By Sierra Bamiro
Interested in learning more about women overcoming challenges and the stories of those who played active roles in bringing these issues to light? We’ve rounded up ten great films as a starter guide. The documentaries are available for purchase on DVD, streaming from Netflix, or other media sources (see official websites). These movies explore the different facets of women’s lives, while offering hope and demonstrating the resiliency that lies within all of us….
1. Dark Girls officialdarkgirlsmovie.com
This film is recommended not just for those of color, but for all girls and women. It tackles issues largely ignored in mainstream media, opening discussion for all races to examine colorism and its effects on those who bear the brunt of it. It’s called “controversial” because it unapologetically shows the complexities of race relations and how that translates into self-hatred and biases within ethnic groups.
2. Miss Representation therepresentationproject.org
This documentary deals with the lack of diversity among women in the media and how that translates to distortions in body image among young girls and women. Miss Representation is a call to arms to gain control over the images and objectification of women. What’s best about this film? It resulted in a campaign that addresses these issues in a positive, forward-moving way.
3. The Punk Singer www.thepunksinger.com
If you haven’t heard of the Riot Grrrl scene, then this documentary is a perfect introduction to that brand of music. The Punk Singer is the story of Kathleen Hanna, front musician for the bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. The documentary features interviews with people who had firsthand knowledge of the beginning of the female punk rock era…with the exception of her husband, Beastie Boys member Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz.
4. The Interrupters interrupters.kartemquin.com
With the hot issue in the media being urban crime and violence, The Interrupters brings another side to the scene that plagued Chicago in recent times by chronicling the efforts of “violence interrupters.” One of the interrupters Ameena Matthews, a member of an organization known as CeaseFire, recounts being involved in the drug trade and how she broke free to now strive toward promoting peace in her city.
5. What Happened, Miss Simone? www.netflix.com/title/70308063
The biography of musician Nina Simone and her activism during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s is the central line of this documentary. Showcasing her honest views and what caused her to leave the United States to live in France, What Happened, Miss Simone? portrays her ultimate strength after feeling she had been beaten down for so long. Nina Simone died in 2003, but her ideas are still relevant to many today.
6. Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed pbs.org/pov/chisholm
A female powerhouse, Shirley Chisholm was the United State’s first African-American congresswoman. Chisholm ’72 looks primarily at her bid for president and the amazing support she received. With Hillary Clinton being a strong contender for this year’s presidential run, this film provides a terrific parallel to the past, when women did not hold many official positions of power.
7. Gloria: In Her Own Words www.hbo.com/documentaries/gloria-in-her-own-words
Gloria Steinem’s name is synonymous with the women’s liberation movement. Gloria is mostly a rundown of significant events in her life and how she has become the iconic figure she is today. If you don’t know who Gloria Steinem is, watch this documentary. If you do know who Gloria Steinem is, watch this documentary—you’ll be surprised at the new things you learn about this impactful woman.
8. Fed Up fedupmovie.com
As many young women struggle with accepting their weight, Fed Up explores the relationship of sugar consumption with obesity and diabetes. This documentary is an expose on the food industry, releasing secrets they don’t want you to know but that have direct effects on people’s health. You’ll learn that many food products have added sugar, even ones you wouldn’t know about. In watching this film, viewers are empowered to take control of their nutritional health.
9. Half the Sky www.halftheskymovement.org
Half the Sky, based on a book of the same name, chronicles the experiences of young women and girls from different countries in Africa and the Middle East as they try to overcome gender-based violence and harassment that includes sex trafficking, child labor, and genital mutilation. The film draws you into the lives of these girls, so you can see how they navigate a social system that seems to work against them.
10. A Path Appears apathappears.org
A follow-up companion to Half the Sky (see above), A Path Appears addresses the power of giving and how this act can result in a better world. Celebrities Mia Farrow, Jennifer Garner, Ashley Judd, and Alfre Woodard go to various countries to interact with women and girls there, seeking solution for changing the climate of violence against women.