Women on screen: The struggle for rights, inspired by real events

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(Photo: Freepik)
Women of all centuries, all countries, and all social conditions have struggled in a daily fight for their rights. Cinema, a reflection of society, has captured some of the true stories and historical realities of powerful female figures. اضافة اعلان

On International Women's Day, here are some films that highlight the actions of women to secure equality in the home, in the workplace, and at the ballot box.

Simone Veil, a Woman of the Century (2021) by Oliver DahanAn iconic figure in French politics, Simone Veil, sees her story adapted for the big screen by director  Oliver Dahan, and starring Elsa Zylberstein. Largely based on Simone Veil's autobiography, Une vie, the film faithfully traces the story of one of France's imperishable politicians.

From Veil’s childhood to her political endeavors, through her personal struggles and tragedies, this film paints an epic and intimate portrait of an extraordinary woman and offers a vibrant and touching tribute to this incarnation of feminism that history will never be able to forget.  

Hidden Figures (2016) by Théodore MelfiReleased on International Women’s Day in 2017, Hidden Figures , directed by Theodore Melfi, highlights a trio of Black American scientists — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughin, and Mary Jackson — brilliantly portrayed by actresses Taraji Penda Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. These three women enabled the US to take the lead in the conquest of space as astronaut John Glenn launched off of the earth’s surface.

As the name hints, the film highlights the many injustices that once reigned in a highly unequal, even segregationist environment, systematically constructed to keep these eminent scientists in the shadows. Long ignored by the public, the story of the three protagonists has finally received the applause it deserves in this high-quality feature film.

Erin Brockovich (2000) by Steven SoderberghA single mother with three children, Erin Brockovich faces a string of disappointments. Through an accident, debt, and a job search — nothing prepared this woman to discover one of the biggest water pollution scandals in the history of the US.

With the role wonderfully interpreted by Julia Roberts, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance, Erin lands a job as a legal assistant despite inexperience in the field. At her work, she uncovers a dubious case. The story highlights a battle won by the women through admirable perseverance.

Radioactive (2019) by Marjane SatrapiPlayed by Rosamund Pike, the scientist Marie Curie is finally portrayed in Radioactive as the true brain of the famous Curie couple. Her groundbreaking research pushes her into an environment dominated by men, especially after the death of her husband, Pierre.

Radioactive represents the difficulties faced by a woman trying to find her place in the scientific world of the time, as well as the excesses of that world. Although very academic in its production, the film remains a fine tribute to this eternal scientific figure.

I want a Solution (1975) by Said MarzoukThis Egyptian drama directed by Said Marzouk was selected as the Egyptian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 48th Academy Awards but did not secure the nomination.

The film criticizes the laws governing marriage and divorce in Egypt and is one of the most important Arab films to deal with unjust laws against women, directly contributing to changing policy after causing a huge uproar at its 1975 release.

The film depicts the struggles of the high-class Egyptian lady Doria, played by Faten Hamama. Doria is married to diplomat Medhat (Rushdy Abaza), whom she seeks to divorce to his sharp refusal. What ensues is a push by Doria for independence in work and life, a police pursuit aiming to forcibly return her to her husband’s home, and a desperate court battle spanning years.

The film was successful in revealing the gender gaps in Egypt’s Personal Status Code as the director explored legal realities in the script through careful research of legal files and books and field-based attendance of court hearings.

Changeling (2008) by Clint EastwoodWith its pace, intensity, heavy suspense, and plot twists, it is hard to believe that this film is inspired by real events. Yet it portrays the true experience of Christine Collins, here played by Angelina Jolie, in 1928 after the kidnapping of her son.

This tragic event is followed by a fierce fight on the part of a desperate mother who comes up against the sexism and corruption of the authorities. Directed by Clint Eastwood, Changeling is as captivating as it is cruel, as the hardships endured by this mother are so horribly real. This feature film puts into images the exemplary courage of this woman facing the crimes of the world and the system.

On the Basis of Sex (2018) by Mimi LederIn this adaptation of the struggles of a US woman, we take the road to the Supreme Court, as we follow the young years of judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, nicknamed “The Notorious RBG”.
Starring the remarkable actress Felicity Jones, this biopic, directed by Mimi Leder, looks back on an emblematic figure of progressivism who knew how to make her way through the vast maze of American law, from her first years of study through her first strokes of brilliance in the Supreme Court. The film honors an exceptional woman who dedicated her life to equality.

678 (2010) by Mohamed DiabThis is the story of three Egyptian women. Faya, Seba, and Nelly come from different social backgrounds but carry the same burden — that of being the tireless victims of sexual harassment. They join forces to fight the ambient machismo that oppresses them, so that it no longer goes unpunished.

In this endeavor, the trio is helped by an inspector (Essam) who is investigating sexual harassment. This film was born in a courtroom when director Mohamed Diab attended a trial in Cairo in 2008.

The Source (2011) Radu MihaileanuThe backdrop is the mountains of the Maghreb. Women are forced to travel long kilometers to fetch water. One of them, pregnant, falls on the way and suffers from a miscarriage. This incident is, for Leila (played by Leïla Bekhti), the triggering event that leaves her questioning the status of women.

Leila recruits other women with her to show men how unbearable their masculinity is, launching a “love strike”. This strike will last until the men have found a solution to bring water to the village that does not entail a long journey by the borough’s women. The director, Radu Mihaileanu, tackles with great force and poetry various sensitive themes such as arranged marriage, domestic violence, education, and access to life-giving water.

Suffragette (2015) by Sarah GavronAt the beginning of the 21st century in England, women belonging to various social classes have gathered together for a cause: to obtain the right to vote. At first peaceful, their fight hardens when the opposition, the police, and the government, answer only by force, repression, and — worst of all —inaction.

The women have no choice but to go into hiding and enforce their movement with increasingly fierce acts, even if it means losing everything, from home, to work, to children, and even their lives. This historic film, directed by Sarah Gavron, is carried by magnificent actresses: Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, and Helena Bonham Carter. It shows, with relevance and brilliance, the women who fought to shift society and history to obtain the right to vote.

We Want Sex Equality (2010) by Nigel ColeIt is the spring of 1968 in Dagenham in the suburbs of London. A worker at the local Ford factory decides to rebel against her management, which has been promising her and her female colleagues raises for years but has failed to deliver.

The woman thus launches a movement to obtain equal pay for both genders. This feat of English cinema by Nigel Cole, depicting a story of social struggle, is tinged with humor, despite its weighty subject.