Beaten, imprisoned and force-fed: how suffragette made it on to the big screen
Suffragette hit the UK cinemas this week. The star-studded film tells the story of an ordinary working-class woman, Maud Watts, a laundry worker in the East End of London. The movie follows her struggle, and sees the fight for women to be granted the vote through her eyes.
Director Sarah Gavron has published an article about the making of the film in Women’s History Review.
In it, she explains what motivated her to make the story come alive on screen: “The struggle for women’s enfranchisement in the United Kingdom hasn’t been told through fiction in cinema.
”The critically acclaimed film has been described as unnerving and eye-opening, and is causing shockwaves everywhere due to its graphic look at the Suffragette movement.
“These women were prepared to risk so much. Many lost jobs, homes, families and children in the battle,” says Gavron. “As shocking as the extreme lengths to which they went was the level of brutality they faced from the State.”
The story seemed to grow ever timelier as Gavron pondered how to artistically tell the story on the big screen. Documentaries such as India’s Daughter (dir, Udwin, 2015), and the Jyoti Singh case in Delhi in 2012, have reminded the world how many women are still fighting for basic human rights across the globe. And there is a new generation of activists, from Malala Yousafzai to Pussy Riot to Femen, challenging repression.
“As we know, we have come a long way here in the UK, but we still have a way to go, from economic inequalities to social attitudes,” says Gavron. “Amongst them are female film directors who direct only four to ten per cent of films each year. And elsewhere in the world there are much more fundamental changes needed.”
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