Welcome to the 6th annual The Pixel Project selection of powerful and thought-provoking films, documentaries and television shows that depict violence against women and girls. This annual list that sheds light on the various forms of violence against women seeks not only to educate but also to catalyse change. And it is our hope that with understanding comes action, even it is in the form of small contributions – ‘little stones’, as one documentary on this list puts it.
This year, our selection includes documentaries that are decades old, yet the issues they bring up still affect women and communities around the world today. And in this age of Trump, Weinstein, and #MeToo, it would also be remiss of us if we did not also include the latest and most talked-about television series of 2017 – Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s eerily prescient The Handmaid’s Tale which depicts a world where violence against and the subjugation of women is completely normalised, something we could easily imagining happening should nothing be done to stem the tide of violence against women.
Yet all hope is not lost, though. The 16 films, series, and documentaries essentially tells the stories of survivors and others who are fighting to change things. We hope that their stories will inspire you to think about what you can do to contribute to the fight to end violence against women.
Introduction by Anushia Kandasivam and Regina Yau. Written and compiled Anushia Kandasivam with additional content by Regina Yau
Selection number 1: A Better Man
This Canadian documentary comprises a series of intimate conversations between ‘Steve’ and Attiya Khan, a former couple who were in an abusive relationship twenty years ago. Khan and Steve’s two-year physically- and emotionally-abusive relationship ended when Khan, then 18, literally ran away from him one night. The documentary, filmed with consent from both parties, sees Khan and Steve speak about what they remember of the relationship and gain understanding of each other and themselves. An interesting look at intimate partner violence, the film makes clear that abusers need help, not just societal censure.
Selection number 2: A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story
This 1989 TV-movie is about a woman who leaves an abusive relationship, only to be stalked and harassed by her ex-husband, while being unable to get help from the apathetic local police force. The film is based on the 1985 ruling of the US court in Thurman v City of Torrington, where Thurman sued the city police department for failure of equal protection under the law for ignoring signs of domestic violence and casually dismissing restraining orders and other legal bars to keep Thurman’s ex-husband away from her.
Selection number 3: A Walk to Beautiful
Women in rural Ethiopia face a long and arduous journey, literally and figuratively, when they go to the capital Addis Ababa to seek treatment for obstetric fistula, a complication of childbirth that sees them become outcasts in their villages and a hidden epidemic that nobody talks about because it is a problem of poor women. This award-winning Ethiopian documentary shows the physical, social and psychological trauma these very young women go through because of their condition and what successful treatment means – a chance for new and fulfilling life.
Selection number 4: Brave Miss World
In 1998, six weeks before being crowned Miss World, 18-year old Miss Israel Linor Abargil was stabbed and raped while on a modelling job in Milan. This documentary sees her telling her story without shame, something she has done from the very beginning, and shows how Abargil’s advocacy for victims of VAW has encouraged women in Israel and around the world to report their rapes and tell their own stories.
Selection number 5: Calling the Ghosts
A first-person account of two women’s experiences of torture and rape during the Bosnian War, this award-winning documentary is an intimate, emotional and sometimes graphic look at what Jadranka Cigelj and Nusreta Sivac, childhood friends, lawyers and Muslim Croats, went through at the hands of their Serb captors. The film also documents how they eventually channelled their experiences into fighting for justice for other women, successfully lobbying to have rape included in the international lexicon of war crimes by the UN Tribunal at the Hague.
Selection number 6: God Sleeps in Rwanda
This award-winning documentary follows five Rwandan women as they navigate their lives after the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, which left the country majority female. This unique film touches on how the lives of women have changed, both in terms of opportunity and burden, as they live through the unprecedented consequences of the national tragedy, documenting their strength and perseverance.
Selection number 7: Invisible Crimes
This sequence by German filmmaker Wim Wenders is part of a series of five short films called Invisibles that examine problems that are overlooked around the world and the people who suffer from them. It was shot in the town of Kabalo in the Democratic Republic of Congo and documents war crimes, specifically rape as a weapon of war. The film has several women tell their stories to the camera frankly and openly as they fade in and out of view, giving the viewer an intimate insight into their experiences and understanding of how invisible they really are.
Selection number 8: Killer’s Paradise
A scathing look at the inadequacies of a police force and justice system, this documentary is about the unsolved murders and other forms of violence against women in Guatemala, an epidemic that has been growing since the end of the Guatemalan Civil War that ended in 1996. This film explains how fear of retaliation, unwilling and apathetic authorities, widespread corruption and a pervasive culture of misogyny and societal machismo contribute to the epidemic. Not without hope, the film also touches on new national programmes that aim to improve the situation and efforts to bring international attention to the plight of women in Guatemala.
Selection number 9: Little Stones
This documentary comprises the personal narratives of four women in Brazil, India, Germany and the US who are using art as a weapon to combat violence against women. The film’s title comes from a quote from suffragist and women’s right activist Alice Paul: “I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone.” This film shows how these four women use dance, song, fashion and graffiti art to educate, raise awareness and raise funds, each adding their little stone to the greater movement to end violence against women, and hopefully encouraging others to add more little stones.
Selection number 10: Love You to Death: A Year of Domestic Violence
This documentary tells the stories of each of the 86 women who were killed by their male partners in the United Kingdom in 2013. Filmmaker Vanessa Engle wanted to give a face and a name to the figures of victims of domestic violence in her home country. It also gives voice to the survivors of the tragedy, who speak about their mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece or friend, allowing the viewer to get to know the women, how they lived, and how they died. Engle has said that the documentary holds a mirror up to life and she hopes that anyone seeing their own situation in the film will be able to “realise that it is bad, and that they might consider getting out of it”.
Selection number 11: Mrs Goundo’s Daughter
Mrs Goundo is an immigrant from Mali who went through female genital mutilation (FGM) as a young girl and is fighting for political asylum in the USA not just for herself but also for her two-year-old daughter for whom FGM is a real possibility if she returns to Mali. This documentary shows how women are particularly affected by the legal struggles surrounding immigration, and provides some insight into FGM and the communities who continue this practice.
Selection number 12: The Accused
This 1988 Hollywood movie starring Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis is loosely based on the real-life gang rape of Cheryl Araujo and the resulting trial that received national news coverage in the US. The film was surrounded by controversy before and after it was released, with producers having to fight to get it made and because of what was considered one of the boldest portrayals of sexual assault on film at the time. This film is one of the first to explore the complex issues surrounding rape, including victim blaming and the responsibilities of bystanders.
Selection number 13: The Handmaid’s Tale
This television series has been called one of the most unnerving series to have ever come to the silver screen not just because of its clear, no-holds-barred depiction of what the politicisation and normalisation of violence against women can do to communities, society as a whole and even to civilisation as we know it but also because, the current state of the world being what it is, it is so easy to imagine the world it depicts becoming a reality. Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name, this series is set in the near future where human fertility rates are near zero and the few women found to be fertile are stripped of their identities and forced to be ‘handmaids’ whose sole purpose is to bear the children of upper class men. It follows the struggles of one handmaid as she fights to retain identity and dignity and escape totalitarianism.
Selection number 14: Umoja: The Village Where Men Are Forbidden
This documentary is an interesting and insightful look at Umoja Uaso, an all-female matriarch village in Kenya. Umoja Uaso was originally founded by a Samburu woman as a women-only community for survivors of rape who were forced out of their homes by their husbands for being ‘defiled’. Now, the village welcomes women and girls who are survivors of domestic violence and rape or running away from forced marriages and female genital mutilation. The village’s founder and matriarch Rebecca Lolosoli has faced threats and the village has been attacked by local men but she remains undeterred and determined to provide a sanctuary for Kenyan women and girls who have faced gender-based violence.
Selection number 15: Very Young Girls
In the United States, the average age for entry into prostitution is 13. This documentary follows the lives of 13- and 14-year-old girls who are seduced, abused, and sold on the streets of New York by pimps in a form of human trafficking that is rarely talked about. When arrested, the girls are also treated as adult criminals by the US justice system. The film features intimate interviews of the girls, footage of their interaction with their pimps and interviews with the people trying to help them find a new life.
Selection number 16: Woman
This documentary series takes a look at violence against women from a different angle by exploring its political impact throughout the world. It reports on issues such as domestic violence, sexual violence, unacknowledged murders of women, forced marriage and incarceration of mothers, and examines the status of women as an indicator of a nation’s stability and economic growth.