100 Years of Votes for Women - and a few films to celebrate
It's a hundred years today since women got the vote in Britain (or a few of us anyway - most didn't get it until a decade later) And I thought I better do a post to commemorate the occasion. I tried to think of some great feminist films about women making waves or fighting to achieve something other than a relationship - and to be honest I struggled to find many, which I guess shows us how far the film world still has to go when it comes to equality. Still I remembered a few crackers and here they are - if you fancy watching something to make you feel inspired!
Made in Dagenham
I love this film. I really do. It tells the story of the Ford Machinists in the sixties who wouldn't settle for a re-grade that branded them as 'unskilled'. They knew what they were worth and they fought for the right to be paid based on their work, not their gender. They made history by coming out on strike, and their actions made a difference across the globe and down the decades. There's some great acting on display here, and Sally Hawkins and Rosamund Pike are particularly magnificent. And the message is hopeful - you can make a difference if you stand up and fight.
Exactly why did it take so long for someone to make a film about the suffragettes? One of the best things about this film is that it's a very female led project - female director (Sarah Gavron) writer (Abi Morgan) and producers (Alison Owen and Faye Ward) not to mention an excellent cast including Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep. But above all it's an important story and it's powerful and angry.
Another film that's full of hope, I think, all the more so for being a true story. Hidden Figures tells the stories of three black women who worked for N.A.S.A during the space race. I like that it's not just about fighting prejudice, it's about how much they achieved and how brilliant they were. It makes you angry at times but it's also positive and feel-good.
Mulan's in this list because I think she's one of the most genuinely feminist female characters I've ever seen on screen. Not just because she's strong and brave, a loyal friend and a quick thinker - but because she's also allowed to be flawed. She's scatty and disorganised and insecure and awkward. But she's not that tomboy type who wishes she was born a boy and hates girly things. She's not magically super strong or gifted in fighting from the beginning. She has to work to keep up in the army but she gets through by using brain over brawn. She's allowed to be both sensitive and strong. As Disney heroines go she was definitely a step forward, and I definitely think she's a good role model for kids.
Thelma and Louise
Written by Callie Khouri (also the creator of the ABC series Nashville) Thelma and Louise is a pretty dark film really - it's doesn't shy away from the misogyny in the world and it's meant to make you angry. But it's also about female friendship and taking charge of your own life. I don't like the ending much but there are some great powerful moments, a lot of warmth in the characters and it's funny - when it's not making you feel massively uncomfortable.
Okay, so Stick it is not one of the best films ever made. But it's remarkable in being a film aimed at teenage girls in which there is no love interest. From the makers of Bring it On this is a sports film about gymnasts who are sick of being marked unfairly by the judges and take the power back into their own hands. It's about sportsman(or sportswoman)ship and determination and solidarity. But it does not make you want to be a gymnast. It looks painful.
So Matilda is a fantasy about a kid with magic powers. But it's also a successful family film aimed at both genders where the heroine is a likeable little girl with a lot of fight and a big brain, her best friend is a also bit of a rebel and also a girl (how often have you seen that 'girl with a male best friend' trope) her mentor is a kind, smart, educated young woman and even the villain of the piece is a female Olympic athlete (yes, Miss Trunchbull is totally insane and evil, but you can't deny she's interesting). Matilda is fun but it's also about not conforming and the power of education and how you can be small but also mighty.
Queen of Katwe
This is a new discovery and I don't know why there wasn't more fanfare about it when it came out. A Disney film, based on a true story, about an African girl living in the slums who becomes a chess champion? With Lupita Nyongo and David Oyelowo giving amazing performances in supporting roles? Another variation on the classic sports film, the heroine, Phiona, couldn't be more of an underdog. It's quite dark for this kind of film in some ways, but in others it couldn't be more Disney - with themes of believing in yourself and fighting to achieve your dreams, it's definitely one to watch.
Do you have a favourite girl power film?