"Battle of the Sexes" is a kick-a**, girl-power film based on the true story of female American tennis player Billie Jean King. King was ranked number one in the world for five years, won six Wimbledon singles championships and four U.S. Open titles. Utilizing her prestige and talent, King during her tennis career and through today fights for equal pay for female tennis players. Because the USTA (United States Tennis Association) was discriminating against female players and not paying them equally- even when the female players sold the same number of tickets, the “original nine” women decided to form their own league, the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association).
King was challenged by Bobby Riggs - a fellow Wimbledon champion nearly twice her age and chauvinistic pig - or at least he was portrayed as such, in the film. Riggs was an addicted gambler in need of money, so he challenged the best female tennis player in the world. Hence the title, Battle of the Sexes. This event actually did take place on September 20, 1973 in Houston, Texas. King crushed Riggs “in a match the London Sunday Times called ‘the drop shot and volley heard around the world.’”
This was a win not just for King, but for all female athletes. This was no easy feat, for King feared what a loss to Riggs would mean. She was quoted saying, "I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn't win that match.” Fortunately for womankind, BJK won. Billie Jean not only blazed a progressive trail for female athletes, but she was also an activist for the LGBTQ community as well as gender equality - both on and off the court. She was even ranked as “One of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century.”
So, if you’re in the mood to watch some women ace chauvinism, this is your film.
Living in Berlin, watching “The Lives of Others” was a must. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, it was mostly filmed in the original locations, in East Berlin. It highlights what life was like in the German Democratic Republic (GDR, for short) in East Berlin, particularly during the 1980’s.
Set from the point of view from a Stasi spy, the audience gains an inner look as to not only just the lives that he is observing, but the lives of the Stasi themselves. It addresses one of the important, dark, yet often overlooked moments in German history. The film showcases the struggle of the individual amidst a socialist regime. One’s conversations, medications, outfits, professions and more, were all dictated and observed by the GDR. Paranoia ran rampant. On the other hand, it also demonstrates that even in such a repressive state, there still exists some human decency - or at least we cling on to the hope that it does.
“The Lives of Others” is not just an impressive film, it is also a relevant one - only 28 years ago was Berlin still divided. Many of the film’s locations look exactly the same. I have also had the opportunity to speak with Berliners who lived through the GDR. One man said to me and this I will never forget, “The wall is down, but it still exists, up here (referring to his mind).”
Watch it here:
You might find this hard to believe if you have seen this film or have even heard about its focus, but this is a true story.
Set in the 1990’s, this film portrays the widely televised case between infamous Holocaust denier David Irving and historian and professor of Holocaust studies, Deborah Lipstadt. Irving interrupts Lipstadt’s lectures and sues her for libel in the courts of the United Kingdom. This is important to note because in the United States, the burden of proof lays with the plaintiff. But in the U.K, it is vice versa. So, Lipstadt has to prove that when she accused him of being a Holocaust denier, that she wasn’t committing libel, rather that he did in fact deny the Holocaust and in doing so, lied.
This is a gripping story - emotions and tensions run at an all time high. I found myself consistently asking the questions: 1) How could anyone deny the Holocaust? and 2) How could it even get this far?
Lipstadt and her legal team clash on how to go about handling the case. She wants to testify on behalf of herself and also have Holocaust survivors testify as well. But, her team wisely advises against it as Irving has re-traumatized survivors, in the past. They don’t want to put the Holocaust on trial. So much is at risk, for if they lose the case, it would open the door for deniers to negate such a critical, horrific period in human history. Not only that, but it would dishonour the victims and re-traumatize the survivors at the very least. Needless to say, this was a herculean task Lipstadt and her legal team face.
I won’t include any spoilers, for I strongly encourage everyone to watch this film. But I will say that it is very important, especially in today’s world with the rise of the alt-right, neo-Nazis, and other similar hate groups. Although history has many sides and the victors generally write it, one cannot simply rewrite it or deny the existence of certain events, especially ones as awful as the Holocaust. Instead, we bear the responsibility to remember in order to avoid repeating such atrocities.
Check out the film here:
Hidden Figures is a stand out film of 2017. It highlighted the true hidden figures that went mostly unnoticed within American society - the African-American mathematicians who worked at NASA.
Set in the southern United States during the 1960s, this story follows the lives of three brilliant African-American female NASA mathematicians and their critical involvement in helping get American astronaut and hero, John Glenn, into space during the Space Race with Russia/Soviet Union.
They were not recognized for their tremendous efforts until much later – a sad truth revealed at the end of the film.
Nevertheless, the women – Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) command the screen. They never stop fighting for the country that doesn’t fully treat them as equal citizens. The small victories in the overarching victory of getting Glen in space, are when the women succeed in demanding to be recognized and treated as equals. In addition to surpassing the barrier that separates humankind from space, these human computers overcame the racial, gender, and professional hurdles that obstructed their paths.
Katherine, Mary and Dorothy’s intelligence and determination are what drives the film and consequently, John Glen into orbit. As a result of this film, they are now, no longer unrecognized, heroes.
Hidden Figures is inspiring and eye-opening. It makes the audience ponder just how many other hidden figures there still are . . .
The film, A United Kingdom, is a true story that depicts the relationship between the United Kingdom and its protectorate, modern-day Botswana (then Bechuanaland). The United Kingdom seeks to both exploit and annex the land of Bechuanaland to its already established neighboring colony, South Africa. In spite of this, Botswana strives to become its own independent, united Kingdom.
The movie is set in England in 1947. The audience is introduced to the courtship of a black man and a white woman. Despite society’s non acceptance of their relationship, they fall in love and wish to get married. They are met with many trials and obstacles from both sides. This is due, in part, because the young man, Seretse Khama, is the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Botswana. Consequently, the British government, the South African government and the current King of Botswana - Khama’s uncle, oppose his marriage to a British white woman. The South African government is involved because it had recently installed its apartheid system and therefore, did not consider a biracial marriage an acceptable, legal or binding agreement. Because of Britain’s resource-fueled, colonial ties in South Africa, the South African government threatened Britain with an ultimatum: either dissolve the marriage or risk having further access to South Africa’s resources. As is the case in many global conflicts, the roots lie in power and money - in this case, in the form of natural resources.
The film illustrates Seretse and Ruth’s fight for love in a climate that encourages relinquishing their love and parting ways. It also demonstrates how Ruth embraces her new Botswanan community and in turn, is slowly accepted into its society. Seretse juggles wanting to represent his people while also fighting for what is right— including severing ties with England, creating a life for his wife and child, and creating a united Kingdom where his people’s interests are met and not exploited. A United Kingdom is vibrant and touching, yet heart-wrenching and thought-provoking.
This true story also sheds light on the role that colonialism played across the African continent.. As illustrated in the film, Botswana declared its independence in 1966 under its first President, Seretse Khama. Today, Botswana remains one of Africa’s most stable nations. Its presidents have been democratically elected, its wealth is largely derived from diamond exports, and it is home to many South Africans who fled the Apartheid system. The film not only provides its audience with historical insight, but it also highlights today’s influence of colonialism, including the institutionalized racism that still exists.
A United Kingdom is an engaging watch, an historical must-see, and a film that implores its audience to reflect on and also to question the role that governments play in society.
*This film review includes spoilers.
Whale Rider is a standout Indie film that highlights the power of women in a male dominant society.
The film takes place in modern-day New Zealand amongst a group of Maoris, the indigenous people of New Zealand. It focuses on the story of protagonist, Paikea. Pai is the granddaughter of the current chief, Koro. Koro is looking to pass on his torch as chief, in order to strengthen the Maori community and to keep their traditions alive in the ever-changing world. Because tradition held that the eldest male heir is the one with the rightful claim to the throne, Paikea is not a viable option in her grandfather’s eyes. It is important to note that Paikea’s father, Porourangi, rejected his claim to being chief, when his wife died giving birth to Pai and her twin brother, who also passed. Before leaving his newborn daughter with his father and mother, Porourangi named his daughter Paikea. This was viewed as another defiant action in the eyes of his father, for the name Paikea is the name of the revered first ancestor of the Maori people, also known as the Whale Rider.
Throughout the entire film, Paikea tries to earn the approval and respect of her grandfather. Though he loves her, he does not consider her as able to lead their community because she is a girl. In the turning point of the film – when Paikea embraces her role as the Whale Rider and ultimately sacrifices herself in order to save the whales- Koro realizes the power Paikea possessed all along. She is and has always been the Whale Rider and no one but she could be the rightful Maori chief.
This film illustrates two substantial, current issues: feminism and protecting the earth. Addressing the former matter, the film depicts the multifaceted strengths of women through Pai and her grandma. Throughout the film Pai challenges her grandfather and his patriarchal practices. Alternatively, Pai’s grandma initially appears to be submissive to Koro’s temper, but she actually holds her ground. She is an example of someone who picks his or her battles in order to win the war – a nod to the wise women in my life. The power of women, whether overt like Pai’s or subdued like her grandma’s, is a constant theme throughout the film that progresses not only the plot, but also the leading man's thinking. Secondly, Whale Rider naturally focuses on the value of protecting the earth and its living creatures. The Maori people all come together as a community in an attempt to save the beached whales. They mourn for the loss of the whales that they could not save. The film does an excellent job of personifying the whales and their emotions through its music.
This is an important film. It is also a beautiful illustration of humanity’s interconnectedness with nature – a relationship that ought to be respected, especially in this day and age. Moreover, it is a call to women, especially young women, to stand up and to prevail towards what they believe in - no matter how difficult the challenge(s) may be. This film serves as a reminder that women have the power to create change and write their own history.