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« The Oscar Week: Denzel,Adam,and Issey| Main| Gosling and Chazelle to Reunite on the Moon »
Friday
Dec 30 2016

A Year with #52FilmsByWomen

Year in Review.Every afternoon,a new wrap-up.TodayGlennon his year with #52FilmsByWomen

The hashtag ‘52FilmsByWomen' was started byWomen in Filmas a means of getting people to consciously watch at least one film a week directed by a woman.It seems like a simple mission considering the number of films many of us watch for both work and pleasure,but I have no doubt that of the 10,000+ people who pledged to do it,many didn't reach the goal.That's all right,though,because I saw enough for two.

No,really.In 2016,I watched 105 titlesincluding feature films,shorts,and documentaries.They cover classics,new releases,hidden gems,animations,comedy,horror,and from all over the world.Here are...

TEN OBSERVATIONS FROM MY YEAR OF #52FILMSBYWOMEN

Subverting Toxic Masculinity
We don't just want more women making films for their fine-tuned insights into the lives of women – Kelly Reichardt'sCertain Womenand Anna Rose Holmer'sThe Fitsbeing perhaps the most obvious examples among this year's releases that I saw – but also for their unique takes on men and masculinity.

Look no further for Athina Rachel Tsangari'sChevalierfor a film that couldn't have been made by a man,but which has so much to say in this year of "toxic masculinity".What a shame it didn't catch fire with arthouse audiences and award voters.I wasn't too taken by Tsangari'sAttenberg,but I responded toChevaliermore than any of Yorgos Lanthimos' works so far,so make of that what you will.

I'll Go Anywhere with Andrea Arnold
From the surveilled streets of Scotland inRed Road,the council estates of Essex inFish Tank,the moors ofWuthering Heights,and now,apparently,the American Midwest...

Arnold's directorial style – which has won her an Oscar forWaspand three Jury Prizes at Cannes – fits in surprisingly well toAmerican Honey's story of a group of magazine salesman drifters seeking the American dream and finding a twisted version of it in roadside motels.Nearly three-hours,but curiously captivating throughout including an awards-worthy performance by Riley Keough...

They Make the Documentaries That Become Movies
Whenit was announcedthat Jeff Nichols'Lovingwould be classified by the Academy as an adapted screenplay,it was a thankful admission that Nichols had directly used Nancy Buirski's award-winning documentaryThe Loving Storyas its backbone.Lovingwas just one story this year to be directed by a man that had already been told in a female-directed documentary.Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg'sMarathon: The Patriots Day Bombingpreceded Peter Berg'sPatriots Day,and the Slenderman myth as told in Irene Taylor Brodsky'sBeware the Slendermanis currently being adapted into a feature film by David Birke.

Speaking of Documentaries…
Anybody who is serious about watching non-fiction film,whether that be old or new,should easily be able to reach 52 female-directed films in a year.41 of the titles on my list were documentaries – the best of which included the late Chantal Akerman's sublimely photographedFrom the Eastandher final workNo Home Movie,Kristen Johnson'sOscar contenderCameraperson,Jayne Loader'sNational Film Registry initiatedAtomic Café(co-directed with Kevin and Pierce Rafferty),Freida Lee Mock's Oscar winnerMaya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision,Ava DuVernay's vital13th,Laurie Anderson's exquisiteHeart of a Dog,Anna Broinowski's eye-opening and award-winningPauline Hanson: Please Explainand the gonzo animated comedy ofPenny Lane's Nuts!

Who Likes Short Shorts?
Most of the short films by women I watched in 2016 were older titles,but that doesn't mean they don't count – and they're all on YouTube or Vimeo.Check outKitchen Sinkby the New Zealand director ofCrushandJesus' Son,Alison McLean,labelled by a fellow antipodean friend as the best New Zealand short film ever made.Why not check out duel Emmy winner Jill Soloway'sUna Hora Por Favorawith Michaela Watkins.And there's even a Chantal Akerman film,La Chambre,just waiting to be viewed.The best new film was Del Kathryn Barton's extravagantly animatedOscar Wilde's The Nightingale and the Rose(which was onthe long list for Best Animated Short last year with Oscar but didn't make the finals) featuring the voice work of Geoffrey Rush,David Wenham and Mia Wasikowska.Wasikowska,it must be noted,has also been behind the camera recently.She directed the best segment of omnibus featureMadly.

Here is a list of titles available to watch right now that I compiled forLady Clever.The list includes shorts by Jane Campion,Niki Caro and Shirley Clarke.

Born in Flames (1983)

Vintage ‘Chick Flicks'
The indie scene of the 1970s and ‘80s was far scrappier than that of the 1990s,and women made some of the most daring of these films.All the way back in January we looked at Donna Deitch's quietly revelatoryDesert Hearts,but I was also watchedSmithereensfrom director Susan Seidelman (pre-Madonna andDesperately Seeking Susan),the highly-influentialGirlfriendsfrom Claudia Well,and the downright radical one-two punch ofWorking GirlsandBorn in Flamesfrom Lizzie Borden (below).It's time these films all got discovered on a much bigger scale.

Restoration and Criterion
How great was it to see Julie Dash'sDaughters of the Dustand Kelly Reichart'sRiver of Grassrestored and rescued from the depths of time?Reichart's film,a sort ofBadlands-in-Florida with the most comically low-stakes crime spree in cinema history is an oddity amongst the filmmaker's career as we know it today,but an essential part of film history.Likewise,Dash's film isn't just an important landmark – the first film by an African American woman to get a major theatrical release after the likes of Kathleen Kathleen Collins'Losing Groundand Jessie Maple'sWillwere relegated to self-distribution – but also a work of deeply refined beauty.I look forward to seeing the restoration of it after my viewing on VHS (!) at an archive (!!).

It's disappointing then that The Criterion Collection continue to ignore these films (plus those of the vintage titles listed above,and many more) given they are in a way the gatekeepers of cinephelia.By my count,they released only one woman-directed title in 2016 – Laurie Anderson'sHeart of a Dog,one of the best films I saw all year.This is something that ties into the very idea of #52FilmsByWomen,since making the conscious decision to acknowledge these films expands everybody's minds and knowledge,which is only a good thing.But,hey,gotta have that little-seen rarityInside Llewyn Davisby those little known Coen Brothers,right?

*eyeroll*

Beyoncé and Julie
...speaking of Dash's film,how great was it seeing Beyoncé (alongside Kahlil Joseph,Jonas Äkerlund,Melina Matsoukis,Dikayl Rimmasch,Todd Tourso,and Mark Romanek) be so clearly inspired byDaughters of theDust(1991) forLemonade.I enjoyed the album and the film that was released alongside it,but reminding the world ofDaughters in the Dustmay be its best thing to come out of it.

New Talents
It was exciting to see works by newcomers like Anna Rose Holmer (The Fits),Sophia Takal (Always Shine),Elizabeth Wood (White Girl) and Celia Rowlson-Hall (Ma) all give strong defining cases for directorial careers that ought to be super-interesting.Whatever my issues withWhite Girl,it has verve for days;likewiseThe Fitswhich I felt stuck its landing despite some wobbles on dismount.I was even moderately impressed by Katie Holmes' directorial debut,All We Had,which could have at least been aPieces of Aprilsized indie hit about ten years ago.For her sake,and because I love an underdog story,I hope she gets another shot with a screenplay that isn't a complete mess.

Cameraperson (2016)

The Best Film of the Year!
Yet again,the best film of the year was directed by a woman.After flipping for Celina Sciamma'sGirlhoodlast year,this year I fell head over heels for Kirsten Johnson'sCameraperson,with Mia Hanson-Love'sThings To Comenot too far behind with my personal favourite Huppert performance of 2016.

All 105 films I watched this yearcan be seen at Letterbox.

Do you have any take-aways from these movies or any others directed by women that you saw this year?Will you undertake #52FilmsByWomen in 2017?

Year in Review
Best Movie Cats|Co-Star Chemistry|Coping Mechanisms|25 Female Performances|Most Coveted Things|Grief and Letting Go|Ladies Who Lush|#52FilmsByWomen|Foreign Box Office Hits|Music Videos|Worst of the Year

Highlights of the Blog by Month

Jan|88th Oscars亚博主页|March|April|May|June|July|Aug|Sept|Oct|Nov|Dec

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Reader Comments (22)

i am definitely considering doing this for 2017.but will it still be a thing people care about?i know that's a horrible thing to say but hashtag causes have a way of burning out even if they're very noble.

feeling the guilt that i still ahven't seen AMERICAN HONEY but the running time kept terrifying me.

December 30,2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I don't think I saw anything directed by a woman this year unless you're talking episodic television.

December 30,2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Wait,I did see 13th.But documentaries are hardly ever actual movies to me.I watch them for the information they contain.And when they fail to convey anything worthwhile they're waste of time.

@Nathaniel

I know you're a Gemini with two minds.But don't deviate from whole 2017 Pfeiffer devotion.

December 30,2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I can only think of four films by women that I watched this year.They ranged from Oscar-winning (A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness) to mainstream (The Intern and Pitch Perfect 2) to a waste of potential (Austenland).I usually do better than only four.Sad.

December 30,2016 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Oh,hang on.I thought of a fifth: Agniezka Holland's The Secret Garden,which is a joy forever.

December 30,2016 | Unregistered CommenterCash

I think it was a splendid year for women directors and hopefully a hint of things to come.There is no real explanation for why directing had been dominated by men except for overt sexism and lack of opportunity.I think one major way women can help women in this regards is great actresses seeking roles with women akin to what Huppert did with Hansen-Love.Cate Blanchett,Julianne Moore,Meryl Streep have spoken over and over again about movies about women but they need to start making it easier for their films to get publicity and being marketed and awarded by being in them.

December 30,2016 | Unregistered CommenterTony T

I have a few films directed by women in my fave films of the year: Things to Come,Certain Women,American Honey The Fits,and White Girl.

December 30,2016 | Registered CommenterMurtada Elfadl

Nathaniel,

Don't let the running time of Toni Erdmann and American Honey terrify you.I don't like long movies too;after 2 hours I usually get restless but these 2 movies are very good;it's worth investing your time.

December 30,2016 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

Of "new"releases,I only saw American Honey,Things to Come,The Bad Batch,Bang Gang,and Disorder.I will have seen over 200 films for the first time this year (222 at this count,hope t reach 225 by the end of tomorrow) and I'm rather terrified of how low the full total will be.

That alone convinces me to participate next year.

December 30,2016 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Oh,and Toni Errdmann!But still

December 30,2016 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

From the 265 movies that i watched,only 14 were directed by women.And i loved every single one of them:

Fish Tank
The Fits
The Intern
Disorder
The Invitation
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
L'avenir
American Honey
Certain Women
Divines
13th
Always Shine
Toni Erdmann

Got to watch more in 2017!

December 30,2016 | Unregistered CommenterTheBoyFromBrazil

Glenn,a suggestion: why dont you make a weekly column discussing a female helmed movie?Like the series on bergman...

December 30,2016 | Unregistered CommenterTheBoyFromBrazil

Does it have to be a new movie (for me) to count?'Cause "Black Nativity"has become an annual Christmas must-watch for me.

Of new releases,I only count three: "Money Monster","Miracles From Heaven",and "The Fits".None were particularly good.Of non-new releases,I watched both of Barbara Kopple's Oscar-winning documentaries.Wow,is she a good documentarian.That's probably it,sadly.

December 30,2016 | Unregistered CommenterGuestguestguest

I didn't keep track of the pre-2016 releases that I watched this year,but of this year's crop,only five were directed by women...

December 30,2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

But hey never miss a chance to unnecessarily diss other movies,actors,or filmmakers,right?
This has become a bad trait lately here.

December 30,2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

3rtful,I just don't even know what to say.But,then,I shouldn't be surprised,either,that you don't even considering documentaries to be movies.

Nat,whether people are following it next year as a hashtag I do not know,but it's a worthwhile thing.All the times where you just want to watch a movie but don't know what - just make a conscious decision to watch one directed by a woman.It's easy(ish,depending) and rewarding.Plus,when talking about diversity in filmmaking it's good to feel like you practice what you preach.I discovered so many great films because of it!

guestguestguest,it can be from any year.BLACK NATIVITY has a great soundtrack although I was iffy on the film itself.

Craver,you appear to think dissing INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS was "unnecessary"whereas I think it's always necessary to question how *every single movie* by certain filmmakers becomes canon (okay,Intolerable Cruelty will likely never make it to Criterion) whereas other filmmakers never even get a look in.

December 31,2016 | Registered CommenterGlenn Dunks

It's hard to get too upset with criterion because they do such great work but really if you look through their history they have their blind spots and One of those is women.And Not just women behind the camera but female star vehicles females and genres that lean female like the musical.they have good taste no question but is most definitely The traditional male gaze taste.

December 31,2016 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Definitely.

December 31,2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I participated in this challenge and was able to watch 53 films directed by women fairly easily;however,as you note,it is probably much easier to complete the challenge if you enjoy documentaries because there seem to be far more opportunities for women in that genre than others.(No one has mentioned yet that Weiner,another of the year's great films,was codirected by Elyse Steinberg.)

I am going to keep track again this year,because as you said,it made me more conscientious about my viewing choices and I even sought out female-directed films at the cinema where I otherwise might not have bought a ticket.Always Shine,American Honey and The Dressmaker are the next three movies on my list to watch at home.

January 2,2017 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

American Honey is like Blue is the Warmest Color in that the running time shrinks to very little because you become so swept up into the mood and the feel of the movie.It's like lazing out in the sun or floating in the waves.And you should definitely see it for the Film Bitch awards at least,since IMO it's a contender for some of the best and refreshing love scenes I've ever seen to take place between teenagers/young adults.

January 2,2017 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

Well done on watching so many!This is my plan for 2017,I'll definitely be checking out your letterboxd for inspiration.

January 3,2017 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I could certainly make a top tier,all-female Director line up easily.

NATHANIEL I too was perplexed by the running time of American Honey.It literally flew by and I could have kept watching.It's unmissable.And I feel you could see the brilliance in Shia's performance that few outside of the Spirit Awards are recognizing.

January 5,2017 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

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