Back in the faraway, happier world of January 2020, I took on a new film challenge: Watch 52 films directed (or codirected) by women. At just one movie a week, I thought it would be no big deal. It began innocently enough, I enjoyed heading out to my local theater to support my fellow woman and looked forward to more coming out, especially in the summer. Then, well, we all know how the world just stopped. For a little while, it stopped me too, but I would not be defeated. If I had to stay at home, I would continue to find films by women on various streaming services. There are plenty out there, you just have to look!
And I found so much! Films by women across the world telling amazing, inspiring and empowering stories. Most are very recent films, as women are gaining more opportunities, respect and notoriety (finally!). But I could not let this challenge go without finding at least one film by the great Agnès Varda and I found her classic from 1962, Cléo de 5 à 7.
Admittedly, I wrote less once the pandemic hit. Despair, being stuck at home and the relentlessness of motherhood kept my fingers away from the keyboard. But I gave myself a break and just told myself to watch, learn, listen and write when you feel inspired to do so. I thank you few readers who keep coming back.
Here is the grand list of the films I watched and their directors. Each film was new to me. A new voice, a new perspective and many, many wonderful stories I’m happy to see told.
- Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990)
- The Turning (Floria Sigismondi, 2020)
- Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov, 2018)
- Can You Ever Forgive Me (Marielle Heller, 2018)
- Birds of Prey (Cathy Yan, 2020)
- The Matrix (Lana and Lilly Wachowski, 1999)
- Appropriate Behavior (Desiree Akhavan, 2014)
- The Photograph (Stella Meghie, 2020)
- Mansfield Park (Patricia Rozema, 1999)
- Troop Zero (Bert and Bertie, 2019)
- Honey Boy (Alma Har’el, 2019)
- It’s Kind of a Funny Story ( Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, 2010)
- Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019)
- Bridget Jones’s Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001)
- Mary Queen of Scots (Josie Rourke, 2018)
- The Spy Who Dumped Me (Susanna Fogel, 2018)
- The Lodge (Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, 2019)
- Obvious Child (Gillian Robespierre, 2014)
- Late Night (Nisha Ganatra, 2019)
- Becoming (Nadia Hallgren, 2020)
- 13th (Ava DuVernay, 2016)
- The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1999)
- Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)
- The Old Guard (Gina Prince-Bythewood, 2020)
- Can’t Hardly Wait (Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, 1998)
- The Edge of Seventeen (Kelly Fremon Craig, 2016)
- They (Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, 2017
- Summer of 84 (Anouk Whissell, François Simard and Yoann-Karl Whissell, 2018)
- Cléo de 5 à 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962)
- 7 Semanas (Constanza Figari, 2016)
- Mostly Martha (Sandra Nettelbeck, 2001)
- The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016)
- A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014)
- Unpregnant (Rachel Lee Goldenberg, 2020)
- RBG (Julie Cohen and Betsy West, 2018)
- The Bookshop (Isabel Coixet, 2017)
- Paris pieds nus (Lost In Paris) (Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon, 2016)
- Fine Lines (Dina Khreino, 2019)
- Harriet (Kasi Lemmons, 2019)
- The Secret Garden(Agnieszka Holland, 1993)
- Frida (Julie Taymor, 2002)
- Yes, God, Yes (Karen Maine, 2019)
- Happiest Season (Clea DuVall, 2020)
- Amulet (Romola Garai, 2020)
- Emma. (Autumn de Wilde, 2020)
- Mulan (Niki Caro, 2020)
- Godmothered (Sharon Maguire, 2020)
- Girlhood (Céline Sciamma, 2014)
- She Dies Tomorrow (Amy Seimetz, 2020)
- Judy and Punch (Mirrah Foulkes, 2019)
- Little Joe (Jessica Hausner, 2019)
- Wonder Woman 1984 (Patty Jenkins, 2020)
Here are a few of my favorites that I highly recommend:
-Lost in Paris is such a fun, wacky and heartwarming film with Buster Keaton inspired style.
-Harriet is one of the most enjoyable biopics I’ve ever seen, taught me a lot about Harriet Tubman and Cynthia Erivo is a wonderful actress.
-13th is an eye-opening documentary dropping facts about the systematic racism within our criminal justice system like bombs. Everyone should see it.
-Mulan is a beautiful, grown-up update of the 90s Disney classic, I wish I could have seen it in theaters.
-A Girl Walks Home Alone at Midnight is a mesmerizing Arianian horror film shot beautifully in black and white. I’d like to give it another watch and add it to my October Haunts one day.
-Yes, God, Yes is a surprisingly relatable film for any former Catholic teens in the early 2000s. Even if you don’t fit in that odd subgroup, it’s a smart, funny ride through an awkward chapter in a teen girl’s life.
-Happiest Season is a wonderful new Christmas film about family, pressure and coming out. I was surprised how emotionally invested I became in the story. It’s funny, sweet, heartfelt and has a wonderful cast.
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Midnight” is excellent.
If you do a similar project this year (or even if you don’t) I would recommend Shadow in the Cloud. Quite bonkers and thoroughly enjoyable.
Very cool, thanks for the suggestion! I plan to make it a habit to regularly seek out films directed by women from now on, so keep the suggestions coming.