A positive and encouraging view that suggests that politicians are the problem and not the political system
Shown as part of BBC4's "Why Democracy?" season of films, this film opened with the BBC inserted question "are women more democratic than men?". This was the style of the season and as usual it finished with the statement "think about it". Ignoring this framing, the film doesn't really look at the differences between men and women when in power but it does follow the female President of Liberia (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) in her first year in power, starting with her getting her make-up done ahead of the inauguration ceremony.
Superficially the film is very similar to Sisters in Law as it follows women in places of authority in an African nation who appear to be a sweeping breathe of fresh air. The material doesn't really have a particular spin or agenda (or at least not to my eyes) but actually does a very good job of just filming what happens and making the salient points over the 52 week shoot. It captures the hope of the new Government but gives time to those criticising them, shows changes but also shows what cannot be changed whether people like it or not. In a way it is a direct answer to the film in this season that I watched the other day 2007's "Campaign". In Campaign we followed a City Council election in Japan and saw it for the policy-less beauty contest that it was and it was a depressing statement on elected officials who feel they cannot make the tough calls or unpopular decisions because they will be removed.
Iron Ladies is a suitable response to that because it shows how it doesn't have to be that way. Liberia has endless problems and the film is honest enough to never suggest that anything will be easy or that somehow Sirleaf is going to be able to fix everything in a split second but it does show how she leads. She understands that her Government has to listen but doesn't take rubbish from people. She knows she has to improve the lot of her people but is honest enough to say when changes are impossible (the deal with Firestone being the best example of this). The film does end with a sense of hope due to progress being made in shifting the huge national debt but mainly the positive feeling it gave me came not from specific progress or action but more from the approach of Sirleaf and her cabinet.
An interesting and encouraging film then. Campaign asked the question "can politicians solve climate change?" and the answer to me was "no". With this film, I do not know if women are more democratic than men but I feel more positive about politics as a process, all we need now is the people who are brave enough to lead in an honest and fair way that looks for the best for the electorate but doesn't promise things that are impossible or ignores the challenges just because it wins votes.
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