10 Great Feminist Movies – Part 3

Marianne and Juliane (1981)

Margarethe von Trotta is a filmmaker who started making films during the 1970’s New German Cinema wave. These films were often focused on the state’s difficulties with repression. Her earlier films looked at the relationships between women from a psychological standpoint. These women were often close friends or sisters. In this particular film, the filmmaker incorporates the themes of family guilt and state repression.

The movie is based loosely on real-life sisters Gudrun and Christiane Ensslin- the former being a significant member of the Red Army Faction. The film uses a number of flashbacks to show us the two women- one a street fighter, the other a journalist- as children, and shows how the bond changed between them. Von Trotta shows us a way in which some women could view the violent days of postwar Germany while also representing female militancy’s contribution.

Vagabond (1985)

A young woman’s (Mona) frozen body is found in the French countryside. The enigma the film opens with takes us unto an investigative story in the form of a number of vignettes. These vignettes show us flashbacks of people who encounter with Mona during the final period of her life. The film, which was shot in a rural landscape, explores attitudes toward a female vagrant. She experiences sexism from the majority of the men but sympathy from the women. Some of the characters are envious of her freedom.

Through a female character who opts to live away from society, Varda has portrayed her most revolutionary character yet. The role of Mona represents gender trespass, seeing as the freedom she wins is the domain of the male. In this reversal, however, the image of the female that we have become accustomed to is liberated from the norm.

The Watermelon Woman (1996)

Like the earlier short films we’d seen from the filmmaker (Cheryl Dunye), The Watermelon Woman is a mix of fictional recreation and actual reality. Some of the film’s characters, such as Cheryl and her mother, pay themselves while others are acting. Dunye’s word for this genre is ‘Dunyementary’.

The story revolves around the filmmaker who is attempted to find the mythical black female character she saw in films produced in the 1930’s (the Watermelon Woman). Dunye uncovers multiple African Americans who acted in Hollywood movies that were removed from history. Some of these actors are real while others are reconstructed.

Born in Flames (1983)

Made with a small budget, Lizzie Borden’s narrative incorporated home movies of locals pickets and demonstrations, TV newsreels, and video reconstructions in order to offer a taste of activism in a futurist New York City. The film had something of a raw edge due to the low-budget footage, the cast being largely made up of non-actors, and the soundtrack coming from female private radio stations.

Black lesbian feminist Adelaide Norris, who is also a trade unionist, dies while in police custody. This leads the women, both individually and collectively, to come together in a fight against state oppression. The contribution from women of colour in a political struggle is at the heart of the film.