FEMINIST FRIDAY: Films Centered Around Empowering Stories Of Native American & Pacific Islander Women

Welcome to another Feminist Friday! That part of the week where we get to share 3 of our fave videos of the moment, usually centered around a unifying theme that falls under our inclusive and intersectional definition of feminism.

This week it’s all about Indigenous and native women and their stories, captured by filmmakers in a way that shows their power and strength even in the midst of struggles. The first trailer this week is for writer/director Christina D. King’s documentary ‘Warrior Women’, which won Best Documentary at California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival in 2018.

“In the 1970s, with the swagger of unapologetic Indianness, organizers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) fought for Native liberation as a community of extended families. Warrior Women is the story Madonna Thunder Hawk, one such AIM leader who cultivated a rag-tag gang of activist children – including her daughter Marcy – into a group called the “We Will Remember” survival group. Together, Madonna and Marcy fought for Native rights in an environment that made them more comrades than mother-daughter. Today, with Marcy now a mother herself, both women are still at the forefront of Native issues, fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota,” says the description on the film’s website.

“Through their story, the film explores what it means to balance a movement with motherhood and how activist legacies are passed down from generation to generation in the face of a government that has continually met native resistance with mass violence.”

Watch the trailer below, and if you want to get involved, you can donate to the ongoing activism and organization of the film team by going to the Warrior Women homepage.

The second trailer this week comes all the way from the South Pacific and is a female powered film both in front of and behind the scenes. ‘Vai’ is a New Zealand film that was directed by nine Pacific female filmmakers and filmed on seven Pacific islands. It follows the journey of empowerment through culture over the lifetime of one woman named Vai. The film is produced by Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton, whose 2017 film ‘Waru’, also a film directed by 9 women (Maori women, in that case), received rave reviews by critics at the Toronto and Palm Springs International Film Festivals.

‘Vai’ premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and is already drawing attention for its unique and bold way of storytelling through the lens of Pacific Islander women spanning generations. Ofa-ki-Levuka, Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Amberley Jo Aumua, Becs Arahanga, Dianna Fuemana, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Mīria George, Matasila Freshwater, and Sharon and Nicole Whippy were chosen from around 65 Pasifika female writer and director applicants, according to Stuff.co.nz. Each has an indigenous ancestral connection to one of the seven countries (New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands and Niue) where the individual stories took place.

“The cinematic and emotional impact of Waru confirms the enormous storytelling power of women. We know that an ever-growing wave of women filmmakers will expand the potential of cinema, telling new stories which connect us, by our diverse culture, throughout the globe,” said New Zealand Film Commission chief executive officer Annabelle Sheehan said in May 2018 when they announced they would be financing the film. As ‘Vai’ makes its way around the world on the festival circuit, and hopefully to an on-demand service in the near future, you can watch the trailer below in the meantime.

The final video we’re sharing this week is a short film from the Caribbean featuring the story of one determined Jamaican girl teaching other girls in her community to surf. Imani Wilmot is creating a safe haven for girls who have experienced abuse or sexual assault, and helping prevent others from falling victim to this epidemic.

She started Surf Girls Jamaica at the age of 17, which are female surf camps taught by Wilmot herself. Her students ranged from 2 to 45 years old, and all were eager to learn. Her underlying hope was to simply get more women on surfboards. 10 years later she’s kept at it, and it’s become a vital space for the local women in her community to discover confidence and courage in their everyday lives.

Made by filmmakers Joya Berrow and Lucy Jane, Imani’s end goal is accessibility so that women of color eventually feel represented within the sport as a whole. The film is a departure from the traditional surf flick, instead, it explores themes of empowerment and resilience through life’s many adversities.


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