Feminist nights in - staying safe.
Happy New Year! Like many of you, I imagine, I am trying my best to summon the happy spirit ... but it's not been easy. Those of us based in London have been in lockdown since what seems like forever - and prospects are pretty bleak. But let’s face it, if you’re reading this, the last thing you want is being dragged further down the dark hole … so onwards and upwards! Let’s see if we can put some mojo into 2021. ✨
With entertainment options and opportunities thin on the ground, I’m digging out film ideas with a focus on films set in London with a feminist, anti-racist and LGBTIQ+ twist – or at least a focus on women, racialised and minoritised people’s lives … occasional others might make their way on the list – because frankly, there are enough rules already! But we can’t really talk about entertainment without a shout out to venues, theatres, museums actors, bands and all those working in the industry in some capacity. They are all paying a high price during the pandemic and getting very little support. There are ways you can help – including for instance, through #saveourvenues crowd funders or subscribing and streaming films on BFI (neatly bypassing amazon).
My shortlist 🎬📽
Disclaimer - I’m no film buff or critic – so expect personal thoughts, stories and / or links to interesting reviews or related articles. I’m enjoying researching this shortlist of films and series, revisiting some of them - and hope that you’ll find something you enjoy, something new or something that you’d like to watch again. I’ll keep adding to it and look forward to getting recommendations …
Not starting with the cheeriest number, I admit, but it’s one of my all-time favourite films - Vera Drake. As a reproductive justice activist and advocate of many years, it holds a special place in my heart. It was released in 2005 at a pivotal time in the history of women’s abortion rights in the UK - we were in the middle of an anti-choice campaign to reduce the 24 weeks limit for abortions. The film provides a stark reminder that making abortion illegal doesn’t make it go away - instead, it drives it into the backstreets. It also portrays Vera the ‘abortionist’, as gentle, compassionate woman and abortion itself as a common issue which affects women of all age, race and backgrounds – expect of course, poor women have to resort to an unsafe, potentially life-threatening procedure while rich women can access it safely. The battle for women’s reproductive rights was still raging in 2007 for 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act – but was eventually were defeated in parliament the following year. We know from the international context – restrictions in Poland and liberalisation in Argentina that the battle for sexual reproductive health and rights is never over.
Made in Dagenham
If you need something more uplifting – fear not, help is at hand – and still streaming on BBCiplayer! On New Year’s Day, I (re-)watched Made in Dagenham and it certainly put some tonic in my gin! It’s fun, funny, energetic, inspirational and emotional all at the same time – but more than that. The film follows the campaign of Ford’s female machinists for equal pay in 1968. When the decision is made to downgrade them from skilled to unskilled, they walk out, demanding not only the recognition that their labour should be classed as skilled, but that they should be paid equally to men doing equivalent work - taking on Ford’s management, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the government in the process. Their persistence led the Labour government of the time to pass the Equal Pay Act 1970. Sadly half a century later, the gender pay gap is still on the cards.
Sorry for going full blown 60’s nostalgia on you … but moving swiftly into the 21st century with a poignant ‘coming-of-age’ film set in East London – Rocks, also the film’s central character. The film starts with a group of teenage girls doing what we would image teenage doing - Rocks amongst them. Soon, however, she is forced to look after her younger brother, Emmanuel, after their mum suddenly leaves the family home. The film explores friendship, every day working class lives, mental health, inequality and race, and turns into a cat and mouse game as Rocks and Emmanuel try to escape social services. Rocks evokes many emotions. Cinematically, it is breath of fresh air - particularly because the cast are real life, lively teenage girls, like those you might meet on the top deck of bus after school. I also recommend the F-word review about it.
And more ...
A lot of ink has flowed already about Michaela Coel’s I may destroy you and most of you will have seen it – but it would be rude not to list it. Also in Coel's repertoire but probably not everyone's cuppa, is Been So Long - a watchable more London than feminist musical. In the must see category is Steve McQueen Small Axe series - I’ve only watched so far Mangrove and Lovers’ rock – so I still have some in store. This piece in gal-dem explores real stories from the dancefloor. An oldie – but a goodie - based on Zadie Smith’s novel - White teeth. And here we go bending the rules already – but do check out Rhada Blank’s The 40 Year Old Version - set in NYC … shhhh. All these are either on Netflix UK and BBCiPlayer
Two on my immediate list are Lynn + Lucy & Babymother – both on BFI and some non-London based films by women about women suggestions from BFI if you are after something different - & you get a free 14 day subscription 😉
More coming soon …