Tag Archive | awareness

WHAT I LEARNED FROM A YEAR OF FILMS BY WOMEN

 

Ocean Waif

In October of 2015, Women in Film Los Angeles launched a challenge that asked people to watch one film a week by a woman for a year and to share and discuss those films on social media. To date they’ve reached over 11,000 pledges and are still going strong.

What I’ve learned from my year of women-directed films is much the same as what I’m hearing from everyone else–namely, that you really have to dig if you want to consistently discover female filmmakers. Here are my observations from the year:

  • I wanted to watch current films, not just the standards that everyone already knows. It was much easier to find independent films with female directors; very difficult to find mainstream studio films. The Wrap recently released this stat:

    …of the 149 movies currently slated for a wide release from the six legacy studios over the next three years, only 12 have female directors. That means a whopping 92 percent of the major motion pictures due in theaters through the end of 2019 will be helmed by men.

  • Sometimes I couldn’t find a narrative feature at all and that’s when I started filling out my year with shorts and documentaries–both of which are much more prolific in terms of female directors. Once again, it all comes back to money and opportunity. What can you make when you have neither? I scoured other people’s lists to see what they were watching and the same films came up over and over again (as they will on my list too). There were limited choices; sometimes nothing appealed to me and I had to go outside the box to find something I wanted to watch.
  • This process of deliberately watching films from female perspective is what finally drove home to me how much of my life–and the lives of all women–have been shaped by the male gaze and point-of-view. Our stories are not being told and so, because we don’t see ourselves on screen or the potential for what we can be on screen, we often don’t see another choice but to accept and perpetuate the myths and stereotypes of what a woman is or what she can and should be. Of course there are many exceptions (thank you, new Star Wars franchise) and media is not the only thing that shapes a life but I’d never before realized just how critical a role it actually did play for me. What could the world look like for future generations of women if we were truly represented?
  • One of my reasons for taking the pledge was to find a director for my own feature project. I fell in love with a lot of new filmmakers but one issue remains: most of them don’t have the breadth of experience that male filmmakers have and may require a leap of faith. Years and years go by between most women’s first and second features…sometimes more years than you can believe and it’s actually tragic how long it takes for a woman to find the funding or opportunity to make one film, let alone several.
  • A highlight: Ashley Judd seeing my blog about her film Come Early Morning (one of my all-time favorites) and writing a lovely comment to me on Facebook.
  • I watched 35 Narrative Features, 8 Narrative Shorts, 6 Documentary Features and 3 Documentary Shorts.
  • My Top Five new films that I discovered and highly recommend are: Stray Dog (Documentary Feature) by Debra Granik, Into the Forest (Narrative Feature) by Patricia Rozema, Hostile Border (Narrative Feature) by Kaitlin McLaughlin & Michael Dwyer, Cigarette Candy (Narrative Short) by Laura Wolkstein and Emotional Fusebox (Narrative Short) by Rachel Tunnard.
  • I remain committed to working with women directors and am very inspired and excited by the prospect. I also remain committed to seeking out films by women on a regular basis and especially to supporting them at the box office and on social media–two places where it counts.
  • Join the movement and take your own #52FilmsByWomen pledge HERE.

The Films

LOVE & BASKETBALL (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood

OBSELIDIA (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Diane Bell

BLEEDING HEART (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Diane Bell

GAS FOOD LODGING (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Allison Anders

STORIES WE TELL (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Sarah Polley

COME EARLY MORNING (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Joey Lauren Adams

SELMA (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Ana DuVernay

STRAY DOG (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Debra Granik

ANOTHER KIND OF GIRL (Documentary Short) / Directed by Khaldia Jibawi

JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Amy J. Berg

I DON’T CARE (Narrative Short) / Directed by Carolina Giammetta

LIFE IN COLOR (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Katharine Emmer

ADVANTAGEOUS (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Jennifer Phang

THE INTERN (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Nancy Meyers

HOSTILE BORDER (Narrative Feature) / Co-Directed by Kaitlin McLaughlin & Michael Dwyer

TOUCH (Narrative Short) / Directed by Jen McGowan

SPEED DATING (Narrative Short) / Directed by Meghann Artes

BELLE (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Amma Asante

GIRLHOOD (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Celine Sciamma

ENOUGH SAID (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Nicole Holofcener

HOTEL 22 (Documentary Short) / Directed by Elizabeth Lo

MIELE (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Valeria Golino

SEQUIN RAZE (Narrative Short) / Directed by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro

EMOTIONAL FUSEBOX (Narrative Short) / Directed by Rachel Tunnard

CIGARETTE CANDY (Narrative Short) / Directed by Lauren Wolkstein

WAITRESS (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Adrienne Shelly

THE PIG CHILD (Narrative Short) / Directed by Lucy Campbell

WATER (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Deepa Mehta

TALLULAH (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Sian Heder

WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSED (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Gillian Armstrong

FANGIRL (Documentary Short) / Directed by Liza Mandelup

ALWAYS WORTHY (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Marianna Palka

STRANGERLAND (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Kim Farrant

BONESHAKER (Narrative Short) / Directed by Frances Bodomo

PINE RIDGE (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Anna Eborn

BRIDGET JONES’S BABY (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Sharon Maguire

IMAGINE I’M BEAUTIFUL (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Meredith Edwards

BIG STONE GAP (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Adriana Trigiani

CERTAIN WOMEN (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Kelly Reichardt

SUFFRAGETTE (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Sarah Gavron

OPERATOR (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Logan Kibens

RED ROVER (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Brooke Goldfinch

INTO THE FOREST (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Patricia Rozema

BRIGHT STAR (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Jane Campion

ALWAYS SHINE (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Sophia Takal

IT HAD TO BE YOU (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Sasha Gordon

AMERICAN HONEY (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Andrea Arnold

THE DRESSMAKER (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse

LEARNING TO DRIVE (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Isabel Coixet

THE WINDING STREAM (Documentary Feature) / Directed by Beth Harrington

THE INTERVENTION (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Clea Duvall

DESERTED (Narrative Feature) / Directed by Ashley Avis

#52FilmsByWomen: PINE RIDGE

pine-ridge

35/52 PINE RIDGE

Our indigenous populations have been on my mind lately because of the protest movement happening around the Dakota Access Pipeline. This documentary, directed by Swedish filmmaker Anne Eborn, is a fly-on-the-wall observation of the lives and dreams of young people living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

The poverty of this place is heartbreaking, especially when you see the myriad of complex issues that arise from such a lack of resources–alcoholism, abuse, absent parents, gangs, prison time, poor nutrition and medical/dental care, gaps in education, shoddy housing, broken-down cars and a dearth of meaningful or productive work. And, of course, as with many documentaries–you see the potential for what could be.

There is a nine-year boy who “can’t tie” because his parents never taught him and who has to think hard about how old he is. All I wanted was for his adult caretaker to sit down right then and there and teach him how to tie and how to count. But she has troubles of her own and the thought doesn’t cross her mind. There are teenage boys who can’t stay in school but who have dreams of becoming psychologists and architects. And one boy just wants to be a guardian over the land and the animals that live on it.

What I love about how Eborn shot these kids is that you see them visually, engaged in a routine activity or in the boring nothingness that engulfs them every day, but you hear their voice-overs speaking to their actual hopes for their lives. The juxtaposition of reality and dreams is sobering. There is also footage of long-haired young men and women riding horses across the stark landscape and you just have to wonder what could have been for this culture if their populations hadn’t been wiped out, if their communities hadn’t been besieged and if they hadn’t been forced into a way of life that offers them nothing and is counter-intuitive to the way they lived for so long. Along with slavery, this has got to be one of the blackest stains across our country.

Visit the PINE RIDGE WEBSITE for a link to rent the film. And Greenpeace has a great page listing all the ways you can SUPPORT THE PROTEST against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

 

#52FilmsByWomen: FANGIRL

fangirl

31/52 FANGIRL

This week’s five-minute morsel takes a fly-on-the-wall look into the world of teenage fan girls and it reminded me of how much our culture has changed since I was a teenager.

Back in my day, I lived in a small Indiana town that boasted the second largest Amish population outside of Pennsylvania and had a booming tourist industry because of it. I’d cash my tiny paycheck from my ice-cream parlor, restaurant or babysitting job and run over the local pharmacy to see if the latest issues of BOP or BIG BOPPER magazine had come in. Then I’d hole up in my room to see what Michael J. Fox, Kirk Cameron or Alyssa Milano were getting up to. At that time my family didn’t own a computer and, in fact, I hadn’t yet learned how to use one. We had to catch our favorite television shows when they aired and we rented movies from the video store.

For me, the colorful and gossipy glimpse into the world of Young Hollywood wasn’t really about “romance.” I did have crushes, to be sure, but mostly I just wanted to live the kind of life that these teenage actors were living. I wanted to be in movies, go to the beach and live in a place that was sunny all year round. I don’t think I ever believed that the actors I admired would be friends with me; I just wanted to be like them.

In today’s world, that sort of innocent and distant infatuation has evolved into a hyper psedu-intimacy, where every banal thought and deed is posted instantly on social media and available to a public audience. Young teens grow up feeling like they have access to the most private aspects of their idols lives and, therefore, an emotional bond forms that is rooted in the public fantasy instead of in reality. Some of that is status quo, some of it is innocent and some of it can be quite disturbing–particularly when you think about how this constant virtual voyeurism is depriving young women of the opportunity to discover their own strengths, interests and passions. I also think about how much pressure young people must feel to be “followed” socially and to have their five minutes of fame.

Director Liza Mandelup is exploring a worthy subject. You can read her director’s statements and watch this short doc HERE.

 

%d bloggers like this: