Women Talking is set in a Mennonite community ‘Manitoba’ Bolivia. I discovered it is called Manitoba as it has links with the Mennonites of Manitoba in Canada. As I watched the film, I thought it was Manitoba, Canada.
The film is based on the novel by Miriam Toews. The book was an imaginative response to the sexual violence perpetrated by some Mennonite men against Mennonite women in the Manitoba community. These were no distant historical crimes as they occurred between 2005 and 2009.
The sight of blood on the dresses of young women and older women within a religious community shocked me. A place where people have chosen to live in community eschewing the modern world by living simply with their focus on service to God was the last place I expected to find sexual violence.
Yet 151 women and girls were assaulted. In 2011, 7 men of the community were sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The film centres on the women’s response to what is happening to them. A group of them meet in the hayloft to work out how to respond to the violence against them.
For me, this is the art of the film as it portrays the characters of the women as they tussle with the subject. They consider their faith, their gender, their children and the men over a time before deciding on their response.
As a man I cannot recall viewing anything which so starkly illustrated how a culture, a male culture could develop which treated women so appallingly.
The choice for the women was to stay and fight or to leave, to do nothing was not an option. The ‘Women talking’ will be familiar to many who have had to work out decisions about leaving particularly marriages or communities. The difference was this was not one individual this was a whole community of women.
I couldn't help but think watching the film would assist anyone who is in the process of deciding.