Nevertheless She Persisted: Suffrage, cinema and beyond

Meet some of the women from around the world that everyone should know about....

Trailer: Nevertheless She Persisted (2018/2018) by Barbican CentreBarbican Centre

Illustration - Nevertheless She Persisted (2018/2018) by Alexandra BowmanBarbican Centre

'She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted'

A century after the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which first gave (some) women the right to vote in the UK, our 'Nevertheless She Persisted' season celebrated women’s rebellious and often dangerous efforts to gain equality, as captured in selected cinematic journeys from around the world. Meet some of the women behind these incredible stories. 

Illustration - Shirley Chisholm (2018/2018) by Alexandra BowmanBarbican Centre

Shirley Chisholm

Who was she? US politician Shirley Chisholm achieved a number of important firsts in her career, none more audacious and inspiring than her campaign to seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1972.

Chisholm 72: Unbought and Unbossed (2004/2004) by Shola LynchBarbican Centre

Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed, Dir: Shola Lynch (US, 2004).

Shola Lynch’s documentary features interviews with supporters and opponents alike, contextualised by emotive footage of Vietnam War protests, the Black Panthers and the Women’s movement. After the presidency of Barack Obama and the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chisholm’s story takes on even greater bearing. This is a woman everyone should know about.

Illustration - Our Times (2018/2018) by Alexandra BowmanBarbican Centre

Arezoo Bayat

Who was she? A young Iranian divorcee running for presidency. An awe-inspiring individual, at 25 years old, she is twice divorced, caring for her blind mother and her 9-year-old daughter. With indomitable spirit, Arezoo sees her daily struggles to support and house her family at the heart of her campaign.

Our Times (2002/2002) by Rakhshan Bani-EtemadBarbican Centre

Our Times

Dir: Rakhshan Bani-Etemad (Iran, 2002) Renowned Iranian filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s compelling and timely double portrait reveals the stories of women campaigning for change in her country’s 2001 elections. A film in two parts, Bani-Etemad’s documentary follows the women campaigning and standing for change in the 2001 Iranian elections.In the first half, she looks to the younger generations, as young actors and artists, including her own daughter, as they campaign for the incumbent reformist President Mohammad Khatami. Capturing their optimism and desire for change, she reveals a youth ready for progress, as has been demonstrated again recently with the protests across Iran.

Illustration - Georgie Girl (2018/2018) by Alexandra BowmanBarbican Centre

Georgina Beyer

Who was she? Not just a first for New Zealand, but the world, Georgina Beyer made history in 1999 when she became the first trans woman to be elected to national office.

Georgie Girl (2001/2001) by Annie Goldson, Peter WellsBarbican Centre

Georgie Girl, Dir: Annie Goldson, Peter Wells (New Zealand, 2001)

It’s hard to imagine a place less likely to elect the first transgender person in the world than the traditionally conservative, and almost entirely white, rural Wairarapa region. But that's where history was made in 1999.

Georgina, who is of Maori descent, grew up on a Taranaki farm, before moving to Wellington, where she worked first as a showgirl, and then as a sex worker.

Georgie Girl / TRAILERBarbican Centre

Unhappy in the city, Georgina moved to a small rural town, where she decided to run as a local councillor before rapidly ascending to Parliament.

Through her own observations and the voices of her constituents and neighbours, this insightful documentary reveals the intelligence, charisma and honesty that won over a conservative, rural electorate who made her, in turn, a city councillor, a mayor and a Parliamentarian.

Illustration - Enemies of Happiness (2018/2018) by Alexandra BowmanBarbican Centre

Malalai Joya

Who was she? In December 2003, Malalai Joya, then only twenty-five years old, floored the Loya Jirga (a traditional assembly) with a three-minute incendiary speech denouncing the presence of 'criminals' at the assembly, and the power of these warlords in Afghan society.

Enemies of Happiness (2006/2006) by Eva MulhadBarbican Centre

Enemies of Happiness, Dir: Eva Mulvad (Denmark, 2006)

A documentary following Malalai Joya, a young outspoken Afghan woman, during the last weeks of her political campaign as she risks her life to speak out for democracy.Two years after her rousing speech in the Loya Jirga, during Afghanistan's first democratic elections in over 30 years, Joya launches a remarkable campaign, conducted for the most part in hiding, dodging the daily death threats she receives. Danish filmmaker Eva Mulvad joins Joya in the last weeks of this seemingly impossible campaign.

Illustration - Be Pretty and Shut Up (2018/2018) by Alexandra BowmanBarbican Centre

Delphine Seyrig

Who was she? Frustrated by her own and other women's experiences in the film industry, French actress and activist Delphine Seyrig interviewed two dozen French and American 1976.

Be Pretty and Shut Up (1981/1981) by Delphine SeyrigBarbican Centre

Be Pretty and Shut Up

Dir: Delphine Seyrig (France, 1981). The expectation to 'be pretty and shut up' is not new, nor has it disappeared since actress-activist Delphine Seyrig recorded these interviews over 40 years ago. Seyrig spoke to twenty four French and American actresses, including Maria Schneider, Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine, about their experience across the industry. Through their words, Seyrig revealed the frustrations of working within the patriarchal studio system that offers a stereotypical and reductive view of women through unimaginative and regressive roles. A compelling and ever-relevant cinematic herstory, this frank document gave voice to the concerns of women in the industry and demonstrates the way in which actresses have always supported each other privately, and the power of public declaration to effect change.

Credits: Story

Nevertheless She Persisted: Suffrage, cinema and beyond took place at the Barbican Centre in London from 18-24 April 2018.

Part of The Art of Change - a season exploring how artists respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Road to Equality
Celebrating the stories behind women's rights in the UK
View theme
Google apps