Highlights of my #52FilmsByWomen 2018

If there’s one thing that people associate with me or my ~personal brand~ it’s promoting films with female identifying directors, or women in other creative areas. A popular challenge on my social media feeds is the yearly #52FilmsByWomen, a challenge that invites you to try and watch at least one film directed by a woman a week created by Women in Film LA .

Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 10.21.02.pngMy first attempt at this challenge was in 2017 during my slump in watching films after moving away from Manchester, I only saw (discounting all the short films I watched to curate screenings for Cine-Sister) 19 films directed by women.

2018 was really a year where I focused and dedicated my time to learning about and watching films, as a result I saw 112 female directed films. I thought I’d share a selection of some of my favourites with you here of the films NOT released in 2018

You can see a list of everything I saw on Letterboxd.

These are just a small amount of the amazing films I discovered this year, you can follow me on Letterboxd for almost daily updates of what I’m watching.

My Favourite Female Directed Films Released in 2018

As is the case with film distribution please take the term “released in 2018” loosely. All the films here were available at the cinema/released on Netflix in the UK in 2018. I have not yet had the opportunity to see (and is supposed to be excellent) Chloè Zhao’s The Rider or Claire Denis’ Let The Sunshine In but these are the best female directed films in no particular order I did see released in 2018.

Shirkers (2018) Directed by Sandi Tan

screen-shot-2019-01-08-at-10.24.11.pngSandi Tan, Jasmine Ng and Sophie Siddique set out in 1992 to make “Shirkers” a -could have been- Singapore-made cult classic had the 16mm footage not been stolen by their American collaborator Georges Cardona, who disappeared with it. 20 years later she rediscovers the reels of film and sets out on a journey of self discovery.  Shirkers (2018), is the story of Sandi’s journey in rediscovering her former self and coming to terms with loss and what ifs.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) Directed by Desiree Akhavan,


Chloë Grace Moretz stars in this coming of age story about a young girl in the 1990s sent to a gay conversion therapy camp. Alongside new friends played by Sacha Lane and Forest Goodluck who find a common ground in their outcast status and keep each other going through this ordeal. The film is a bittersweet expression of teenage love, innocence and sexuality contrast with the damning portrayal of the archaic practice of conversion therapy.

Leave No Trace (2018) Debra Granik

screen shot 2019-01-08 at 11.09.51Leave No Trace a father and daughter duo live an off-the-grid existence in a nature reserve near Portland, Oregon, rarely making contact with the world. But when a small mistake tips them off to authorities, they are sent on an increasingly erratic journey in search of a place to call home. I watched this film on a plane and was still blown away by how beautiful and meditative this film is, both heartbreaking and empathetic.

Waru (2017) Directed by Briar Grace-Smith, Casey Kaa, Ainsley Gardiner, Katie Wolfe, Chelsea Cohen, Renae Maihi, Paula Jones and Awanui Simich-Penescreen shot 2019-01-08 at 11.03.12

Waru is made up of eight chapters, each 10 minutes or so long and each directed by a different Maori woman Each of the  scenes is presented as a single unedited take and takes place in real-time exploring the impact of the death of a young boy (named Waru) at the hands of his caregiver on this small Maori community. The film bubbles with anger and a need for retribution.

You Were Never Really Here (2017) Directed by Lynne Ramsey


The film that topped the list of best films of the year by the “Bechdel Test Fest poll” and with good reason, Lynne Ramsay directs Joaquin Phoenix as Joe, a killer-for-hire who is hired by a politician to get his young daughter back from sex traffickers, Joe’s own past make this more than just another job for him. The film blends Joe’s thoughts  and inner demons with what’s happening in the story taking us on this journey as he battles his trauma.

What were your favourite releases in 2018?

Cine-Sister’s first screening!

If you’re in Manchester this weekend come and see the launch of my first film programming venture Cine-Sister!

Support female filmmakers and some fantastic charities (MASH, Women’s Aid, & Shelter) and there’s loads of other great stuff happening at the event. The screening starts at 2pm on the 4th of March 2017 in at Texture, 67 Lever St, Manchester.

Cine-Sister will be launching with a short film screening featuring 7 female directed/produced films. The films in this screening deal with themes of gender, race, religion, body and identity. There is a mixture of drama, comedy, animation and documentary short films so there is something for everyone to enjoy and learn from.

You can find out more about the films here: https://cinesisterfilm.com/wonder-women-4th-of-march/

This screening is part of Wonder Women 2017 at an event held by Traffic MCR and you can find out more here:


My Top Ten Films of 2016.

It’s that time of year again, here are my favourite films that I have seen which came out in UK cinemas in 2016!

1. Kubo and the Two Strings


As a huge fan of LAIKA and of stop-motion animation in general, I was so excited when I discovered the poster for Kubo and The Two Strings. Even the screaming baby in the cinema when I finally went to see this amazing film couldn’t ruin it. The animation is incredibly detailed and yet again the studio pushes the boundaries of the medium. You can read my full review here.

 2. Kate Plays Christine


I was lucky enough to see this at Berlinale in February and it has stuck with me ever since. Directed by Robert Greene, the film is a blend of fact and fiction. Taking on a documentary style the film follows actress Kate Lyn Sheil, who prepares to play Christine Chubbuck in a fake fictional film. Chubbuck is a newscaster who in 1974, became the first person to commit suicide live on air. The film explores the mirky waters of morality in acting and filmmaking but ultimately gives more questions than answers.

3. When Marnie Was Theremarnie

The final Studio Ghibli film  When Marnie Was There arrived in UK cinemas this year, anyone who knows me or has read my blog will know that I adore the films of Studio Ghibli so it is bittersweet to be writing about this at all. Bittersweet however, is the feeling of their final film. Based on a british book of the same name by Joan G. Robinson the film is whimsical and sad with stunning animation. A fitting end to my favourite animation company.

 4. A United Kingdoma-united-kingdom_0

I was able to see this film during my first visit to the BFI London Film Festival. Directed by Amma Asante,  A United Kingdom tells the story of the real-life marriage between Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), Prince of Bechuanaland and British office clerk Ruth Williams (Roasamund Pike) and the international conflicts their union caused. You can read my full review of it here.

5. Mustang


Set in a remote Turkish village Mustang depicts the lives and struggles of five young orphaned sisters who are pulled out of school and locked away in their home to be trained to be wives after concerns are raised about their relationships with boys and the growing problem of their blossoming sexuality. Told through the eyes of the youngest sister it is an exploration of girlhood and of a conservative patriarchal society that fears it.

6. Your Name


This film was a surprise to me, I went in expecting a slightly silly but charming romance and got a beautifully crafted surreal tale of love and friendship that surpasses the odds. The characters are likeable and believable and the plot twist was unexpected. You were rooting for the leads in this film right up until the credits rolled.

7. Sonita


This empowering and interesting documentary by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami explores the life of Afghan refugee and aspiring rapper Sonita who when she is 15, is told that she is being sold as a bride for $9,000 in order for her brother to pay for a bride of his own. It blurs the line of what a documentary filmmaker is and documents a struggle for female identity. You can read an essay I wrote about the film and its links to female empowerment through music here and here.

8. Pink


This is another surprising and late addition to the list. Hindi film Pink is a courtroom drama starring Amitabh Bachchan as a lawyer fighting for 3 women who have been sexually assaulted by a highly connected young man and his friends. The film criticises the Indian criminal justice system as well as teaches a powerful message about consent and the demonisation of female sexuality. It’s an incredibly important film and I think it’s a shame it didn’t have a wider UK release. 

9. The Red Turtlethe-red-turtle

I also saw this during my visit to the BFI London Film Festival, The Red Turtle  is the first Non-Japanese collaboration from Studio Ghibli and it comes in the form of a wordless feature directed by Michael Dubok de Wit. You can read my full review of it here.

10. Victoria


Finally, we finish with Victoria. As you probably know, (which I actually didn’t going in to the film) the whole film is one shot, one take and the plot pans out over the course of the length of the film. It’s thrilling to watch and takes so many unexpected twists and turns. You can read my full review of it here.

Honourable mentions: Moana, Everything Before Us and Room.

What were your favourite films of 2016?

I Am Not Madame Bovary (2016) Review.

Originally written for and posted on Film Inquiry.

Directed by Feng Xiaogang, I Am Not Madame Bovary tells the story of Li Xuelian (played by Fan Bingbing) who, in order to get the apartment she desires, conspires to get a “fake” divorce from her husband. However, once the divorce is official, she is shocked to discover that her now ex-husband has moved into the apartment with another woman. This begins her quest to have her “fake” divorce annulled so she can remarry her husband and then divorce him “for real”.


I Am Not Madame Bovary is written by Liu Zhenyun and based on his 2012 novel I am Not Pan Jinlian. The book was translated in order to keep the same connotations, and both Pan Jinlian and Madame Bovary connote promiscuity, adultery, and shame. When Li Xuelian confronts her ex-husband about his betrayal, he publically humiliates her, calling her a “Pan Jinlian” for having pre-marital sex, which only fans the flames of her vengeance and her need to seek justice.

A Political Dark Comedy

The film is highly critical of Chinese bureaucracy, both using the plot to highlight its inability to care about anything other than their job position, as well as poking fun at the workings of officialdom with the conversations between the officials themselves. Li Xuelian is so fed up that at one point she tries to hire someone to kill both her ex-husband and the government officials who have failed her. The moment is funny and well written, but also dark as you watch her become unhinged in frustration.

More than ten years pass in the film, and Xuelian continues to sue the state for failing to recognise her case. She confronts officials in the street, hurls herself in front of their cars. Eventually, they become afraid of her, and afraid of losing their jobs due to being unable to stop her protesting. The film works as a dark comedy to a degree, satirising the Chinese bureaucratic system, but it is very repetitive. The second half’s events set later in the protagonist’s life are very similar to the first half, since she meets the same people and faces the same obstacles. But at times it is funny and twisted, and pokes fun in a clever and subtle way.

A Unique Use of Aspect Ratios

Most of the film is framed with a round aspect ratio that gives the story the feeling of examining one of the examples of Chinese paintings shown during the prologue of the film. Due to the miniature space the filmmakers have given themselves to work with, everything is highly stylised and dramatised, making use of every inch of the space.

I Am Not Madame Bovary
source: Well Go USA Entertainment

I Am Not Madame Bovary occasionally has a Wes Anderson feel with its dry humour, as it is overly choreographed and with not-quite-realistic settings. When Xuelian arrives in Beijing, the aspect ratio changes to a smart-phone-like portrait view, allowing you to see more of the frame – but everything is also blander as she meets identical bureaucrat and bureaucrat, getting nowhere. However, although I enjoyed this unique style, it did make the subtitles difficult to read and sometimes made it hard to see facial expressions clearly, which overshadowed somewhat Fan Bingbing, who otherwise is brilliant with her subtle and emotional performance. She shines amongst the otherwise all-male cast who also perform well, with great comedic timing.

To Conclude

Overall, I Am Not Madame Bovary is a tongue-in-cheek criticism of Chinese politics, as well as their view of women and sexuality. Xuelian is a fantastic character who may not be educated or wealthy, but is driven and passionate about finding justice for herself. I definitely enjoyed the film and its unique stylistic aesthetic, as well as the strong performances throughout.

Would a unique visual style make you more likely to see a film? Is that something filmmakers should be experimenting with more?

I Am Not Madame Bovary is currently playing in the USA and China. For all international release dates, click here.

The Uncondemned (2016) Review.

Originally written for and posted on Film Inquiry.

The Uncondemneddirected by Michele Mitchell and Nick Louveltells the story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to have rape recognised and prosecuted as a war crime. Underfunded, inexperienced and overwhelmed, they faced huge hurdles as they pursued their first case against a small town mayor in Rwanda.

THE UNCONDEMNED: A Heartbreaking Real-Life Courtroom Drama That's Slow To Start

Crimes of war against humanity had not been prosecuted since post-WWII, and surviving witnesses feared to come forward amongst death threats against them and their families. The film documents the brave Rwandan women who came forward to testify and win justice for the crimes committed against them.

A Bit of Context

Despite rape being recognised as an international war crime since 1919, no one had ever been prosecuted for it prior to 1997 during the trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu, which was part of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. However, even though rape during war has been a recurrent feature of wars throughout history, it has always been looked upon as a by-product of conflict, and not an effective military policy.

THE UNCONDEMNED: A Heartbreaking Real-Life Courtroom Drama That's Slow To Start
source: Abramorama

As explained in the documentary, these systematic sexual assaults are something that destroys not just the individual but the familial fabric, the social fabric and the economic fabric of a society. It is something that is used against a population to make it submit. Due to the tireless efforts of the men and women shown in this film, rape was tried for the first time as a war crime and as an aspect of genocide.

Legal Jargon and a Dull First-Half

The structure is in the style of courtroom dramas, moving between archival footage, sound from the testimony and court proceedings, as well as recent interviews with the integral people that are part of the operation. They describe the push-backs from the tribunal to include rape as a war crime charge for the trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu.

Whilst some of it was very interesting, I found the first half of The Uncondemned difficult to follow. I had little knowledge of the events that occurred in Rwanda in the 1990s other than being aware of some of the terrible events that had occurred against the Tutsi people. The documentary offers little information about the events leading up to the tribunal and subsequent trial. Many different faces and places are mentioned without much contextualisation that would help the viewer understand the twists and turns of this plot coherently. There are no names or titles overlayed during the modern interview sequences that could help you grasp who is who, and I believe that would have helped a lot with getting to grips with the story. A lot of legal jargon is used, which made it difficult for someone with little to no legal knowledge understand what was going on.

Heartbreakingly Human Conclusion

The last half is where The Uncondemned reaches its climax – during the buildup we are introduced to four Rwandan women who have formed a support group for the rape victims of their village spurred by the victim herself, Godelieve Mukasarasi, and some of the lawyers and activists supporting the case. She realised that it was killing the women to be silent about their trauma, due to culturally not talking about their bodies and the shame associated with the violent assaults they had endured. You immediately are rooting for these women to testify against the mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu and to break the cycle of silence and shame for these victims, especially when they are flown to speak in front of the UN. It makes you feel uplifted and inspired by these amazing women.

Overall, this is a subject matter that outshines its documentary. It lacks contextualisation for the interviewees and makes the first half hard to follow. However, it is the brave women and the inspiring conclusion of The Uncondemned that makes it a heartbreaking, human, and empowering watch, and it reveals an important part of forgotten history.

Do you think it’s important for a documentary to give you the context of the subject matter? Or do you think you should do some research before you watch it? 

The Uncondemned was released on October 21 and 28, 2016 in NYC and LA. 


“She Breathes Through Her Skin”- The Costume Design For The Strong Female Character.

Originally written for and posted on Film Inquiry.

I remember walking into the living room one day around Christmas time, my sister was sat on the sofa playing video games. One character, in particular, caught my eye. She stood out because she was wearing a bikini top and ripped trousers next to several men dressed for heavy combat. My sister told me that her name was Quiet, she couldn’t speak. Probably guessing that I was going to question the costume design for this character she told me that the reason was “she breathes through her skin.” Now, although this is a video game which is a whole other ball game in terms of discussing sexism in character design, this is something prevalent in the films we watch at the cinema, mostly action/adventure films.

What is a “Strong Female Character”?

A term that is tossed around  a lot in terms of the women in these films is that they are a “strong female character” But what does this mean? What is not my definition of a strong female character is throwing together an overly sexualised outfit for a female actress and giving her a gun and some one-liners and then declaring that “sexism is over”. It’s such a broad term, in fact, that it’s thrown around constantly in film reviews when a female character appears to have her own mind

It’s often said that the representation of women on-screen is far better than it used to be. We have seen recent films such as Mad Max: Fury Road depict women as equals, strong and capable without the need to sexualise them or degrade them in any way. The titular character becomes secondary to Charlize Theron’s fierce Furiosa and her mission to protect the women she has saved from the villain in the film. Similarly, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens no female characters are subjected to impractical or sexualised costumes. Daisy Ridley’s character Rey’s costume is fully designed with functionality in mind. The tan-colour lets her blend into the desert surroundings, the design of her trousers and boots that make her look like a capable character who isn’t restricted by unnecessarily tight clothing. The belt, the one thing that adds a “feminine” curved shape to the outfit is also practical and is used by the character at points in the film. Everything the character does in the film – fighting, running, jumping – is more than believable due to the design of her clothing.

Sexual Empowerment vs Sex Appeal

But this is where it gets confusing. There has been a surge in female superheroes on our screens in the past few years from Halle Berry’s portrayal of Catwoman, to more recently, Scarlett Johansen’s portrayal of Black Widow across the Marvel cinematic universe, such as in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers , and while that’s great, it wrongly suggests that the representation of women on screen in these genres is no longer an issue.

"She Breathes Through Her Skin": The Clothing Design Of The So-Called Strong Female Character
Avengers: Age of Ultron 2015) – source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Often, women appear to be empowered: they are the protagonist or antagonist, carry great strength and dialogue. However, although the actress appears to be acting on her own terms, i.e. owning her sexuality, in reality, her movements, particularly while fighting, are sexualised, and the camera will pan up and down her body, focusing on aspects of her tight fitting or revealing costume that are pleasing to the heterosexual male viewer. It caters to the male gaze; a term coined by Laura Mulvey in her 1973 essay titled “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, in which she explains that in film, women are typically the objects, of gaze rather than the possessors of it. This is due to both the choice of the typically male filmmaker and the assumption of heterosexual men as the default target audience for most film genres.

This concept, when applied to these action/adventure characters was summed up by Caroline Heldman in the documentary Miss Representation, in which she explains “When you peel back a layer or two you discover it’s not really about their agency, I call this archetype the fighting fuck toy because although she is doing things supposedly on her own terms she very much is objectified and exists for the male viewer”. This takes away much of the appeal of these characters because when you build a character on the basis of appearance and sex appeal there is little left for the audience to empathise, creating a dynamic in which the audience objectifies rather than sees this character as a human.

Looking to the Future

The most recent example of ridiculous costume for a woman in an action/adventure film, a promotional image released from the upcoming Jumanji in which actress Karen Gillian stands in tight, skimpy clothes inappropriate for her surroundings with three fully clothed men (much like Wonder Woman with the rest of the Justice League at the top of this article). After backlash to the image, she took to Twitter to say “Yes I’m wearing child-sized clothes and YES there is a reason! The payoff is worth it, I promise!”

"She Breathes Through Her Skin": The Clothing Design Of The So-Called Strong Female Character
Jumanji (2017) – source: Sony Pictures Entertainment

However, I’m not so convinced, it’s  likely another “She Breathes Through Her Skin” or “She Owns Her Sexuality” style excuse but time will tell on this occasion. The main problem with these costumes on these women in these films is that it sells an idea of what a strong female character is whilst also selling her short. Giving less to character development and less to showcasing an actresses performance in order to focus on looks and sexual appeal.

Because at the end of the day, when I see a film, I don’t want to see a strong female character. I want to see a human character. Someone who is multifaceted and relatable whilst also able to hold her own in an action/adventure story and due to costume choices and choices made by the directors of these characters are being sold short and I believe they can do better.

What do you think about the promotional image released for Jumanji?

Film Review Round Up Vol. 4

Queen of Katwe (2016)- Directed by Mira Nair


Based on a true story, Disney’s Queen of Katwe follows Phiona (Madina Nalwanga), a young girl living in Uganda with her mother (Lupita Nyong’0). Her world completely changes when she is introduced to the game of chess by a youth worker (David Oyelowo) the film follows her rags-to-riches esque story as she fights through prejudice, self-doubt, and poverty to strive for her dream of being a chess champion. It’s a feel good film overall but definitely an emotional rollercoaster you can be laughing one minute and on the verge of tears another. I absolutely loved this film, the performances by all the cast are fantastic and it has a brilliant credit sequence at the end. Definitely go and support this film while it is out in cinemas!

Fan (2016)- Directed by Mannish Sharma


I was intrigued to watch this film after watching Mark Kermode’s favourite films of the year so far video on youtube. I was mostly interested because I saw the film starred Shah Rukh Khan who I’d previously seen in the 2001 film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham playing both the older and the younger characters in the film. The CGI alone in this is great, both characters are believably different ages whilst also looking identical, which is impressive to pull off. Shah Rukh Khan is fantastic playing two completely different characters, both the obsessive stalking fan and the idol. The film is a bit silly, traveling all over the world (who knew you could get a train from Kings Cross, London directly to Dubrovnik, Croatia?) and featuring crazy action sequences. It doesn’t really say anything new with its analysis of fan culture but it’s definitely an enjoyable watch.

The Lovers and The Despot (2016)- Directed by Ross Adam and Robert Cannan 


I was interested in the idea of this documentary after watching the trailer, it seemed like such an absurd story especially to be one that is based on real events. The basic premise is that using secretly recorded tapes of Kim Jong-il as well as interviews with some of the people involved. The documentary recounts the story of how in 1978, South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee and her ex-husband, filmmaker Shin Sang-ok were independently kidnapped by film-lover North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and were forced to make films in order to improve the North Korean film industry. The film has you hooked throughout like a real-life thriller, It explains their brainwashing, their lives as prisoners for 7 years and their amazing escape from North Korea. It is terrifying and fascinating to watch.

What have you been watching lately?

The Fight For Freedom of Expression: Sonita and Female Empowerment Through Music

Originally Commissioned by The Time is Now and posted here.

“Let me scream I am tired of the silence” raps Sonita in her internationally viewed music video filmed as part of the new documentary Sonita by documentary filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami. The subject of the documentary; her name self-defined in the film as a “swallow, a migrant bird.” Afghan-born, Sonita fled to Iran as a child with part of her family to escape the Taliban. She works in a refugee community centre as a cleaner and studies there with a group of other girls. Sonita is a talented young rapper inspired by western influences such as Rihanna. When she is 15, her mother visits her in Iran to tell her that she is being sold as a bride for $9,000 in order for her brother to pay for a bride of his own. The relationship between self-expression and female empowerment here is incredibly important, Sonita raps around poverty, women’s rights and her own struggles as an Afghan refugee.queensofsyria

This is similar to documentary Queens of Syria by Yasmin Fedda as both films use a personal filmmaking approach that ends up exploring the relationship between the female filmmaker and the subject. In Sonita, the filmmaker is constantly encouraging her to use her voice and to express how she is feeling and blurs the line between a passive filmmaker and an active participant in the events that unfold. Both in Sonita and Queens of Syria women share their experiences through performance. In Queens of Syria, a group of refugee women in Jordan rehearse and perform a modified version of the Euripides’ play Trojan Women, to tell their stories and empower each other by standing together in the face of all the pain they have gone through. “I have a scream I want the whole world to hear…But I wonder if it will be heard?” However, throughout Queens of Syria, many women drop out of the play and are reluctant to take part due to their faith, culture and community pressures that don’t wish them to express themselves in this way as women, as it is seen as detrimental to their family lives. However, in many ways, Sonita is the opposite. She often happily rebels against her society and her gender role through her rap music and questions the norms of her culture asking “what will happen if I sing?” when told by family it is indecent for a woman to do so. She is not ashamed nor does she shy away from writing and performing songs about uncomfortable subjects such as poverty and the Afghan tradition of selling women as brides.

Similarly to the protagonist in animated memoir Persepolis (2007); also set in Iran, Sonitadocuments a struggle for identity. Both Sonita and the protagonist, Marjane in Persepolisare fiercely spirited and outspoken as well as in their youth using music to both escape their reality and confront it. Both using music to challenge their societies and their gender roles as Islamic women in Iran. However, Persepolis is set much earlier than Sonita. In the 1980s/90s, the young Marjane uses punk – even wearing an iconic handmade jacket with the slogan “punk is not dead” in the streets of Iran, as her medium of expressing herself. She risks her life and freedom purchasing western music tapes on the black market to feel a sense of identity in a society that oppresses her. These tapes are described as “symbols of Western decadence”, which is something that in Sonita, the young rapper aspires to. She spends time scrapbooking her perfect life and superimposing her face on images of Rihanna. However, for Marjane, music has its limits. It is not the saviour of her identity struggles or a full escape from her current life. Her punk music only works as a young girl in Iran, once she is sent away to Europe she no longer finds the need to rebel or seek out empowerment through music.


Sonita takes a very different approach to using music to express yourself and empower yourself as a woman in comparison to more western films about this subject. Ladies & Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains made in 1982 at the height of the punk movement but before the Riot Grrrl movement took off, shows a teenage female punk band fronted by Corinne Burns, an angry, disillusioned girl using music to deal with her emotions surrounding her mother’s death. Throughout the film, girls thank her for speaking what they were thinking or what they were afraid to say. In a rant after a poorly received show she says to the women “be yourselves, These guys laugh at you. They’ve got such big plans for the world. but they don’t include us!” She spends the film carving out a place for her and her band in the music scene ignoring the patronising advice of the male bands she is touring with and empowers herself and the women around her expressing herself her own way.

Similarly, Swedish film We Are the Best! also set in the 1980s but made in 2013, follows a band of misfit young girls who form a punk rock band (with no experience in playing music) as a means of escape from their lives and to express their feelings and identities. They are androgynous and reject their femininity but are often taunted –  sarcastically called the “prettiest girls in town”. Music gives them an outlet against a world that makes them feel like they don’t belong. This is not a world away from Sonita, who uses her rap music to get her voice heard and by doing so uplifts the voices of the silent and the abused. Whilst Sonita’s struggles include seeking justice against sexist traditions and laws by wanting to stay in school and rap; which is illegal for her to do in Iran both Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains and We Are The Best! do the opposite – rejecting certain privileges such as school and supportive peers due to angst and disillusionment with their lives. These films are also set in a different era, where punk is the method of expressing these emotions. Sonita is a much more contemporary way of looking at female empowerment through music using rap/hip-hop arguably the modern protest music form to express herself and empower women.

Something the protagonists share in all these films is a need for female self-expression. Wanting to share their experiences through music and uplift the women around them. Sonita is a fantastic modern tale of this and gives a voice to the women she wishes to empower through her music.

Sonita is in UK cinemas from 21st October.

A Day at the London Film Festival.

On the 6th of October I jumped on the train to attend the BFI London Film Festival, I’d never attended before and was excited to see how it would compare to similar scale festivals I’ve been to previously. I had tickets to see 2 films I’ve been excited about months Amma Assante’s A United Kingdom and the first Non-Japanese collaboration from Studio Ghibli The Red Turtle both of which were conveniently screening at the big Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square. I got there ridiculously early (which won’t surprise anyone who knows me). My first screening of the day was at 11:30am, it happened to be the Gala Screening of the night before and they were packing up the rest of the red carpet and wall when I got there. So I waited outside the box office, picked up my tickets and was ready to begin.

A United Kingdomaunitedkingdom2

Set in the 1940s and starring David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe) and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Pride and Prejudice). A United Kingdom tells the story of the real-life marriage between Seretse Khama, Prince of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and British office clerk Ruth Williams and the international uproar their union caused. I absolutely loved this film. It was emotional, funny and heartbreaking in places. It tackles feelings of identity, love, and prejudice from both countries involved. The film’s score compliments the sweeping romance of the film whilst the cinematography captures the two very different countries perfectly using colour and framing. This feels like a triumphant and culturally relevant film. Definitely, recommend!

The Red Turtletheredturtle
This wordless animation follows a man stranded on a desert island who is prevented from leaving by a mysterious giant red turtle. As I said previously, this is a collaboration with Studio Ghibli and french director Michael Dubok de Wit. For me, seeing the familiar logo of the studio at the start of the film filled me with emotion immediately. This is a very different animation style to the Japanese films made at the studio and Michael Dubok de Wit described the creative freedom he had working with them during the Q&A as an “adventure” for the both of them. The film itself was beautiful animated and simplistic which made up for it being slightly predictable in its story.

When asked at the Q&A why he chose for the film to have no dialogue he explained that he didn’t want the audience to know the nationality or cultural background of the character allowing him to be a blank canvas for the audience to project on. I think this worked perfectly in the context of the film and I really hope that Studio Ghibli does more collaborations in the future.

Overall, I have a great time and would love to go back next year for longer!  Did you attend the BFI London Film Festival? If so, what did you see?