Feel Empowered With These Women-Centric Films
Celebrate Women’s Equality Day with some exceptional women
In 1973, Congress designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day, a holiday that celebrates the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.
To celebrate this holiday, we’re highlighting four films that reiterate the many forms of female empowerment, both now and historically.
In 1918, two years before the 19th Amendment, the British Parliament enacted their first legislation for suffrage. The complex fight that made those laws possible is captured in Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette. Weaving together actual figures, like activist Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), and fictional women, like Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), Abi Morgan’s screenplay highlights how the battle for equality was waged on all fronts. “We were always trying to serve the historical through the fictional,” Morgan tells the British Film Institute, “witnessing the drama through the eyes of ordinary, if militant, suffragettes.” While the story’s events took place more than a century ago, The Washington Post writes, “The moving historical drama Suffragette rings all too true today.”
On The Basis of Sex
Based on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mimi Leder’s On The Basis of Sex follows the young law professor (Felicity Jones) encountering a case that will change the nature of gender discrimination and propel her on a path to becoming a Supreme Court justice. The San Francisco Chronicle writes, “Here’s the story of a woman who not only shaped the journey of women in the second half of the 20th century, but whose life embodied that journey.” In her 1972 appeals, Ginsburg successfully challenged the court’s reluctance to acknowledge the reality of women’s lives and their unequal economic status. “It’s not only engrossing legal drama, but a historic look at how one woman helped explode the myth that female subservience is part of the natural order,” acclaims Rolling Stone.
A Thousand and One
In A Thousand and One, A. V. Rockwell crafts a moving testament to the strength and endurance of a Black woman living in NYC in the 1990s and 2000s. “I felt like the experiences of Black women in society were overlooked—not only within society, though, but even within our own communities and families,” Rockwell tells Indiewire. As Inez (Teyana Taylor) raises her son in Harlem, the economic and political challenges she faces keep changing, causing her to adapt as well. “Rockwell’s vigorous detailing of personal life…is at the heart of its political vision and of its dramatic strength,” writes The New Yorker, adding, “under such pressures as its characters confront, there’s no such thing as ordinary life.”
Director Autumn de Wilde worked with screenwriter Eleanor Catton to create EMMA., one of the few adaptations of Jane Austen imagined largely by women. De Wilde recounts to Big Issue how she asked Catton at one point, “Hey, is this its first time with a woman director and screenwriter?” Anya Taylor-Joy's performance as the title character captures de Wilde’s description in Women and Hollywood that Emma “was a smart genius with independent thoughts that were burdened by the rules of the time.” While the main character conforms to the norms in desiring a good marriage and a fine home, “the headstrong and opinionated Emma feels empowered in a distinctly 21st-century manner,” writes the BFI.