50 (5) Essential Feminist Films


It’s no secret that the numbers surrounding women in cinema are dismal. Melissa Silverstein’s Women and Hollywood recently reported that only 74 of the 271 people invited to join the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences this year were women. We also know that for every 15 or so male directors, there is just one female director. At the same time, filmmakers of all genders continue to explore new representations of women in cinema. We thought it was time to revisit some essential feminist films (a few classics and several, perhaps, unexpected picks) that deconstruct gender identity, explore issues pertinent to women and their history, and challenge the patriarchy. These films, directed by women and men, have broadened the scope of female representation in cinema.



40. Ai zai bie xiang de ji jie (Farewell China), Clara Law
Hong Kong award winner Farewell to China, scripted by frequent collaborator/partner Eddie Fong and starring the great Maggie Cheung, explores Asian displacement in America. Director Clara Law spoke about the dark origins of the film in a 2010 interview:

"I did a lot of research on how Chinese families live in New York. I heard about lots of success stories, but I also heard lots of stories about women having psychological or mental problems. It’s probably because they don’t have to work. They stay home and they become very lonely. As their children grow up and start speaking English to them, they feel very rejected and abandoned, and lots of them developed mental problems. A lot of women committed suicide. There are lots of stories that we’ve heard about. I didn't make a connection with these women in our films until now."



31. Morvern Callar, Lynne Ramsay
“Morvern Callar is ultimately about the grieving process, though some viewers are understandably frustrated by a central character who gives off so little emotion and invites so little sympathy. Why should we care?” Scott Tobias of A.V. Club asked, before suggesting: “Well, maybe because Morvern is right to feel burned by the bloody mess her boyfriend has left behind. And maybe because characters don’t have to be sympathetic to be compelling.” Especially women.



21. Orlando, Sally Potter
Our own Judy Berman recently highlighted Tilda Swinton’s performance in Potter’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s satirical text that explores gender and artistic subjectivity, a project that was ambitious in both form and content:

"Although it’s far more straightforward a narrative than most of her work, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando still presents one major challenge for the big screen: its protagonist is a nobleman in Elizabethan England who lives a life that spans centuries, and is suddenly transformed into a woman midway through it. Tilda Swinton may be the only (allegedly) human actor equipped to play the role of such a regal, mysterious androgyne, and her performance in this adaptation — also a breakthrough for director Sally Potter — became her signature."



6. Daughters of the Dust, Julie Dash
Julie Dash directed the first feature film by an African-American woman distributed theatrically in the United States in 1991 — a stunningly captured look at three generations of Gullah women off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia in 1902.



1. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Chantal Akerman
The New York Times described Chantal Akerman’s imposing, languid opus and feminist breakthrough — about a widowed housewife and mother who prostitutes herself to survive — as the “first masterpiece of the feminine in the history of the cinema.” Ivone Margulies’ Criterion essay elaborates on the movie’s feminist framework:

"In its structural delineation of a link between two prescribed female roles — domestic and sexual, the mother and the whore — the film engages broadly with a feminist problematic, one that takes into account also a woman’s alienation, her labor, and her dormant violence. . . . Many in the avant-garde felt vindicated that this narrative topically addressing women’s issues was so plainly indebted to pure experiments with duration and series. Akerman’s representation of a concrete, defamiliarized everyday was a defining feat."

the rest listed at the source
(definitely worth reading through, NOT A SLIDESHOW!)
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