For the first time since 2008, I will not be attending the Cleveland International Film Festival this year. I’m out of town in Not Cleveland, and I’m sick with the flu. I’m staying at home sleeping. So, in honor of the 38th Annual Cleveland International Film Festival, I present three films about women that were screened at previous film festivals.
1 Desert Flower
This film is the true story of a Somali supermodel named Waris, who emigrated to London where she was discovered. It is based on her autobiography that reveals how she fled through the desert to escape an arranged marriage to a sixty year old man. More importantly, Waris was one of the first women in the world to bring attention to the practice of FGM, or Female Genital Mutilation.
I want to warn everyone that there is a scene near the end of the movie that dramatizes the practice. I fast forwarded through the scene.
Despite that, this is a very moving film about a delightful young woman who overcomes a tremendous amount of pain that most of us in the West cannot ever imagine. It also shows how she is able to use her pain to try to help the women in Africa, which she does to this day. It’s a great film. The subject matter could have been heavy and overwhelming, but to the filmmakers credit, they do not allow it to become so. There is plenty of lighthearted moments, especially the wonderful friendship between Waris and her roommate.
This film opened the Cleveland International Film Festival a few years ago. It’s a romantic comedy, of sorts, inspired by that awful, intrusive question, “When are you going to get married?” In the world of the film, people can choose to get a timer installed in their arm that tells them exactly how long it will take for them to meet their soul mate. The main character has a timer, but it is blank, which means that her soul mate has not yet has his installed. The film is funny, but does allow itself to ask questions such as, “Is there one person for us?” “What is the role of chance, fate, providence, or choice in the decisions we make about our partners?”
My favorite conversation is between the mother and the main character. The mother insists on all of daughters getting timers, so that they won’t make the same mistake that she did when she married their father. At one point, her exasperated daughter tells her mother, “Mom, you can’t say that your second husband is the man you’re supposed to be with, and that I am the child you’re supposed to have.” As a child of divorced parents, I think about that sometimes. If my parents hadn’t made a terrible mistake in marrying each other, I wouldn’t be here blogging. (On the other hand, I wouldn’t have the flu right now, so it’s a toss up at this moment.)
3 Invisible War
This is a film that every single American must see. I saw it a few weeks ago, though I have been very bad. I still need to write a letter to my congressman and my senators to tell them how outraged I am. And I am outraged. My mom saw this film and she texted me afterwards saying, and I quote, “Very, Very Angry!”
This film is about the fact that women in the military are more likely to be raped than to be killed in the line of fire. This would be bad enough. What is worse is that the United States Military seems deliberately set up to exonerate the rapist and to blame the victim.
One of the stories involves a woman who, in addition to rape, endured endless sexual harassment in the United States Marines. They called her “a walking mattress,” among other things. She went home every night crying. When she complained to her commanding officer, he told her that she was asking to be called “a walking mattress” because of the length of skirt she was wearing. Here’s the really awesome part. The skirt she was wearing was part of her military uniform. She was asking to be verbally harassed by wearing her military uniform.
I learned that this is not simply a women’s problem. Many men are victims of rape in the military. This is also not simply a military problem. Nearly all military rapists will eventually leave the military without ever serving a day in jail or needing to register as sex offenders. They are then free to rape people in the general population, and most of them do.
See this movie, then get mad. Get really, really mad. Then do what I need to do. Write to your congressional representative and your Senators.