Candid and Impactful, I AM THE REVOLUTION Is An Empowering Film That Is Symbolic of Change6 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
I Am The Revolution is a documentary about three women who are pushing for freedom and gender equality in countries where women are the most marginalised — Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Director: Benedetta Argentieri
Cast: Selay Ghaffar, Rojda Felat, and Yanar Mohammed
Country: Italy, USA, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria
Language: English, Kurdish, Arabic, Dari
Runtime: 75 minutes
“Just a feminist?” says Yanar Mohammed in derision. “I am ‘just a feminist’ in the part of the world where all women are slaves. Well, I am so proud to be ‘just a feminist’, because what revolution will they do that is harder than the revolution of women?”
I Am The Revolution follows three women’s rights activists in their own countries — Selay Ghaffar, spokesperson and first female member of the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan; Rodja Felat, commander in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF); and Yanar Mohammed, founder of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) — but it is more than just a film about feminism.
The revolutionaries are not simply fighting for women’s rights, but for human rights; they are not struggling merely to return back to status quo, but to inspire and propel the younger generations to strive for more; and most importantly, they are not scrambling to settle for any small freedom they might receive, but to go all out for the rights that they believe in.
The circumstances of women in the Middle East in recent years have been dire. They face threats not only from terrorists but also from their families and friends, and they struggle to be seen as humans even in their own society. Apart from marginalisation and discrimination, honour killings, brutal murders, and rapes are a few more of the common dangers that they have to contend with, simply by being born as a woman in a highly patriarchal and misogynistic country.
Unlike the typical stereotypes of helpless, fragile women who reside in these war-torn countries, director Argentieri presents revolutionaries — women who are strong, unflinching, resolute and uncompromising in their fight for a better future.
It might be easy to fall into the trap of solely showcasing female warriors as leaders of the women’s rights movement, yet what I enjoyed most is how Argentieri instead chooses to focus on the varying roles that women might take up in battle — roles that are no less radical and significant than the other in changing the tide of war: Ghaffar directly liaises with Afghan women and men to empower them into lending their efforts to the war; Felat leads the SDF in an armed struggle against fundamentalists and imperialists alike; and Mohammed runs shelters for women who have fled from their homes.
Those who aren’t on the frontlines of war are not necessarily out of danger. Despite being protected by armed guards, Mohammed has to flee a mere twenty minutes after the start of a protest due to security concerns, while Ghaffar has to hide and cover herself up as she travels from one town to the other.
It might be easy to sensationalise and dramatise these tensions through music or snappy cuts, yet Argentieri has the sensitivity to leave these scenes be. She allows these events to unfold naturally, realistically, on screen — which makes it all the more discomfiting to watch, as this realism makes it blatantly clear that what is being shown on screen is not manufactured nor fictional. They are actual events that are happening in real life, to real humans, on the other side of the world.
Women are also not simply stripped off their ‘femininity’ just to prove their strength, but are shown as nuanced, multi-faceted, and real. They are homemakers, they enjoy braiding hair, yet they also take up arms and practice shooting targets. They let their hair down when around one another, but they know to wrap themselves in headscarves when they are out in public. They care about their families, they want to get married, they mourn their comrades-in-arms and they understand sacrifice.
They are not merely treated as tools for storytelling, but are presented in I Am The Revolution as complex individuals who are full of life and. just like you and I, are struggling to attain what they want most.
Their lonely struggle is shown through lingering shots of wide, desolate landscapes, and shots of women huddled together for warmth and comfort. There is particularly striking shot, near the beginning of the film, of two women attempting to buy books amidst a sea of men. They are outnumbered and overwhelmed, trying to eke out a place among a hostile majority, and this aptly summarises the circumstances that women are facing in the Middle East now. They are fighting against massive odds — but they are still fighting, and their dogged spirit for change is inspiring.
This film tears down the stereotypes that women in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq are silent and suffering, and instead presents them as strong, determined, and fighting, in spite of extenuating circumstances. Through their efforts, they have made a difference, and they will not stop at anything less than what they deserve. I Am The Revolution proves that change is possible for all people, in all communities.
I Am The Revolution is one from a line-up of female-directed films revolving around the themes of homelessness, solitude and adversity screened at the N.O.W (Not Ordinary Work) Film Weekend.
You can catch I Am The Revolution at TheatreWorks SG on 20 July 2019.
Meanwhile, you can watch the trailer for the film here:
N.O.W. is a three-week public project. From 2019-2021, Noorlinah Mohamed, established actress and arts educator, is appointed N.O.W.’s Artistic Director. For the next three years, she focuses on celebrating women creators, thinkers, and change-makers, and their approach to making a difference. Led by women and supported by women production, technical and administrative teams, N.O.W. makes visible the multifaceted and capable women, their voices and their not ordinary work. From performance to film, music to visual arts, workshops to talks, N.O.W. spotlights her process, her thoughts and her creation. Experimental, deliciously weird, and yes, fun, these works explore the conversations women creators and thinkers have with the world – and each other.