FEMINIST FRIDAY: Getting To Know The Filmmakers Behind Some Exciting New Documentaries

Welcome to another Feminist Friday! Our regular column where we gather round our virtual campfire and watch our fave feminist videos of the week. This week we’re celebrating the work of female filmmakers, and their work behind the camera. We often like to share trailers of upcoming films and documentaries, but rarely do we get to hear from the actual filmmakers themselves about their process. This week we’re doing that with our first two videos.

The first filmmaker we want to showcase is Naziha Arebi who recently screened her new documentary ‘Freedom Fields’ at the Toronto International Film Festival and the London Film Festival. The film encompasses football, feminism, and revolution in the African country of Libya. ‘Freedom Fields’ follows three friends, Nama, Halima and Fadwa, who met on the soccer pitch, and tells their story in three distinct parts from 2012 to 2014 and finally to 2016.

In an interview with Thenation.ae, Naziha, who was born and raised in the UK but has heritage ties in Libya through her father, said she was adamant about telling a nuanced story about the girls and their struggle, and from a distinctly female gaze.

“The problem is a cultural one, not a religious one, and that was important for me to convey. The girls in the team are not these exotic Muslim girls trying to carve spaces for themselves with these identities, and they are not defined by their religion. They are defined by their football,” she said.

“I didn’t want to show a simplistic representation that can be polarizing. It’s far more complex. The girls’ responses are more complex, and I really can’t stand the generational sensationalizing of these sorts of stories, as it just biases the narrative,” she added. While the film is still doing the film festival circuit, you can get to know more about Naziha as well as one of the featured girls in the video below:

The second filmmaker we were excited to learn more about is Rima Das, who directed the film ‘Bulbul Can Sing’, which follows a 15 year-old schoolgirl in a farming community in Assam, India, who is entering the womanhood stage but is also grappling and battling with strict patriarchal customs of her community. The strong theme of female empowerment through music gives the story nuance and shows how Bulbul navigates the social and religious pressures she is facing.

According to Screendaily.com, the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Rima participated in a Q&A about her film, the process, and why she felt it was important to showcase this engaging story of a young Indian girl at a time when women’s stories and voices are being heard louder than ever. Watch the interview below:

Finally this week, if you’re looking for something new to add to your Netflix queue, look no further than Johanna Demetrakas’ documentary ‘Feminists: What Were They Thinking?’. As described by Decider.com, through a series of interviews, the film revisits the lives and stories of women who were the subject of a 1977 photography collection about empowered women. As these women share their stories, the documentary shows how feminism has evolved, and more chillingly, how it has remained the same.

Featuring notable names such as Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Gloria Steinem, it is an interesting conversation to be watching right now as we are sadly seeing some of the same issues being fought for today, as were being fought decades ago.

Decider’s Kayla Cobb points out a poignant moment from the film:

At one point in the documentary, a mother and a daughter are interviewed while protesting. In a sobering moment the unnamed mother explains that she protested for women’s rights in 1993 with her mother. “It’s really nice to be here with my daughter, but it’s really sad all the same,” she says. “I’m just ashamed that I’ve lived through not being able to pass the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment], I’ve now lived through not being able to get a woman president, and it just — I cry a lot still.”

As we look ahead to the November 6 mid-term elections here in the US, it is a reminder that we cannot rest thinking our rights are secure and already won. Watch the trailer for ‘Feminists: What Were They Thinking?” below, available now on Netflix.


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