Ciné-ONU Vienna: “A strong film about a strong person”

The documentary “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks”, based on the bestselling biography by Jeanne Theoharis, takes a deeper dive into Rosa Park’s often overlooked breadth of accomplishments and the impact of her fight to overcome racial injustice.

VIENNA, 13 March 2023 - It was a packed Top Kino for the Ciné-ONU Vienna screening to mark International Women’s Day, of “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks”, the first ever film to show the layers and complexities of Rosa Park’s activism beyond the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott that catalysed the Civil Rights Movement.

Organized by the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna in cooperation with the US Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, the audience was welcomed by UNIS Director Martin Nesirky, and Public Affairs Officer from the US Mission Amy Steinmann, who reminded those present to “never doubt that a small group of individuals can change the world”.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion with film director Johanna Hamilton, President of UN Women Austria Helene Gressenbauer, and expert and trainer at D!SRUPT –  Association for Anti-Racism & Political Education Camila Schmid. 


Ms. Schmid said that the film gave her goosebumps and made her feel empowered, while Ms. Gressenbauer lauded it as “a strong film about a strong person”.

During the discussion, Johanna Hamilton talked about the production process and the film’s intention to present a powerful corrective to the popular iconography of Rosa Parks as the quiet seamstress who was too tired to stand, when she was in fact a political activist from age six until her 90s.

Born in 1913, Rosa Parks would be 110 years old if she were still alive today. Yet, it will take a further 300 years before we reach gender equality if we continue at the current pace, Helene Gressenbauer said, adding “women face discrimination in multidimensional ways” be it sexism, racism or agism. Ms. Gressenbauer talked about how UN Women works in a variety of fields to end gender-based violence, economically empower women, and fully integrate them into peace and security issues, humanitarian action and leadership roles.

Activist Camila Schmid compared the Civil Rights Movement with Black Lives Matter. Asked about the changing zeitgeist, she said that during Parks’ time, churches provided a safe space for people to meet, debate, and unite. Nowadays, however, social media platforms enable similar discussions on a global scale: “Today, this is how we inform ourselves: Where is the next protest? Where is the next event? Where is the next film screening?

On 14 March a second screening of the film took place in Budapest, Hungary, jointly organized by UNIS Vienna and the International Diplomatic Student Association (IDSA). As part of Ciné-ONU Budapest, it was followed by a panel discussion with film director Johanna Hamilton, United Nations Youth Delegate of Hungary Csenge Offenbächer, Chair of the Rosa Parks Foundation Adél Kegye and Associate Professor of the Corvinus University Péter Marton.