Now that we’re home, balancing our work-life routines, many of us can delve into activities we might not have had time for before.
I, for one, will be watching films.
But instead of diving into whatever cheesy flick pops up on my Netflix feed, this strange amount of time at my disposal offers opportunity. Primarily, the chance to explore the female driven cinema that’s gone underrepresented or forgotten.
Women are making themselves known in the film industry, and not just as pretty on screen faces. Rather, the number of women directors is growing, stretching across genres from the Indie screens into big budget Hollywood blockbusters. As women, it is an unquestioned instinct to support each other, to rally alongside our sisters in their successes in industries with histories of downplaying or minimising us.
But who are these directors breaking down these boundaries?
For those of us looking to broaden our taste, support our pioneering sisters, or incorporating a feminist twist into our isolated entertainment: here are ten brilliant women from the world of film, old school to modern.
Female directors – hollywood:
- Greta Gerwig – The famous talent behind ‘Little Women’ and ‘Lady Bird’, Gerwig is an Academy Award nominated American director, actress and writer:
“(On directing) It’s a reverse magic show. It’s so much time, and weight, and money, and people, and you’re taking all this stuff and you’re reducing it to flickering light, making it disappear into a dream. That feels satisfyingly strange.”
- Patty Jenkins – The first female director of an American studio superhero film, with ‘Wonder Woman’ pulling in the biggest domestic opening for a female director, Jenkins is the director behind ‘Monster’ and several television shows:
“If it’s not successful, then it will look really bad. I don’t want to end up in a debacle where I’m like: (in hindsight) ‘that wasn’t wise.’ The trajectory of a woman’s career has been sensitive at times, and I’ve had to be aware of that as well”.
- Nora Ephron – Beloved in our rom coms collections as the writer of ‘When Harry Met Sally’, Ephron also directed the equally famous ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, ‘You’ve Got Mail’, ‘Julie and Julia’, and a host of others. This American director, writer and journalist has been nominated for three Academy Awards and won a BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay:
“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”
- Mary Harron – Winner six awards and thirteen nominations, Harron is the unsung Canadian voice behind works including ‘American Psycho’ and Netflix show ‘Alias Grace’:
“I feel that without feminism, I wouldn’t be doing this. So I feel very grateful. Without it, God knows what my life would be. I don’t make feminist films in the sense that I don’t make anything ideological. But I do find that women get my films better. Women and gay men. Maybe because they’re less threatened by it, or they see what I’m trying to say better.
- Kathryn Bigelow – American director of ‘The Hurt Locker’, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Detroit’, Bigelow was the first woman to win an Academy Award for Directing, the fourth woman ever nominated for that award, with ‘ The Hurt Locker’ being the recipient of ninety awards:
“I have always firmly believed that every director should be judged solely by their work, and not by their work based on their gender.”
- Gina Prince-Blythewood – The writer behind Netflix films ‘Before I Fall’ and ‘Nappily Ever After’, this American AAFCA winner also directed ‘The Secret Life of Bees’, ‘Beyond the Lights’ and ‘Love and Basketball’:
“Talent has no gender. People are hiring young male directors right out of film school, off of a student film or off of a film at Sundance for millions of dollars. You can do the same with a female. It’s not a risk about the work if you respect the film that they made.”
Female Directors – international and theatre:
- Jennifer Kent – Behind horror films ‘The Babadook’ and ‘The Nightingale’ with two AACTA awards under her belt in Australian director Jennifer Kent, making strides in a male dominated genre:
“It will shift, as the world shifts. Women do love watching scary films. It’s been proven, and they’ve done all the tests. The demographics are half men, half women. And we know fear. It’s not like we can’t explore the subject.”
- Alice Guy-Blaché – French director Alice Guy is argued to be the first ever woman to direct a film, the first to manage her own studio (Solax, alongside Lois Weber) and her film ‘A Fool and His Money’ is the first film to feature an all African-American cast. She directed over 1000 films between 1896 and 1906, 150 of which still survive and 22 of those are feature length. Whilst her own pieces are difficult to find, there is a 2018 documentary ‘Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché’, chronicling the life of the first female director.
- Niki Caro – Behind ‘Mulan’ (2020), ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’, ‘North Country’ and an episode of Netflix’s ‘Anne With an E’ is this BAFTA award winning director. New Zealand’s Caro is the second woman to direct a Disney film budgeted at 100mil:
“I don’t see myself as a crusading feminist filmmaker. Not at all. I have the luxury of coming from New Zealand and I’ve had moments in my life where being female is considered to be a tremendous advantage – emotionally, career-wise. Personally, I have nothing to prove. But I’m tremendously curious about human nature. Female life is so incredibly underexplored in cinema, so these stories feel very exotic.”
- Julie Taymor – Famous for bringing ‘The Lion King’ to Broadway, this Tony Award winning and Academy Award nominated director also gave us ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Frida’. Taymor was the first woman to win a Tony for Directing and most of her work is found on stage:
“One of the reasons I love to jump back and forth between mediums is that film does allow me to be more literal. I can go to the real place. I can go to the Coliseum, and I don’t have to fake it.”
Who’s your favourite female director?