👀 Behind every great female-directed film is a female director
#258 | It’s time to make them iconic
In 2015, my teacher showed us an experimental silent documentary film called Man with a Movie Camera during my film studies class. Later he asked us to recall, at the top of our heads, iconic photographs of film directors with their movie cameras.
Federico Fellini directing Roma, Stanley Kubrick doing his thing on the set of Dr Strangelove, John Huston bossing it with The Misfits, Otto Preminger showing off his camera boom skills on Saint Joan, Satyajit Ray conjuring his directorial magic with Sonar Kella, Frank Capra calling the shots for Mr Smith Goes to Washington... boy, did the names pour in!
We all felt so smart until our teacher threw us a curveball. He showed us a picture none of us recognized.
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A picture of Agnès Varda, a Belgian-born French film director and screenwriter whose work was central to the French New Wave cinema movement of the 1960s and later.
Coincidentally 2015 was the year the female gaze fought back. And the year my eyes were opened wide. We had the Bechdel Test Fest and Reel Good Film Club (unfortunately, not active anymore), championing women in film. And the release of Suffragette, directed by Sarah Gavron.
The real highlight of 2015 was when the British Film Institute (BFI) released a list of 100 overlooked films directed by women - finally, a light on the hidden wonders of cinema buried in the sands of time and prejudice.
The list was born with the collective insights of Jane Campion, Greta Gerwig, Claire Denis, Isabelle Huppert, Agnès Varda, Tilda Swinton - for me it was a cinematic awakening. The list is not finite, but it was my gateway to incredible films by women frontrunners from all corners of the world.
BFI followed up with women behind the camera, and it featured an introduction that blew me away as much as the list, “Behind every great female-directed film is a female director."
Go forth, my fellow film enthusiasts, and honour these women who paved the way for us to run free!