Showing posts with label women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label women. Show all posts

21 December 2023

Book reviews: The women's language of Hunan, China

Falcini, Giulia: Il Nüshu, la scrittura che diede voce alle donne (2020) **** 


Al di là della Grande Muraglia, immerso tra le colline della provincia dello Hunan, si trova il villaggio di Puwei: un'oasi di quiete e tradizione, dove la memoria del passato vive ancora oggi, nutrendo le anime del presente. Qui, in un tempo difficile da definire, ma molto lontano, un gruppo di donne ha dato inizio a una cultura unica al mondo, preziosa, profonda, ricca di valori. La grande disparità tra il sesso maschile e quello femminile, unita all'immensa saggezza delle donne, furono il motore della nascita del Nüshu, l'unica lingua al mondo creata e utilizzata esclusivamente da donne. Un codice fatto di caratteri romboidali, dalla forma longilinea ed elegante, ai quali gli uomini non prestavano attenzione. Un mezzo di comunicazione estremamente intimo, che permetteva alle ragazze di esprimere i propri pensieri e le proprie afflizioni in estrema libertà, quella stessa libertà negatagli all'interno della società patriarcale nella quale vivevano. Si riunivano tutte in una stanza dove ricamavano, cantavano, parlavano e questi momenti erano attimi di sollievo da una quotidianità opprimente. 

Una traduttrice italiana approfondisce in prima persona le origini e l'attualità di questa originalissima lingua. 

Nushu language compared to Chinese
Image be Dody Chen

Endo, Orie: Inscribing Intimacy (2019) **** Synopsis 

Endo Orie's book is about nüshu, a unique form of writing that appeared in rural China in the modern era. As the book reveals, the date of its origin is under dispute. However, like Korean and Japanese writing systems, nüshu has a close connection to women since writing with Chinese characters was traditionally tied to patriarchal privilege. Women extrapolated new graphs from conventional Chinese characters, using them to record various aspects of their emotional lives. It was a script created by women, for heartfelt communication between women. This is an unusually personal book, authored by Endo Orie—a well-known Japanese linguist with many books on gender and language. She stumbled upon the nüshu writing system while hiking in Hunan in the 1990s. Here she introduces narrating its discovery and mourning the way its original intimacies are fading away. 

This is not a book for everyone, it is an academic study with a somewhat slow pace, but it is worth the effort for its detailed analysis and the profusion of translated nüshu texts. 

See my other reviews of books on China here in this blog.

07 February 2022

Recensione libro: Metà Cielo, Mezza Luna (2005) di Silvia Codecasa, *****


Un vero viaggio di avventura per una donna sola che si mette in testa di attraversare una collana di paesi islamici, dalla Turchia all'Iran, all'Afghanistan, al Pakistan, fino all'India e qui si ferma il racconto mentre il viaggio prosegue fino all'Asia estrema. Una donna sola nel profondo dell'islam con i mezzi più disparati, sulle vie più diverse, treno, tram, auto, autobus, a piedi. Nel 1973 l'integralismo islamico non si era ancora risvegliato, erano in evidenza la grande poesia musulmana e i valori culturali delle etnie turche e curde, e quella del nobile, eroico popolo afgano. Però attraversare Turchia, Iran, Afghanistan e Pakistan voleva dire addentrarsi nel cuore di una civiltà in cui le donne non hanno personalità giuridica, possiedono diritti parziali sulla proprietà e nessun diritto sui figli, e dove il fatto che una donna cammini per strada da sola è talmente insolito da essere pericoloso. Accanto al racconto del viaggio vero e proprio, l'autrice ci intrattiene con le sue ricerche di carattere antropologico attraverso osservazioni che fanno del libro una raccolta di informazioni scientifiche. 


 Un'occhiata al mondo musulmano dell'Asia sud-occidentale da una donna di grande sensibilità. Mi ha toccato specialmente la descrizione dei suoi incontri in Afghanistan. Da allora le cose sono peggiorate.


18 May 2021

Film review: Wadjda (2012) by Reem Abdullah, *****


A rebellious Saudi Arabian girl hatches a plan to get her hands on the bicycle she craves in this coming-of-age story from first time director Haifaa Al-Mansour. 

Living within a conservative suburb of Riyadh, fun-loving eleven-year-old Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) has her heart set on a green bicycle so that she can beat the boys in their neighbourhood races. 

But when her mother (Reem Abdullah) forbids it, anticipating a reaction from a society that disapproves of women riding bicycles, an enterprising Wadjda decides to raise the money herself by entering a local Qur'an-reading competition that offers a cash prize.


A most interesting if limited peek into Saudi society and especially the position of women. It is pretty incredible the Saudi female director managed to complete filming on location, not everyone was happy with it... Not surprising as movie theaters were not allowed in Saudi Arabia, either, between 1983 and 2018. 

I knew women were not allowed to drive (they now are) but was shocked to learn they were not supposed to ride bicycles. Or touch the Koran when they have their period! 

In the end this movie is about how a little girl wants to have a happy life, she knows nothing about politics and only understand religion inasmuch as they have her memorize verses. A hopeful note of optimism for Saudi Arabia. 

19 February 2013

Film review: Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) by Rob Marshall, *****


An adaptation of Arthur Golden's best-selling novel by the director of Chicago, Rob Marshall, transports us into a mysterious and exotic world that casts a potent spell. A Cinderella story like no other, Memoirs of a Geisha stars Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li.

The director of Chicago, Rob Marshall, transports us into a mysterious and exotic world that casts a potent spell. A Cinderella story like no other, this film takes the viewer to Japan in the late 1930s to discover what role geishas played in high society. We can follow the life of a young girl whose family sells to be a maiko (apprentice geisha) in an okiya, a geisha house. She has to put up with a lot (jealousy, competition, envy) before finally becoming a full geisha.


Wonderful photography in this film, not hard to guess it won Dion Beebe a cinematography Oscar. Ditto for the costumes by Colleen Atwood. It is a long film, but it flows fast and you are left at the end wanting for more.

The film has been banned in China as too sensitive, probably because of Chinese actresses being employed in the role of geishas, seen as degrading in China.

Memorable quote, the Chairman to Sayuri: «We must not expect happiness, Sayuri. It is not something we deserve. When life goes well, it is a sudden gift; it cannot last forever!»

Bonus contents are also very well made and add a lot of value to this BD:
-Geisha Bootcamp (See how the actresses became geishas),
-Building the Hanamachi (Behind-the-scene documentary),
-The Look of a Geisha (Inside the wardrobe and make-up),
-The music (composer John Williams take you through his approach to the score),
-and other background material on Japan and "making of" the film.

Buy your European BD here.

Buy your US BD here

You can buy the book on which this film is based here

17 February 2013

Film review: Born into Brothels (2004) by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, ****

"Running" by Gour, 13 years old

The most stigmatized people in Calcutta's red light district are not the prostitutes, but their children. In the face of abject poverty, abuse, and despair, these kids have little possibility of escaping their mother's fate or for creating another type of life. Directors Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman chronicle the amazing transformation of the children they come to know in the red light district. Briski, a professional photographer, gives them lessons and cameras, igniting latent sparks of artistic genius that reside in these children who live in the most sordid and seemingly hopeless world. The photographs taken by the children are not merely examples of remarkable observation and talent; they reflect something much larger, morally encouraging, and even politically volatile: art as an immensely liberating and empowering force.

The winner of the 77th annual Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Born into Brothels offers a tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art. Devoid of sentimentality, Born into Brothels defies the typical tear-stained tourist snapshot of the global underbelly. Briski spends years with these kids and becomes part of their lives. Their photographs are prisms into their souls, rather than anthropological curiosities or primitive imagery, and a true testimony of the power of the indelible creative spirit.

30 December 2012

Film review: Water (2006), by Deepa Mehta, *****


Set against the epic backdrop of the River Ganges in 1938 during Mahatma Gandhi's rise to power, this is the inspiring tale of an eight year old Hindu girl named Chuyia. Chuyia's life is suddenly changed when she is widowed and sent to a home where Hindu widows must live in penitence. She refuses to accept her fate and her feisty presence begins to affect the lives of other residents, including a beautiful young widow, Kalyani (Lisa Ray of Bollywood/Hollywood) who has fallen in love with Ghandian idealist, Narayan (Bollywood star John Abraham).

Extremist groups waged a campaign of death threats, arson and riots to stop the production of this controversial film, but director Deepa Mehta would not be silenced. Set against Gandhi's rise to power, Water tells the profoundly moving story of Chuyia, an Indian girl married and widowed at eight years old, who is sent away to a home where Hindu widows must live in penitence. Chuyia's feisty presence deeply affects the other residents, forcing each to confront their faith and society's prejudices.

29 December 2012

Film review: Winds of Sand, Women of Rock (2010), by Nathalie Borgers, *****


Amina is preparing to leave with the date caravan. Every year, she and many other Toubou women make this 1500 km journey from Agadez to Bilma, across Niger's Sahara, despite the danger, the heat (50°C) and the sandstorms.

For these nomadic women, the journey is the key to their economic independence: they sell their goats and bring back dates, and with the income from the sale of the dates, a family can live for a year. But Amina, a rebellious 26-year old, has had enough of this long trip. En route, she finds a friend in Mariama and, far from the men, the two young girls share their dreams of a modern, independent life. When they reach their destination, they try to put their plans into action. But Domagali is weary of joining them, and longs to go back to the Sahara, where the grass is free.

05 November 2012

Photo slideshow: "Minds in Path" di Shades of Women

L'associazione Shades of Women propone per il secondo anno una interessante serie di proiezioni di reportage di fotografe in giro per il mondo, a documentare il dramma di molti popoli in guerra. Oggi la seconda serata alla quale ho assistito. Puoi leggere qui un'intervista con Ilaria Prili, fotografa ed organizzatrice di questa serie di eventi. Ecco il programma:

At all latitudes the mind of men and, in particular, of young people is on the move, it designs, dreams, builds, faces obstacles, sometimes succumbs, but does not give up. A big river tells both these stories and those in which men themselves create obstacles, attack nature, pollute it, deform it. To win over all this is people’s creative sensitivity, their individual and social initiative, their ability to invent something in which new and old come together and complement each other.

Sotto tutte le latitudini la mente degli uomini e dei giovani in particolare è in cammino, progetta, sogna, realizza, affronta gli ostacoli, qualche volta soccombe, ma non rinuncia. Un grande fiume racconta queste storie anche quelle in cui gli uomini stessi creano gli ostacoli, aggrediscono la natura, la inquinano, la deformano. Vince la sensibilità creativa delle persone, l’iniziativa individuale e sociale, la capacità di inventare nella quale nuovo e antico si incontrano e si completano.

22 October 2012

Proiezione fotogafica: BLEEDING BLOSSOMS di Shades of Women

L'associazione Shades of Women propone per il secondo anno una interessante serie di proiezioni di reportage di fotografe in giro per il mondo, a documentare il dramma di molti popoli in guerra. Puoi leggere qui un'intervista con Ilaria Prili, fotografa ed organizzatrice di questa serie di eventi.

Nadia Shira Cohen - Arab spring
Her personal website is

Rena Effendi - Georgia conflict
Her personal website is

Simona Ghizzoni - Just to let you know that I’m alive
She works for Contrasto.

Sofie Amalie Klougart - Going to war.
Her personal website is

Benedicte Kurzen - Nigeria, a nation lost to the gods.
Her personal website is

Ilvy Njiokiktjien and Elles van Gelder - Afrikaner blood.
Her personal website is

Lana Slezic - Forsaken
Her personal website is

Here is a link to the next event of this series that I attended.

Interessantissima proiezione di drammatici documentari di guerra e rivoluzione al Teatro Due di Roma, in Vicolo due Macelli. Sala piena, fotografia di alto livello. Da consigliare la prossima proiezione del 5 novembre.

Teatro Due Roma

teatro stabile d’essai

Vicolo due Macelli, 37 (M Piazza di Spagna)
Tel. 06/6788.259 – fax 06/6793.349

31 August 2012

Emily of Emerald Hill and the Peranakan Museum, Singapore

Peranakan Museum in Singapore
Today I visited this unique museum in Singapore, dedicated to the Peranakan, or Chinese from the Malay peninsula. A unique contribution to Singapore's multicultural identity, where each component cultural heritage (Chinese, malay and Tamil) and its language is protected, while English is the cement common to all.

In the museum I could see an exhibition of Emily of Emerald Hill, a short play by Singaporean playright Stella Kon.

As she tells us in her blog, Emily of Emerald Hill is a one-woman play about a Nonya matriarch who dominates her family, yet in the end finds that she loses what she loves most. The play won the First Prize in the National Play-Writing Competition 1983. Since then it has been presented more than a hundred times, by eight different performers, in Singapore, Malaysia, Hawaii and Edinburgh. It has been translated into Chinese and Japanese and broadcast over Radio Iceland. A film version is under negotiation.

Emily is a short and passionate play that takes the reader inside the heart of a Peranakan family of the 1950s. Traditional Chinese values are intertwined with English habits that were common in the richer class of Singapore. The matriarch defers to her husband, but in the end it is she who calls the shots in the house. She is loving but also possessive. Servants are treated with dignity but firmness, children (especially sons) are spoiled and daughters-in-law are expected to be submissive. Wives are expected to tolerate their husbands' cheating. It is a materially comfortable life but also a straightjacket for the younger generation that wants to try it out on its own.

You can buy the book and other works by contacting Stella Kon at

You can watch a trailer of the play here.

And another here.

16 May 2012

Film Review: Samsara (2001), by Pan Nalin, ****


The film was released in 2001 and remains a classic in its genre. A spiritual love-story set in the majestic landscape of Ladakh, Himalayas. Samsara is a quest; one man's struggle to find spiritual Enlightenment by renouncing the world. And one woman's struggle to keep her enlightened love and life in the world. But their destiny turns, twists and comes to a surprise ending... Written by Monsoon Films. Tashi has been raised as a Buddhist monk since age five. When he gets erotic phantasms as an adolescent, his spiritual master decides it's time to taste profane life, sending him on a journey in the real Himalayan world. Once he is told his hottest dream was real, Tashi decides to leave the monastery and marries Pema, the daughter of a rich farmer, who was actually engaged with local stone-mason Jamayang. The ex-lama soon becomes a rich land-owner himself, and makes a killing from his harvest by bringing it to the city instead of selling at half price to the local merchant Dewa, but half of his next harvest perishes in a fire, yet he comes trough and raises a bright son, Karma. After committing infidelity, contemplated for years, and as he later hears from the promiscuous Indian labourer girl, Tashi reconsiders his life... Written by KGF Vissers

28 April 2011

Book Review/Recensione: Leaving Mother Lake, by Namu and Christine Mathieu, *****

Recensione italiana di seguito


The Tibetans refer to Moso country as "The Country of Daughters" because of their unique matrilineal society. In Moso culture, daughters are favoured children. There is no word for father, marriage is considered a backward practice and property is passed on from mother to daughter. This book is the haunting memoir of a girl growing up in a remarkable place. In her village, Namu was known as the girl whose mother tried to give her away three times because she would not stop crying...

14 May 2009

Film review: The Children of the Decree, by Florian Iepan and Razvan Georgescu (2004), *****


“Procreation is the social duty of all fertile women,” was the political thinking during the 1960s and 1970s in Romania. In 1966, Ceaucescu issued Decree 770, in which he forbade abortion for all women unless they were over forty or were already taking care of four children. All forms of contraception were totally banned. The New Romanian Man was born. By 1969, the country had a million babies more than the previous average. Thousands of kindergartens were built overnight. Children had to participate in sports and cultural activities.

Romanian society was rapidly changing. By using very interesting archival footage and excerpts from old fiction films and by interviewing famous personalities from that time – gynaecologists or mothers who were part of the new society – the director revives this period of tremendous oppression of personal freedom. Many deaths were caused by the mere fact that women, including wives of secret Romanian agents, famous TV presenters and actresses, had to undergo illegal abortions. Many women were jailed for having them. Some died by using awkward abortion methods, like injecting mustard or lemon juice into the uterus. Sex life was no fun anymore. But still, Romania had a demographic boom and hosted a world conference on population in 1974.

From 24th International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. This site streams the movie in English.

You can watch a trailer of the movie here, and the introduction here.

24 November 2006

Film review: Nose, Iranian Style (2006), by Mehrdad Oskouei, ***

A documentary about why so many people decide to have a nose job in Iran. Most are women, and a beautiful nose is one of the few parts of their body that can be seen in public, hence the necessity to do the most out of it. You can read a description here on IMDb.

Interesting series of interviews. The director asked lots of people, men and women, young and not so young, why they wanted a new nose and what it did for them. What emerges is the portrait of many people very insecure about themselves. Of course nose jobs are done the world over for this same reason, but the numbers in Iran seem to be very high. Quite a few very good looking girls who decide to have the operation, in my opionion, do so under social pressure (many say it will make it easier to find a husband) but would not really need it at all.

Here on Youtube you can see the film with English subtitles. Unfortuntely I can not find a place to buy the DVD online.

Part 1 and part 2 (without subtitles)

19 June 2005

7° g - 19 Giugno: Valle INDO NORD, Rizong, Julichen, Lamayuru 120 KM ORE 4

Si parte alle 7, percorriamo la valle dell’Indo fino alla spettacolare confluenza dello stesso con lo Zanskar. Paesaggio brullo. Arriviamo al monastero di Rizong, abbarbicato sul costone di una montagna, ci vogliono circa 15 min per salir su.

Riscesi andiamo all’adiacente Julichen, l’unico monastero femminile della regione. Ci accolgono calorosamente, ci fanno vedere le aule della scuola e ci preparano un thè salato, la tsampa, fatto con tè, farina di orzo, burro e sale. All’inizio siamo tutti un po’ esitanti, io poi finisce che me ne faccio una bella scorpacciata, e vi assicuro che è ottimo e nutriente, praticamente ci ha quasi fatto da pranzo. Volendo contattarli si può scrivere a

Arriviamo quindi a Lamayuru, dove dormiamo all’Hotel “Niranjana”, adiacente al monastero, camere senza bagno ma ottima posizione panoramica. Discreta vegetariana cena in hotel, integrata dai nostri insaccati e formaggi.

13 September 2003

Book Review: Not Without My Daughter, by Betty Mahmoody, *****

'You are here for the rest of your life. Do you understand? You are not leaving Iran. You are here until you die.'

Betty Mahmoody and her husband, Dr Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody ('Moody'), came to Iran from the USA to meet Moody's family. With them was their four-year-old daughter, Mahtob. Appalled by the squalor of their living conditions, horrified by what she saw of a country where women are merely chattels and Westerners are despised, Betty soon became desperate to return to the States. But Moody, and his often vicious family, had other plans. Mother and daughter became prisoners of an alien culture, hostages of an increasingly tyrannical and violent man.

02 September 2003

Book Review: Inside Iran: Womens' Lives, by Jane Howard, ***

TV crews and foreign correspondents come and go, but former BBC correspondent Jane Howard made her home in Iran for five years (1996-2000), raising her two young children there. Her experience took her beyond the headlines and horror stories and into the lives of everyday Iranian women. Her report takes readers from dinner in a presidential palace to tea in a nomad's tent.

08 March 2000

Book Review: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, by John Gray, *****

Man and woman in a Sikh temple

A practical guide for improving communication within relationships, helping both sexes get what they want from love and friendship. The author encourages readers to accept the other gender's particular way of expressing love and helps men and women accept each other's emotional needs.

'A treasure', 'a bible' and 'an heirloom' are some of the words used to describe the book that has saved countless relationships and improved innumerable others. Now repackaged to relate to a new generation of readers, this phenomenal book continues to carry its legacy of understanding and trust into the world.

Since its first publication, over a staggering 15 million copies of MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS have sold globally to single men and women looking for guidance on how to find the perfect partner, married couples seeking to strengthen their bond, and divorcees hoping to fathom where it all went wrong. Gray's insights into how to allow your other half to "pull away" like an elastic band, prevent your emotional baggage from polluting your current relationship, and translate the phrases of the opposite sex are as relevant now as when they were first published.

With straightforward, honest writing from that precious male perspective, Gray unlocks the secrets hidden in your partner's words and actions to enable you both to reach true mutual understanding and a lifetime of love. Discover for yourself why thousands believe that MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS should be mandatory reading for everyone.


This is one of the most important books I have ever read. It succintly puts together the reasons why men (all men) are different from women (all women); why this creates problems of communication in a couple; and what to do about it. I found it fascinating reading and illuminating for its insights. This is a summary table I have written based on the book. I think it summarizes the main thrust of the argument Gray makes and is spelled out  in the video by Paul Dewandre (in French) Les hommes viennent de Mars, les femmes de Vénus.

values competence
values relationship
reasons in sequential mode
can do multi-tasking
wants to resolve a problem alone
wants to talk about a problem
is rational
is emotional
needs trust
needs attention
needs appreciation
needs understanding
is like a dolphin, wants a fish when he gets something done
is like a garden, wants to be mantained every day no matter what

For alternative arguments on the same topic, read my reviews of the books by Cordelia Fine and Allan and Barbara Pease

01 September 1996

Book Review/Recensione: I was Amelia Earhart, by Jane Mendelsohn, ****

Recensione in italiano di seguito

From the New York Times, 3 July 1937


A fictitious account of Amelia Earhart's last flight, with flashbacks to her childhood and difficult marriage. Amelia and her raffish, drunken navigator, Noonan, crash-land on a desert island. They fight, touch madness and finally fall in love, before taking off again on only half a tank of petrol.

14 May 1989

21° g - 14 MAG: visita di Tallinn, Estonia

Tour della città con Mare Haab dell'Accademia. Non ci sono molti taxi statali, cosí i taxi privati proliferano ma spesso sono inesperti e non sanno la strada...

Conosco Sibilla, una vecchietta della Società Dante Alighieri di Estonia. Sta lavorando alla traduzione in estone della Divina Commedia, mi fa vedere una tessera di accesso gratis ai musei capitolini di Roma, dove non è mai stata e forse non andrà mai!

Pranzo nuovamente da Peter Vares. Mare ha bellissimi denti ma si lamenta che in dentisti in Estonia sono piuttosto ricchi, ma mancano le attrezzature, i medicinali, ecc. la solita storia. Mi diceva Marica che mancano anche i contraccettivi, per cui l'aborto è diffusissimo (secondo la rivista TIME in URSS abortiscono il 68% delle gravidanze). La situazione è un po' migliore in Estonia che in Russia.

Visita al Kik-in-de-Kök, museo in una delle torri delle vecchie mura della città: esposizione di turno è una gara fotografica sul nudo femminile, che Mare mi dice essere una novità per questi posti. Le foto, soprattutto estoni ma anche di altre repubbliche, non sono niente male, tutte in B&N.

Concerto di canti estoni nella chiesa luterana, con inni patriottici, bandiere della città ai tempi della Lega Anseatica. Dopo il concerto si ripete il solito peregrinare, inutile, per trovare un caffè aperto.