2015 was the year of female driven films. Movies like Mad Max, Room, Joy, Carol and Train Wreck, portrayed women in lead roles as strong and driven. But this was not just a good year for feature films; it was also a good year for documentaries. Biopics Amy and What Happened, Miss Simone? both garnered Oscar nominations, and “Til It Happens to You,” the song from The Hunting Ground which brought nation-wide attention to the issue of campus sexual assault, also garnered its own Oscar nod.
However, these movies aren’t the first, and hopefully won’t be the last to bring forth women’s issues. Below is a list of five movies that bring light to the issues facing women.
Directed and produced by the team behind The Hunting Ground, The Invisible War explores the systemic inequalities that allowed widespread sexual assault, harassment and rape within the military.
When it debuted in 2012, it won both Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and Best Documentary Feature at the Emmys. As a whole, it brought attention not only to the media, but also created swift change within the government. Within two days of seeing the film, the then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued a directive reforming how sexual assault cases are handled.
Famed filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson interviewed artists, historians and curators about the rise of the Feminist Art movement. The film explores not only the rise of feminist art in the 1960s, but also its intersections with the anti-war movement and the civil rights moment. The documentary illustrates how the turmoil of the era, free speech and the movements that didn’t include women fueled the rise of this art.
3. Girl Rising
Featuring narrations by famous female powerhouse actresses, like Meryl Streep, Alicia Keys and Cate Blanchet, Girl Rising focuses on the stories of nine girls in nine countries who face all different types of gender inequality. Their ability to overcome obstacles, like arranged marriages or child slavery, comes from the agency they gained through an education.
Following the making of the film, the team behind it launched a non-profit with the same name, dedicated to a social action campaign for girls’ education.
This documentary exposed how the media represents women and in turn how this leads to inequalities in mass culture. In explaining how under-represented women are in television, movies and magazines, the documentary also highlights how women’s role in media is oftentimes sexualized.
The documentary sparked a series of social media campaigns that aimed to expose further gender inequalities. The most popular are their hashtags #NotBuyingIt, which calls out sexist advertising, and #AskHerMore, targeted at many of the awards shows where red carpet women are mainly asked, “What are you wearing?”
Directed by Liz Garbus , the same female filmmaker who made What Happened, Miss Simone?, this film documents the coming of age stories of two girls in the Waxter Juvenile Facility, where many of Maryland’s most violence juvenile offends are placed.
Engrossing you in the lives of the two incarcerated girls, this movie offers not only an intimate look at their lives but also explores the lives of the women in the criminal justice system, long before Orange is the New Black ever did.
What other feminist documentaries would you recommend? Sound off in the comments!
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.