The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Ida

Ida is a stylish black and white film that centers around the coming-of-age story of Anna. Anna is a young Polish woman who is about to take her vows as nun, but before she can do so she needs to meet her last surviving relative – her Aunt Wanda. Anna never knew any of her family members (including her parents) as she has lived at the convent her entire life so it comes as a surprise when she learns that her real name is not only Ida Lebenstein but that she is Jewish.

The two ultimately decide to go on a journey together so that they can gain discover what truly happened to Ida’s parents and gain some closure, but they already know that it is extremely likely that her parents were murdered as the Nazi occupation of Poland occurred not too long ago. 

As the two travel together, they learn more about the other and grow to have a sort of understanding between the two of them. However, while the film does tell the story of a young woman who bonds with her aunt and seeks the truth about her parents’ fate, Ida also explores what happens when a woman, who has lived in relative isolation, journeys into a secular world and how doubts may result.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

As to the Bechdel, Russo and race test, Ida passed the Bechdel test but did not pass the Russo or race test.

There were several instances where named women talked to each other without mentioning men as the film primarily centered around Ida and Wanda’s interactions (or lack thereof) so Ida easily passed the Bechdel test. However, the film did not pass the Russo or race test as there were no LGBTI or non-White characters.

*The Bechdel test entails three requirements:
1. It has to have at least two (named) women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

**The Vito Russo test entails three requirements:
1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and/or transgender
2. The character must not be solely or predominately defined by her sexual orientation, gender identity and/or as being intersex
3.The character must be tied into the plot in such a way that her removal would have a significant effect

***The race or people of color (POC) test has three requirements:
1. It has two people of color in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something other than a White person

****Just because a film passes the Bechdel, Russo and race test does not mean that it is not sexist, heterosexist, racist and/or cissexist, etc. The Bechdel, Russo and race test is only a bare minimum qualifier for the representation of LGBTI individuals, women and people of color in film. The failure to pass these tests also does not identify whether the central character was a woman, a person of color or a LGBTQI individual and it does not dictate the quality of the film.

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