The 4 Best Documentaries to Watch on International Women’s Day
“Where there is a woman, there is magic.”
This quote by poet and playwright, Ntozake Shange, pretty much says it all – women are the true source of magic in this world, and the more freedom and support they have to explore their visions and talents, the more magical this world will become. Sunday, March 8th, marks the International Women’s Day 2020 and sees women from all over the world take a stand for an equal world and raise awareness against bias. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual and the official International Women’s Day webpage, is encouraging everyone to strike a pose for equality:
"An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.”
In honour of the upcoming International Women’s Day, we have taken it upon ourselves to curate a list of the four best documentaries to watch for inspiration. These are documentaries about (and by) history’s and the present’s most influential women and how they fought and continue to fight the good fight. So, once you’re done marching or otherwise raising your voice on Sunday, gather up your squad, huddle up and kick back and immerse yourself in the true meaning of girl/woman power!
"More than 70% of women on TV are in their 20s and 30s. “A male-dominant system values women as child bearers so it limits their value to the time that they are sexually and reproductively active and they become much less valuable after that.” – Gloria Steinem
Written and directed by American filmmaker and actress, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Miss Representation focuses on the every-day struggle of women in and outside of the media environment: those looking in via TV, films and magazines at the “limited and often disparaging portrayals of women”, and those working in the trenches, forever having to prove their worth and their right to be in positions of power. Featuring interviews with famous media personalities such as Katie Couric and Jane Fonda, Miss Representation offers insight into the continuing fight for onscreen and offscreen gender equality and representation.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” - Maya Angelou
Author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, has been an inspiration to us all through her written work and magnetic presence. Following a turbulent time of working all types of jobs – including sex work and fry cooking – en route to success, Maya learned a lot about what it means to be a (black) woman in this world, many experiences of which can be found back in her written work. She covered the decolonization of Africa as a journalist in Egypt and Ghana and worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement. In Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, we learn more about this remarkable woman whose work is considered a defense of black culture.
Gloria: In Her Own Words
“Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.” – Gloria Steinem
American feminist and journalist, Gloria Steinem, established herself as one of the most important spokespersons of the 1960s and 1970s feminist movements, and continues to be one of the most inspiring public figures in the fight for equality, same-sex marriage and transgender rights. The documentary, Gloria: In Her Own Words is told “in the subject’s own words, illuminated by extensive archival footage, some of which even Ms. Steinem said she had forgotten,” according to The New York Times writer, Elizabeth Jensen. “It’s a tale that begins with Ms. Steinem as a young journalist from Toledo, Ohio, who wore a bunny suit for an early exposé on the harsh working conditions at a Playboy Club, came to feminism in New York in her 30s, helped found Ms. Magazine and emerged as one of the idols of the women’s movement.”
He Named Me Malala
“No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.” - Malala Yousafzai
Named after Afghan folk heroine, Malalai of Maiwand, it seems Malala Yousafzai was always destined to become and activist and spokesperson. When Malala Yousafzai was just eleven years old, she started a blog in which she offered insight into her life during the Taliban occupation of Swat, a time that saw girls banned from attending school. This garnered the attention of Adam B. Ellick, who documented her day to day life when the Pakistani military intervened in Swat for the New York Times. In 2012, returning from school after having taken an exam, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman, in retaliation to her activism. This caused an outpouring of international support and opened the world’s eyes to the difficulty of obtaining education as a female in Pakistan.
Fully recovered since then, Malala has continued her fight for the right to education from her new base in Birmingham and, in 2014, was the youngest co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In Davis Guggenheim’s He Named Me Malala we get to follow Malala’s journey from when she was just little to her continuing quest for educational rights today.