And so we go back to the start. One hundred films directed by women. We’ve come a long way to get here, so listen up film industry, with the help of some truly movie-loving friends, this is how to shine the light on the female filmmaking talent out there. Not difficult at all. You are simply not looking hard enough. A hundred is a very small number by the way, we’ve missed a hundred more here, a hundred more there, another hundred who knows where. So, to begin:
Obvious Child (2014) – Gillian Robespierre — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
There are no fewer that four women writers involved here – give or take a short film or story credit here or there (Gillian Robespierre, Karen Maine, Anna Bean, Elisabeth Holm). And the film itself is about a woman – the magnetic and naturally funny Jenny Slate, who plays Donna, a young woman not afraid to speak her mind (unapologetic in her stand-up routines), but is at a loose end cross road in her life. Spontaneous fun and frolics with a rather nice, homely, young man resulting in accidental pregnancy might be the last thing she needs. Oops. The ensuing dilemma facing Donna is handled with remarkable assurance, balancing some emotive moments with plenty of awkward, genuine comedy. At the helm of Obvious Child, Gillian Robespierre whizzes the narrative along, taking it in a direction you might not have anticipated. Her vision is straight forward and effectively snappy, so much so the movie (at less than ninety minutes) is over before you know it. Short and sweet this is, even with some delicate adult issues. The final scene is reassuringly tender, a kind of wake-up call that romantic bonds can perhaps flourish from the seemingly hopeless, tougher decisions we have to make in this life.
Near Dark (1987) – Kathryn Bigelow — Marshall Flores @IPreferPi314
The 80s had its share of vampire films, e.g. The Hunger, The Lost Boys, and Fright Night. For me, however, one film stands out among its many fanged brethren of that decade: Near Dark. Long before she became the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar, Kathyrn Bigelow crafted a stylish thriller that blends vampires and westerns into a potent, often bloody cinematic cocktail. Near Dark centers on roving clan of vampire drifters (chief among them Bill Paxton, Lance Henrikson, and Jeanette Goldstein – all borrowed from Bigelow’s then-husband James Cameron’s Aliens), and their reluctant new addition Caleb (Adrian Pasdar), who must choose between his love for vampire beauty Mae (Jenny Wright) and keeping his humanity. Exquisitely shot by cinematographer Adam Greenberg, Near Dark has a lush, phantasmal texture on screen, which is then married to an equally beautiful, hypnotic soundscape of a score by Tangerine Dream. Bigelow paces the film thoughtfully, allowing her ensemble to shine with solidly sympathetic performances. That said, Bigelow pulls no punches with displaying violent vampire mayhem as needed – the infamous bar massacre scene remains one of the most intense, “finger-lickin’ good” sequences in Bigelow’s entire film repertoire. Near Dark is an underrated vampire classic — an essential viewing that demonstrates the rare, cinematic talent that Kathryn Bigelow has exhibited since the beginning of her career.
Somersault (2004) – Cate Shortland —— Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Somersault crash landed into my line of sight when I saw it won a record 13 of it’s 15 Australian Film Institute Awards. Produced by Jan Chapman (Best Picture Oscar nominee for The Piano), the low-key, magnetic little gem is directed by Cate Shortland, from her own screenplay. Leaving her home and taking to the road to be quickly faced with her own promiscuity and vulnerabilities, teenager Heidi (Abbie Cornish, a star was born right here) soon meets Joe (Sam Worthington, the Avatar guy), who has not quite decided his own sexual preference. Shortland allows us to trek the isolated girl, both by foot and emotion, wondering where they’ll take us or how we’ll end up feeling. Not much is resolved in Heidi’s life by the end, her sexual escapades and impulsive judgment may have caused quite a bit of friction with others, but have also somehow redeemed a part of her. Her own revelations about her feelings towards the troubled past goes a long way to offer Heidi some real hope for the future, not at all unhindered by a fragile, illuminating performance from Cornish.
The House is Black (1963) – Forough Farrokhzad — Asif Khan @KHAN2705
“I said, if I had wings of a dove I would fly away and be at rest. I would go far away and take refuge in the desert. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. For I have seen misery and wickedness on Earth.” The feminist and modernist Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad died in 1967 at the age of 32 in a car accident. She only made one film in her life, a short documentary about life inside a leper colony. Arguably the greatest Iranian film, this is a cinematic essay that shows the inherent and true beauty where it’s not believed to exist. People with leprosy live miserable existence undoubtedly, it’s a horrible condition that isolates individuals from other human beings, including their own families. Yet in this miracle of a film, an iconic a powerful statement of the utmost kind, Farrokhzad focuses on the similarities. Similarity of existence, of life and creation. It uses verses from Old Testament, the Quran and Farrokhzad’s own poetry juxtaposed to incredibly edited and photographed footage. The result as I mentioned is nothing less than a miracle, a merger of poetry and cinema unlike any. A stunning depiction of the inner most human beauty, resilience and ordinary emotions in an extraordinary way.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) – Amy Heckerling — Al Robinson @AlRob_MN
Every year, several hundred films are produced and released. The majority of them are directed by men. But a few of them are directed by women, and one such film is 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It was directed by Amy Heckerling, who is also known for European Vacation, Look Who’s Talking, and Clueless. The film was also written by a young and unknown writer-director named Cameron Crowe. Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a simple story that follows a year in the life of several students who deal with mundane, and sometimes not-so mundane issues. Its main characters are the traditional type of people you knew in high school – the cool guy, the cool girl, the wanna-be cool girl, the hipster, the geek, and the stoner. That stoner is played by an unforgettable Sean Penn, who I think steals the movie. Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a great mix of comedy meets drama that never feels too strong in either direction. The thing that ultimately makes this film work so well is that director Heckerling took Crowe’s script about these ordinary young lives, and made them interesting and fun to watch.
Originally posted July 2015.