Gender stereotyping and misrepresentation of women are not unheard of in cinema. In celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, here are some of the many examples of women empowerment done right in recent Asian cinema.
Directed by Ann Hui, The Way We Are illustrates the life of your average Hongkonger through a mom (played by Hee-ching Paw) who lives in Tin Shui Wai, viewed by many as the darker side of the city. The heartwarming film illustrates the daily struggles she faces, then overcomes, in a paycheck-to-paycheck life. By depicting the everyday life of the protagonist, The Way We Are pays tribute to the traditional mother figures in Hong Kong culture, and also the heroines who devote their lives to providing for the family.
Partly based on director Lulu Wang’s real-life experience, The Farewell unfolds as a Chinese-American family reunites in Changchun, China, to walk their grandma (played by Zhao Shu-zhen) through her last days while keeping her terminal cancer diagnosis a secret. Through the eyes of third-generation Bili (played by Awkwafina), the award-winning production explores the idea of family tensions and cultural clashes.
Where to watch? iTunes HK
Kim Ji-young: Born 1982 is a movie adaptation of the Korean feminist classic. Born in 1982 with a name that cannot be more common, the housewife and stay-at-home mom Ji-young (starred by Yu-mi Jung) lives the depressing life of the faceless many who suffer from sexism daily, in a patriarchal society. In conventional Korean society, a woman is expected to abandon her individuality and devote entirely to the family upon marriage, which is sadly still the case for some women in the 21st century.
Have you ever imagined having to cut your monthly expense on milk in exchange for tampons? Inspired by the life of social activist Arunachalam Muruganantham, Pad Man refers to Lexmi (played by Akshay Kumar) who went from having little to no knowledge of menstrual periods (impurity!) to popularizing sanitary pads in India. A not-so-fun fact about the Bollywood film is that it actually got banned in Kuwait and Pakistan as its “name, subject and story are not acceptable yet in our society”.
Where to watch? Netflix HK
Apparently, when a woman turns 30, it also marks her entry into the middle-aged phase. 29+1 invites the audience into the lives of Christy (played by Chrissie Chau) and Tin-lok (played by Joyce Cheng), experiencing their every little insecurity through their way into the 30s. The detailed illustration of the anxiety of modern women has won Kearen Pang Best New Director at the 37th Hong Kong Film Awards.
Little Big Women unfolds in a family of four of a mother (played by Shu-fang Chen) and three of her daughters (played by Ying-xuan Hsieh, Vivian Hsu and Ke-fang Sun) in Tainan, Taiwan. Grown-up and with remarkable achievements in their own fields, the three daughters help their mom to relieve her resentment while preparing their cheating father’s funeral with his mistress. As bizarre as the plot sounds, the production was nominated six times in the 57th Golden Horse Awards and won Shu-fang Chen Best Leading Actress.
Where to watch? Netflix HK