In this age of Netflix, YouTube, and Vimeo, the visual mediums of film and television are particularly effective mediums for teaching and learning. This is why, for the past 6 years, The Pixel Project has been publishing lists of powerful films, documentaries and television shows that seek to inform and educate the public about the worldwide scourge of violence against women, its various forms, and what everyone can do to stop and prevent it.
This is the 7th year that The Pixel Project has curated a selection of powerful and thought-provoking films, documentaries and television shows that depict violence against women and girls (VAWG) in its various forms. This year, we have a more diverse selection than usual in two ways:
- Geographically, our 2018 selection spans Asia, Europe and the Americas, depicting women and girls from different walks of life, dealing with different situations, but all with one thing in common – the violence they have or are experiencing in their lives.
- Format-wise, we have included not just powerful documentaries but also recommendations for TV series, specific TV episodes, and also feature films that tackle the issue of VAW. Even if they are fictional, stories matter because they shape our culture and mindsets.
We hope that these films will inspire you to learn more about the various forms of violence against women and become a catalyst for change in your own communities. To learn more about each documentary, film, or TV series, click on the hyperlinked title of each selection.
Introduction by Anushia Kandasivam and Regina Yau. Written and compiled by Anushia Kandasivam with additional selections by Regina Yau.
Selection Number 1: A Safe Distance (1986)
This short documentary looks at some innovative approaches to providing services and accommodation to battered women in rural, northern and Native Canadian communities. Though an old film, it is still a rare look at domestic violence in these communities. The film also focuses on a safe house within a Native community Reserve that is built and run by women to stand as a reminder that the Reserve will not tolerate violence against women.
Selection Number 2: Audrie & Daisy (2016)
“The words of our enemies aren’t as awful as the silence of our friends.” This American documentary, release on Netflix in 2016, is about the rape of two underage girls in two different towns at two different times, and the common ripple effect on families, friends, schools and communities when they each find out that their sexual assaults have been caught on camera. Besides being a story of sexual assault, this film takes a hard look at American teenagers and their communities in the world of social media bullying.
Selection Number 3: Big Little Lies (2017- )
A darkly comedic drama series about three emotionally troubled women who become embroiled in a murder investigation, this series also touches on violence in the home between parents and at school between children. It explores how children learn or are taught to see threatening behaviour as a prank or all in good fun and how even the most violent behaviour can seem innocuous if it is treated as normal.
Selection Number 4: Call the Midwife (2012 – )
An unexpectedly feminist and socially conscious BBC period drama, Call the Midwife is about a group of nurse midwives working in London in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Now in its 7th season, its episodes have dealt with issues of domestic violence, unwanted pregnancies, poverty, prostitution, sexual violence and even female genital mutilation.
Selection Number 5: Greenshaw’s Folly – Agatha Christie’s Marple, Season 6, Episode 2 (2013)
The UK’s ITV network has long been renowned for their pitch perfect adaptations of Agatha Christie’s seminal detective series into multiple seasons comprising well-produced movie-length episodes. In this adaptation of Greenshaw’s Folly, one of the Miss Marple mysteries, the producers updated the storyline to include domestic violence – specifically showing Miss Marple helping a young woman and her son flee their abusive husband and father. This gets intertwined with the central mystery in various ways but the most gratifying outcome of all is that the abuser eventually gets nabbed when he attempts to abduct his wife and son.
Selection Number 6: Finding Home (2014)
A documentary about human trafficking, this film follows three young Cambodian women who were trafficked when they were in their early teens, and now live in a safe house, telling their unique stories. It shows the complexities and difficulties of learning how to deal with horrific abuse and the struggle girls and young women in conservative societies face in overcoming their trauma and building a future for themselves.
Selection Number 7: I Can Speak (2017)
A South Korean comedy-drama film about an elderly woman who seems constantly dissatisfied with the world around her and the unlikely friendship she strikes with a young man who teaches her English. This takes an unexpected twist when her teacher finds out the real reason she wants to learn English. This film is also an exploration and discussion of the topic of Korean ‘comfort women’ during World War II, and the importance of speaking and telling your story of survival.
Selection Number 8: I, Tonya (2017)
A biographical film about Olympian figure skater Tonya Harding, based on extensive research and interviews with Harding herself, her mother, ex-husband and others, this film depicts Harding’s life from the time she was a child, her difficult journey to the Olympics, her controversial involvement in the shocking physical attack on rival figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, and the aftermath of that life-changing incident. The film sheds stark light on Harding’s life behind-the-scenes and the cycles of abuse she experienced – an abusive mother leads her to an abusive husband – and subtly explores how prevalent abuse can shape the world-view of anyone, even a celebrated athlete.
Selection Number 9: Namrata (2009)
In this very short documentary – only 9 minutes – Namrata Gill tells the story of how as a very young woman, she married a man and moved to Canada, and after 6 years finds the courage to leave her abusive husband and start a surprising new career. Even in this short film, the audience learns about the isolation of an abusive relationship in a foreign country and the importance of community support.
Selection Number 10: Roll Red Roll (2018)
This documentary by Nancy Schwartzman tackles the ubiquity and horror of rape culture in the U.S. by chronicling the Steubenville Ohio case – the notorious 2012 case of the high school sexual assault of a teenage girl by the star players of a Steubenville, Ohio, football team that became known internationally. The film, had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and documents the case in such a powerful fashion that your feelings of outrage will persist long after the movie is over.
Selection Number 11: Secret Superstar (2017)
This Bollywood drama is on the surface a whimsical tale of a schoolgirl whose biggest dream is to be a singing superstar. Underneath that is an exploration of how domestic violence, and patriarchal and societal norms, combined with an inability to break through the ceiling of a lower socio-economic class keep women and girls from getting an education and achieving their dreams, and perpetuate cycles of violence within families and societies. But it does also show how allies, both male and female, can help to break the cycle.
Selection Number 12: Slut Or Nut: Diary of a Rape Trial (2018)
Slut or Nut: The Diary of a Rape Trial is an Indiegogo crowdfunded documentary film which is an eye-opener about what happens in Canada when a victim reports their rape. The documentary goes through rape survivor Mandi Gray’s story as a device to walk the viewer through what it is like to report rape or sexual assault, do a rape kit, and stand as a witness in the trial of the assaulter. It also offers viewers who are victims and survivors useful information on alternate routes to find justice and comfort after a sexual assault. Director Kelly Showker is herself a sexual assault survivor.
Selection Number 13: The Apology (2016)
This documentary is about three former ‘comfort women’ who were among the 200,000 girls and women kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during World War II. The film follows three women from South Korea, China and the Philippines, now in their twilight years, as they break decades of silence and tell about how their past shaped them and continues to impact their lives. Whether they are seeking a formal apology from the Japanese government or finding the courage to tell the truth to their families, the film depicts their incredible resolve to live as survivors.
Selection Number 14: The Testimony (2015)
In 2012, after the M23 rebellion drove the Congolese Army out of the eastern city of Goma, the retreating army systematically raped hundreds of civilian women in the town of Minova. This short documentary is about the Minova Trial, the largest rape tribunal in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the fifty-six women who testified while being covered by a black veil to protect their identities.
Selection Number 15: Three Girls (2017)
This three-part BBC miniseries is a dramatised version of events surrounding the Rochdale child sex abuse ring that involved 9 men trafficking underage girls in England. The story is told from the viewpoint of three of the victims, showing how they were groomed and focusing on how the authorities failed to investigate allegations of rape because the victims were perceived as unreliable witnesses before lobbying by certain investigators resulted in the case being reopened and the eventual convictions of the perpetrators.
Selection Number 16: Veronica Mars (2004-2006)
A mainstay of the early 2000s, Veronica Mars is a noir mystery drama TV series about its eponymous teen private investigator. While Veronica solves various mysteries throughout the series, a main story arc is her investigating and dealing with the aftermath of her own drugging and rape at a high school party. While not physically strong like her predecessor Buffy, Veronica is whip-smart and powerful in other ways. Somewhat before its time, this series explores how she rises above being ostracised, mocked and not believed, to being a survivor and fighting for justice.
All pictures used are Creative Commons images (from top to bottom):
- Picture 1: Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels