If there’s one thing that people associate with me or my ~personal brand~ it’s promoting films with female identifying directors, or women in other creative areas. A popular challenge on my social media feeds is the yearly #52FilmsByWomen, a challenge that invites you to try and watch at least one film directed by a woman a week created by Women in Film LA .
My first attempt at this challenge was in 2017 during my slump in watching films after moving away from Manchester, I only saw (discounting all the short films I watched to curate screenings for Cine-Sister) 19 films directed by women.
2018 was really a year where I focused and dedicated my time to learning about and watching films, as a result I saw 112 female directed films. I thought I’d share a selection of some of my favourites with you here of the films NOT released in 2018
You can see a list of everything I saw on Letterboxd.
Smithereens (1982) Directed by Susan Seidelman
I saw this at the Edinburgh Film Festival 2018 as part of their focus on American female directors of the 1980s, which included a Q&A with Susan Seidelman herself. The film offers us a time capsule of 1980s New York City whilst blending comedy and drama with contrasting female archetypes in the characters of the film. The film has a subversive, and surprising ending but mostly captures the feeling of being in your 20s and disappointed with the state of the world. Sedielman explained the process of the making of Smithereens and the way it ended up at the Cannes Film Festival. This inclusion of the film at a prestigious international showcase of cinema changed the way American indie was viewed by the world.
The Wild Party (1929) Directed by Dorothy Arzner
This VERY pre-code comedy/drama focuses on an all-female college where the students are more interested in having fun and partying than studying (so, a normal university). Famously, Clara Bow’s first talkie for which Arzner devised what is reported to have been the first boom microphone, to allow Bow to have the freedom to move while filming thereby giving The Wild Party far less stillness than its fellow early sound releases.
Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) Directed by Agnès Varda
I can’t believe I hadn’t seen this before 2018 either! A classic of the French New Wave, Varda in real time captures the minutes whilst Clèo waits for the potentially life changing results of a biopsy. You fall in love with the flighty and melodramatic protagonist and feel the suspense build throughout its 90 minute duration leading up to her doctor’s appointment. The film also has a strong feminine gaze and raises questions about how women are perceived, particularly in French society.
The Red Kimona (1925) Directed by Walter Lang and Dorothy Davenport (Uncredited)
The Red Kimona is particularly interested in the plight of women, and is partly memorable today for being one of the few independent productions produced and written by women at the time, (most notably Dorothy Arzner wrote the story). The direction was credited to Walter Lang, but Davenport was always on the set during production and it was she who approved every take and is widely accepted as a co-director now. The film was controversial in its day, due to its subject matter as well as a court case involving the film.
These are just a small amount of the amazing films I discovered this year, you can follow me on Letterboxd for almost daily updates of what I’m watching.