5 Female Directors You Should Know…

The paucity of female filmmakers has almost reached the point of media saturation. It doesn’t take long to find statistics or editorials decrying the severe scantiness of a female perspective in the film industry. As well as being an all-white affair, this year’s Academy Awards are once again male-dominated, with zero women being nominated in the Directing or Cinematography categories. However, I would contend that it’s not because there is an actual lack of talented, insightful and masterful women helming films but rather fewer opportunities presented to them.

I was reading a piece in The Guardianthe other day about a film critic who is vowing to watch films only penned, or purposed by women. Her justification for including male-directed, but female-written film is as follows:

“A lot of times a woman will write a script and in order to get it made, she’ll need a male director. If she goes to a financier, as a female screenwriter with a female director, she will be turned down. But if you have a female screenwriter and a male director who has one or two films behind him – or even if it’s his debut – financiers are more likely to back a film by a man”.

And in that brief statement, Gates articulates the core issue. Gender discrimination in Hollywood is pervasive, and destructive. It’s like a community sitting atop a vast field of untapped oil, and being told it doesn’t exist – that those resources are somehow inferior, or less visible than the ones they have access to. That would be a massive squandering of potential, and quite frankly, ridiculous. Yet the difficulty women have making movies, or making money making movies, is often viewed as ‘just the way it is’.

Here to prove that point – that it’s not a lack of female directors, but a lack of opportunity – are 5 up-and coming or established directors who are doing their thing, and doing it quite brilliantly. Of course there are plenty more that deserve your curiosity, but these are the ladies currently capturing my attention…

5. KKat+Coiro+Case+Premieres+Tribeca+Film+Festival+a1ZquC2imW_lat Coiro

With three feature-length projects under her belt in as many years, Coiro is perhaps the most prolific director of my selection. Her films And While We Were Here, (which I review in my last blog post), Life Happens, and A Case of You, often focus on the difficult choices that women are faced to make, such as between career and family. The critical response to her films has been mixed, however her female leads are all intriguing, flawed but ultimately likeable people that don’t necessarily have their shit all figured out. Particularly interesting in A Case of You is how the male lead (playing by the affable Justin Long) is the one trying to change, and mould himself to lure his love interest, which is so often the other way around in romantic comedies directed by men. Her films are in turn delicate, nuanced, witty and beautifully realised. And While We Here particularly showcases an artistic vision and her potential as a director of great potency.

In_a_World_poster4. Lake Bell

If you haven’t see In A World… steal a friend’s Netflix password immediately. It’s hilarious and relevant, and reveals actress Lake Bell to not only be a great comedic performer, but also a very astute director. It’s a satirical piece that charts a young woman’s attempt to compete in the male-dominated world of voiceovers and Bell never misses a beat nor an opportunity to underscore the double-standarded nature of the entertainment business. In A World… is a pacy and well-crafted feature length debut for Bell, and one that has me incredibly, insatiably excited for her collaboration with Noah Baumbach for her next project The Emperor’s Children. 

Amma Asante3. Amma Asante

Belle might be better known for launching EE Rising Star nominee Gugu Mbatha-Raw into the spotlight, but behind her confident, multi-faceted performance is Ghanian-British director Asante. Tackling the slave trade – especially after awards-sweeper 12 Years a Slave – in an original and sensitive way, is no mean feat, but it is one that Asante achieves with the deft of a director considerably more experienced. This is her first big-budget film, after her smaller 2004 debut A Way of Life, which won a handful of awards and lots of praise. Powerful, poignant and intelligent, Belle is a mischievous, and much-needed divergence from traditional period costume-dramas and one that has me hoping it doesn’t take Asante another 10 years to release a film.

fid131102. Haifaa Al-Mansour

Al-Mansour is from Saudi Arabia, a country where extreme restrictions and limitations are placed on the female population; where they aren’t allowed to wear certain clothes, drive cars or compete in sports, let alone direct a groundbreaking and thought-provoking film. But against these curtailments of her freedom, that’s exactly what Al-Mansour did with Wadjda in 2013, a courageous, endearing and important film that picked up several awards nominations on the film festival circuit. Al-Mansour is to make the cross over to Hollywood with a Mary Shelley biopic, in which Elle Fanning is slated to star in the titular role. Let’s hope she continues to push boundaries upon arrival.

BN-FZ257_ava2_DV_201412111612591. Ava DuVernay

If there’s one name you should remember from this year’s awards season, its Ava DuVernay. Though she just missed out on a Best Directing nomination for her Martin Luther King biopic Selma, she has done something arguably much more admirable – broken through the glass ceiling. Historical films such as this are predominantly the reserve of a male director and it’s rare for a woman to be charged with detailing the events surrounding one of the most important victories for the Civil Rights movement, as spear-headed by the most important figure of the Civil Rights movement. And yet she does it in blistering, gutsy and and complex style. She’s got filmmaking verve by the bucketload, and shows great amounts of restraint and intelligence in her formal approach. DuVernay might not pick up any awards, but she should win herself a legion of fans and cement her position as a talent to take serious note of.

Review: And While We Were Here

WHILE WE WERE HERE
And While We Were Here (US, 2012). DIR. Kat Coiro. Starring: Kate Bosworth, Iddo Goldberg, Jamie Blackley

Experiencing a bout of middle-class ennui, caused by a loveless, childless marriage to her stony British, viola playing husband Leonard (Iddo Goldberg), Kate Bosworth’s Jane is begging to be jolted out of her misery. What better setting for her spiritual and sexual rebirth than the island of Ischia, a historic and exotic Italian town, where the scenery is as pretty as the boy who promises adventure.

That boy is Caleb (the effervescently charming Jamie Blackley), a 19-year-old American who lures Jane with his youthful impetuousness and memory of Italian poetry. Like a gender-swap manic-pixie-dream-girl, his gallivanting around the world with few possessions and even less agenda gives Jane just the thrill she needs to recognise – and perhaps do something about – the infuriating idle of her dreary marriage.

And-While-We-Were-Here-iddo-goldberg-kate-bosworthThe two relationships are contrasted by fairly run-of-the-mill means. Jane and Leonard’s interactions are punctuated by stilted conversations and awkward silences, where vast spaces and turned backs depict just how incompatible they are. Their surroundings in each other’s company are lit with a cold sterility, compared to the sunshine and openness Jane encounters on her strolls around the island. Jane and Caleb, meanwhile, frolic in the sea and amongst Italian ruins, a series of flirtatious and sensuous wanderings that are captured predominantly in montage format.

and-while-we-were-here-8At times, the narrative can be a little bit flimsy. From the moment Jane and Leonard partake in routine and unsatisfactory sex and she touches her stomach with a sense of loss and yearning, we can forecast where this might be heading. However, the delicacy and clarity with which Kat Coiro (writer and director) treats the female perspective is something to be admired. Our empathy and indeed most of the screen time is devoted to Jane, who is caught between her past and her future. This conflict has been treated with more depth and less whimsy in the past, but Bosworth’s performance and the refreshing sea breeze suffused throughout the film make for a charismatic watch. What’s more, there is real pathos and honesty in the unravelling of both relationships – neither is realistic, but both serve their purpose.

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Photographed with a veneer of timeworn nostalgia (accentuated by Coiro’s homage to Rossellini), and comprising of a great many Kodak moments, there are times when this delicate portrayal of a disintegrating marriage borders on the generic. True, there’s not much substance to this stylish depiction of the liberating effect of the Amalfi coast, but even so, the romantic, evocative cinematography and glistening locations are enough to induce sympathy for Jane’s being swept up by it all.

Verdict: Beyond a simple premise and predictable denouement, lies a tender and aesthetically-stunning tale of self-discovery. Sepia-drenched and a little bit drippy, this is also wistful, enchanting and frivolous cinema.