This is not a bandwagon.
I don’t think that men shouldn’t direct films. I don’t think they direct ‘bad’ films.
I do think they direct most films—and I do question why.
Last year, a blogger I follow semi-obsessively (she works for Rotten Tomatoes, okay—it’s the dream) undertook a challenge in which she watched and reviewed only films directed by women for a year. I was intrigued, impressed, and somewhat unnerved. It’s a project I wouldn’t dream of undertaking; let’s be real. Luckily for my guilt-ridden self, #52filmsbywomen came along and it’s the perfect balance of semi-challenge vs. quite literal armchair activism.
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The challenge was founded by Women in Film, a “non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equal opportunities for women, encouraging creative projects by women, and expanding and enhancing portrayals of women in all forms of global media.” The premise is incredibly basic: sign the online pledge, and proceed to watch one film directed by a woman per week for a year.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time explaining why this is a thing. You, my dear readers, understand why a challenge promoting female directors and their work is fundamentally important. You are educated about the patriarchal structures that inform our society and the arts community. You agree that ‘Hollywood’, ‘The Academy’—all those vague non-entities of the film world—function as boys’ clubs approximately 99% of the time. You know, more precisely, that a 2014 study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that females comprised just 7% of directors across their sample. You believe it’s time for change.
This challenge has the potential to be effective for a number of reasons.
- Exposure. We need eyes on screens to consider and celebrate existing female output (especially via non-streaming mediums, but who am I to judge?).
- Intersectionality. As much as gender itself is important, a key element here is to engage with films by women who aren’t all straight and white.
- Awareness. Talking about the challenge, talking about the films: it creates momentum for the movement.
- Flow-on effects. More demand for female films means more female films produced. More female films produced means more female roles in both cast and crew.
At the end of the day, it’s an opportunity for all of us to open our eyes to more than just what Hollywood delivers. Challenge yourself to watch material crafted from a different perspective. It’s not too late to start, you’ve got a calendar year to complete. At this point only a relatively pathetic 6713 people have signed up. So really, if you join now, you’re still at the forefront of the revolution.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller, 2015)
One of the gems from last year’s NZIFF, Heller brings a bold and brassy female voice with an infusion of seventies hip.
Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 2015)
Another NZIFF hit. The Virgin Suicides minus the dreamy Coppola veil and plus some added Turkish grit.
Sedmikrásky/Daisies (Věra Chytilová, 1966)
Part of the Nová Vina movement and initially banned by Czech authorities, Daisies comedically carouses through the innovative pranks of two young girls.
An Angel at My Table (Jane Campion, 1990)
New Zealand’s own, Campion tells the story of another of New Zealand’s own, the legendary fuzzy-headed Janet Frame.
El niño pez/The Fish Child (Lucía Puenzo, 2009)
An Argentinian love story that evocatively weaves the ins and outs of two girls divided by class.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2015)
Amirpour presents a unique, slick and stylish Iranian feminist twist on a classic vampire tale.
52 Films By Women (Facebook group for collective discussion)
Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (Facebook)