In honor of International Women’s Day, here is a list of the films at the heart of the seminar I just taught on women, gender, and religion in film.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell (Abigail Disney and Gini Reticker, 2008) — a spellbinding documentary about the struggle of Liberia’s Christian and Muslim women to rescue their nation from horrific violence. Part of PBS’s excellent “Women, War, and Peace” documenrary series. Winner, best documentary, Tribeca Film Festival.
Where Do We Go Now? (Nadine Labaki, 2011) — a brilliant, often hysterically funny fable about women who will do whatever it takes to knock sense into their Lebanese village’s warring men. Un Certain Regard, Cannes Film Festival.
Snijeg (Snow) (Aida Begic, 2008) — a gorgeously evocative story of women’s desperation and resilience in the aftermath of war, set in a small eastern Bosnian village in the late 1990s. Winner of the critics’ week grand prize, Cannes Film Festival.
Wadjda (Haifaa Al Mansour, 2013) — the first feature-length film shot in Saudi Arabia, a beautifully textured tale of a ten-year-old girl who wants nothing more than her own bike. Winner of numerous international film awards.
Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2014) — an absorbing and haunting film about cultural identity and memory in post-Holocaust Poland. Oscar winner, best foreign language film.
The films themselves — all of which have captivated me in recent years — generated the idea for this seminar, which has offered my students and me a fresh new way to explore the enduring complexities of religious identity, gender, and power.