Monday, August 13, 2012

Best Films Directed by Women

It’s a man’s world, and this is especially true when it comes to film directing. The 2012 Cannes Film Festival received well-deserved criticism for pandering to a boy’s club mentality where no female directors were in competition, and, maybe more to the point, where the quality of the films in competition (directed by men) was in question. Sight and Sound’s recent Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time poll, which includes only one female director, sparked the discussion again. My criticism is not with Sight and Sound's poll (it's an unavoidable reality that the historical odds are stacked against women, even in my own personal top 10.) My complaint is with the post-poll scramble to fill the gap and chronicle the best films directed by women. I’m not going to name any names, but some of these lists were pathetic. (Yentl? The Kids Are Alright? Really?)

Let’s broaden our horizons a little bit, as I try to dig just a little bit deeper into the great films brought to us by the women fighting the odds. My 21, listed chronologically from most recent:

Meek’s Cutoff (2011) Kelly Reichardt
Father of My Children (2009) Mia Hansen-Løve
Oxhide (2005) and Oxhide II (2009) Liu Jiayin
The Way We Are (2008) Ann Hui
Mukhsin (2006) Yasmin Ahmad
Sharasojyu (2003) Naomi Kawase
La Cienega (2001) Lucrecia Martel
Fat Girl (2001) Catherine Breillat
Beau Travail (1999) Claire Denis
Ratcatcher (1999) Lynne Ramsay
The Piano (1993) Jane Campion
Hearts of Darkness (1991) Eleanor Coppola
An Autumn’s Tale (1987) Mabel Cheung
Born in Flames (1983) Lizzie Borden
Variety (1983) Bette Gordon
Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) Chantal Akerman
Destroy, She Said (1969) Marguerite Duras
The Connection (1962) Shirley Clark
Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) Agnès Varda
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) Maya Deren
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) Lotte Reiniger

And finally two directors who should be acknowledged, even if I’m ill equipped to do so:

Daniele Huillet
Alice Guy-Blaché


YTSL said...

Hi Kathie --

Interesting post and list...

Love the inclusion of such as Liu Jiayin's "Oxhide II" (I so wish I will get to view "Oxhide I" some day), Ann Hui's "The Way We Are" and Yasmin Ahmad's "Mukhsin".

One small correction: it's Mabel Cheung (not Cheng) who directed "An Autumn's Tale".

Also, can I throw out a few candidates of my own?

- Ann Hui's "A Simple Life"
- Maggie Greenwald's "The Ballad of Little Jo"
- Alice Wu's "Saving Face"
- Sylvia Chang's "Tempting Heart"
- Marzieh Makhmalbaf's "The Day I Became a Woman"


Kathie Smith said...


Thanks for the edit and thanks for the additions! No list is ever done!

SurveyTool said...

VERY interesting, thank you!

Unknown said...

Don't you defend Sophia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette"?

You really need to see Barbara Loden's "Wanda". So amazing.

Kathie Smith said...

You're right: I do defend Marie Antoinette, but more in an unabashed guilty pleasure. I might have to bow that, outside my bubble, it's not as great comparatively.

And you're also right: I do need to see Wanda.

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