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I Vote For More Movies By Women

With the release this month of Suffragette, directed by Sarah Gavron, I was reminded of a very interesting book, Celluloid Ceiling – Women Film Directors Breaking Through, edited by Gabrielle Kelly and Cheryl Robson. You can find out more about it here. For a budding student of film culture a very worthwhile read. The book is a collection of essays about the realities for female directors around the world. It may seem surprising but it can be easier for a woman to make her film in Saudi Arabia than in Hollywood.
The term Celluloid Ceiling was coined some time ago and refers to the chronic under-representation of women in creative positions in film and television. Since 1998 the Celluloid Ceiling report is published annually with figures for female representation in Hollywood and it makes for depressing reading. Today there has been little or no change from the overall figure of 17% with about 6% being the percentage of female directors.
Despite the enormous gender disparity in theatrical film production, there are some notable examples of women who have effectively smashed the celluloid ceiling and made their mark as great creative talent. In the course we discuss the work of Hitler’s cinema propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. Recently Hollywood has given us Kathryn Bigelow, another subject for study on the course. If you haven’t yet explored the work of the few female directors around then you have missed some remarkable work: Jane Campion, maker of one of my favourite films, An Angel at My Table (1990), which, incidentally won the Palm d’Or, also wrote directed and produced The Piano in 1993 and more recently Bright Star in 2009. Gina Prince Bythewood directed the acclaimed Love and Basketball in 2000 and The Secret Life Of Bees in 2008. Sofia Coppola has a substantial filmography including Lost in Translation (2003) for which she was nominated for three Oscars for Best Director, Best screenplay and Best Picture, picking up the writer gong. Catherine Hardwick is equally prolific with a powerful filmography including her latest outing, the deeply affecting in my opinion, Miss You Already, released last month. Clueless, made in 1995 was a brilliant piece of Hollywood engineering written by Amy Heckerling who went on to direct a number of episodes of the TV spin-off. My favourites list has to include the brilliant Nora Ephron who wrote and directed a string of Hollywood hits that retain valuable shelf space in my DVD collection, including Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You’ve Got Mail (1998) and Julie and Julia (2009). My list could go on and on and on. I am reminded of two recent works of great merit. Tomboy, made in 2011 by Celine Sciamma and one of the most important documentaries of the last decade and again, a subject within the course, is The Square, directed by Jehane Noujaim in 2013
So, who was the first female director? Alice Guy-Blaché is generally credited with her film La Fée aux Choux, (The Cabbage Fairy) made in 1896. Enjoy this delightful short. And finally, is it really true that it is easier for a Saudi woman to make a film than an American or a Brit? Well, maybe one need look no further than Wadjda, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour in 2012 and made entirely on location in Saudi Arabia. For sheer tenacity al-Mansour must take the top award for the film was five years in the making and she directed mostly hidden from public view. A remarkable film which was nominated for a BAFTA in 2013.

Posted by author: Adam
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2 thoughts on “I Vote For More Movies By Women

  • I wonder if that’s where the idea of those Cabbage Patch Dolls came from.
    One of my favourite Films is “Caramel’ the story of 5 women living in Beirut, directed by Nadine Labaki, who also appeared in the film. It’s a film I can watch over and over again because the characters are so believable.

  • It is very pleasing to see Sarah Gavron getting the plaudits for Suffragette, I loved her last film The Village at the End of the World.
    I also loved Caramel Catherine and while the representation of women in the film industry is clearly a cause for action, it strikes me that there are plenty of very strong films which have been directed by women in recent years. For me some clear favourites are:
    The Selfish Giant by Clio Bernard
    The Falling by Carole Morley
    I’d also recommend anyone with a Lovefilm account to see Home or Sister by Ursula Meier – which brings me on to Agnes Godard cinematographer on The Falling and both Meier films – her involvement is always a recommendation for me.

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