15% of films in Cannes 2017 are directed by women – to be specific, there are only 3 films directed by women in the official competition: ‘Hikari (Radiance)’ by Naomi Kawase, Lynne Ramsay’s ‘You Were Never Really Here’ and Sophia Coppola’s remake of “The Beguiled”, about the same amount as last year. The Un Certain Regard category fared a bit better: Five of the 16 films screening (31 percent) are helmed by women, compared to last year’s four out of 18 (22 percent). Overall, Cannes is still a fest that shuts out female filmmakers.
In its early years, the film industry was dominated by women who dominated the fields of writing and production (50 percent of Hollywood scripts before 1930 were written by female screenwriters). In addition, brilliant directors such as Alice G. Blaché and Lois Weber were the first to identify the potential of cinema as a narrative medium, and not merely as a documentary used to show distant places or small scenes from daily life such as workers leaving the factory or a kissing couple. Interestingly, it was women who identified the ability of the moving images to excite, laugh and tell a story – and not just to record episodes without context.
Still, Weber and Blas are the exception to the rule: women’s directing has always lagged behind (only four women were nominated for an Oscar nomination, and only one of them – Catherine Bigelow – won). Women who have nevertheless wanted to direct have encountered not only technical and creative obstacles throughout history, but mainly those in the major studios, many of whom were small chauvinists (in this context it is best to read Without Lying Down, which tells the story of the Oscar-winning screenwriter Frances Marion and other screenwriters) Which were active in the 1920s and 1930s and encountered a humiliating attitude on the part of the studios’ directors, as well as a 2003 documentary film with the same name inspired by the book).
More than a century has passed since Alice Guy Blaché directed her poetic film Falling Leaves in 1912, and today there are dozens of directors who have contributed their own masterpieces of film history. So, for the sake of future lists and those who are simply looking for fine cinema – here is a very subjective and partial list of masterpieces directed by women (and – because such lists tend to include the same names – Claire Dani, Sophia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow, Julie Taymor etc.) ‘- I focused on less familiar names or lesser-known films of influential artists)
Alice Guy Blaché
Alice Guy Blaché, considered the first director in the history of cinema, directed, wrote and produced more than 700 films, and worked as head of the production department of the company “Gaumont”. Among my silent films directed, my favorite film is the short Falling Leaves, which tells of a girl who happened to hear that her dying sister was supposed to die “when all the leaves fall off the trees.” In an attempt to push the end, she sticks leaves to the trees in a breathtaking black-and-white scene. The 12 minute movie was uploaded to YouTube, and you can see it here:
Jane Campion “The Piano” and Sweetie
For the “Piano,” which was nominated for eight Academy Awards, there is no need to elaborate: If you have not seen it- just do. An exemplary use of sound, a brilliant script and an amazing game by Holly Hunter and the young Anna Pacvin. Sweetie, on the other hand, is a lesser-known film than 1989: Campion’s first feature film, in which she exhibited a unique, original and kicking cinematic style. This is a film that deals with the problematic relationship, to say the least, between two sisters, one of whom suffers from a mental disorder is not clear. The result is a depressing and surprising family portrait reminiscent of Mike Lee’s early films (in 1990 Lee released Life is Sweet, a family melodrama reminiscent of Campion’s style and content.) It is especially recommended to see these two films in sequence, assuming you do not have a weak heart or / And suicidal tendencies).
Deepa Mehta Trilogy Fire, Earth, Water
At the age of 41 Mehta directed her first feature, Earth (1996), which dealt with a lesbian relationship against the backdrop of the strict caste culture and marriage laws in India, but her great masterpiece only came in 2006: “Water” (representing Canada at the Oscars) Although it was filmed in India). This is a depressing and heartbreaking film about an eight-year-old girl who has been widowed by her husband (yes, in India they marry girls of that age) and is therefore sent to a widow’s home. Mehta, who filmed the film for five years during which she and her team suffered repeated harassment by fundamentalists (who even destroyed the set several times), manages to tell a fascinating and emotional story while simultaneously criticizing the built-in chauvinist of Indian society. And there is also an excellent Indian soundtrack, as can be seen in the trailer:
Samira Makhmalbaf – “Blackboards” and “At Five in the Afternoon”
Three of the directors came from the Iranian family of Makhmalbaf and the talent show: Samira Makhmalbaf, who directed her first film at the age of 17; Her sister Chana Makhmalbaf, who in 2007 directed “The Notebook,” a film about an Afghan girl who wants to attend school like the boys in her family; And Mohsen Makhmalbini’s second wife, Marzia Mashkini, who directed a film about women Iranian society expects to sacrifice their freedom on the altar of religion. From this magnificent family, “Blackboards” (2000) and “Five at the Afternoon” (2003) – two films that won the Cannes jury award – are my favorite films: a model of low-budget cinema that manages to convey through careful and consistent observation of the stories of Inspiring figures, including teachers with plaques on their backs, are looking for students in the seven-battle area near the Iranian border with Iraq (in the tabloid) or Afghan women fighting for their independence
Chantal Akerman Je, Tu, Ill ,Elle
Every film student in his first year had to deal with the three and a half hours of “Jeanne Dielman,” Akerman’s influential and revolutionary film of 1975. Anyone who wants to know something about cinema, feminism and the connection between them must see it in the cinema at least once in a life. But I still chose to recommend a less familiar film – Je, Tu, Ill, Ell (“I, You, He, She”) from 1974. This is a minimalistic experimental film in which Ackerman herself plays the main character, a young woman named Julie who goes hitchhiking on her way to an unclear destination. The result is a very strange cinematic hallucination. In the end, one of the longest lesbian sex scenes in the history of female cinema is hidden, and this is a great example of the gentle, patient and moving way in which a woman looks and investigates female sexuality.
Lucrecia Martel The Swamp
Lucrecia Martel is an Argentinian director who is very well known. In 2001 she burst into the spotlight after her debut film, La Ciénaga, was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Indeed, the “egg” revealed a unique and challenging cinematic voice. This is a film that follows two families spending their summer in a small town in Argentina. The heat, the suffocation, and the claustrophobic spaces load the film with tension and violence that threatens to erupt at any moment. This is an unusual portrait of family, adolescence and generational gaps, with a surprising and unforgettable ending scene. Three years later, Martel came to the Cannes Film Festival with “Sacred Girl,” an excellent film in its own right (which Pedro Almodóvar signed as a producer).
Andrea Arnold – Fish Tank
Another teenage drama that focuses on young women is “Fish Tank,” the second film by British director Andrea Arnold (whose debut film Red Road is also recommended). Arnold cast the anonymous Katie Jarvis into the lead role – a 15-year-old girl named Mia removed from school and developing a complex relationship with her mother’s boyfriend (the excellent Michael Fassbinder). Arnold creates films centered on complex and sympathetic female characters, and manages to tell Mia’s story in a reliable, honest and devoid of sentimentality. Given that this is a film filmed in less than a month and with a budget of just £ 2m, this is an impressive achievement.
Shannon Plumb Towheads
Last but not least – This is the first feature of the video artist Art Shannon Plumb. Towheads is an autobiographical film about the life of a young mother (played by Plumb) who tries to balance a creative career as a video art director for raising two small children and running a household. This is a low-budget masterpiece that manages to make people laugh, to express emotion, and to provide a very complex and sincere portrait of mothers.