One of the things I could never understand was why there weren’t women in the filmmaking industry, behind the camera as well. That was what I thought for a very long while and if you’re female and aspiring to be a filmmaker it can be intimidating to say the least. But then after watching, what I think is a fantastic movie called Under the Tuscan sun again, I reflected on the movie for a while then really looked at the name on the director credit, Audrey Wells. That can’t be right surely, why else would they have made a fuss about Kathryn Bigelow when she the Oscar in 2010 for The Hurt Locker being a historical event. If they were more women in the director’s chair won’t we know about it? Would they be celebrated as much as their male counterparts?
Like most people i hardly paid much attention to the press regarding the people behind the camera of the film i was watching. like many young people nowadays, and perhaps most people in general, i heard a few words put them together disked the implied suggestion and had a visceral opinion on them. I assumed that glossary of good movie makers were the ones I already knew, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen and so on. Of all the film directors I could think of Kathryn Bigelow was the only female. And the bible of all things film, The Academy Awards, had not put up any wine on their podium picking up metal statues, so that had to be it, right? or Had I been so ignorant to have assumed this?
If that was the case, I wondered what other gems i had missed or assumed a male director had birthed it. I thought about it some more then began to do the research. Low and behold, women are indeed represented in this line on work, maybe not as populated but just as well. I was dumbfounded as to how I could have really believed women were not part of the movers and shakers in directing.
I thought I ask a number of friends and family if the knew of any female directed movies, looking for more movies to add to my watch list and replies I got were, “women as the director?,I’m not sure. I only know of female producers”, or “What! women direct movies? No way! what movies?” but the reply I got most was, “I mean I guess there are movies women direct, but i don’t think they’re that good, I don’t know of any”. The general consensus was, other than the Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker there weren’t any women in the business or they just didn’t do good movies. Now, I must admit I was somewhat relived at not being the only one that was ignorant to the contributions women have made in the filmmaking world at the same time disappointed that I wasn’t the only one.
At this point I decided I’d take my questions out to the public, surely only me and my knuckle head friends were the ones so blatantly unaware of great movies that so happened to have been directed my women. I did a random survey at my local supermarket, my local mall, on the street, I even popped into a baptist church and questioned patrons on their way home, that was amusing to say the least, a few of them seemed annoyed to have someone asking them a real out of the blue question just after their sermon, but most were good sports. And the response I got there echoed what I got everywhere I went. “Nope”. “I don’t know”, “Do, women direct?” “I just know of actress.” It was astounding. Of the 105 random people I managed to get to speak to me, 89% of them had did not know of any female directors or the name of a film that had being directed by a woman, and 7% only knew of The Hurt Locker most of whom were unsure what the director’s name had been. I also asked them if they knew of any male directed movies or male director, to gauge their knowledge in film, and would you believe it 100% of them knew of a film, or the name of a male director, or both. The trending names being Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese of course, a few mentioned Quentin Tarantino, all Academy Award winners.
As tempting as it was to rebuke these people for their lack of awareness, I reminded myself that I too used to be one of them not so long ago. I mean when the Academy Awards is your glossary for the standard in the movie industry and every year you don’t see women making their reasonable timed speech that is quickly accompanied by a subtle soundtrack that then suddenly escalates rudely letting everyone know that time was up, is it so inconceivable that a generation if not generations of people to assume female directors were all but non-existent?
Nobody, as it turn out pays attention to those people that didn’t make it on stage. Especially if they were behind the carama to begin with. In the 86 years the Academy awards have gone on, only four women have ever being nominated for and oscar in the Best director category and the 2010 the only women ever to receive the award was Kathryn Bigelow.
So for female and male aspiring filmmakers and indeed anyone who just loves films, here is list of a few women in the directing world who have, in my humble opinion done spectacular work, for which there are more female directors out there.
Debra Granik is an American independent film director. Her first film Snake Feed (1998), she made while she was a student in New York University, won her an award in Sundance Film Festival for Best Short. She later won the Dramatic Directing Award in 2004 for her first feature-length film, Down to the Bone which she co-wrote with Richard Lieske. The first movie I ever saw of hers was Winter’s Bone, it was her second feature film. She won the Grand Jury Prize for Drama in 2010 and Prix du jury at Deauville American Film Festival 2010 for the film. I remember being floored by the movie at the time, the measure of my adoration I still have for that movie will take up this entire article, so I’ll just leave a link to my review of this film here.
In 2011, she received the Director’s Award for vision and talent at the Athena Film Festival.
Jane Campion, is an New zeland director, producer and screenwriter. In 1975 she graduated with a BA in Anthropology from Victoria University of Wellington then BA, in a painting major,at Sydney College of the Arts in 1979. She later attended the Australian school film and television in the 1980s, where she began her filmmaking career. She co-wrote and directed her first feature film Sweetie (1989), which won her the Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Feature, as well as the Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards in 1990, the Georges Sadoul prize for Best Foreign Film, and the Australian Critics’ Award for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress. She followed this with An Angel At My Table (1990), a dramatization based on the autobiographies of Janet Frame which won some seven prizes, including the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1990. It was also awarded prizes at the Toronto and Berlin Film Festivals, again winning the American Independent Spirit Award, and was voted the most popular film at the 1990 Sydney Film Festival.
She is the one of the four women ever nominated for an academy awards. In 1993, she received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for her directing in the acclaimed film The Piano which she won the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay.
Gina Prince-Bythewood an American film and television director, writer and producer, wrote and directed the widely acclaimed Love and Basketball (2000), which premiered at Sundance Film Festival and earned her the Humanitarian prize for her work on the film. She also won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay. Bythewood attended UCLA’s film school, she received the Gene Reynolds Scholarship for Directing and the Ray Stark Memorial Scholarship for Outstanding Undergraduates. Another one of her primary credits as a director include the film Disappearing Acts (2000).
In 2008 she directed the adaptation of the best-selling book by Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Lives of the Bees, it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and Urbanworld Film Festival that same year.
Amma Asante is a British director, screenwriter and former child actress. She is most known form her directorial debt film A Way of Life (2004), which she also wrote. Its won her the BAFTA‘s “Carl Foreman Award” , she was named The Times Breakthrough Artist Of The Year at the South Bank Show Awards in 2005. The film was awarded various awards including the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Film at the 2005 Miami International Film Festival, and a special commendation Signis Award at the 2004 San Sebastian International Film Festival.
She founded her own production company Tantrum Films and In 2014 she directed her second feature film Belle staring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, which she produced through the company. The film has already been nominated for various wards, and Asante has takes home the prize for Directors to Watch by the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Claire Denis is a french film director and write. Her work is themed in colonial and post-colonial West Africa, as well as issues in modern France. Her most noted films are Chocolat, White Material and Beau Travail.
Denis who initially studied economics, began her filmmaking debut with her feature film Chocolat (1988), a semi-autobiographical meditation on African colonialism, which won her critical acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival and was praised by critics and audiences alike and a remarkable first film. She quickly set a running theme through her films of a realistic raw era, setting most in Africa and earning her a reputation of a filmmaker who “has been able to reconcile the lyricism of French cinema with the impulse to capture the often harsh face of contemporary France.”
Audrey Wells is a San Francisco born, American screenwriter, film director and producer. She graduated from Berkley and UCLA where she earn her masters degree in film production. She has written a number of successful screenplays some of which she created and directed. She had intended on a career in producing, in her words, “documentaries that would change the world.” She eventually segued into scriptwriting where she found her breakthrough role as a screenwriter for Michael Lehmann’s The Truth About Cats and Dogs (1996), starring Uma Thurman and Janeane Garofalo, which she also produced. She then wrote the script for the 1997 adaptation of Jay Ward’s cartoon George of the Jungle, which starred Brendan Fraser. In 20003 she wrote, produced and directed the feature film Under the Tuscan Sun. Then in 2004 she wrote a movie called Shall We Dance.
In 1999 she wrote and directed Guinevere which was entered into the 21st Moscow International Film Festival. Her movie Under the Tuscan Sun, starring Diane Lane, one of my personal favourites, was a huge success and grossed over 58 million dollars. worldwide.
She also co-wrote the comedy The Game Plan (2007)
Nora Epheron was an American journalist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, novelist, producer, director, and blogger. Born in New York City, Nora attended the Wellesley College in Massachusetts. In the early 70s her essays began to grab the attention of adduces and critics alike. She was an acclaimed essayist for Crazy Salad by 1975. In 1983 she wrote her novel Heartburn which again earned her critical acclaim. She later transitioned into scriptwriting, writing screenplays for romantic comedies like Silkwood (1983) and When Harry Met Sally (1989). She made her directorial debut with he feature film This Is My Life (1992).
Ephron wrote and directed modern classic romantic comedies like, You’ve Got Mail (1998), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), for which she received an Academy Award Nomination and BAFTA Nomination for, Julie & Julia, all which she is well known for. She was nominated times times for an Academy Award for best writing in Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. She won a BAFTA award for Best Original Screenplay for When Harry Met Sally
In 2012 July the 26th Nora Ephoren died from phenomena, a condition which she had had diagnosed in 2006 but kept secret.
After her death the Tribeca film festival created an awarded in her honour, the Nora Epheron Prize. A $25,000 prize for female writers and filmmakers with a distinctive voice. The first Nora Epheron Prize was awarded to Meera Menon for her film Farah Goes Bang (2013).
Nora Epheron’s last film was Julie & Julia.
Perhaps the films directed by women lack something vital only a man could accomplish in the eyes of The Academy Awards. Perphs its just become tradition to not take women seriously and their work fly under the radar. Whatever the case, one thing is certain there are women in the directing world, making films that reaches out to touch our hearts and soul, we might not notice their faces or their names, we might not even know we know their work, but they are there, telling us the stories they’ve created and the stories they’ve lived. And my hope is that sooner rather than later we credit these women the respect and recognition they deserve.
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