Femficātiō is counting down the Top 101 Feminist films all women (and men) must see. In our view, these films best reflect the landscape of women’s identity, experience and place in the world today.
We will be giving you 10 a day every day until we reach number one!
Here we go…!
Thriller. Directed by Gabriel Range. Written by Jeremy Brock.
Slavery is rife, with millions of people being trafficted every year, the majority being African girls. I Am Slave is the story of Malia (played by Wunmi Mosaku) after her village is attacked in the Sudan and she is kidnapped into slavery. As a small girl she worked in kitchens and was abused by servants. As a teenager she ends up in England, where she works for an affluent Asian family. Her journey, her treatment, and her reality is captured in the moving cinematography and flashbacks to her life back in the Sudan. A most see film to understand the reality of our sisters under global assault through trafficking.
Drama. Directed by Kimberley Pierce. Written by Kimberly Peirce and Andy Bienen.
Hilary Swank portrays in this biopic the trans-man Brandon Teena, who was raped, beatened and killed by his male associates after they found out he was born a female. The quest for this 21-year-old Nebraskan man to be recognised as a man is a feminist look at identity, femininity, masculinity and perceptions of either. Brandon Teena wasn’t able to take hormone treatments or have re-assignment surgery – both he very much was a man. Where there is so much focus in the media on male-to-female transsexuality, this is an important film in understanding female-to-male sexuality, identity and the difficult life women like this face.
Drama. Written and Directed by Dee Rees.
The story of a 17 year old African-American teenager named Alike and her journey as she embraces her sexuality as a lesbian. It shows the domestic turmoils, the difficulties in finding a relationship and the hurt of being rejected by her family. Alike finds herself and her strength, and though she knows this may be a lonely and hard road, she chooses to be herself, even though it hurts.
A film showing prostitution for what it is – a desperate source of income for women who have no one to depend on – this film is a suspenseful look at a young woman’s mistake, and how she risks her life to fix it. Kelly is a young woman, perhaps mid to late 20s, and is working as a street-hooker. When her pimp asks her to procure a street-child, someone around the age of 10 for a wealthy client, she initially scoffs. When the pimp becomes forceful she agrees if she’s properly compensated. She happens upon Joanne whose begging on the Tube stairs. She offers her a meal, and calls her pimp, who then offers Joanne £200. She agrees, but when it comes to the night where she’ll have to actually service this wealthy client, everything goes wrong, and Kelly is forced to take Joanne on the run. This film shows a woman risking her life to preserve the innocence of another young girl. A great film.
Psychological Thriller. Directed by Taylor Hackford. Screenplay by Tony Gilroy. Adapted from the novel by Stephen King,
Dolores Claiborne is masterfully played by Kathy Bates. She is a woman who may not have always known what the best thing to do is, but she knew that she had to protect her daughter. The complexity of being an abused woman, but also being strong enough to protect someone else is something that isn’t usually portrayed in film. Either a woman is all victim or all villain. But Dolores was willing to kill her husband when she discovered he was molesting his daughter, Selena, portrayed by Jennifer Jason Leigh, and even developed a friendship with her unfeeling employer, Vera. Dolores Claiborne is a true feminist film.
Comedy Drama. Written and Directed by Richard LaGravenese.
We very rarely see this film on any top feminist list, and I’ve always wondered why. Not only is it deserving, its one of the most interesting feminist films that have come out in a long while. Holly Hunter is a nurse without children, who sidetracked becoming a doctor and having children for her husband. Now middle-aged, her husband has divorced her, for a younger woman who so happens to be a doctor and is pregnant. Instead of harping on the fact that her husband has been unfair to her – realising in this day and age if she played second fiddle to someone else’s life that it was her choice – she embarks upon a journey of finding herself, that takes her to inner realisations she hadn’t even begun to recognize in herself. A wise and lighthearted film with great acting performances and superb directing.
4. The Women of Brewster Place,1989
Drama. Directed by Donna Deitch. Screenplay by Karen Hall. Adapted from the novel by Gloria Naylor.
The story of African American women living in an housing project in a northern city, and how they battle against abusive men, racism, sexism and poverty. These seven women and their ideas of relationship, love, life are explored in detail, with emphasis on the strength derived from living an impassioned existence. A very good mini-series film.
3. Handmaid’s Tale, 1990
Sci-Fi. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Screenplay by Harold Pinter. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood.
This dystopic tale woven by Margaret Atwood is brought to life in this film. Set in the not-too-distant-future, the United States has become a fundamentalist Christian theocracy called The Republic of Gilead, and because of pollution has a 99% rate of infertility. The fundamentalist elite are indoctrinating “Handmaids”, women who can become pregnant as servants to rich couples who are infertile. In keeping with Old Testament doctrine, these handmaids lay between the legs of the women as their husband make love to them, in hope they will impregnate them. Its a wicked society, dogmatic and misogynistic, and the lot of women at the hands of a patriarchal religion when everything has gone wrong. A fascinating exploration.
Period-Drama. Directed by Jonathan Demme. Written by Akosua Busia, Richard LaGravenese and Adam Brooks. Adapted from the novel by Toni Morrison of the same name.
This was a truly masterfully done film. Demme captured the minute unwritten detail in Toni Morrison’s beautifully complex prose. The writers made sure each image had skin, and each image was seen on the big screen. It was a violent and brutal tale of Sethe, a slave woman who was so viciously and savagely raped while on the plantation, ran away while pregnant, only to be confronted with her slave master attempted to recapture her. Obviously traumatize, fearful, and suffering from an unimaginable form of post-traumatic stress, she begins to kill her children, as she knows that’s what “school-teacher” has come for. Rather than see her daughters raped and brutalised, she makes the ultimate choice. Assessing that Sethe was no longer “slave” material, he doesn’t try to take her back to the plantation. While her other daughter survives, Beloved was killed, and subsequently Sethe allows a haunting of her home so she can be close to her. Eventually Sethe meets a friend from the plantation, Paul D, and mysteriously Beloved comes back to life, at the age she would have been, in the flesh. One can discuss abortion rights, or motherhood, rape, abuse, victimisation – but no film quite brings the metaphysical quality as this film. This film is one you don’t easily forget.