An Army of Women Image

An Army of Women

By Benjamin Franz | March 13, 2024

SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2024 REVIEW! An Army of Women is the first documentary from Julie Lunde Lillesæter. A cinematographer by trade, she opted to produce, direct, and shoot the film. This film covers a serious and difficult topic with grace and dignity. As such, it’s quite moving.

Marina, Hannah, and Mary Ruth have joined a class action lawsuit against Travis County, Texas, and the Austin Police Department. They are just three of scores of women who have been raped or otherwise assaulted in the Austin area. In all cases, the APD has failed to convict even a single rapist. While most of these women live in fear of their rapists – and of course they would, a reprisal could occur at any time – they nevertheless join the group in the hope of affecting change.

One significant impediment to change is the District Attorney for Travis County, Margaret Moore. While Moore has and does defend herself, the fact remains that it was under her stewardship that these women had lawsuits that failed. Regardless of personal liability in these circumstances, so many (20) cases failed that it spurred an increasing number of women not to come forward to the police.

One of the most damning statistics in An Army of Women, of the great many presented, is seared into my retinas: for every 1,000 complaints of sexual assault filed in a month, there are 10x that – 10,000 – that don’t come forward. This is a simply chilling notion. Many of the rape kits submitted to any given police department will never result in an arrest. While the situation seems bleak, gentle reader, allow me to assure you it gets better.

“…raped or otherwise assaulted in the Austin area. In all cases, the APD has failed to convict…”

Indeed, the documentary is the tale of a group of rape survivors who succeed at implementing changes to the Austin Police Department. One of the great emotional victories occurs when Moore loses her primary and concedes. One of the most touching scenes is simply the group’s demand for an apology from the City of Austin for the way they treated rape survivors.

An Army of Women is ultimately an inspirational film. While it’s true there are many victims of rape out there who have never received a satisfying day in court, these women succeeded. Two lawsuits, led by Marina, Hannah, Mary Ruth, and others, forced a major shift in the way the Austin Police Department and its officers comport themselves. It is truly a powerful moment when ordinary people come together to make a difference. By the end of this film, I was moved to tears. As will you, gentle reader.

An Army of Women is a timely tale of resistance, inner strength, and fortitude. It is a heartwarming, uplifting film that scares you in its first act. Lillesæter is a great talent, and I personally look forward to watching more of her documentaries as they are released in the coming years. This was a hard film to produce, and she did so with poise and grace, never once selling her profiled women short. It is a towering achievement for a first film.

An Army of Women screened at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival.

Army of Women (2024)

Directed and Written: Julie Lunde Lillesæter

Starring: Hannah Senko, Mary Ruth, Marina, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

Army of Women Image

"…a timely tale of resistance, inner strength and fortitude."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon