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10 excellent documentaries to celebrate International Women's Day

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There are way too many thought-provoking documentaries out there, and definitely not enough time to go through them all. But for this year’s International Women's Day, we've chosen the best ones for a topical watch. From Pakistan to Mexico, here they are.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014)

Chosen by Sneh Rupra

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is a documentary focusing on the history of the women’s movement in 1960s America. Full of contemporary footage and interviews with activists, it takes a refreshingly intersectional look at the history of the American feminist moment, including issues regarding race and sexuality and those intersect with the female identity. It’s honestly like looking into a funhouse mirror to see how little has changed in the legislation regarding reproductive rights that women marched against in the 60s. This documentary could be more relevant to our lives than ever.

He Named Me Malala (2015)

Chosen by Sneh Rupra

He Named Me Malala documents the now familiar story of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist for women’s rights who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012. After she was catapulted onto the world stage, this documentary not only tells her incredible story, but acts as a platform for her message: that all girls should have the right to an education.

The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo (2015)

Chosen by Sneh Rupra

The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo is a captivating exploration of the life of renowned 20th Century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Kahlo’s works are undoubtedly intertwined with the feminist movement due to their uncompromising and unique depiction of femininity. The life she led is as extraordinary as the work she did, and although this documentary isn’t explicitly about the feminist movement, Kahlo is definitely one of the names to remember for any feminist! There's also a 2002 biopic film version, starring Salma Hayek.

Miss Representation (2011)

Miss Representation examines how media affects society by impressing that the way women look is more important than their achievements. Although the film doesn’t offer any new, ground-breaking information, it does well to articulate and communicate a point which, though we are aware of, we still struggle to deal with. The Mask You Live In, by the same director (Jennifer Siebel Newsom), is worth mentioning as well. A sister documentary to Miss Representation, it explores society’s narrow definition of masculinity, how and why exactly it’s harmful, and what we could do about it.

Honor Diaries (2013)

This documentary shifts its focus towards honour-based violence in Muslim-majority nations, a “systematic institutionalized misogyny”. The film begins with an analysis of women’s rights in Muslim-majority nations, pointing out festering problems like lack of education and restriction on movement, and focuses on three major crimes: forced marriage, honor killings and female genital mutilation (FGM). The nine Muslim women, who are chosen as interviewees, are also activists, and they freely speak of their work as well as personal stories. The documentary closes by warning about the rising trend of honour-based violence in Western societies, and the effort that is going into silencing it.

Makers: Women Who Make America (2013)

Makers: Women who make America is a documentary series that outlines the struggle for gender equality in America. It shows many firsts for women, which now sound laughable to us (running in marathons, working in coal mines), and stars familiar faces like Ellen DeGeneres, Hillary Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey. “The most important women that you will see are the women you don’t know.” Indeed.

It’s A Girl (2012)

Every year in India and China, millions of babies are killed for the crime of being born girls. It’s a Girl focuses on “gendercide”, the systematic destruction of a gender group. It also looks at India’s dowry system and China’s one-child policy as important factors in the system. It’s available for purchase on Youtube.

The Punk Singer (2013)

The Punk Singer takes a look at the life and work of Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre. Through archival footage and interviews, the film aims to retell her story, from pioneering the riot grrl movement in the 90s to her battle with Lyme disease later on. It’s available to purchase or rent on Amazon

Dream, Girl (2016)

According to this documentary, women start 1,200 businesses a day, and this is a collection of some of their stories. The message it wants to send to girls is that they can be anything they want, and it’s possible to be a leader and a successful entrepreneur.

Prostitutes of God (2012)

This Vice documentary focuses on the Devadasi tradition, predominant in India, wherein parents sell their daughters into a life of prostitution from a very early age, sometimes around  ten years old. The team travels to various towns in Southern India to find out that a practice that was made illegal more than 20 years ago is still very much rampant. The full documentary is available on Youtube.

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