Female filmmakers are continually underrepresented in the industry. Despite the necessary perspectives they bring to the writing room, set and editing suite, the perseverance of the patriarchy persists. Cinema continually celebrates films made by men, as reflected in the measly five nominations received by women, for the prestigious Best Director Academy award.
It seems Katheryn Bigelow in 2009, was the only director able to break through this glass ceiling, with Hollywood’s most beloved female filmmaker Greta Gerwig, not receiving a duly deserved Best Director nomination in 2020 for her radical retelling of Little Women (2019).
Despite their lack of representation, women have been making films since the late nineteenth century, and the likes of Claire Denis and Lynne Ramsay, have established themselves as renowned auteurs of their artform. However, in the US, women comprised just 8% of directors working on the top 250 US domestic grossing films in 2018. Which is actually 1% lower than it was in 1998. If you narrow this down further to the top 100 grossing Hollywood films, the figure drops to just 4%.
By supporting female filmmakers and their work we can all contribute to the continued perseverance of women in film
It is abysmally evident that the film industry is a space dominated by men. Although, despite growing efforts to make the industry more inclusive change is unlikely to happen overnight. Frances McDormand used the term “inclusion rider” in her 2018 acceptance speech at the Oscars. This refers to a provision in a filmmaker’s contract that provides a certain level of diversity in casting and production staff. It relies on prominent actors and filmmakers using their negotiated power to insist on such provisions. Therefore, it is clear that these conscious decisions to make the industry more inclusive must come from within the industry itself.
Whilst it can be disheartening to acknowledge these statistics and feel hopeless about the future of women in cinema, by supporting female filmmakers and their work we can all contribute to the continued perseverance of women in film. Below is a selection of ten of my favourite films made by women, that I would encourage everyone to check out.
1. Madeline’s Madeline (2018) – co-written and directed by Josephine Decker
Decker blurs the lines between performance and reality with her film about the turbulent relationship between mother and daughter.
2. You Were Never Really Here (2017) – written and directed by Lynne Ramsay
A traumatised and jaded veteran tracks down missing girls for a living.
3. Wasp (2003) – written and directed by Andrea Arnold
Arnold’s short film depicts the struggles of motherhood and austerity in Britain.
4. The Farewell (2019) – written and directed by Lulu Wang
Wang forces us consider the morals of morality through the terminal illness of a family matriarch.
5. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) – written and directed by Eliza Hittman
A young woman navigates New York City in an attempt to get an abortion.
6. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) – written and directed by Céline Sciamma
A story of forbidden love in 18th century Brittany.
7. Beau Travail (2000) – co-written and directed by Claire Denis
Denis depicts jealousy in its most self-destructive form.
8. Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) – written and directed by Agnès Varda
Varda makes us question our selfishness tendencies when our troubles are put into perspective.
9. Pariah (2011) written and directed by Dee Rees A story of queer love and companionship
10. The Watermelon Woman (1996) written and directed by Cheryl Dunye Dunye presents the importance of black queer representation in cinema.
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