Thanks to Michael Moore, a generation of scrappy low-budget filmmakers believe that a cause can be sold anywhere movies are showing.
In Equal Means Equal, a swiftly paced documentary about America’s systemic war on women’s rights, director and star Kamala Lopez pursues a specific agenda: the reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment, a champion cause for both first- and second-wave feminists that died after it failed to receive a majority of state ratifications by the 1979 congressional deadline.
Rather than focusing on the political process or (as the title implies) the ways in which language makes legality interpretable, Equal Means Equal runs through a Rolodex of interview subjects to prove that society is a war zone for women, grazing topics from employer discrimination against pregnant women to child prostitution to disproportionate prison sentences for women who kill their abusive partners.
Alongside emotional interviews with victims of violence, Lopez includes testimony from talking heads such as Deputy Executive Director of U.N. Women Lakshmi Puri and Patricia Arquette, who served as executive producer and whose involvement will not be a surprise to anyone who was conscious during the 2015 Oscars.
Despite the gravity and breadth of the subject matter, Lopez herself is a frequent subject of the camera, which lingers on her face as she hugs a tearful subject or as she demonstrates her grasp of the issues. A brief clip of Lopez appearing on Walker, Texas Ranger serves no clear purpose. These awkward inclusions can’t diminish the horror and injustice she catalogs, but they will make Equal Means Equal a difficult sell to anyone outside its intended audience of socially progressive, politically empowered women.
Equal Means Equal
Directed by Kamala Lopez
Opens September 9, Village East Cinema