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Girl Power

By Sharon Weinberg

Here are some movies with knockout female leads that are sure to inspire your inner hero.

  • The eagle huntress

    2017

    There is definitely a lot of girl power going on here. Filmed in remote parts of Mongolia, this is a fascinating true story about a young girl determined to train as an eagle hunter, a skill traditionally taught to males. Of course, a lot of the success of the doc falls to being in the right place at the right time and having a camera that does not freeze in the subzero temperatures. By the way, the filmmaker used a drone camera to get some of the jaw-dropping aerial shots.

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  • Belle

    This is a historical flick inspired by a painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a woman of mixed race born in the West Indies in 1761 to a British naval officer. After her mother's death, her father moved Belle to England where his politically connected, aristocratic family raised her. Although a fictional version of Belle, I like that the filmmaker created her as a modern day role model. Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha, who plays Belle is wonderful, taking command of every scene.

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  • Whale Rider

    2003

    Twelve-year-old Pai wants to be chief of her tribe, a position that her grandfather thinks should fall to a male. Plucky and brave, Pai defies her elders to follow her dreams to find her destiny. Not only did I fall in love with Pai, this movie sparked my interest in Maori mythology and tradition.

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  • Life, above all

    2011

    Shortly after the death of her newborn sister, 12-year-old Chandra learns that a rumor is spreading through the village. This causes her mother to flee in secret. Brave beyond her years and determined to beat the gossip, Chandra embarks on a journey to find her mother and the truth. I like to recommend this movie every chance I get. Khomotso Manyaka, who plays Chandra, gives a knockout performance. I was with her every step of the way.

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  • The Babushkas of Chernobyl

    2015

    A unique story to be sure. Quoting the co-director Holly Morris, "The dead zone, it turns out, is full of life." That is a great hook and so true. After the Chernobyl disaster, the Babushkas refused to stay away from their home. Decades later they continue to live on their own terms. These women are rock solid awesome.

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  • Wadjda

    Wadjda is a strong-minded girl who questions restrictive forces. She wishes dearly to own a bicycle and contrives to do that, no matter the consequences. Interestingly, the director challenged societal code while making the movie. Haifaa al-Mansour, when filming in public places in Saudi Arabia, gave directions to the crew from inside a van via a two-way radio. Although there is no law prohibiting her from giving directions to men working for her, she says that observers would have stopped her because it is against rules of conduct.

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  • Queen of Katwe

    2017

    This biopic about Phiona Mutesi, a young Ugandan girl whose family barely had enough food or proper shelter, becoming a world chess champion is downright inspiring stuff. Kudos to the entire cast playing out this incredible story, especially newcomer Madina Nalwanga in the lead role and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o as Phiona’s mother. Be sure to watch through the ending credits to see the real people with the actors.

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  • East Side Sushi

    2016

    Juana is a financially challenged single mom working as a street fruit vendor. After a random attack she realizes the job is too dangerous. When Juana gets work at a Japanese restaurant, she sees a connection between her fresh fruit creations and making sushi and decides to train as a sushi chef. Tradition and custom are set against her—Juana's race and gender are not what folks expect. A tasty indie comedy/drama that pleases your senses and leaves you cheering.

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  • Megan Leavey

    2017

    Based on the true story of marine Megan Leavey and her military bomb-sniffing dog Rex, who saved her life while serving in Iraq. When Rex could no longer serve due to medical issues, Megan moved heaven and earth to bring him back to the U.S. to adopt and take care of him. The devotion and unbreakable bond between Megan and Rex is remarkable. Though fictionalized, my tears came unrestrained watching their story unfold.

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  • Maidentrip

    2014

    Laura Dekker is the youngest person to sail solo around the world, with stops. At age 14, amid controversy and scrutiny, she set out to fulfill her dream and document her incredible journey. You do not have to know anything about sailing to enjoy this film. Laura Dekker's determination is at the heart of the story. Such an adventurous spirit surely will lift yours.

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  • Beasts of the Southern Wild

    2012

    Hushpuppy is only six years old yet she is trying to save her father and her close-knit, economically challenged Louisiana bayou community, Bathtub. There is a lot of magical realism in this film as brave Hushpuppy battles the reality of impending ecological disaster and the dream-like monsters that seem just as threatening. It is a hero's journey for the 21st century.

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