Herstory on Film

Each month, the Herstory Club curates a selection of films that complement our monthly theme. This collection will be female-focused – both in front of the camera and ideally behind too – and range from fiction to biopics of real women in history. The films we’ll be recommending aim to both entertain and educate, showcasing cult classics, new hits, and movies you may never have heard of.

This month, the Herstory Club blog has broken with the traditional format of posts to celebrate Women’s History Month, showcasing a number of incredible women with a bumper edition of Her-Story posts, and highlighting the talent of future herstorians with articles from the girls of Bromley High School

To round out the month we’re mixing things up again, with this collaborative edition of Herstory on Film. These posts each month aim to shine a light on women in film – both behind the camera and in front of it – while adhering to our monthly themes. With this in mind, for Women’s History Month it was simply impossible to pick from all of the incredible films in our arsenal, so instead the ladies on the committee have picked their favourite female-focused films. These weren’t easy decisions by any stretch of the imagination! However, we hope they’ll provide some inspiration for movie nights in the final stretch of lockdown, and beyond. Without further ado…

Lucy Betteridge-Dyson

Hidden Figures

(2016, Dir.: Theodore Melfi)

One of my favourite films related to women’s history is Theodore Melfi’s 2016 Hidden Figures. I know that Emma has already recommended this film in her post for Black History Month but it’s so good, that I felt it needed a 2nd mention! The film is based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, which tells the story Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – three African American mathematicians who worked for NASA from the 1950s onwards. The film does an incredible job of condensing the story of these trailblazing women, who persevered in the face of prejudice to master complex mathematics that would prove vital the success and progression of space exploration. They truly were out of this world, and this film tells their story in a gripping and stylish way.

Hidden Figures is available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video; and to buy & keep in the Sky Store

Louise Bell

Mulan

(1998, Dir.: Tony Bancroft & Barry Cook)

It might seem an obvious choice, and I maybe could have picked a “cooler” film, but I think Disney’s Mulan (animated – 1998) being my favourite childhood film explains a lot about me. Based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, it was Disney’s 36th animated feature film, as well as being the 9th animated film released during the Disney Renaissance (which also included The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast) There’s action, adventure, family, the military, and themes of identity – which paired with wonderful and powerful musical numbers makes this an all-round excellent film. There might be issues around the fact that Mulan has to disguise herself as a man to undertake all this adventure, but as a young girl it really showed me how strong a woman could be, as well as loving her family and being kind. 

Mulan is available to stream on Disney+; to buy & keep in the Sky Store; and to buy on Amazon Prime Video

Emma Forth

Lady Bird

(2017, Dir.: Greta Gerwig)

For me, my favourite film has to be the critically acclaimed Lady Bird. This coming-of-age comedy-drama follows teenager, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), in Sacramento in 2002, as she navigates her senior year of high school. The film is bursting with female talent and is led by Greta Gerwig, who both writes and directs, earning Oscar nominations for both endeavours. Lady Bird explores the complexities of mother-daughter relationships (Laurie Metcalf breaks my heart with her performance); female friendships (Beanie Feldstein is a delight, as ever, especially when she utters the immortal “it’s the TITULAR role!”, which I cannot help quoting at any given opportunity); and the sheer angst and joy that comes with being a teenage girl. It’s utterly brilliant, and will be a classic for years to come, I’m sure of it.

Lady Bird is available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video; and to buy & keep or rent in the Sky Store

Becky Laxton-Bass

On the Basis of Sex

(2018, Dir.: Mimi Leder)

The 2018 film about legend Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a lot to live up to. Ruth’s life, struggles with sexism, and achievements are well documented and known. This movie perfectly portrayed the challenges Ruth faced within her professional and personal life and I loved the mother-daughter relationship which reflected the changing methods and minds between generations of women which is still so prevalent today. Watching this film made me want to know more about Ruth but I also left the cinema wanting to go back and watch it all over again, for me a sign of a good movie is that it leaves a lasting impression on you and On the Basis of Sex most certainly did! 

On the Basis of Sex is available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video; and to buy & keep or rent in the Sky Store

Louise Quick

Pride & Prejudice

(2005, Dir.: Joe Wright)

While I will be forever loyal to the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice mini-series, (AKA the Colin Firth version), there’s something so comforting about the 2005 film, (AKA the Keira Knightley version). 

It’s refreshing to see a period drama show a more realistic idea of life in Regency Britain. The people are sweaty, public dances are chaotic, streets are dusty, pigs trot through the house, and women rock tiny greasy fringes. 

I’m not claiming Pride & Prejudice is a mirror image of 19th century life. However, in a world of period dramas filled with people looking like they’ve just stepped out of the beauticians, (looking at you Bridgerton), it’s interesting to see a depiction that’s a little less polished.

At least, that’s my excuse for having watched it so many times!
Pride & Prejudice is available to stream on Netflix; rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video; and to buy & keep or rent in the Sky Store


About the Author: Emma Forth

Contact:

I’m a first year History PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. My research combines my passions for the First World War and film by exploring the development of early cinema, 1909-1918, across all four nations of the United Kingdom. For the last six months I have been producing the first database and maps of British and Irish cinemas in 1914, showcasing the position of cinema at the outbreak of the Great War. In a four-year hiatus from education prior to postgraduate study in 2018 I worked as a risk analyst; ran the admissions department in a high school; and was a receptionist and volunteer at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden. I am an avid reader, theatregoer, and cross-stitcher, and when not frantically Marie Kondo-ing my possessions and renovating my flat and during a pandemic, I can be found watching superhero films and dreaming of museums.

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