A hundred years ago, the highest-paid film director of the 1920s, Lois Weber, was a woman. So, how come that since then so much has improved for women in other industries, yet in the film industry, where originally female filmmakers were flourishing, the situation has gotten worse? Mark Cousin’s five-part documentary Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema aims to educate the public with the names of the many women who deserve a place in movie history.
The documentary series initially focused on female directors I was very much familiar with, like Céline Sciamma, Agnès Varda and Sofia Coppola. It then introduced me to many whose names I was hearing for the first time – such as Leontine Sagan, Pirjo Honkasalo and Dinara Asanova. Getting to delve into film history from the female gaze was the highlight of the whole documentary for me.
I particularly liked that it explored filmmakers from across the globe and that it had a nice mix of indie and international films, with the occasional Hollywood film scattered in. I also thoroughly enjoyed that the documentary focused on the various techniques women have employed in showing important themes on screen, such as the meaning of life, love and death, to name just a few. Moreover, I loved that some of the films mentioned in the documentary were being shown at the Glasgow Film Festival. I was able to catch one of these films, the 1932 Merrily we Go to Hell by Dorothy Arzner, who was at the time the only female film director left in Hollywood.
My only slight criticism for the documentary was that I found some of the episodes a little long. The first episode, for instance, lasted around three hours, and, after a tiring day of university work, it was a little hard to concentrate. Other than that, however, it was truly splendid. The documentary has already found success at major film festivals including Toronto, London and Venice. I am glad that it has already gained such prominence, for it is vital that we are exposed to the works of female film directors.
I was slightly worried that upon watching the documentary, I would forget the names of some of the films mentioned. Thankfully, there was no point in worrying, as the documentary’s website features a complete list of the hundreds of titles and directors mentioned.
The last episode of the documentary finished on International Women’s Day, Sunday the 8th of March. It felt fitting that a documentary celebrating the achievements of female filmmakers was to conclude on a day when the whole world was celebrating women.
Women Make Film will be available on Amazon Prime, Curzon Home Cinemas, iTunes, and BFI player from May. More information is available here.
More information on the Glasgow Film Festival is available here.
[Emilija Morrison – she/her – @emilijakatinas]
[Image Credit: “Women Make Film” trailer on BFI]