Guide to political cinema – VII



A selection of films about standards imposed by a patriarchal society and women's struggle for rights, indicating the platform on which they are available

Uprisings: the march of women

satire and contestation

Perfect women (2004) - Direct: Frank Oz. remake of The Stepford Wives (1975), director: Brian Forbes. A horror satire on the post-war suburbanization of the American middle class, a model of conformism and uniformity, its hallmark being the transformation of wives into impeccable robots. YOUTUBE

game change (2011) - Direct: Jay Roach. Very entertaining fiction about the Republican campaign of John McCain for the Presidency of the United States in 2008, focusing on the vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Dress rehearsal for another right-wing populist candidate soon to follow. Sarah Palin, fortunately, was good at rallies, but bad at voting – which, unfortunately, would not happen to this other, who was elected. She, who committed disaster after disaster, was still restrained by McCain, who admonished her to stop saying that Barack Obama, against whom they were running, was a “Muslim terrorist”. It was that kind of thing she did, a slight foreshadowing of what would come later, in a victorious Republican campaign. Dark and instructive humour.

Shirley Valentine (1989) – director: Lewis Gilbert. English film in which a modest housewife exposes her frustrations, in a mediocre life alongside her brutal husband, who doesn't pay the slightest attention to her, and selfish children. A friend invites her on a free excursion to Greece, where, amid stunning scenery, she discovers what liberation is all about. YOUTUBE Irina Palm (2007) – director: Sam Gabarski. A grandmother does anything to provide her grandson, suffering from a rare disease, with the resources to buy an expensive medicine. She only gets a job at a nightclub stripper, where it will become famous for the manual treatment that, hidden behind a partition, it gives to customers. That's how she earned the nickname, which is an award, of the title. YOUTUBE

A Very Hot Number (2011) – director: Markus Goller. Three quiet provincial Germans, with their grocery on the verge of bankruptcy, create a Sex Phone and decide to sell erotic toys. And they earn a lot of money, despite the difficulties of remaining underground in a small place.

Ricki and The Flash - De Come back home (2015) – director: Jonathan Demme. Meryl Streep in yet another spectacular performance, as a middle-aged rocker who has abandoned a wealthy husband and children to pursue a mediocre career, but who fulfills it personally. As a breadwinner, she is a cashier in a supermarket. Her band plays in cheap places, bars and steakhouses. Eccentric hairstyle, with a curtain of blonde hair on one side and three long braids on the other. Many makeup, piercings and tattoos, including the American flag on the back, black leather clothes and boots. She, her guitarist boyfriend and the old men in the band don't care about money.

Forbidden Men (2015) – director: Mark Sawers. This amusing Canadian film presents a utopia without men, in which the male sex is naturally extinct: nature itself took care of making it obsolete, without any violence. It pretends to be a documentary and the testimonies of the dismayed men are to die for laughing: in their view, the women in power achieved world peace and well-being for all, despicable goals because war is really good, etc.

I'm not an easy man (2018) – director: Eléonore Pourriat. French comedy that explores role reversal, right from the title. One day, the protagonist wakes up in a parallel reality, in which matriarchy prevails. From then on, everything is the other way around, and he himself is in a subordinate position, subject to all the stereotypes that were previously applied to women. NETFLIX

Toilet (2017) - right: Shree Narayan Singh. Entertaining Indian film that, like Lysistrate by Aristophanes, shows a newlywed's strike when she discovers that her husband's family home, where she is going to live, does not have a bathroom. The men use the yard and the women the bush on the outskirts of the village at night, where the men spy on and harass them, making fun of them. Not to mention the fact that they have to hold each other back all day… The feud between the couple who love each other exposes the tremendous inequalities in India even today, and even in the Brahmin caste to which both belong. Everything conspires against women, because the presence of a women's bathroom in the house would imply sacrilege and desecration, as they are impure by nature, as the sacred books decree. NETFLIX

Brief Dialogues with Horrible Men (2006) - Direct: John Krasinski. Let it not be lost for lack of originality. The film seeks to reproduce, in fiction, David Foster Wallace's book of the same title. A girl asks some men for (fictitious) testimonies about their relationships with women, recording them in what will be this film. Smart, irreverent and hilarious. And the men she interviews are really horrible! YOUTUBE


Woman (2017) – Extraordinary documentary, made by a woman, Anastasia Mikova, who interviewed and filmed 2 women around the world, in fifty countries. It presents a small selection with each one separately, frame by frame, frontally, saying something to the camera; they can also be silent. Without appealing to the exoticism of National Geographic, even shows women out of frame: Indian, black, Tibetan, exotic of all kinds – demonstrating through the image how similar they are, with similar problems. The photographer is the French environmentalist, who has directed Human (2015), Yann Arthus-Bertrand, who is the creator of the project and now shares it with the filmmaker. TELECINEPLAY

One Sings, the Other Doesn't. L'une chante, l'autre pas (1977) – director: Agnès Varda. A lifelong feminist, this filmmaker of extremely original work was a signatory to the Manifesto of the 343, in which French women came forward to demand the legalization of abortion, in support of the campaign led by Simone Veil, Minister of Health. And, among other marvels, she made this fiction about abortion. TELECINEPLAY

Abortion: Stories Told by Women (2016) - Direct: Tracy Droz Trago. Excellent HBO documentary. Directed by a woman, it shows the complications surrounding the decision to have an abortion. And that even in a country like the United States where abortion has been legal since 1973, when the Supreme Court ruled in the famous Roe vs. Wade. Even so, all kinds of difficulties are placed in the way of the exercise of a right of all citizens by society, by politicians with electoral purposes and by religious people. It is always, therefore, a cause at risk. YOUTUBE

half the sky (2012) is a four-hour documentary, presented by Canal Home & Health, about violence against women in several countries around the world. Each country receives a Hollywood star to discuss local problems, including Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, Diane Lane, America Ferrera, Eva Mendes, Olivia Wilde. The countries range from Cambodia to India, passing through Pakistan, Somalia, Vietnam, Nigeria. It's horrors upon horrors, from genital mutilation to child sex trafficking. YOUTUBE

She's Beautiful When She's Angry (2014) - director: Mary Dore. Precious film that rescues the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, or Second Wave. It studies the origin of important organizations that emerged at this time, such as NOW, or National Organization for Women. It dedicates itself to filming and making feminists speak, researching organizations and documenting the most important public and mass demonstrations. Remarkable soundtrack, with Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Velvet Underground and many others of the time. YOUTUBE

Question of Life (2005) - Dir.: Rodrigo Garcia. The future director of the impressive albert nobs (see below), and son of Gabriel Garcia Márquez, films nine fragments or sequences of fiction, each one telling the story of a woman, often without ending, each one exposing her problems. Extraordinary actresses like Glen Close. A most interesting formal experiment. And he establishes himself as director “of women”. YOUTUBE

albert nobbs (2011) - Dir.: Rodrigo Garcia. The journey of a woman who spends her life dressed as a man. Destitute and prevented by her sex from finding employment, she becomes a waiter and valet in a Dublin hotel in the last century. The film shows how Albert Nobbs lived and died. Extraordinary performance by the great actress Glen Close, paralyzed and plastered in denial of her body, where only her eyes move. This is what violence against women is. LOOKE

lose reason (2012) - director: Joachim Lafosse. Award-winning Belgian film. A woman's descent into hell, from marriage and child after child to four, plus husband and father-in-law in whose house they live. To hell and madness, until it led to unspeakable acts. Wonderful, but, despite being very discreet, without brutality and without shouting, difficult to watch. Incredible suspense, the viewer feels that something terrible is going to happen.

Alice Guy-Blaché - The Untold Story of the World's First Female Filmmaker (2018) – director: Pamela B. Green. As usual, women are made invisible, as is the case of Alice Guy-Blaché in France: Méliès is only known, but she predated him, and made about 1.000 fiction films, starting in 1895. Documentary with material archives and very interesting interviews. TELECINEPLAY, NOW

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of reading and rereading (Senac/Gold over blue).

To read the first part go to

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Originally published in the magazine Theory and debate.


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