Feminist Documentaries: The F-word discussed often, misunderstood by quite a few, mocked at times—in real-life and virtual— but unavoidable now more than ever is feminism. History has witnessed the evolution of feminism, from fighting for the basic rights to embracing diversity by broadening the lens. What remains unchanged is that even the modern feminism stands on the foundation of the firm age-old feminist movement led by heroic women, who paved the way for new possibilities.
Usually the concept of feminism is painted in the same colour. We fail to understand that women fighting for equality from all walks of life are connected to one common goal, therefore there should be room for all kinds of feminism.
Although there are ample number of sources, feminist documentaries featuring real-life leaders of the revolutionary movement and the current influential women could also serve as reservoir of knowledge to understand the origin as well as to know how to propel ourselves forward.
Here are a list of must-watch feminist documentaries streaming on digital platforms:
Knock Down the House
The 2019 documentary directed by Rachel Lears came into being when the filmmaker began to work on her project a day after the United States presidential election in 2016. Lears' look out for "charismatic female candidates who weren't career politicians'' led her to four female candidates— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin.
While capturing the campaigns of these political challengers, the filmmaker documented the real-life underdog story of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In an surprising win, AOC defeated incumbent congressman Joe Crowley in the primary and went on to defeat Republican opponent Anthony Pappas in the general election.
Feminists: What Were They Thinking?
The core source of the film directed by Johanna Demetrakas is as intriguing as the title of documentary Feminists: What Were They Thinking?. It is a book of portraits named Emergence captured by photographer Cynthia MacAdams carries traces of women who embraced feminism and paved the way for today’s women.
The 1977 book that revolved around young women who devoted their lives to securing equal rights for women. In the Netflix documentary the filmmaker makes them revisit their photographs and share their stories. With a series of interviews of journalist and activist Gloria Steinem, actress Jane Fonda, musician Michelle Phillips, and many others, the film shows the evolution of feminism, women’s changing role in society and how they have continued to fight the decades long battle against patriarchy.
When Michelle Obama published her memoir, Becoming, most of us were keen to get a peek into the life of the first black woman to be First lady. Besides the changed format, the film which is partially adapted from the memoir, collates behind-the scenes footage of her book tour.
Obama’s life has been in the public eye in the past few years, and nearly all of us are aware of it. What one should watch the unskippable film for is her journey from “a girl from the South Side of Chicago” to becoming the first lady of the US, captured in the Nadia Hallgren directorial.
The Mask You Live In
Inequality doesn’t only affect women but men as well and intersectionality tackles all kinds of discrimination brought under one umbrella. The Mask You Live In talks of the age old concept of “hypermasculinity” that makes boys and young men believe that there’s only one way to be a “real” man.
Cultural definitions of being a man as well as media messages set an image of in these young minds, which labels the ones different as misfits. The Jennifer Siebel Newsom directorial unmasks the ill psychological and sociological effects of expected masculinity on everyone barring their gender.
Another Jennifer Siebel Newsom great work, explores the lack of positive female role models for young women due the underrepresentation in the mainstream media. The film parallelly showcases interviews of influential women alongside teenage girls to understand the deprecating portrayal of women. Newsom’s follow-up of The Mask You Live In unveils the harsh reality of media and how it has been shaping cultural norms.
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry
The award-winning director Mary Dore shows the on ground scenario of the women’s liberation movement from 1966 to the early 1970s in the United States through the collective archival footage of activists involved. The documentary takes us back to where it all started, making us realise that the concerns— reproductive rights, sexual harassment, equal pay— are still similar to the issues women fought against decades ago.
Unlike the other mentioned feminist documentaries, this gives the viewers a chance to revisit the feminist history and brings to light the efforts of lesser-known activists. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry will give you an insight into the wide-reaching movement, reassure your belief in the need of gender equality and outline the measures to be taken today.
Featured Image: hwunion/Amazon