Mothers of the Revolution (2021)

In January 1981, Ronald Reagan became President of the U.S. and suddenly worked to out-develop and out-spend on nuclear technologies against the Soviet Union, pushing the Cold War to its greatest levels since the mid-1960s.

In September of that year, in response to the growing East-West tensions, the Welsh group Women for Life on Earth walked 120 miles as a living protest against the British Government’s decision to allow US nuclear cruise missiles to be stored at the Royal Air Force base at Greenham Common, 60 miles southwest of London.  

That action was the first in a series of nineteen years of work and sacrifice by a group of women whose story has never really been explored all that well even four years later. If you watched the news, all you saw was the imagery of protestors chained to fences.

The true story? Brave and principled women who stood up to a very real threat to humanity and confronted the growing nuclear madness. Eventually, they were even recognized by being more trustworthy than Reagan by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and as the true reason why he felt that he could start to work toward peace.

Yet it didn’t happen overnight.

Starting on April 1, 1983, 70,000 protesters formed a 14-mile human chain from Greenham to the Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment. Even as the missiles were paraded through the streets, protesters grew to stand in their way, bringing together women not just from the UK but the entire world.

Producer Matthew Metcalf had the goal of telling the story of Greenham Common from the point of view of the community of women who protested. Mothers of the Revolution, which he co-wrote with director Briar March.

As Metcalf started the project, he was conscious that he was a man telling a female story, but he thought back to his mother: “My mother imbued me with a deep sense of the importance of retelling these stories and  supporting people who stand up for what’s right, so it seemed right to me that  when I reached a point in my career where I had a little bit of sway, the ability to push for what I believed in, that I should use that energy and that knowledge to shine a light on the true story of  Greenham Common.” 

Working with female talents March and producer Leela Menon, this story came together. Menon even brings up how essential that this story is in our time of women being ready to speak up and take action more than ever before: “Politically and socially, 2018 and the years since have been very much a time of female-led voices and protests, so it felt like a zeitgeist moment to show what had come before, so that younger people moving forward can use Greenham Common as a roadmap for the future. Protest, particularly non-violent protest, is pivotal in democracy. The pushback that’s happened against protest in the past few years, shows that it is even more important than ever that we protect it as a fundamental right in a democracy.”  

Three women form the story of this film:

Rebecca Johnson, the strategic force behind many of the most celebrated actions at  Greenham Common.

Chris Drake, whose repressed sexuality and identity found empowerment at the camp, a place that she felt was both “coming home” and “being born.”

Karmen  Thomas, the catalyst who started this action with Ann Pettitt.

From connecting with women in the Soviet Union who were also protesting to actions such as climbing control towers, representing the women’s peace camp in New York in a court case against Ronald Reagan and spending years at the camp at the expense of comfort and family, these women did more than take a stand. 

They made a difference.

Mothers of the Revolution is now available on digital and on demand. Consider it essential for lovers of history or seeing how one brave person can make a change in the world.

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