Women in Film | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Women in Film

Hollywood broke in 2017. Is it finally time for parity for the female filmmaker?

It seems that Hollywood officially broke in 2017, and aren't we all lucky?

In an industry that has had 90 years of award ceremonies and has only awarded non-acting awards to women in major categories (best director, best picture, best screenplay) fewer times than the number of fingers you have on both hands, it seems like breaking so it can be rebuilt was really the only option.

In the last few years, we have seen the landscape of film and television change dramatically, with the new ways in which we watch movies. As a result, many more stories featuring women in lead roles, as lead writers, and as lead producers have emerged. Imagine that—we are now watching stories in which women are the lead characters, something that was unheard of even just 10 years ago. And those shows aren't just good, they're truly excellent. Some that make my list are "Broad City," "SMILF," "Insecure," "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," "Chewing Gum," "Fleabag" and the ever-so-wonderful "One Mississippi" with Tig Notaro.

In the past, films with women were not made so frequently and big stars such as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford saw their careers end long before the careers of Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart or Clark Gable. It wasn't that the films weren't good and didn't exist, but much like how things ran in the rest of the world, Hollywood was run by men who wanted men-things.

You can find some gems throughout the years, and some of the best films about the female experience are actually directed by men, including "The Color Purple" (directed by Steven Spielberg) and "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (directed by Martin Scorsese). Here are some films from the past you can watch, featuring strong female leads, sure to inspire you to seek out more films about women, and by women.

"Now, Voyager" (1942)

Bette Davis plays a homely Boston socialite who has become an old maid and suffers a nervous breakdown (I know, so much drama). She finds herself and returns to society as a beautiful swan. The twist: she didn't need a man for the transformation, and only self-love wins in the end! Even way back in 1942 this little gem would've passed The Bechdel Test.

"Mildred Pierce" (1945)

Joan Crawford struts her stuff as a single mother who becomes a successful restauranteur. She gets in plenty of messes, mostly caused by the men in her life and one very, very spoiled daughter. Crawford is incredible and this classic movie is a must-see for any true cinephile.

"All About My Mother" (1999)

OK, so this one is by Pedro Almodovar, a man. However, I can easily make the argument that there's no other male director that writes women characters more robustly, and beautifully as Almodovar. This film is considered his masterpiece (and not just by me).

"Girlfight" (2000)

An inspiring story of a girl who begins taking boxing classes after her brother refuses to go, from writer/director Karyn Kusama. You'll be cheering just as much as you're cringing.

"Monsoon Wedding" (2001)

Mira Nair made her first film in 1979, and since then the Indian filmmaker has proven she is a master of cinema, bringing her homeland to life in rich and complex films that traverse culture and gender. "Monsoon Wedding" is one of her biggest and most successful films and is sure to not disappoint.

"Lovely and Amazing" (2001)

It took several years for Nicole Holofcener to be taken seriously in Hollywood. Her first film, "Walking and Talking," in 1996, starred Anne Heche, Catherine Keener and Liev Schreiber and yet only found a limited audience. It's this sophomore work that I found to be one of her most enchanting films. In the last few years, her work has been a mainstay in cinemas, showcasing those quiet, in-between moments of life and friendships that can be oh-so-small and oh-so-complicated.

"Personal Velocity" (2002)

Rebecca Miller's second feature is a triptych of sorts, giving us three stories of three different women all trying to escape their current life and the men who confine them there.

"An Education" (2009)

This film by Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig was nominated for an Academy Award. Of course, like most films directed by women nominated for Academy Awards, Sherfig was not nominated as best director. It's a great film—awards or not—that showcases what it's like for a young girl to become a woman and learn how to navigate the world in that new capacity.

If 2018 continues on the path that 2017 started, we'll surely hear from more women artists working in film... and that all-white, all-male Oscar ceremony will hopefully look very different in the years to come.

About The Author

Teafly Peterson

For the last 20 years, I have been working as an artist and an educator. Some days I am better at one than the other. The good days are when I am excellent at both simultaneously. I love those days. I teach a variety of mediums– painting, drawing, photography, writing, film making. Mostly what I teach is how to...
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