Review: My Name is Andrea

Written and directed by Pratibha Parmar, exploring key moments from the life of feminist outlaw, maverick thinker and intellectual genius of the 20th Century, Andrea Dworkin. Unapologetic, loud and indifferently dressed the film reveals the enduring influence of America’s most controversial feminist thinker. Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Soko, Andrea Riseborough, Ashley Judd and Christine Lahti.

Watching this film is like a slap in the face, a wake-up call to consider whether society’s treatment of women has truly progressed? Undoubtedly the ideas Andrea Dworkin was putting out thirty years ago sound far less radical today, but it’s hard to say with any conviction that we’ve moved into an era where there’s genuinely less abuse against women. What it does establish is the need for voices like Andrea’s: loud, powerful and unforgiving, to never let up about achieving a more equal and less abusive world. One of the wonderful things about watching the clips chosen by Pratibha Parmar, particularly of Andrea’s speeches, is that it’s so easy to see how vulnerable it made her to stand up on stage but she forges ahead with such an eloquent rage. She overflows with emotion as she speaks but never lets it impact her message, especially when others of opposite views try to undermine her, she relentlessly gets across her point in a clear, logical, reasonable and patient manner.

The way in which Parmar has chosen to explore this story has a creative and poetic style, mixing archive footage and audio with dramatizations and recreations. It helps to emphasise the emotions and meaning of Andrea’s story and ideas, it’s both inspiring and heart-breaking to watch. Those choices form a bigger heart to this story, it could have easily been cold and political, but Parmar creates something that balances the enraging treatment of women with an intimate, grounded and sympathetic view of Andrea as a person. Having each of these different women, Amandla Stenberg, Soko, Andrea Riseborough, Ashley Judd and Christine Lahti represent Andrea in various stages of her life is a fantastic illustration of how her experience was not singular. It keenly parallels her message of why she went out there day after day, to not speak solely for herself but to speak up for every woman who’s faced injustice and abuse.

As you move through this story, there is just blow after blow of heart-wrenching and harrowing detail of what Andrea went through in her lifetime. It’s both hurtful and absolutely engrossing to watch, the more you learn, the more you understand the courage it must have taken for her to follow this path of being such a public figure. The editing and direction move this story forward in an unfolding manner, peeling back the layers to Andrea and how each experience led her to the time in which the majority of the archive footage takes place. Even now survivors of abuse constantly face doubt and insult, but the footage used in My Name is Andrea displays how even harsher that was in a time where misogyny and sexism, both from men and women, was so rampant and public. There are also a number of examples of what has now evolved into microaggressions but at the time was so blatant, the term doesn’t feel appropriate. There are simply endless reminders about what women face, and how important it is to have a voice and to use it.

While there are many moments of this film that will likely stick with you, one of the strongest is that Andrea spoke of wanting “one day of freedom” before she died, one day where no women get raped or abused. She passed away over fifteen years ago, and it’s a disturbing thought how far from any possibility of that we are, or if we will ever be any closer, which sends a loud and clear message of how vital it is to keep fighting for that equality and peace.

Overturning Roe v Wade and taking away women’s right to safe abortion in the U.S. was a call to every woman that now is the time to get angry, to get loud and not relent. My Name is Andrea is the film to stoke that passion, and to show the importance of having a powerful voice like Andrea’s to lead the way, to distil all of that rage and frustration into a battle cry for generations to step up and push for change. This film will leave you shocked, angered and heartbroken but at the same time, it’s a passionate homage to a strong, ferocious woman, who got knocked down over and over but refused to give up.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯✯ | 10/10

Reviewed as part of Sheffield DocFest 2022 – Learn more about the film here

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