard Leacock), Marathon (made in collaboration with Robert Gardner), Smooth Talk, and That Our Children Will Not Die.