As the release of Matangi/ MAYA/M.I.A are near, here’s a breakdown of 5 documentaries that expose the life, complexity and strength of some extraordinary women.
“My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”
At the age of 84, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has created a breath-taking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected intergenerational heroine and pop culture icon. This touching documentary reveals the endurance and commitment that prevailed in Ruth’s life in fighting for the women’s rights movement while juggling a family and battling her own position as a woman in a man’s world – proving that what truly is worthwhile is not beauty but brains.
MATANGI / MAYA / MIA (2018)
“I feel like a mirror reflecting back everyone's perception of me.”
Drawn from a cache of personal video recordings from the past 22 years, MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A is a startlingly personal profile of the critically acclaimed artist, chronicling her remarkable journey from refugee immigrant to pop star. Never one to compromise on her vision, Maya kept her camera rolling throughout. The footage provides unparalleled, intimate access to the artist in her battles with the music industry and mainstream media as her success and fame explodes, becoming one of the most recognisable, outspoken and provocative voices in music today.
“Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”
Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr was known as the world’s most beautiful woman – Snow White and Cat Woman were both based on her iconic look. However, her arresting looks and glamorous life stood in the way of her being given the credit she deserved as an ingenious inventor whose pioneering work helped revolutionise modern communication. Mislabeled as “just another pretty face,” Hedy’s true legacy is that of a technological trailblazer.
“I'm singing these songs to inspire you, to keep you going, to lift you up and give you a reason to get up in the morning.”
Through archival footage, interviews with friends and family, and behind-the-scenes video of the singer Mavis! chronicles the 60-plus-year odyssey of Mavis Staples, a native of Chicago who got her start in music singing with her family at the local church. Highlighted by Mavis’ raw and powerful lead vocals, the group gained momentum and by the mid-‘50s they recorded the first gospel song to sell a million copies. As the civil-rights movement gained momentum in the 1960s, the Staple Singers became a mainstay at rallies led by Dr. Martin Luther King, whose favourite song was the group’s “Why? (Am I Treated So Bad).”
"I'm not pretty, and I'll never be pretty, but it doesn't matter. I have something much better. I have style.”
More than a fashion film, IRIS is a documentary about creativity and how, even at Iris' advanced age, a soaring free spirit continues to inspire. IRIS portrays a singular woman whose enthusiasm for fashion, art and people are life's sustenance and reminds us that dressing, and indeed life, is nothing but an experiment. She remarks that the girls who were pretty had nothing once their looks faded. But she had worked and learned things that transformed her and would remain with her even as she reached her tenth decade - proving that confidence and knowledge can lead to great things.
PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT (2015)
“I always did what I wanted and never cared what anyone thought. Women's lib? I was a liberated woman long before there was a name for it.”
PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT depicts a colourful character who was not only ahead of her time but helped to define it. As she moved through the cultural upheaval of the 20th century, she collected not only art, but artists - as she engaged in numerous love affairs. While fighting through personal tragedy, she maintained her vision to build one of the most important collections of modern art, determined to reconstruct the female figure in society and battling society’s crude double standards.
JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK (2010)
“I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.”
A year long ride with Joan Rivers in her 75th year of life; peeling away the mask of an iconic comedian, laying bare both the struggle and thrill of living life as a ground-breaking female performer. The documentary exposes the private dramas of this irreverent, legendary comedian as she fights to keep her voice heard and her career thriving in a business driven by youth and beauty, where women were not to say what was on their minds.