Nevertheless She Persisted cinema season

Shirley Chisholm

Barbican Cinema, Barbican Centre
Nevertheless, She Persisted
Suffrage, cinema and beyond
18-24 April 2018

Inspired by the 100-year anniversary since women gained the right to vote in the UK (and named after last year’s social media hashtag created after US Senate leader Mitch McConnell prevented colleague Elizabeth Warren from finishing reading out a letter by Coretta Scott King), Barbican Cinema is delighted to present Nevertheless, She Persisted, Suffrage, cinema and beyond, a timely season of feature films and documentaries which look at women’s rebellious and often dangerous efforts to gain equality, as captured in selected cinematic journeys from around the world. Nevertheless, She Persisted, Suffrage, cinema and beyond is part of the Barbican’s 2018 season, The Art of Change, which explores how the arts respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.

Opening with Chisholm '72 - Unbought and Unbossed, which documents Shirley Chisholm, who ran to be the first black female presidential candidate of the United States in 1972, Nevertheless, She Persisted will close with a rare screening of Delphine Seyrig’s Be Pretty and Shut Up (Sois Belle et tais toi).

Bearing the same title as the Serge Gainsbourg song, this prescient documentary filmed in 1976 is selected by Yto Barrada[1] who says, “a film by feminist fabulous Delphine Seyrig, she was my favourite fairy godmother in Demy’s Donkey Skin and Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman and so much more...”. Featuring Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn, Anne Wiazemsky, Shirley MacLaine, Juliet Berto, Jenny Agutter, Maria Schneider, Louise Fletcher and others who talk to Seyrig about equality, representation and voice, which some 47 years later remain for many an industry failing.

Also screening: Georgie Girl the story of Georgina Beyer, the first transgendered woman in the world to be elected to national office; The Divine Order, Tribeca 2017 Audience award winner, a light-hearted comic drama following the surprisingly recent suffrage efforts in Switzerland; Enemies of Happiness which follows Malalai Joya on the campaign trail in the run-up to the first democratic parliamentary election in Afghanistan for over 30 years; Rakhshan Bani Etemad's documentary Our Times focuses on young Iranian women campaigning and standing for change in the 2001 elections, revealing a youth ready for progress, as has been demonstrated again recently with the protests across Iran; Leila and the Wolves which explores the collective memory of Arab women and their hidden role in history; and for aspiring feminists, the classic Disney animation Mulan will screen at Framed Family Film Club.

The season will include a Silent and Live Music event featuring the The Suffragette plus highlights from Make More Noise! accompanied by Wendy Hiscocks.

Says Gali Gold, curator Barbican Cinemas, “Nevertheless, She Persisted shows how film can   enlighten and inspire shifts in representation and power structures. This series, which is part of the Barbican 2018 season, The Art of Change, is an ode to the women filmmakers who have brought poignant stories to the screen and in so doing have contributed to the way we see the world, with women's points of view being seen and heard as a crucial part of the spectrum. With the current spotlight on gender discrimination and women marginalisation and harassment within the film industry and beyond, these films could not be more timely in their representation and inspiration for change.”

Chisholm '72 - Unbought and Unbossed + ScreenTalk
Wed 18 Apr 6.30pm, Cinema 3

US 2004 Shola Lynch 77min

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. 

Already a trailblazer, Brooklynite Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to the US Congress in 1968, representing New York. Honest, forthright and a skilful orator, Chisholm caused a stir in announcing her candidacy for president. Underestimated by many, including other (male) members of the Congressional Black Caucus - a group that she also helped to found - Chisholm faced the double discrimination of racism and sexism, taking on naysayers with wit, intelligence and spot-on pronouncements. 

Shola Lynch’s documentary features interviews with supporters and opponents alike, witness to the ground-breaking campaign, contextualised by emotive footage of Vietnam War protests, the Black Panthers and the Women’s movement.

Our Times
Thu 19 Apr 6.30pm, Cinema 2

Iran 2002 dir Rakhshan Bani-Etemad 75min

Renowned Iranian filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s compelling double portrait reveals the stories of women campaigning and standing for change in her country’s 2001 elections.

She looks to the younger generations 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.

Bani-Etemad then turns her attention to Arezoo Bayat, a young divorcee running for the 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.

The Divine Order + ScreenTalk with Director Petra Volpe
Fri 20 Apr 6.30pm, Cinema 2
Switzerland 2017 dir Petra Volpe 96min

Petra Volpe’s warm, funny and energetic feature film, which won the audience award at Tribeca Film Festival 2017, tells the story of housewife Nora (Marie Leuenberger) who slowly comes to a political awakening and joins with the women of a sleepy Swiss town to campaign for the vote in 1971.

Bored by routine and aware of the accommodations she must make for her piggish father-in-law, demanding sons, and controlling husband Hans (Max Simonischek), who bans her from taking up a part-time job, Nora makes cautious, yet determined steps into feminist consciousness. Together with old-hand Vroni (Sybille Brunner) and divorcee Graziella (Marta Zoffoli), they go on strike and develop a strong solidarity. 

Framed Film Club
Mulan (U)
Sat 21 Apr 11am, Cinema 2

US 1998 Dirs Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook 84 min
Twenty years after first bursting onto the screen, the Barbican brings back this classic Disney animation to coincide with the Nevertheless, She Persisted season. To save her father from death in the army, Mulan conceals her true identity and goes in his place, becoming one of China's greatest heroines in the process.

Georgie Girl
Sat 21 Apr 4pm, Cinema 2

New Zealand 2001, dirs Annie Goldson & Peter Wells 70min

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.

It’s hard to imagine a time and place less likely to elect the first transgender person in the world than the traditionally conservative, and almost entirely white, rural Wairarapa region 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. Unhappy in the city, she 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 an electorate who made her, in turn, a city councillor, a mayor and a Parliamentarian.

Leila and the Wolves
Sat 21 Apr 6pm, Cinema 2

Lebanon/UK 1984 dir Heiny Srour 90min

This beautiful and visionary film by Heiny Srour tells the story of Arab women through several decades of the 20th century, from a distinctly feminist perspective. 

Srour’s artistically complex, rewarding and unabashedly feminist piece of filmmaking combines archival footage, fairy-tale storytelling, aesthetically bold imagery and dramatisations of situations faced by women in Lebanon and Palestine, from early twentieth century to the beginning of the 1980s. 

Women’s history, politics and voices are placed within Arabic culture, political struggles and traditions, providing a counterbalance to narratives that all too often are told only from a male perspective, relegating women’s part in history to the margins, if acknowledged at all. The stories told here are fierce and wry and shocking sometimes; they’re essential viewing. 

The Suffragette (PG*) (Die Suffragete) + highlights from Make More Noise! shorts (PG) with live accompaniment by Wendy Hiscocks and an introduction by Naomi Paxton
Sun 22 Apr 4pm, Cinema 1
Germany 1913 dir Urban Gad 60 min

Asta Nielsen, one of the megastars of the silent era, plays a militant British suffragette in this contemporary portrait of the movement.

As common for the time, this film comes to the story of suffrage from a comedic point of view, hoping to dispel some of the anxieties around the change of power dynamics. Asta Nielsen plays a British suffragette, loosely modelled on a member of the Pankhurst family. She gets involved in a plot to murder a government official, but romance gets in the way.

Also screening in the same bill, highlights form Make More Noise! (BFI National Archive), a collection exploring the early representation of suffragettes in the first decades of the 20th century.

Enemies of Happiness + ScreenTalk with Heather Barr, Senior Researcher, Human Rights Watch
Mon 23 Apr 6.30pm, Cinema 2
Denmark 2006 dir Eva Mulvad 60min
In Association with Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Awarded the Grand Jury Prize for World Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007, Eva Mulvad’s revelatory portrait of politician Malalai Joya celebrates an extraordinary freedom fighter who risks her life to speak out for democracy in Afghanistan.

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.

Two years later, 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.

Be Pretty and Shut up (Sois Belle et tais toi) + Intro
Tuesday 24 April 6.30pm, Cinema 2
France 1981 dir Delphine Seyrig 110min

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

The expectation to 'be pretty and shut up' is not new, nor has it disappeared since actress-activist Delphine Seyrig (Last Year at Marienbad, Jeanne Dielman...) recorded these interviews over 40 years ago. Seyrig speaks to twenty four French and American actresses, including Maria Schneider (Last Tango in Paris), Jane Fonda and Shirley MacLaine, about their roles, and their relationships with directors and film crew.

Through their words, Seyrig reveals 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 gives 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.

The Art of Change presents bold artistic responses to vital global issues including feminism, climate change and human rights, while providing a platform for voices currently underrepresented in the arts. The season includes world-class music, theatre, dance, film, visual arts and learning and runs throughout 2018.


Notes to Editors

For further information contact:
Sarah Harvey Publicity: 020 7732 7790
Sarah Harvey:
Eleonora Claps:

Ticket prices: Box Office: 0845 120 7527

Standard: £10.50 Barbican Members: £9.50 Concessions £9.50
ScreenTalks: £13.50 Barbican Members: £10.80 Concessions £12.50
Young Barbican £5

* Local Classification