The Pixel Project Selection 2011: 16 Films About Violence Against Women

In our opening essay for last year’s Pixel Project Film Selection, we discussed the power of film as one of the most powerful tools that activists and educators have at their disposal to shape and galvanise public opinion and action to prevent and stop violence against women (VAW) in their communities. We selected a mix of documentaries and full-length movies, because whether they try to document the reality of gender-based violence or portray it through fictional storylines, they have their strengths and place in anti-VAW education.

This year, our selection includes at least one documentary or documentary series produced for and shown via the medium of television by major networks such as HBO and PBS. While film has traditionally been seen as the more prestigious medium, television has three distinct advantages over film:

Advantage 1: One of the key strengths of television is that modern storytellers (who take the form of producers, directors and scriptwriters) have the twin resources of space and time to tell sprawling, nuanced and compelling stories that address social issues in more detail than a single 2-hour feature film. Popular series from diverse genres such as Buffy the Vampire SlayerMad Men, The Vampire Diaries and Coronation Street all have, at one time or another, addressed the issue of violence against women ranging from domestic violence to marital rape to sexual harassment.

Advantage 2: Television is also the home of many a documentary, with television networks such as the BBC, PBS and the History Channel being well-known for their documentary series that address various issues and phenomena over multi-episode arcs which enables them to examine their topic in detail. Many renowned documentary-makers including Richard Attenborough and Michael Palin all presented their documentaries as television mini series.

Advantage 3: Television was designed to reach into the homes of the audience rather than the audience having to go to the cinema to see it. With the advent of the internet and social media, the ongoing storytelling of television series ally themselves naturally to these supporting audience-building tools – which also reach into homes – to build a loyal audience that is open and willing to absorb the messages embedded in the series that they follow.

With that in mind, we hope that this year’s diverse mix of television series, feature films and independent documentaries will provide a thought-provoking range of resources to help you kick start discussions about VAW that break the wall of silence and taboo in your community.

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Selection Number 1: 678

678 is a film by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab based on three parallel plots of three true stories of three Egyptian women and paints an uncompromising picture of Egyptian society from the points of view of three women from different social classes united by their decision to no longer remain silent victims of sexual harassment.The film receives the biggest winner on The Muhr Arab category from Dubai International Film Festival 2010.

Selection Number 2: City of Dead Girls

In the past decade, over 500 women have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez. Most were abducted, raped and tortured before they were killed. So many women have died that a new word has been invented to describe what is happening here — ‘femicidios’, the murder of women. But despite the international outcry, the killings have continued. This documentary investigates what has made Ciudad Juarez so dangerous for women?

Selection Number 3: Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes is an Academy Award-nominated film based on the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. The film shows the story of a Depression-era friendship between two women, Ruth and Idgie, and a 1980s friendship between Evelyn, a middle-aged housewife, and Ninny, an elderly woman who knew Ruth and Idgie. The centerpiece and parallel story concerns the murder of Ruth’s abusive husband and the accusations that follow.

Selection Number 4: Girl 27

In 1937 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the most prestigious and powerful movie studio in the world, tricked 120 underage dancers into attending a stag party for its salesmen. Patricia Douglas was raped trying to escape, Instead of heeding studio advice and staying silent, she went public and filed a landmark lawsuit. The resulting scandal and studio cover-up drove Douglas into hiding. Now, 65 years later, Patricia Douglas emerges to tell her story.

Selection Number 5: It’s A Girl

It’s A Girl focuses on gendercide and female infanticide in China and India. It tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.

Selection Number 6: Killer’s Paradise

Since 1999 more than two thousand women have been murdered in Guatemala, with the numbers escalating every year. Yet, lawmakers and government officials continue to turn a blind eye. Powerful and uncompromising, Killer’s Paradise uncovers one of the most emotionally-wrenching hidden human rights abuses taking place, while exposing the impunity allowed by an inept judicial system. With its history of almost four decades of civil war, Guatemala is a troubled society but it can also be seen as a microcosm of the pervasive violence and injustice against women that exists in the world today.

Selection Number 7: Land Gold Women

Land Gold Women is a 2011 English-language film written and directed by Avantika Hari, a graduate of the London Film School. The film is produced by Mumbai-based Vivek Agrawal. It is the first film in English that deals with the issue of honor killings. The film won India’s National Film Award for Best Feature Film in English for Director Avantika Hari and Producer Vivek Agrawal.

Selection Number 8: The Line

Told through a “sex-positive” lens, The Line is a 24-minute documentary about a young woman – the filmmaker- who is raped, but her story isn’t cut and dry. Not a “perfect victim,” the filmmaker confronts her attacker, recording the conversation with a hidden camera. Sex workers, survivors and activists discuss justice, accountability and today’s “rape culture.” The film asks the question: where is the line defining consent? Shown in film festivals around the world, The Line was released in September 2009, and is a top-selling film with educational distributor, the Media Education Foundation.

.Selection Number 9: Love Crimes of Kabul

Love Crimes of Kabul is an intimate portrait of three young Afghan women accused of committing “moral crimes” which premiered on 11 July 2011 on HBO. This documentary follows the cases of three women: Kareema who is awaiting trial for the crime of pre-marital sex with fiancé Firuz, both facing 15 years in prison; Aleema who ran away from her violent family and sought refuge with Zia Jaan and is now facing 15 years in prison; and Sabareh who is accused of sleeping with a neighbour.

Selection Number 10: Pink Saris

Pink Saris is a documentary on Sampat Pal, an illiterate, low-caste Indian woman who set up the Gulabi Gang because of all the injustice and helplessness she’d experienced in her life. When 12, she was sent to a remote village to marry and was bullied by her in-laws. She rebelled against the stringent village rules and ended up on the streets with five young children. Setting up the Gulabi Gang was her act of inspired desperation. Hundreds of women, all dressed in bright fuchsia saris, would gather to make a corrupt policeman enforce the law or to challenge a violent husband.

Selection Number 11: Sex Crimes Unit

Sex Crimes Unit is an unprecedented look inside the New York District Attorney’s unit dedicated to the prosecution of rape and sexual assault. The film examines the history of injustice toward rape survivors; trails the unit through its investigations; tracks the case of a prostitute who dared cry rape; and follows one survivor’s 16-year journey to justice.

Selection Number 12: Silence Broken – A Documentary on Korean Comfort Women

Silence Broken is a powerful and emotional documentary about Korean women forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. It combines the testimony of former comfort women who demand justice for the “crimes against humanity” committed against them, along with contravening interviews of Japanese soldiers, recruiters and contemporary scholars who deny the existence of comfort women or claim that these victims “did this for money.”

Selection Number 13: Sisters In Law

Winner of the Prix Art et Essai at the Cannes Film Festival and screened to acclaim at more than 120 festivals around the world, Sisters In Law is the best-selling documentary about the little town of Kumba, Cameroon, where there have been no convictions in spousal abuse cases for 17 years. This documentary follows the work of State Prosecutor Vera Ngassa and Court President Beatrice Ntuba as they help women fight often-difficult cases of abuse, despite pressures from family and their community to remain silent.

(Summary adapted from Women Make Movies – www.wmm.com)

Selection Number 14: UMOJA – No Men Allowed

UMOJA (Kiswahili for “unity”) tells the life-changing story of a group of impoverished tribal Samburu women in Northern Kenya who turn age-old patriarchy on its head by setting up a women-only village. Their story began in the 1990s, when several hundred women accused British soldiers from a nearby military base of rape. In keeping with traditional Samburu customs, the women were blamed for this abuse and cast out by their husbands for bringing shame to their families.

(Summary adapted from Women Make Movies – www.wmm.com)

Selection Number 15: What’s Love Got To Do With It

What’s Love Got To Do With It tells the story of Tina Turner from her impoverished childhood to her abuse at the hands of her husband Ike to her final triumph as she found the strength to flee her marriage and to build a megastar solo career. Powerful and inspiring viewing that shows how one can rebuild one’s life after surviving domestic violence.

Selection Number 16: Women, War and Peace

Women, War & Peace is a new five-part PBS series challenging the conventional wisdom that war and peace are men’s domain. Spotlighting the stories of women in conflict zones from Bosnia to Afghanistan and Colombia to Liberia, it places women at the center of an urgent dialogue about conflict and security, and reframes our understanding of modern warfare.

2 thoughts on “The Pixel Project Selection 2011: 16 Films About Violence Against Women

  1. A really powerful collection of films – truly wonderful to see these varied situations that centre on the many forms of oppression of women throughout the world addressed.
    Just wondering though – about the elephant that remains in the room: violence and abuse of children – particularly sexual abuse of children (primarily girls) by people closely known to them (especially fathers and other close relatives) in western, so-called civilised societies.
    Is it even possible for a filmmaker to be daring (and serious) enough to make a film on THIS subject – and how the children/girls attempt to cope and very often pretend that life continues ‘as normal’ in a way that does NOT sensationalise this subject, or make it possible to see and interpret it as happening only to “those others”… To make obvious and believable the truth that this is something that occurs far, far more often in our societies than even today many are even willing to consider?

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