Women in 3 Films: The Changeling, The Secret Life of Bees and Desert Brides

Film, Lily's notes

These three films would not seem to have much in common. The Changeling and The Secret Life of Bees are big budget American films and the Desert Brides is an Israeli made low budget documentary. They had very different budgets, production, and settings but all portrayed vulnerable women and their experiences in their society. All three have shared themes of isolation and friendship, child care, women at work, clothing and transformation, death and cruelty, hospital scenes, abuse, judges or elders, and the effect of traditional roles of women and the theme of justice.

The Changeling (directed by Clint Eastwood) is the most problematic of the three.  It has the star quality of the cast, starring Angelina Jolie, distractingly beautifully scene-styling evoking the 1920-1930’s in Los Angeles and the great clothes of the time.

But be prepared: this is a very disturbing film with gratuitous violence and great graphic cruelty towards women and children.

It is based on a “true story”. It depicts a cruel, unjust past with no real redemption or justice for the woman at the heart of the story. She looses what means the most to her, her only son, she is treated unjustly and cruelly, and remains a stoic sufferer. Very traditional. She does have the strength to stand up to the “system” and still she suffers right up to the end. It was enough to give my friend bad dreams.

The Secret Life of Bees by Gina Prince-Bythewood is an example of satisfying story-telling, lovely acting and filming and the redemptive quality of mutual love and respect. Of these three films, it is the one not to miss.  There are decent men and women in this story along with the troubles and injustices of society .

The viewer is not abused by the film-maker while watching the film.

Queen Latifah stars and is depicted in a sky blue dress, like Mary, throughout the film.

Desert Brides is an Israeli award-winning documentary by Ada Ushpiz, which won the Best Film, 2008 DocAviv. She is a journalist and film-maker.

Three relatively educated and independent women try to cope with a life of polygamy and their personal suffering. 

If anyone ever tries to “explain” to you that you do not like the idea of a man having several wives at once because this this is just your cultural bias, and that traditional women actually like the traditional system of of their husbands having many wives, please recommend that they see this film.

It depicts men and women trapped between their personal desires for a happier life and partners of their own choosing, and the demands of tradition society which many (not all) can not free themselves of.

It is a rare, and sympathetic, look inside of Bedouin homes and wedding celebrations, as well. This film has some rougher scenes but is not as violent nor anywhere as disturbing as the Changeling and is very worthwhile.  In Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles.

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