In response to Tom Roston’s Doc Soup column on the ten best documentaries about women, we’ve been collecting your recommendations on Facebook, Twitter and the blog.
Your suggestions confirm that, yes, there is a wealth of documentaries about women today and going back many years. We’ve compiled your list and categorized it to make it easier for you to discover new films.
Omissions? Disagreements? Share your omissions and disagreements in the comments!
Activism and Liberties
A Place of Rage
Filmmaker: Pratibha Parmar
In this film, Parmar celebrates the achievements of African-American women, featuring interviews with Angela Davis, June Jordan and Alice Walker. They triumph the roles that iconic women played in the civil rights and Black power movements, stating that they changed American society.
Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy
Filmmaker: Alice Elliott
Chronicling the stories of two life-long friends, one of whom has Down syndrome and the other cerebral palsy, Body and Soul: Diana & Kathy works to break stereotypes about disability. Shot over five years, the documentary shows Diana as a capable personal assistant to Kathy who has become non-verbal due to her illness. The two are inspiring in their lobbying efforts for equal rights for those with disabilities.
Filmmaker: Antony Thomas
For Neda tells the story of the woman whose death became the iconic image for the conflict in Iran after the 2009 elections. The film works to discover who Neda was and her rebellious desire for self-expression in an oppressive government regime.
Harlan County, USA
Filmmaker: Barbara Kopple
Documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple takes a look at a 1973 miners’ strike that lasted more than a year and had periods of active violence. In addition to the miners becoming activists for their own cause, the women in their lives also took up the fight for the mine to recognize the legitimacy of the miners’ union.
Lake of Fire
Filmmaker: Tony Kaye
From the director of American History X comes a documentary that sheds light on both sides of the abortion debate and its effects on contemporary America.
Live Nude Girls Unite!
Filmmakers: Julia Query and Vicky Funari
Stand-up comedian Julia Query found that the easiest way to finance her comedy career was through stripping. When she starts to realize that stripping is becoming less like performing and more like prostitution, she decides to organize the service workers in her area to form a union. Her fight to unionize becomes complicated, as she is forced to come out to her mother who has worked to end what she considers to be the victimization of women through stripping.
Not For Ourselves Alone
Filmmakers: Ken Burns and Paul Barnes
Chronicling the life of two important figures in the women’s movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, this film by Ken Burns and Paul Barnes focuses on their contributions to the fight for women’s suffrage.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell
Filmmaker: Gini Reticker
Honoring the strength of the women of Liberia, Pray the Devil Back to Hell chronicles the organizing of thousands of Liberian women to protest the ongoing civil war in their country. Because of the collective efforts of these women who came from all different walks of life and communities, an agreement was made during the stalled peace talks in Liberia.
Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai
Filmmaker: Lisa Merton
This award-winning documentary follows the work of community organizer and activist Wangari Maathai, a woman who refused to be obedient to an unjust government in Kenya. Maathai organized the women of villages to start planting trees in order to protect the environment and bring resources to their communities. As the movement grew, the Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi started to interfere with their efforts.
The Education of Shelby Knox
Filmmakers: Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt
Into the battle over sex education steps 15-year-old Shelby Knox of Lubbock, Texas. A self-described “good Southern Baptist girl,” Knox has pledged abstinence until marriage. When she finds that Lubbock has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the state, and her county’s high schools teach abstinence as the only safe sex, she becomes an unlikely advocate for comprehensive sex education, profoundly changing her political and spiritual views along the way.
Town Bloody Hall
Filmmakers: Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker
On April 30, 1971, Norman Mailer went up against a panel of passionate feminists, including author of The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer, at New York’s City Hall in what became a heated debate on women’s liberation. It quickly became a spectacle to have witnessed, and continues to be influential in the conflict between the sexes.
Filmmakers: Julia Reichart and Jim Klein
Union Maids features the testimony of three women who were part of the workers’ movement in the early 1930s. In their 60s at the time of filming, the women describe the consequences they were willing to accept while trying to organize labor unions. At a time when being labeled a Bolshevik or communist could be detrimental to one’s livelihood, the women discuss their intentions and perseverance in the face of opposition.
Arts and Entertainment
A Litany for Survival
Filmmakers: Ada Gay Griffin and Michelle Parkerson
Poet, lover, mother, warrior — Audre Lorde writes passionately of love and anger, civil rights and sexuality, family politics and the glories of nature. Ada Gay Griffin and Michelle Parkerson reveal the potent legacy of this celebrated African-American poet, whose life was cut short after a long battle with breast cancer.
Filmmaker: Andrew Neel
Exploring the life of bohemian painter and mother Alice Neel, this biographical documentary offers interviews with the artist’s children as well as grandchildren. Family, friends and art historians all weigh in on Neel’s career and life, sometimes with praise and other times with harsh criticism.
Bananas is My Business
Filmmaker: Helena Solberg
A bowl of soup and the freedom to sing is all Carmen Miranda wanted in life. Raised dirt poor in Brazil, the woman in the tutti-frutti hat went on to become one of the highest paid entertainers of her time. Helena Solberg’s song-filled movie reveals how Hollywood transformed a talented entertainer into a Latin Lollapalooza.
Beah: A Black Woman Speaks
Filmmaker: Lisa Gay Hamilton
Beah Richards, who is best known for her Oscar nomination for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, fought stereotypes continuously through her career and became a political activist and icon for civil rights. Featuring interviews with the actress herself, the film becomes a tribute and celebration of the actress’ work and life.
Beatrice Wood: Mama of Dada
Filmmaker: Tom Neff
Chronicling the life of renowned ceramist and love of Marcel Duchamp, Beatrice Wood: Mama of Dada works to give a voice to the life of this vital figure in the Dada art, or anti-art, movement.
Chiefs and Champions: Waneek Horn-Miller
Filmmaker: Annie Frazier Henry
This installment of a larger work about Native American athletes tells the story of Canadian water polo player Waneek Horn-Miller and her identity as an athlete as well as a Mohawk.
Corpus: A Home Movie For Selena
Filmmaker: Lourdes Portillo
Tejana singer Selena was on the brink of blockbuster crossover fame when her murder at age 23 catapulted her into mainstream celebrity. Filmmaker Lourdes Portillo gazes beyond the tabloids and points a sensitive lens on the cultural sensation that emerged around Selena’s life and death. A compassionate collage that features starry-eyed teenaged fans, poignant interviews with Selena’s family and lively exchanges with Latina intellectuals who debate her value as a role model, the film offers a fresh look at how this unique Mexican-American voice still echoes in the hearts of her fans.
Ella Es el Matador
Filmmakers: Gemma Cubero and Celeste Carrasco
For Spaniards — and for the world — nothing has expressed their country’s traditionally rigid gender roles more powerfully than the image of the male matador. So sacred was the bullfighter’s masculinity to Spanish identity that a 1908 law barred women from the sport. Ella Es el Matador reveals the surprising history of the women who made such a law necessary and offers fascinating profiles of two female matadors currently in the arena: the acclaimed Mari Paz Vega and neophyte Eva Florencia. These women are gender pioneers by necessity. But what emerges as their truest motivation is their sheer passion for bullfighting and the pursuit of a dream.
Grandma’s Bottle Village
Filmmakers: Allie Light and Irving Saraf
This film interviews Tressa Prisbrey, an elderly woman who constructed structures made purely from recycled glass bottles in Simi Valley, Calif.
Heart of the Sea
Filmmakers: Charlotte Lagarde and Lisa Denker
Heart of the Sea introduces the audience to Rell “Kapolioka’ehukai” Sunn, who was a pioneer in the sport of women’s surfing, having co-founded the Women’s International Surfing Association. Rell, whose nickname means “heart of the sea,” became a leader in her community as well as across the world as an icon in a sport dominated by male superstars.
Isadora Duncan: Movement of the Soul
Filmmakers: Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine
Considered one of the mothers of modern dance, Isadora Duncan was one of the most progressive artists of her time. Using her art form, she composed pieces with political purposes to champion workers and highlight the repression of women. This documentary follows the life and development of this influential artist, revealing her evolution as an influential dancer and choreographer.
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Filmmakers: Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg
Following comedian Joan Rivers over the course of a year, documentarians uncover the world of a high profile entertainment icon and the harsh realities of a career in the public eye.
Madonna: Truth or Dare
Filmmakers: Alek Keshishian and Mark Aldo Miceli
This famous documentary follows Madonna on her controversial Blond Ambition tour of 1990.
Mary Cassatt: A Brush With Independence
Filmmaker: Jackson Frost
Mary Cassatt was one of the most influential American impressionists. Her paintings, focusing on domestic scenes, typically of mothering, offer a celebration of womanhood and female strength and made her a champion of women’s rights.
Filmmaker: Jessica Villines
Plaster Caster in an inside look at the artist and rock groupie, Cynthia Plaster Caster, notorious for her plaster castings of rock stars’ genitals. The film follows her process of making two new castings as well as the preparation for her first gallery show in New York City, raising the important question, is her work actually art?
Portrait of an Artist: Nevelson in Process
Filmmaker: Susan Fanshel and Jill Godmilow
Portrait of an Artist provides an in-depth look at the personality of leading environmental sculptor Louise Nevelson. Viewers experience the unfolding of two of sculptures over the course of the film, allowing a glimpse into the artist’s process and creativity.
Shut Up and Sing
Filmmakers: Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck
In 2003, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks uttered an anti-George W. Bush remark live at a concert and quickly threw the band into controversy. The documentary tells the story of the band during the fallout from the comment and examines the ideas of freedom of speech in relation to a public figure’s personal politics.
Speaking in Strings
Filmmaker: Paola di Florio
This documentary tells the story of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, a violinist who moved to the United States to study at the Curtis Institute of Music at age 8 and became the youngest award recipient ever of the Walter W. Naumburg International Violin Competition.
The Beaches of Agnes
Filmmaker: Agnes Verda
In this delightful memoir, the award-winning French filmmaker employs all the magic of cinema to juxtapose the real and the imagined, the past and the present, pain and joy.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Filmmakers: Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato
The Eyes of Tammy Faye provides a glimpse into the life of the televangelist and her rise to success. Telling her own story, Tammy Faye describes the crumbling of her personal life, and her refusal to collapse completely.
Filmmaker: Joan Braderman
The Heretics exposes the work and thoughts of a select group of women who, during the Second Wave of the Women’s Movement, published “Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics.” Now all accomplished artists, writers, architects, teachers, editors, etc., the women give testimony about being a woman in a man’s world and the excitement with which they worked during the women’s liberation movement.
The September Issue
Filmmaker: R.J. Cutler
Hailed as the “real Devil Wears Prada” (Vanity Fair), this documentary follows the editor in chief of Vogue Anna Wintour as she works to release the notorious September Issue.
The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls
Filmmaker: Leanne Pooley
Jools and Linda Topp have become a success in New Zealand for their comedy routine involving hilarious characters and catchy songs. Filmmaker Leanne Pooley captures the lesbian, yodeling twins and their exuberant celebration of life.
Woman of the Cloth: Fabric Artist Penny Sisto
Filmmaker: Caroline Nelli
A reflection on the fabric artist Penny Sisto who seeks to create stories and connections with her pieces
Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer
Filmmaker: Nick Broomfield
This documentary chronicles the circumstances that brought Aileen Wuornos to be executed in Florida despite her being of unsound mind. The film is a follow-up to Broomfield’s earlier film Aileen: The Selling of a Serial Killer, and includes an interview with Wuornos the day before her execution.
The Execution of Wanda Jean
Filmmaker: Liz Garbus
The Execution of Wanda Jean follows the courtroom struggle of the first African-American woman to be sentenced to death by lethal injection in the modern United States.
They Killed Sister Dorothy
Filmmaker: Daniel Junge
In 2005, Sister Dorothy Stang, a Catholic nun, was shot and killed in the Brazilian Amazon. This documentary follows the courtroom drama in accusing her killers and uncovering the real perpetrators as well as the life’s work of this woman in the rainforests of Brazil.
Domestic and Sexual Abuse
Every F—— Day of My Life
Filmmaker: Tommy Davis
In May 2005, Wendy Maldonado confessed to killing her abusive husband with her eldest son. This film follows Maldonado during the few days before she begins to serve her 10-year prison sentence for the crime and her desire to create a new life for her family.
Open Season: On the Rights of Native Women
Filmmaker: Raquel Chapa
This short documentary uncovers the stories of female survivors of sexual abuse on American Indian reservations.
Rape in a Small Town
Filmmaker: Jeffrey Chapman
In 1991, 75-year-old Florence Holway was attacked and raped in her New England home. After surviving the attack, Holway vowed that she would never let her attacker, John LaForest, do the same thing to another woman ever again.
Filmmaker: Kim Longinotto
Rough Aunties follows the work of a multiracial group of women who work to protect the abused children of Durban, South Africa.
Searching for Angela Shelton
Filmmaker: Angela Shelton
What started off as a search for all of the Angela Sheltons in America quickly became an investigation of the epidemic of sexual abuse. While interviewing women who shared her name, screenwriter Angela Shelton was faced with a shocking statistic: 70 percent of them had been sexually abused. Once she found an Angela Shelton that investigated sexual predators who lived in the same town as her own abusive father, her film takes a very personal turn.
Sin by Silence
Filmmaker: Olivia Klaus
Focusing on Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA), an inmate-initiated group in the California Institution for Women dedicated to helping incarcerated women break the silence on their own experiences with domestic abuse, Sin by Silence follows a campaign to help educate the judicial system and bring about change in the laws regarding battered women.
Sisters in Law
Filmmakers: Kim Longinotto and Florence Ayisi
Vera Ngassa and Beatrice Ntuba, two women involved in the judicial process in Cameroon, were tired of seeing abuse cases neglected. The two help women fight their cases of abuse and work to change their country for the better.
The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo
Filmmaker: Lisa Jackson
Since 1998, war has been raging between foreign and domestic militias and the Congolese Army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thousands of women and girls have been abducted, raped, mutilated and tortured as casualties in the fighting, and they will be silent no longer.
Until the Violence Stops
Filmmaker: Abby Epstein
Until the Violence Stops follows playwright and activist Eve Ensler and her journey to use The Vagina Monologues in a movement called V-Day, which fights to end violence against women and girls.
Very Young Girls
Filmmakers: David Schisgall and Nina Alvarez
This film documents the work of former prostitute turned activist Rachel Lloyd and the Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), the organization she founded to help young girls transition from prostitution to another way of life. The film shows teenage girls who are in all stages of the difficult process.
Family and Society
Be Good, Smile Pretty
Filmmaker: Tracy Droz Tragos
When Tracy Droz Tragos was three months old, her father, Lt. Donald Gleen Droz, died in Vietnam. In 2001, she set out to find out who her father was, the circumstances of his death and what he left behind in an attempt to know the father she never had a chance to really meet.
Filmmaker: Karen Gehres
Begging Naked follows the story of Elise Hill, a woman who ran away from home at age 15. She found herself in New York City and turned to prostitution as a way to support herself. She had one dream: to go to art school. After going through rehab, she put herself through school by selling her paintings on the street. At age 30, she turned to stripping in order to finance her art, but when Mayor Giuliani rid 42nd Street of its sex industry, she found herself homeless and living in Central Park. Begging Naked is a nine-year look at Hill, who embodies the intersections of art, mental illness, street life, abuse and identity.
Born Into Brothels
Filmmakers: Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski
This Academy-Award winner tells the story of children born into Kolkata’s red light district. Filmmaker Zana Briski gives each child a camera and they begin to document their experience through their own eyes.
Filmmaker: Ross McElwee
Conceived as an observational documentary about McElwee’s former poetry teacher, Charleen follows the humorous and extraverted Charleen Swansea as she teaches poetry in Charlotte, N.C. Exposing her charisma and charm, Charleen quickly becomes a loveable character hard for the audience to forget.
Filmmaker: Micha Peled
China Blue tells the story of 17-year-old Chinese factory worker Jasmine, who works for pennies a day to make blue jeans. The film offers a glimpse into these girls’ lives and the consequences of our own retail desires.
Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter
Filmmaker: Deborah Hoffman
This Academy Award-nominated film takes a moving personal story, illuminates it with insight and humor, and makes it universal. In recounting her attempts to come to terms with her mother’s advancing Alzheimer’s disease, Deborah Hoffmann explores the relationship between mother and daughter, parent and child, and the tenacity of love.
Divorce Iranian Style
Filmmakers: Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini
Acclaimed filmmaker Kim Longinotto takes a peek into the Iranian divorce court system, following three women who confront biased, sexist laws. The film offers a look into an Iranian woman’s life that is not the typical, passive victimized ones that Americans are commonly fed.
Fast Food Women
Filmmaker: Anne Lewis Johnson
Women in Kentucky, as across the nation, are increasingly applying for jobs frying chicken, making pizzas and flipping burgers for fast food chains. They are not teenagers or college students on summer break. Indeed, they are struggling to support families in communities ravaged by a failing economy. DuPont-Columbia Award winner Anne Lewis Johnson documents the low-wage, no-benefit jobs of the ‘working poor’ in America’s new ‘service economy.’
Filmmaker: Kiti Luostarinen
Luostarinen interviews fifty women about birth, body image and attitudes toward physical beauty.
Filmmakers: David and Albert Maysles
This film by Albert and David Maysles follows two reclusive socialites who live at Grey Gardens, a decrepit mansion in East Hampton, N.Y.
Joe and Maxi
Filmmaker: Maxi Cohen
After her mother died, Maxi Cohen decided to turn the camera on her own life, seeking to learn more about her father. This deeply personal documentary paints a complex picture of a father-daughter relationship in the middle of a family crisis.
Filmmaker: Michel Negroponte
One day Michel Negroponte stumbled upon a woman in Central Park who claimed to be the child of actor Robert Ryan and the wife of the Roman god Jupiter. As Negroponte continued interviewing her, he began to play the role of detective trying to unravel the woman’s imaginative stories to get to the bottom of her history and what made her into the person she is today.
Filmmaker: David R. Sutherland
Kind-Hearted Woman follows the story of Robin Charboneau as she struggles to save her family while protecting her Sioux community and abused women.
Filmmaker: Deborah Dickson
LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton follows a Mississippi school district and a family as they struggle to overcome the effects of poverty caused by the legacies of slavery and sharecropping.
Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter
Filmmaker: Connie Field
A look into the station of women during World War II, the Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter describes the opportunities that opened up to women once the men of the United States left to fight in the war. Huge strides were made in the types of jobs that seemed fitting for women to take, yet when the war ended, the steps forward collided with the traditional way of American life and the perceived place of women in society.
Love and Diane
Filmmaker: Jennifer Dworkin
Love and Diane is a frank and astonishingly intimate real-life drama of a mother and daughter desperate for love and forgiveness, but caught in a devastating cycle. During the 1980s, a crack cocaine epidemic ravaged and impoverished many inner-city neighborhoods. As parents like Diane succumbed to addiction, a generation of children like Love entered the foster care system. Shot over ten years, the film centers on Love and Diane after the family is reunited and is struggling to reconnect.
My Flesh and Blood
Filmmaker: Jonathan Karsh
This documentary follows the every day lives of Susan Tom and her 13 children, 11 of which are adopted special-needs children. Presenting the story without sentimentality, Karsh’s film has been described as more uplifting than one would expect.
Filmmaker: Roy Westler
This coming-of-age story focuses on Shadya Zoabi, an Israeli Arab, feminist and karate world champion. The film follows her as she transitions from girl to woman, and then woman to wife, as she wrestles with her identity as a Muslim in Israel and a female athlete in a conservative society.
Filmmaker: Errol Morris
This new documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Errol Morris follows Joyce McKinney and her love for a man she wishes to save from a cult.
The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack
Filmmaker: Aiyana Elliott
Filmmaker Aiyana Elliot sets out to connect with her father, musician Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. Investigating highlights of his past, she tries to build a picture of him, not knowing what she is going to find.
The Edge of Dreaming
Filmmaker: Amy Hardie
Scottish filmmaker Amy Hardie has built a career making science documentaries that reflect her rational temperament. When she dreamed one night that her horse was dying, only to wake the next morning and find the horse dead, she dismissed the incident as a coincidence. Then she dreamed she would die at age 48 — only one year away. When Hardie does get ill, just as the dream predicted, she visits neuroscience experts and eventually a shaman. The Edge of Dreaming is an evocative, intimate chronicle of that year and a fascinating investigation into the human subconscious.
The Farmer’s Wife
Filmmaker: David Sutherland
In this Frontline feature, filmmaker David Sutherland delves into the marriage of rural Nebraskan couple Juanita and Darrel Buschkoetter. The film uncovers their emotional issues that push their marriage to the edge.
The Gleaners and I
Filmmaker: Agnes Verda
Prominent filmmaker Agnes Verda interviews various French “gleaners” (people who collect leftover crops or knickknacks from empty fields or spaces) about why they do it and how they use their collected “junk.”
Filmmaker: Maria Fortiz-Morse
This deeply affecting and simple short shows workers cleaning out a house that has been foreclosed upon. What do the things left behind say about a family? What does an empty house say about what was once a home? In a mere five minutes, Trash-Out makes a poignant statement on a timely subject.
Up the Yangtze
Filmmaker: Yung Chang
Nearing completion, China’s massive Three Gorges Dam is altering the landscape and the lives of people living along the fabled Yangtze River. Countless ancient villages and historic locales will be submerged, and 2,000,000 people will lose their homes and livelihoods. The Yu family desperately seeks a reprieve by sending their 16-year-old daughter to work in the cruise ship industry that has sprung up to give tourists a last glimpse of the legendary river valley. With cinematic sweep, Up the Yangtze explores lives transformed by the biggest hydroelectric dam in history, a hotly contested symbol of the Chinese economic miracle.
Wedding in Ramallah
Filmmaker: Sherine Salama
Following a marriage between a Palestinian American and a woman from a traditional village, Wedding in Ramallah shows the challenges of a woman trying to adjust to life in the United States, away from her family in Palestine.
Who Does She Think She Is
Filmmaker: Pamela Tanner Boll
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Pamela Tanner Boll follows five women who refuse to choose between mothering and working. Five artists follow their calls for creativity while still trying to stay afloat in a world that might not respect their decision to want something for themselves in addition to their children.
Health and Wellness
A Walk to Beautiful
Filmmaker: Mary Olive Smith
This award-winning documentary follows the journey of five women across the Ethiopian landscape to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. The women, who have been ostracized by their communities for their injuries caused by obstructed childbirth, make the long journey in hopes of a cure that will bring them a new life.
Daughters of Gardeners
Filmmaker: Karina Marceau
A young Canadian journalist travelled into India to uncover states in the country where aborting female fetuses has become a profitable industry. Because of the preference for male children, ultrasound tests and abortions have now created a situation where men cannot find wives, women are forced into marriage and prostitution has increased.
Dialogues with Madwomen
Filmmaker: Allie Light
Seven women, including the filmmaker, describe their experiences dealing with mental illness, schizophrenia, manic depression and recovery while in a mental institution. The film delves into the tradition of writing emotional women off as “mad” and the abuses of the mental health system, church and their families.
Filmmaker: Henry Jaglom
This 1990 mockumentary from Henry Jaglom examines women’s relationships with food against the backdrop of a Los Angeles birthday party.
The Business of Being Born
Filmmakers: Executive Producer Ricki Lake and Director Abby Epstein
Telling the story of contemporary childbirth in the United States, the film exposes the way American culture has started treating childbirth as a medical emergency rather than a natural occurrence.
Filmmaker: Pratibha Parmar
Warrior Marks discusses the complex debate around female genital mutilation, bringing into question many of the cultural and political arguments made against or in favor of the practice. Interviewing women from Africa, Europe and North America, Parmar creates a poetic film embodying the complexity of the issue.
History and Biography
American Experience: Sister Aimee
Filmmaker: Linda Garmon
This American Experience documentary tells the story of the one of the most religiously influential women in American early 20th century history. Aimee Semple McPherson was an evangelical who brought the conservative Protestant movement to mainstream culture with her elaborate sermons to amazingly large crowds.
Anne Frank: Remembered
Filmmaker: Jon Blair
This film about the life of well-known diarist Anne Frank includes interviews with Miep Gies, the woman who helped shelter Anne Frank’s family and saved the diary when the group was betrayed.
Filmmakers: André Heller and Othmar Schmiderer
Traudl Junge was one of Hitler’s personal secretaries from autumn 1942 until the fall of the Nazi regime. In her first on-camera interview, Junge describes how what she heard and saw turned her into a vehement opponent of National Socialism. However, she still carries guilt for liking Hitler when she was young.
Forgiving Dr. Mengele
Filmmakers: Bob Hercules and Cheri Pugh
As one of very few twins who survived the human experiments of Dr. Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp, Eva Mozes Kor has only found one way to heal: forgive the perpetrators of the Holocaust which claimed the lives of her parents, relatives and childhood. However, she faces shock and retaliation from other Holocaust survivors as they worry that her forgiveness could help erase the seriousness of the tragedy.
Great Souls: Mother Teresa
Filmmaker: Tom Ivy
As part of a series showcasing people who have been said to “change a century,” this installment follows the life and work of respected Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa. Being a servant of the poor until her death, her selflessness and pursuit to help the downtrodden of the world became an inspiration to the world.
Filmmaker: Ramona S. Diaz
Nicknamed “The Iron Butterfly,” Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines, arguably rose to more fame and power than her late-husband Ferdinand Marcos. In this documentary, she tells her own story of how she rose up in society to become one of the most powerful women in the world.
Love Story: Berlin 1942
Filmmaker: Catrine Clay
This documentary tracks the story of Lilly Wust, an “Aryan” woman, and her romance with Felice Schragenheim, a Jew living underground, in Nazi Germany. The film includes modern-day interviews with Lilly Wust, who lives in Berlin, as well as various people that knew her lover Felice.
Sister Rose’s Passion
Filmmaker: Oren Jacoby
“The Jews killed Jesus.” This statement became a common description for the Jews in the Catholic Church, which opened a door for accepted anti-Semitism among followers of the religion. Sister Rose’s Passion follows and celebrates the work of a Dominican nun who dedicated herself to eradicating anti-Semitism in her religion.
The Queen and I
Filmmaker: Nahid Persson Sarvestani
Nahid Persson Sarvestani was originally one of the Iranian activists who worked to overthrow the Shah of Iran and consequently send the queen into exile in 1979. However, now Sarvestani is an Iranian exile, and she meets with the Empress Farah Pahlavi, the wife of the Shah of Iran, thinking that she will challenge the late Queen’s political views, only to find that she challenges her own.
The Triangle Fire
Filmmaker: Roy Campolongo
One hundred years ago, in a time of mass migration, an industry boom and struggles for workers’ rights, a devastating fire swept through the Triangle shirtwaist factory in New York City. Some of the women factory workers became heroes, but more so the women became the faces of the need for industry reform and better working conditions.
The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl
Filmmaker: Ray Muller
Exploring the life of Nazi propaganda filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, Ray Muller provides a glimpse into the life of a filmmaker, without the stigma of what she was doing. Given that Riefenstahl is still alive, the film features interviews with her as well as footage of her shooting documentaries in Africa and under the ocean as she displays her active lifestyle despite her 90-year-old age.
Filmmaker: Pratibha Parmar
Khush, meaning ecstatic pleasure in Urdu, tells the story of South Asian lesbians and gay men in Britain, North America and India (where at the time of the making of this film, homosexuality was still illegal). It discusses the complexity of being homosexual and of color, and the sense of isolation and community that it inherently provides.
Paris is Burning
Filmmaker: Jennie Livingston
This controversial film follows the drag balls of New York City’s underground. The performers, including a diverse group of African-American, Latino and transgendered drag queens, give it their all and tell their stories.
Filmmaker: Kimberly Reed
Paul McKerrow grew up as the all-American boy. He was captain of the football team and his high school graduating class voted him most likely to succeed. Now she is known as the New York City transsexual filmmaker Kimberly Reed and she is returning home to Helena, Mont., for her high school reunion. During her trip home, she also hopes to reinvent her relationship with her resentful and estranged brother Marc. Countless revelations, twists and turns present themselves in her search for a relationship with her brother in this intriguing and honest documentary.
Filmmaker: Kate Davis
Southern Comfort follows Robert Eads in his last year or life. A female-to-male transsexual, Robert was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and turned away by more than two dozen doctors fearing that his transgender identity might harm the reputation of their practices. This documentary allows the audience to hear someone’s voice that is usually silenced by fear and discrimination.
The Brandon Teena Story
Filmmaker: Susan Muska
This documentary follows the story of Brandon Teena, formerly Teena Brandon, a transgendered person who was murdered with two others in Nebraska in 1993.
Politics and Government
Filmmaker: Ian Inaba
Taking a look into the career of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, American Blackout examines this controversial politician as well as contemporary tactics used to silence dissent and control the democratic election process.
Filmmaker: Shola Lynch
In 1968, Shirley Chisholm becomes the first black woman elected to Congress. In 1972, she becomes the first black woman to run for president. Shunned by the political establishment, she’s supported by a motley crew of blacks, feminists and young voters. Their campaign-trail adventures are frenzied, fierce and fundamentally right on!
War and Peace
Filmmaker: Beth Murphy
After two women lose their husbands in the Sept. 11 attacks, they turn their focus to Afghanistan, where the terrorists who took the lives of their husbands were trained. The women travel to Afghan villages and form a connection with the women there who have faced decades of war, international intervention and oppression.
Filmmakers: Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers
Lioness tells the story of some of the first female soldiers to fight in direct ground combat. They fought alongside Marines in some of the bloodiest battles during the Iraq War, and, now as veterans, they tell their stories and describe the psychological effects of combat from a female perspective.
Regret to Inform
Filmmaker: Barbara Sonneborn
In this Academy Award nominee, filmmaker Barbara Sonneborn is compelled to make a brave pilgrimage to the remote Vietnamese countryside where her husband died. She explores the meaning of war and loss on a human level and weaves interviews with Vietnamese and American widows into a vivid testament to the chilling legacy of war. These stories are stirring reminders that the battle scars are lifelong, but that shared sorrow can inspire healing and reconciliation.
To See If I’m Smiling
Filmmaker: Tamir Yarom
In Israel, 18-year-old girls, just like boys, are enlisted for compulsory military service. In this documentary, six female Israeli soldiers remember their tours of duty in the West Bank and Gaza, stripping down the perceived differences of the sexes in military service.
View from A Grain of Sand
Filmmaker: Meena Nanji
Following three Afghan women in Kabul and refugee camps in Pakistan, View From a Grain of Sand tells the complex history of Afghan women and how international conflict, war and political Islam have all worked to strip them of their rights.
Filmmaker: Gaylene Preston
This theatrically successful documentary communicates the wartime experiences of seven elderly women. Telling stories of love, family and loss, the women describe their experiences frankly and articulately, moving the audience to feel a wide range of emotions.
And some your suggestions were not for films, but for women documentary filmmakers. Here are some of the filmmakers you brought to our attention:
- Ronit Avni
- Julia Bacha
- Sarah Del Saronde
- Pirjo Honkasalo
- Heddy Honigmann
- Lisa Jackson
- Rachel Nez
- Merata Mita
Let us know what we missed in the comments!