Since November 2016, there has been this swirling pit of rage that permanently resides in the center of my heart, nestled just below the aortic arch. Sometimes it is quiet, like the beach at low tide in the middle of the night, gently ebbing and licking the sand. On days like today, when a sexual abuser is appointed to the highest level of justice, it is an electric maelstrom. More inflamed and unyielding than the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. Stay out of my way; I’m out for blood.
But many other women have written more eloquently about this topic than I could ever hope to, so I will let cinema speak for me. Here are seven films of varying genres (most written or directed by women) that deftly provoke rage against our broken system while simultaneously inspiring that passion for a better world for women and survivors, many of whom overlap.
1. Shut Up and Sing (2006) dir. Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
After Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines made this offhand statement at a 2003 concert in London, the vehement backlash from the American country music community nearly ended the trio’s career. Kopple and Peck’s intimate documentary chronicles the aftermath of the incident, including the conception of their 2006 comeback song, “Not Ready To Make Nice.” Their country ballad demonstrated their daring refusal to apologize, denounced the death threats these women received for critiquing their government, and found success as a three-time Grammy award-winning bop!
For years, the LGBTQ+ community have been begging for cinema beyond the typical coming-out story – cinema that explores conflict within queer relationships without resorting to “help me, I’m gay!” Tali Shalom Ezer’s latest feature ‘My Days of Mercy’ promises such a story. The premise is simple but intriguing: protagonist Lucy (Ellen Page), whose father is on death row, falls in love with pro-death penalty campaigner Mercy (Kate Mara). Unfortunately, despite truly electric chemistry between Page and Mara, ‘My Days of Mercy’ never delves far enough into the dramatic potential of such viscerally clashing moral standpoints. The result is a film that is momentarily sweet, but ultimately unsatisfying.
Shalom Ezer begins the film by throwing us right into the protest action; a man is on death row for killing a police officer, and there are pickets on both sides of the argument. Lucy, accompanied by her siblings and, protests as though it is part of her daily routine. Desensitised and slightly bored, she continues through these motions in the dimly lit hope of changing things for her own father. As the pro-death penalty campaigners arrive, notably more prim and proper than the “hippy” antis, Lucy’s eyes meet Mercy’s across the picket lines. It’s cheesy, and a little lacking in believability, but nonetheless a classic way for two would-be lovers to first notice each other.