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Celebrating International Women’s Day with Inspirational Movies

March 8, 2023

The Circle Education and IWAV teamed up with the Salt Spring Film Festival this year to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8th), with the theme of Embracing Equity. For those who missed the festival, or who want to see more movies about inspiring women and/or with a strong female lead, staff and board members of both organizations are sharing their favourites here.  

James Cowan, board member of The Circle Education – Still Working 9-5 (2022):

This film features the original stars of the 1980 film 9 to 5. Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin reflect on the experience of making the film and the political messages for equal rights which are still being fought for today. It’s an incredible insight to what was happening behind the scenes at the time and how the film evolved with its quirky humour and not-so-subtle revealing of the disparity between women and men in the workplace. The film was cutting-edge technology at the time, using San Francisco as a backdrop for the story with movie sets and city shots. The story of how Dolly Parton wrote the theme song is icing on the cake and truly makes this film a must-see documentary.

Alicia Herbert, executive director at IWAV – The Library that Dolly Built (2020):

On the heels of “Still Working 9-5”, the opening movie of the Salt Spring Film Festival, I think “The Library that Dolly Built” is a thought-provoking, and uplifting film. I watched it on the Public Library App, Kanopy. This is a documentary telling how an international superstar, known for her exaggerated sexual and manicured appearance, started a literacy project that has become a worldwide gifting program. I have been challenged by younger women in the workplace who don’t believe that we have to dress like a man, or asexual in order to be professional. This film opens a conversation about whether women have to dress and look a certain way to be empowered in our current world.

Dan Adair, board member at The Circle Education – Erin Brockovich (2000):

Erin Brockovich is a movie about an unemployed single mother who becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply. I love that it is based on a true story and that Erin, despite not being highly educated, is a powerful heroine who sticks up for what she believes in. She works hard for everyone she cares about and does very well at her job.

Tina Simpson, outreach coordinator at IWAV – You People (2023):

My movie recommendation is “You People”, which is a movie that depicts the subtle dynamics present in a bi-racial relationship. Its plot focuses on an interracial and interreligious couple, namely a white Jewish man and a Black Muslim woman, and how their families reckon with modern love amid culture clashes, societal expectations and generational differences.

Although inclusivity is more abundant in our present-day social climate, we often forget that our perception of equality may be skewed based on our own privilege. This movie hilariously depicts this concept but brings forward many important core issues which can create barriers to equality that we may not even be able to see despite our best intentions.

Kk Labis, facilitator at The Circle Education – Tank Girl (1995):

One of my oldest favourite films has to be Tank Girl, starring Lori Petty and Naomi Watts and directed by Rachel Talalay. The movie is based on the British post-apocalyptic comic series, set in a drought-ridden Australia. I love the movie rendition of this story, it has witty gritty female leads, gaudy and practical costumes, women saving the day, and all in a quest for water! I remember watching this film for the first time in my early twenties and feeling inspired to be brave and bold. Watching Tank Girl and Jet Girl defy female lead stereotypes, confront their captors, and end the drought all while looking incredibly cool has definitely had a lasting impact.

Andria Scanlan, board director at IWAV – Whale Rider (2002):

My favourite movie is Whale Rider, it is one of the most moving, beautiful and powerful films I have seen. The film presents a glimpse of the Maori society in New Zealand’s North Island. The story presented here has a lot to do with pride and tradition, which is a running theme among different cultural groups the world over. The story is told with a great performance by the child actress Keisha Castle-Hughes. Pai’s father left New Zealand for Europe, to create and sell Maori crafts. She lives with her grandmother and grandfather, the latter some sort of unelected chieftain of the oceanside community. Bitter that no male heir will succeed him and alternately cruel and loving to his reluctantly acknowledged granddaughter, Koro starts a school to supplement the young boys’ secular education with inculcation of the ways of the Maori. Pai wishes to join as an equal and is firmly, indeed harshly rebuffed at every turn. The depth of her character resides in her simultaneous quest for equality and her understanding of her grandfather’s unyielding attachment to patriarchal values.

Kate Nash, program manager at The Circle Education – Little Miss Sunshine (2006):

Little Miss Sunshine is a dark comedy about a family taking a cross-country trip in their VW bus, determined to get their young daughter Olive into the finals of a beauty pageant.

 It is funny and raw and looks at the beauty pageant world through the lens of a child’s innocence. Through Olive’s failure to win the contest, there is a real empowerment of what it means to be regular and unique.”

Andrea Metzger, Transition House Manager at IWAV – Where the Crawdads Sing (2022):

I recommend the film Where the Crawdads Sing, based on the 2018 novel by Delia Owens. The story features a curious, brave, resilient, and defiant young girl named Kya, abandoned by her family, who raises herself in the marshes of North Carolina. Her isolation from mainstream society and deep connection with the natural environment that surrounds her cultivates her prolific creativity and a profound inner strength.

Janine Fernandes-Hayden, executive director at The Circle Education – Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games (2012-2015):

“My choice of female role model in a movie for International Women’s Day is Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Katniss is a radical female hero who carries multiple identities, reconciling them all together to be of service to the people and values that she cares about. She is strong (physically and mentally) and independent, she makes her own choices, believes in her decisions and follows what she thinks is right, irrespective of the consequences.”

More Salt Spring favourites:

Woman in Gold (2015).

Girl Interrupted (1999)

The Hours (2002)

Morfydd Clark in the role of Galadriel in Lord of the Rings – The Rings of Power (2022)

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley Alien (1979) & Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist (1988)

A Fantastic Woman (Chile 2017)

Thelma & Louise (1991)

Practical Magic (1998)

Stardust (2007)

The Mirror has Two Faces (1996)

Sally Field in Norma Rae (1979)

A Town Like Alice (1956)

Women Talking (2022)

9-5 (1980)

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