Review: Mothers of the Revolution

Written and directed by Briar March, co-written by Matthew Metcalfe, a group of Welsh women, known as the Women For Life On Earth, marches from Cardiff to Greenham Common in Berkshire to protest the placement of nuclear missiles at the RAF base at Greenham Common.

This is exactly the type of story that should be taught in schools, teaching young people, especially women, about the power of protest and dedication. Opening on footage of a nuclear bomb which is still chilling to see to this day, it sets out on confident footing which remains till the credits roll. The style is brilliant, its mix of interviews, archive footage, animation and recreation creates an utterly charming blend, affecting, relatable and down to earth.

The Greenham Women’s plight is moving and inspiring, their determination is incredible and it’s genuinely gripping to watch. It’s touching to see how much that time in their lives means to them, recalling it almost forty years later. Not simply a protest but also a time when thousands of women learned more about who they are as people and what they’re capable of.

The more surprising aspect is how disturbing it is at points, it may have been a peaceful protest but the treatment they received certainly was not. The extreme police reaction and forceful removal of protesters is shocking and yet, feels easily relatable to the treatment of Black Lives Matter protesters in recent years, noting a depressing lack of change or progress. The film also briefly delves into details of impacted islands located near to nuclear testing sites, horrifying and criminally overlooked in the story of the atom bomb. Watching them describe the gravely deformed babies the women went on to have, as a consequence of exposure to radiation, is a moment that you won’t forget soon.

Briar March’s direction creates a sharp visual which softens when it steps into the past. The editing work moves the story along at a captivating pace, gliding around from interview to recreation to archive, providing a satisfying look at the bigger picture. It mixes telling the communal experience of the women with the nuclear arms race, and the experience of those working for peace in Russia. The comparison between the treatment the Greenham Women received and that of Olga Medvedkova, advocating for the same cause in Russia, is eye-opening.

Mothers of the Revolution is essential viewing, it’s a part of British history which desperately needs to be celebrated and taught in schools. Briar March has put together an outstanding documentary, following an inspiring story, which is utterly gripping and affecting to watch.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯✯

Reviewed as part of London Film Festival 2021 –
Available on VOD in the UK from 18th October

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