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Still from Sew to Say. Image courtesy of ReFrame Film Festival

ReFrame Review: Sew to Say

Written by
Chukwugoziem Nwadugbo
and
and
January 25, 2024
ReFrame Review: Sew to Say
Still from Sew to Say. Image courtesy of ReFrame Film Festival

The 2022 documentary Sew to Say, directed by Rakel Aguirre, recounts the story of a woman named Thalia who began a non-violent, textile-based campaign in the 1980s to combat the proliferation of nuclear weapons—specifically the deployment of American cruise missiles to the United Kingdom as part of the U.S. Cold War strategy.

The film recounts the Greenham protest that was started by women who were opposed to American missiles being sent to Greenham. The filmmaker, Rakel Aguirre, uses the experience of Thalia Campbell, who was active in the process and sowed banners for the protest to recount how the movement began and morphed. The film recounts how the Greenham protest from Thalia Campbell, the women who started the sown banners for the protest.

In the 80’s, the fear of nuclear war was rampant, discussions surrounding nuclear weapons included who had the most bombs and the threat of death. Ann Pettitt gave a speech different from this perspective that appealed to a lot of mothers. Her perspective mobilized women to organize against nuclear weapons and a few days later, Pettitt would start a march from Cardiff, in Wales, to Greenham, in London, with other women to protest the bringing of American Missiles.

Thalia recounts how their protests were largely ignored by the press, with the only type of coverage they received being negative. The lack of effective and adequate press coverage spurred the idea for the sewn banners. The protest allowed Thalia to do art and politics together highlighting how art could be political. The provocative nature of a banner appealed to Thalia. The banners also serve as a timeless reminder of the Greenham protest. 

The movement used peace camps where women lived at the site for years. This tactic of protesting was unique and new to this movement, and it spread globally with camps created in Australia, America, and other countries. The banners also became globally used in movements such as Anti-Apartheid South Africa and Nuclear-free Chicago.

The police were used to deter the women, but they developed tactics to evade them some of which included identifying the different land owners to stall eviction process, running in different directions to disorganize the police, creating blockades and chaining themselves to the base. 

As a women’s movement, some of the limitations the women faced were sexist. In terms of childcare, the women involved in these protests were called names such as “bad mothers and faced a lose-lose situation where the women who had children in these protests were considered bad mothers if they took their kids with them to the protests and bad mothers if they left their kids at home. The women also explain that the men in the movement tried to speak over them telling which did not reflect their voice.

Involvement in this protest also had personal consequences. Public perception of this movement was largely split with people hating and loving it. Despite the consequences of their involvement, Thalia explains that at a point it dawned on her that the cause was worth the 

In the end, the women were successful in raising awareness and creating a large community of women from different places. After years spent at the camp, Thalia explains this is a significant achievement for the movement.

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