It’s International Women’s Day, which means it’s a great time to reflect on how women have contributed to the film industry of late; writing, directing and starring in some of the biggest releases over the past year!
A note to Frances McDormand‘s acceptance speech at the Oscars, in which she asked all the female nominees to stand with her as she accepted her award for Best Actress [for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri]. “I’d be so honored to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me in this room tonight…” As women throughout the audience rose, McDormand named their various roles. “The filmmakers, the producers, the directors, the writers, the cinematographers, the composers, the songwriters, the designers — come on!” she said. “Okay, look around everybody! Look around, ladies and gentlemen! Because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties, invite us into your office in a couple days or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best, and we’ll tell you all about them.” She finished her speech by calling for contractually mandated inclusion across films, “I have two words to leave with you tonight: inclusion rider.” Specifically, an inclusion rider is a clause in the contract of the top line talent on a film that requires a diverse crew to be hired around them.
Directed by Patty Jenkins, this film is the first female-directed live-action superhero film released in theaters. It also set a new record for a female-directed feature opening, earning $100M in its first weekend. Starring Gal Gadot, an Israeli actress, the film explores the story of how Wonder Woman came to be…
Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, when an American pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers and her true destiny.
“We are all used to having male protagonists in movies [directed by men]. But the way Patty has captured the Wonder Woman character, she is very relatable to everyone. Boy, girl, man, woman — everyone can relate to her.” - Gal Gadot
Lady Bird has been receiving big accolades, including a variety of awards and nominations. It had the second best theater average of 2017 and the highest-ever for a film in limited release directed by a woman. This coming-of-age comedy-drama was written and directed by Greta Gerwig and stars Saoirse Ronan.
A teenager navigates a loving but turbulent relationship with her strong-willed mother over the course of an eventful and poignant senior year of high school.
A United Kingdom is a 2016 British biographical romantic drama film directed by Amma Asante, based on a true story of romance. According to Asante, those who cared about the story, particularly in Botswana, were “comforted that it was going to be told through the gaze of a woman of colour”.
Asante has also spoken out about women in the film industry: “We are not saying we want to stop films about white men being made, or get rid of them; just that there are other realities. I walk a female path every day, I see the world through female eyes, and I know there are 50% of people in this country who walk a similar path. It’s not about removing what’s already there, it’s about allowing a space for others to join, and have the same privilege.”
The story of King Seretse Khama of Botswana and how his loving but controversial marriage to a British white woman, Ruth Williams, put his kingdom into political and diplomatic turmoil.
[What advice do you have for other female directors?] Be relentless, bold, tenacious, and know your worth. – Amma Asante (Women and Hollywood)
French-Belgian horror drama film written and directed by Julia Ducournau, and starring Garance Marillier. The film premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and received critical acclaim, with praise for Ducournau’s direction and screenplay. It showcases the fact that female directors can produce work that is just as deeply disturbing and blood-soaked as men!
When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.
[What advice do you have for other female directors?] Identify yourself as a director in the media, not as a female director. - Julia Ducournau (Women and Hollywood)
An American period drama film directed by Dee Rees and written by Rees and Virgil Williams, based on the novel of the same name by Hillary Jordan. Mudbound premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and has since been receiving rave reviews and award nominations. Including Best Cinematography, making Rachel Morrison the first woman ever nominated in the category. Mary J. Blige also received both Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song nominations for the film, making her the first person to ever be nominated for an acting and song award during the same year.
Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war.
Other notable films written by, directed by and/or staring women over the past year:
Their Finest –
Direct by Lone Scherfig, written by Gaby Chiappe, based on the 2009 novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans.
The Zookeepers Wife –
Directed by Niki Caro, written by Angela Workman and based on Diane Ackerman‘s non-fiction book of the same name.
Written by Katie Dippold, starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.
Rough Night –
Directed by Lucia Aniello (in her feature debut) , starring Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer.
The Beguiled –
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, starring Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning.
Girls Trip –
Starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith.
It’s wonderful to see women making their way in the film industry and getting recognition for their hard work. There’s still a long way to go in terms of equality and respect, but these are the small steps that lead to further progress. Happy International Women’s Day!