16 Filmmakers Making Films About Violence Against Women (And Telling the Right Stories)

Films are a powerful storytelling medium. They have the ability to influence and change the world. How someone chooses to use this medium makes all the difference. In the last few years, a myriad of fiction and non-fiction films have been made about Violence Against Women (VAW) and other women’s rights issues. Many of these films have had a positive impact in the fight against VAW as they are often a powerful vehicle for educating the viewer about issues related to VAW.

For our ‘16 for 16’ campaign this year, we have compiled a list of 16 filmmakers making films about VAW and doing it the right way. These creative artists hail from different countries like Ghana, Iran, Pakistan, Canada and Sweden. They are united in their belief in and commitment to making films that tell stories of women from all walks of life. Many of these films have addressed issues that weren’t being talked about before and brought them into mainstream conversation.

This list encompasses filmmakers from across the globe and amongst their ranks are Academy Award winners and Indie directors. Their films have made an impact in one way or another and tackle different types of VAW in different cultures and communities. Together, they provide a thought-provoking no-holds-barred perspective on the entire issue. We hope that you’ll check out their films and share them with others to provide food for thought and a spur to action that might help your communities get motivated to stop VAW.

Written and compiled by Rubina Singh.

Call To Action: Help us reach the $25,000 fundraising milestone for our Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign this holiday season by giving generously to our “16 For 16” fundraiser (which also includes #GivingTuesday)! Find out more and donate to get awesome book and music goodies at http://is.gd/16DaysGT2015 

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Filmmaker Against VAW #1:  Abeer Zeibak Haddad – Palestine

Photo Credit: unavailable

Abeer Zeibak Haddad is a Palestinian filmmaker, theatre director and actor most well-known for her documentary, Duma (Dolls). Duma is a groundbreaking documentary which encourages survivors of sexual abuse to break their silence and speak out. This is one of the only films made about sexual violence in the Arab region. Abeer believes that the film will encourage more women to speak up and help end the cycle of violence against women in the region. Abeer is currently working on another documentary on honour killings.


Filmmaker Against VAW #2:
Deepa Dhanraj – India

Photo Credit: Aniruddha Chowdhury/MintDeepa Dhanraj is a noted Indian feminist and documentary filmmaker. She has been a part of the Indian women’s movement since the 1980s and continues to work for women’s rights causes. Throughout her filmmaking career, she has attempted to share the everyday fights of Indian women. Her most influential films Something like a War, Nari Adalat and Enough of this Silence have tackled subjects like family planning and women’s courts. Her latest film, Invoking Justice talks about the life of a young Muslim woman who challenges stereotypes in her community. A strong believer in participatory film making, Deepa uses her work as a tool to bring about change in communities.

Filmmaker Against VAW #3: Deepa Mehta – India and Canada

Photo Credit: Devyani Saltzman

An internationally acclaimed filmmaker, Deepa Mehta has been the force behind some of the most powerful films addressing VAW. Born in India and now settled in Canada, Deepa’s poignant films have been screened and received recognition at almost every notable film festival in the world. Her elemental Trilogy consisting of three films – Earth, Fire, and Water addressed issues like same-sex relationships and widow remarriage. A documentary, Let’s Talk About it followed by a fictional feature film, Heaven on Earth, broaches the subject of domestic violence. Her focus on creating films with strong female characters and sharing stories through their point of view has garnered her fame and appreciation across the globe.

Filmmaker Against VAW #4: Deeyah Khan – Norway

Photo Credit: Deeyah Khan

Norwegian-born Deeyah Khan is a critically acclaimed music producer, composer, Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary film director and human rights activist. Her most acclaimed film work is an Emmy Award winning documentary, Banaz: A Love Story tells the story of the honour killing of a young British Kurdish woman who was killed by her own family for choosing to carve her own path in life. Her passion for the cause led her to co-develop the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network (HBVA) in 2012. Deeyah has also received several awards for her work supporting freedom of expression and in 2012 she was awarded the prestigious Ossietzky prize by Norwegian PEN. She is currently continuing her work as an artist and activist through FUUSE, her social purpose music and film company.

Filmmaker Against VAW #5: Elizabeth Tadic – Australia

Photo Credit: Unavailable

Elizabeth Tadic is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker, has spent a large part of her life in an attempt to share stories of marginalised people. Her work with the international television show, ‘Dateline’ as well as her filmmaking projects, have taken her to remote parts of the world. Her latest documentary, UMOJA: No Men Allowed has won 12 international awards since its premier in 2010. The film shares the incredible story of a village in Kenya, founded by women, for women. Elizabeth has also been awarded the United Nations Media Peace Award in 2006 for her impactful work in Television and Films.

Filmmaker Against VAW #6: Evan Grae Davis – USA

Photo credit: Unavailable

Evan Grae Davis is an activist and documentary filmmaker based in the USA. He’s the director of the acclaimed documentary It’s a Girl which highlights the prevalence of female infanticide and gendercide in India and China. The documentary has been appreciated all over the world for beautifully capturing the plight of over 200 million missing women. Evan also participated in and edited The Pixel Project’s “Who Is Your Male Role Model?: YouTube campaign featuring non-violent men from different walks of life sharing their views on how men can be positive role models in the fight against VAW. His video for the campaign can be seen here.   

Filmmaker Against VAW #7: Hossein Martin Fazeli – Iran

Hossein Martin Fazeli

For over 15 years Hossein Martin Fazeli has been making fiction and non-fiction films on various human rights issues including VAW. His most celebrated work, Women on the Frontline, talks about the women’s freedom movement in Iran. Over the years, he has received over 37 international awards for his work, much of which highlights socio-cultural issues in the Iranian region. He is currently working on two more feature documentaries on women’s issues including one on Phoolan Devi – the legendary ‘Bandit Queen’ from India.

Filmmakers Against VAW #8: Ilse and Femke van Velzen – Holland

Ilse and Femke van Velzen

Twin sisters Ilse and Femke van Velzen have been making hard-hitting documentaries on various social issues since 2002. Born in the Netherlands, they currently work independently under their own label, IF Productions. Their documentaries have had a strong focus on the developing world, particularly VAW. Fighting the Silence, a film highlighting the sexual violence against women and girls during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s war, gives voice to over 80,000 victims. The sisters also creatively use their films as sustainable educational projects. Through the Mobile Cinema Foundation they take films about sexual violence from one community to another to encourage a conversation around the subject.

Filmmaker Against VAW #9: Kim Longinotto – UK

Photo Credit: Sean Smith /Guardian

One of most internationally acclaimed filmmakers on this list, British born Kim Longinotto has been behind some of the most impactful documentaries on women in the last two decades. Since her first film in 1976, she has highlighted issues from Female Genital Mutilation to child marriage and prostitution. One of her most famous films is Pink Saris, where she shared the story of Sampat Pal, a child bride who grew up to lead the ‘Gulabi Gang’, a group of women who spoke up against corruption and violence in their community. She was awarded the prestigious BAFTA award for this film.

Filmmaker Against VAW #10: Lourdes Portillo – Mexico and the USA

Lourdes Portillo_croppedLourdes Portillo is a noted Mexican-American screenwriter and filmmaker. Passionate about filmmaking from a young age, Lourdes’ films have a special focus on Latin American, Mexican and Chicano issues. Her first film, Las Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo was nominated for an Academy award for best documentary. It told the story of a group of Argentine mothers who protested for their missing children. Another notable human rights documentary, Señorita Extraviada told the tragic story of hundreds of kidnapped, raped and murdered young women of Juárez, Mexico. This film allowed Lourdes to truly understand her role as a filmmaker and how films can be used to confront oppression.

Filmmaker Against VAW #11: Marcela Zamora Chamorro – Costa Rica

Photo Credit: Moonlight, Weddings & Events Photography.

Marcela Zamora Chamorro is an up-and-coming filmmaker who completed her journalism degree in Costa Rica and then joined the International School of Film and Television of San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. Her first feature documentary, Maria in Nobody’s Land told the story of the illegal and extremely dangerous journey of three women to the USA. The courageous film has participated in film festivals in over 14 countries and received many awards.

Filmmaker Against VAW #12: Nima Sarvestani – Iran and Sweden

Nima Sarvestani_croppedNima Sarvestani started out his career as a journalist in Iran before moving to Sweden in 1984. He has since been working as a documentary filmmaker through his company, Nimafilm Production. Many of his films focus on socio-political issues in the Middle East. One of his standout films on women, No Burqas Behind Bars, looks at the stories of women prisoners in Afghanistan. Another gem, I was Worth 50 Sheep, shows the story of a child bride under the Taliban rule. Nima makes his documentaries with an acute sensitivity and has won a number of prestigious awards for his work.

Filmmaker Against VAW #13: Rebecca Barry – Australia

Photo Credit: Diane McDonald

A storyteller at heart, Rebecca Barry has been making thought-provoking films for the past decade. After graduating from the Australian Film Television and Radio School in 2003, Rebecca has been using the power of filmmaking to talk about social issues in Australia and across the world. Her 2013 feature documentary, I am a Girl, won her many accolades for showing the stories of six young girls from six different countries and the different issues that they face simply because they’re women. Through the film, Rebecca aimed to put a ‘human face’ to the horrifying statistics that she had read around VAW. She continues to make an impact through her media production company, Media Stockade, which specializes in documentaries and other factual programs.

Filmmaker Against VAW #14: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy – Pakistan

Photo Credit: Unavailable

Oscar and Emmy award-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is one of the most well-known female filmmakers from Pakistan. Born in Pakistan and educated in USA, Sharmeen has made over a dozen documentaries highlighting various human rights and women’s rights issues. Her work has been so impactful that she was listed as one of Time Magazines 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012. Her Academy Award winning documentary, Saving Face shares the story of a plastic surgeon who performs reconstructive surgeries on acid attack victims. Her other films such as Transgender: Pakistan’s Open Secret and Pakistan’s Taliban Generation have addressed difficult issues as well. Sharmeen hopes that through her films she will be able to give a voce to those who cannot be heard.

Filmmaker Against VAW #15: Shelley Saywell – Canada

Shelley Saywell_croppedBorn to a professor father and social worker mother, Shelley Saywell has been socially conscious from childhood. She started her filmmaking career in 1986 and has made more than ten hard-hitting documentaries on VAW and other human rights issues. Her passion and talent have won her a number of awards including an Emmy for her film, Crimes of Honour, which talked about the issue of honour killing and femicide. She is also the force behind films such as No Man’s Land: Women Frontline Journalists, In the Name of Family and Kim’s Story: The Road from Vietnam, all of which look at various perspectives of women’s rights.

Filmmaker Against VAW #16: Yaba Badoe – Ghana and the United Kingdom

 

Yaba_Badoe_CroppedBorn in Ghana, Yaba Badoe moved to the UK as a child to complete her education. She grew up to be a noted journalist, author and filmmaker. With a passion to share her ideas and shape the world, Yaba has created some beautiful, award-winning films around women. In 2010, she released The Witches of Gambaga, a film that told the story of a community in Ghana which condemned women as witches based on the death of a chicken. Horrified at the existence of such a situation in modern-day Ghana, Yaba captured the story on film and brought it into mainstream conversation. Her latest film, The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo, showcases the story of Africa’s foremost feminist writer Ama Ata Aidoo.

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Photo credits:

  1. The filming of “It’s A Girl” (top photo) – Photo courtesy of Evan Grae Davis
  2. Abeer Zeibak Haddad – From www.thisweekinpalestine.com
  3. Deepa Dhanraj – Photo from www.LiveMint.com/Aniruddha Chowdhury
  4. Deepa Mehta – Photo from www.hamiltonmehta.com/Devyani Saltzman
  5. Deeyah Khan – Photo courtesy of Deeyah Khan
  6. Elizabeth Tadic – Photo from Vimeo.
  7. Evan Grae Davis – Photo courtesy of Evan Grae Davis
  8. Hossein Martin Fazeli – Photo from www.fazalifilms.com/Hossein Martin Fazeli
  9. Ilse and Femke van Velzen – Photo from www.ifproductions.nl/Ilse and Femke van Velzen
  10. Kim Longinotto – Photo from The Guardian/Sean Smith 
  11. Lourdes Portillo – Photo from www.twitchfilm.com
  12. Marcela Zamora Chamorro – Photo from www.mediolleno.com/Moonlight, Weddings & Events Photography
  13. Nima Sarvestani – Photo from www.nimafilmsweden.com 
  14. Rebecca Barry – Photo from www.imdb.com/Diane McDonald
  15. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy – Photo from www.sharmeenobaidfilms.com
  16. Shelley Saywell – Photo from www.wift.com
  17. Yaba Badoe – Photo from Wikipedia/Rashde Fidigo / ZIFF

One thought on “16 Filmmakers Making Films About Violence Against Women (And Telling the Right Stories)

  1. Hi to everyone involved in this great project. I (Dana, a man) wrote a song called “Man to Man” that is an attempt to rally other men to the cause of violence and sexism against women, and importantly, in a way they can better relate to (rhythmic pop music with a cool enough lyric). If this song might be of use to any of the filmmakers or others on your site, please let me know and I will send you the song or set it up for private SoundCloud access

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