3.5 stars

A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem (2019)

  • Documentary Feature/Official Selection
  • 81 Minutes/USA/2019
  • Directed by Yu Gu

Premise: Football and feminism collide in this documentary that follows former NFL cheerleaders battling the league to end wage theft and illegal employment practices that have persisted for 50 years.

Make no mistake, the story told in “A Woman’s Work” is a story that needs to be told. That story involves the NFL and its inherent sexism and unfair labor practices pertaining to its cheerleaders. The documentary follows several NFL cheerleaders that have sued their former teams, including the Oakland Raiders and the Buffalo Bills. If you were unfamiliar with the plight of the NFL’s cheerleaders, this documentary will surely be an eye-opener. If, like me, you had already heard of the numerous lawsuits against NFL teams by its cheerleaders, you may come out of this itching for something more.

Of course, the film will quickly have you cheering (pun intended) for its main subjects. But it frustratingly only scratches the surfaces of what these young women face, including harassment, objectification, and financial hardships (many of them had to pay for everything out of pocket and wait until the end of the football season to get a single paycheck), all in the name of getting picked to be part of America’s most lucrative sport. One of the more interesting dramatic turns follows a group of Raiderette alumni who express their dismay at the lawsuits, claiming the experience of being an NFL cheerleader was payment enough for them.

What lies ahead for the future of NFL cheerleaders? Even more lawsuits have come up since the filming of the documentary, including one New Orleans Saints cheerleader who was fired for “racy” Instagram posts. “A Woman’s Work” is a good enough David vs. Goliath story, which ends on a surprisingly hopeful note, and it never lets us forget that there are real, human consequences to these stories.

Showtimes at HIFF28

  • Sunday, Oct. 13 – 7:15pm – AMC Traders Point 12
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 – 7:30pm – AMC Traders Point 12

Buy Tickets Now

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