100 Films Made By Women – Part 14 of 20

We throw at you a ground-breaking documentary, classic literature, oddball comedy – the list can go on – in the next part of 100 Films Made By Women. Go ahead, enjoy the next 5:

The Selfish Giant (2013) – Clio Barnard — Thomas Pollock @FilmMasterT

The Selfish Giant is a British film, directed by Clio Barnard, telling the story of two 13 year-old boys in a working class neighborhood. They try to make money by trying to sell things to a scrapyard, which begins to have consequences. This is a bleak and emotional charged film that boasts social realism. The acting from the young performers is convincing and impressive, drawing you in to their lives. This is a story of social class, childhood and friendship. Partly inspired by the Oscar Wilde story of the same name, Barnard tackles the issue of what can happen to lesser-fortunate children in broken homes. A gritty and honest film that is likely to stay with you after viewing.

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Harlan County, USA (1976) – Barbara Kopple — Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag

I truly feel that without Barbara Kopple, we would have no Laura Poitras (CitizenFour), Gabriela Coperthwaite (Blackfish), Amy Berg (Deliver Us from Evil) or Jehane Noujaim (The Square). Every woman who made – or ever will make – a hard-hitting documentary film owes Kopple, who went to Brookside Mine in Kentucky to cover one thing and ended up staying for a year, coming home with something entirely different. The UMWA began a strike against Duke Power’s Eastover Mining Company and Kopple filmed the ensuing struggle between the 180 workers and the mine, the company, the corporate parent and ultimately, the state. She doesn’t bother with narration because the action speaks for itself. She explores the hardscrabble existence of the workers whose already poor wages free-fall behind the inflation rate and who deal with daily dangers of their working conditions and future perils such as black lung disease waiting round the corner. Her camera captures numerous interviews and maneuvering from both sides of the line as well as the picketing. She films the State Police clearing the way for scabs, the armed strikebreakers shooting at the miners and their families, including the funeral of a young minor shot during a confrontation. The thing about Barbara Kopple – she never blinks. Kopple won the Oscar in 1977 for Best Documentary feature. She won a second in 1991 and has also done some series TV (OZ and Homicide: Life on the Street), but it is Harlan County, USA that put her, feature documentaries in general, and female documentarians, in particular, on the cinema map.

Wayne’s World (1992) – Penelope Spheeris — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

A woman, Penelope Spheeris, is responsible for directing that wacky satire about geeks Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) and their cable TV show Wayne’s World – just like the one you saw on Saturday Night Live. Spheeris takes these two pop cultured boys and their perhaps warped view on the world on a journey through the high life and corruption fame can bring. More so this is a movie that just wants to have fun. It has donuts bleeding jam, iconic guitar love, the timeless Bohemian Rhapsody re-enactment, several re-worked endings. A whole host of well-known faces pop their heads in too, including Meat Loaf, Lara Flynn Boyle, Ione Skye, Ed O’Neill, and of course Alice Cooper. Wayne’s World has a firm, funny grasp of the younger generation’s outlook on pop culture, ways of communicating, video games, hot girls, music. More importantly this is fresh, genuinely comic film, never taking it’s foot off the laughing gas no matter how ludicrous or oddball it gets.

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Wuthering Heights (2011) – Andrea Arnold — Asif Khan @KHAN2705

Directed by British filmmaker Andrea Arnold, this gritty and dark adaptation of the classic Emily Brontë novel from 1847, was a divisive and somewhat ignored film when it came out few years ago. It had won award for its cinematography at Venice but the audience, the few who actually watched it, were put off by its unorthodox approach to the source material as well as the period romance sub-genre in general. A passionate defender and admirer of the film, I was enamored and swept by the brutal yet visually stunning treatment of the story. Arnold has been working on TV as a director and actress, she made some short films (her Wasp won live-action short Oscar). Her feature debut Red Road and sophomore effort Fish Tank are both winners of Jury Prize at Cannes, she has won BAFTA and numerous other prizes. Arnold is one of the most exciting voices in not only British cinema but the world. There is an impassioned search of realism and naturalism in her films, of the the characters and their surroundings. How they are shaped up by where they grow and why there is so much to be learned about a person through their psyche and emotions. Wuthering Heights (Arnold co-wrote it with Olivia Hetreed) is such a representation of these classic characters mostly known and celebrated but not really looked beyond the obvious. Animalistic love, harsh characteristics, spellbinding sight and sounds. Misty, rain swept and mud covered windy moors – and the undying love of Heathcliff and Catherine.

Under the Skin (1997) – Carine Adler — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Forget Jonathan Glazer and Scarlett Johansson (for the time being), and instead immerse yourself in Carine Adler, Samantha Morton, and Claire Rushbrook. The 1997 British drama titled Under the Skin is a tale of two sisters, both grieving the loss of their mother. Iris (Morton) is losing her shit, suffocating in her personal and professional life, pretty much on the downward slope. Rose (Rushbrook) is settled, married and baby on the way, but is a sensitive soul. Iris’ describes sexual encounters in detail in voice-over, and the heavier side of the soundtrack is not there to cradle your emotions, it thuds and beats and drowns out sounds. It takes Iris away from it all a while so she can rub herself or lead herself to more promiscuity with men. There are transitional fades within the same sequence, which is kind of effectively disorientating, and Adler’s camera tilts ever so slightly and hovers at times. Her screenplay is brutally honest, sometimes painful, an enlightening look at how two people can suffer so differently. This is Iris’ story though, and Samantha Morton’s film, so affecting and magnetic (as always) in this, even when hardly moving a muscle. Morton excels as playing troubled, tender souls on the verge of sadness or breaking point, and this is certainly no exception. Adler writes with authentic passion for the more unstable human interactions, characters speak their mind, and say insensitive things at the wrong moment. That people can, and do, act irrationally, violently, in despair, without glossing over the very rough edges. It would not be a stretch to make comparisons to Mike Leigh in it’s human nature, but there is fire in her belly in the way Adler executes the gritty, no holds barred direction.

First published August 2015.

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