Puneet Varma (Editor)

Women's cinema

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Women’s cinema is a variety of topics bundled together to create the work of women in film. This can include women filling behind the scene roles such director, cinematographer, writer, and producer while also addressing the stories of women and character development through screenplays.


Women’s cinema recognizes women’s contributions all over the world, not only to narrative films but to documentaries as well. Recognizing the work of woman occurs through various festivals and awards, such as the Sundance Film Festival.

“Women’s cinema is a complex, critical, theoretical, and institutional construction,” Alison Butler explains. The concept has had its fair share of criticisms, causing some female filmmakers to distance themselves from it in fear of be associated with marginalization and ideological controversy.

Silent films

Alice Guy-Blaché was a film pioneer and likely the first female director. Working for the Gaumont Film Company in France at the time that the cinema was being invented, she created La Fée aux Choux (1896). The dates of many early films are speculative, but La Fée aux Choux may well be the first narrative film ever released. She served as Gaumont's head of production from 1896 to 1906 and ultimately produced hundreds of silent films in France and the United States.

American-born director, Lois Weber was coached and inspired by Guy-Blaché and found success in creating silent films. Weber is well known for her films Hypocrites (1915), The Blot (1921), and Suspense (1913). Weber's films often focus on difficult social issues. For instance, her film Where Are My Children? (1916) addresses the controversial issues of birth control and abortion. And she questioned the validity of capital punishment in The People vs. John Doe (1916).

Mabel Normand was another significant early female filmmaker. She started as an actress and became a producer-writer-director in the 1910s, working on the first shorts Charlie Chaplin did as The Tramp at Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios. She further collaborated with Sennett on other Keystone films and, during the late 1910s and early 1920s, she had her own movie studio and production company.

Women screenwriters were highly sought after in the early years of the cinema. Frances Marion, Anita Loos, and June Mathis all had successful careers in the silent and early-sound eras. Mathis was also the first female executive in Hollywood.

In Sweden, Anna Hofman-Uddgren was that country's first female film maker—producing the silent film Stockholmsfrestelser in 1911. She also acted in the film.

Classical Hollywood

As the American cinema became a highly commercialized industry in the 1920s and its content became more and more conventionalized, the opportunities for women producers and directors became fewer and fewer. By the time sound arrived in the US in 1927 and the years immediately after, women's roles behind the camera were largely limited to scriptwriters, costume designers, set decorators, make-up artists, and the like. And the industry's implementation of self-censorship in the form of the Hays Code in 1934 meant that topics such as birth control and abortion were taboo. Dorothy Arzner was the only woman director to survive in this unfriendly environment. She did so by producing well made but formally rather conventional films. Nevertheless, it is possible to trace feminist elements in her films. Film critics find her film, Dance, Girl, Dance, about two women struggling to make it in show business, to be particularly interesting from a feminist perspective. When the film was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry, it was noted that "The dancers, played by Maureen O'Hara and Lucille Ball, strive to preserve their own feminist integrity, while fighting for their place in the spotlight and for the love of male lead Louis Hayward." Beyond Dance, Girl, Dance, Arzner also worked with some of Hollywood's most formidable actresses—including Katharine Hepburn in Christopher Strong (1933) and Joan Crawford in The Bride Wore Red (1937).

Experimental and avant-garde cinema

Germaine Dulac was a leading member of the French avant-garde film movement after World War I, and Maya Deren's visionary films belong to the classics of experimental cinema.

Shirley Clarke was a leading figure of the independent American film scene in New York in the fifties. Her work is unusual, insofar as she directed outstanding experimental and feature films as well as documentaries. Joyce Wieland was a Canadian experimental film maker. The National Film Board of Canada allowed many women to produce non-commercial animation films. In Europe women artists like Valie Export were among the first to explore the artistic and political potential of videos.

Impact of Second-Wave Feminism

In the late sixties, when the Second Wave of Feminism started, the New Left was at its height. Both movements strongly opposed the 'dominant cinema', i.e. Hollywood and male European bourgeois auteur cinema. Hollywood was accused of furthering oppression by disseminating sexist, racist and imperialist stereotypes. Women participated in mixed new collectives like Newsreel, but they also formed their own film groups. Early feminist films often focused on personal experiences. A first masterpiece was Wanda by Barbara Loden, one of the most poignant portraits of alienation ever made.

Representing sexuality

Resisting the oppression of female sexuality was one of the core goals of Second-Wave Feminism. Abortion was still very controversial in many western societies and feminists opposed the control of the state and the church. Exploring female sexuality took many forms: focusing on long-time censured forms of sexuality (lesbianism, sado-masochism) or showing heterosexuality from a woman's point of view. Birgit Hein, Elfi Mikesch, Nelly Kaplan, Catherine Breillat and Barbara Hammer are some of the directors to be remembered.

A film notable for its empathic portrayal of sex work is Lizzie Borden's Working Girls (1986). Molly, a white lesbian in a stable mixed-race relationship, is a Yale-educated photographer who has chosen to augment her income through sex work in a low-key urban brothel. We accompany Molly on what turns out to be her last day on the job, understanding her professional interactions with her "johns" through her perspective, a completely original point of view, since, until Borden's film, sex workers had largely been depicted stereotypically. The story's sympathetic, well-rounded character and situation humanizes sex work, and the film itself combats the anti-pornography stance touted by many Second-Wave feminists, which Borden rejects as repressive.

Typically women are portrayed as dependent on other characters, over-emotional, and confined to low status jobs when compared to enterprising and ambitious male characters (Bussey & Bandura, 1999). Women in cinema are grossly misrepresented and definitely under represented. The roles that men play are the superhero, the wealthy business man or the all-powerful villain. When it comes to the roles females play they tend to be the housewife, the woman who can't obtain a man, the slut, or the secretary. The true comparison is masculinity versus femininity. There was test done to measure how or if Hollywood misrepresents women in film called The Bechdel test for film is a type of litmus test that examines the representation of women in media. The 3 factors they test are: 1. Are there at least 2 women in the film who have names? 2. Do those women talk to each other? 3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man? (Sharma & Sender, 2014). Many roles that are given to women make them either dependent on the male counterpart or make their role more limited. Another characteristic of their role placement is that women are twice as likely to have a life-related role rather than a work-related role. Hollywood rarely chooses to have women be the all-powerful boss or to even have a successful career. There have been some examples that break this Norm such as "The Proposal" or "I Don't Know How She Does It." Even in these 2 films the male counterpart is a strong role and in both the female lead is reliant on both actors for the storyline. Women do not stand on their own in movies and rarely are the center of attention without a male being there to steal the limelight. Some roles that have been portrayed in recent films have worked against this normative such as Katniss in Hunger Games and Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. These roles break the norm which is definitely a step in the right direction. Typically women are portrayed as dependent on other characters, over-emotional, and confined to low status jobs when compared to enterprising and ambitious male characters (Bussey & Bandura, 1999). Women in cinema are grossly misrepresented and definitely under represented and it is up to us as a society to change that.

Murphy, Jocelyn Nicole, "The role of women in film: Supporting the men -- An analysis of how culture influences the changing

discourse on gender representations in film" (2015). Journalism Undergraduate Honors Theses. Paper 2.


Resisting violence and violent resistance

Resisting patriarchal violence has always been a key concern of Second Wave Feminism. Consequently, many feminists of the second wave have taken part in the peace movements of the eighties, as had their foremothers in the older pacifist movements. Nevertheless, the patriarchal cliché of the 'peaceable' woman needed to be criticized. Women film directors documented the participation of women in anti-imperialist resistance movements. In their Kali films Birgit and Wilhelm Hein assembled found footage from 'trivial' genres, the only domain of cinema in which the portrayal of aggressive women was allowed.

(Re-) entering the mainstream?

Kathryn Bigelow works in male-dominated genres like science fiction, action and horror. She became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director and the Directors Guild of America Award in 2010 for The Hurt Locker. In 2013, her film Zero Dark Thirty was met with universal acclaim and grossed $95 million in the United States box office. Bigelow went on to be nominated for Best Director at the BAFTA Awards, Golden Globe Awards and Directors Guild of America Award among others. However, she failed to be shortlisted for the category at the 85th Academy Awards in what was widely seen as a snub.

Anne Fletcher has directed four studio-financed films: Step Up (2006), 27 Dresses (2008), The Proposal (2009) and The Guilt Trip (2012) which have gone on to gross over $343 million at the US box office and $632 million worldwide. She is also attached to direct the sequel to the 2007 film Enchanted.

Catherine Hardwicke's films have grossed a cumulative total of $551.8 million. Her most successful films are Twilight (2008) and Red Riding Hood (2011).

Nancy Meyers has enjoyed success with her five features: The Parent Trap (1998), What Women Want (2000), Something's Gotta Give (2003), The Holiday (2006) and It's Complicated (2009) which have amassed $1,157.2 million worldwide. Before she started her directorial career she wrote some other successful films like Private Benjamin (1980) for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Baby Boom (1987) or Father of the Bride (1991).

Sofia Coppola is a critically acclaimed director who has also had financial success. Her award-winning film Lost in Translation (2003) grossed over $119 million. The Virgin Suicides (1999), Marie Antoinette (2006) and The Bling Ring (2013) were also successful. Her father is Francis Ford Coppola.


A study done by USC Annenberg researched what it meant to be a female in the film industry, no matter if they were working behind the scenes or were fictional characters. USC Annenberg looked at two test groups for films, the top 100 films every year from 2007 to 2015 and the top 100 films in 2015.

For the top 100 films in 2015, women were leads and co-leads in 32 of them, while of the 32 films, only 3 of them included a race other than Caucasian. Out of the thousands of speaking roles, only 32 characters were LGBT and of those characters, 40% of them were racially diverse. Female characters were also three times more likely to be seen in a sexual context.

Behind the scenes had similar statistics to the female fictional characters. Female directors, writers, and producers made up 19% of the 1,365 people that it took to create the top 100 films in 2015. The percentage of female writers (11.8%) and producers (22%) can be seen as high compared to female directors (7.5%). Of the 7.5% of female directors, three of them were African American and one was Asian.

For the top 100 films every year from 2007 until 2015, of the 800 films, 4.1% were directed by females.


While there is still a gap between the percent of female and male filmmakers, women tend to be more involved in documentary films. There is a higher percentage of women directing documentaries than women directing narrative films.

In the history of the Academy Awards, there have been 11 female documentary directors that have won Oscars. Barbara Kopple received two of those awards with her films Harlan County, USA (1977) and American Dream (1991). Yvonne Smith’s film Adam Clayton Powell (1990) was nominated as well, making her the first African American producer to be nominated for ‘Best Documentary Feature’.

Celluloid Ceiling

The Center of the Study of Women in Television and Film has dedicated 18 years to the study of women in the film industry. An annual report is created, discussing how women have contributed to as filmmakers. Most of the findings from the research shows that, statistically, it says the same from year to year.

The group also contributes their time to creating articles discussing how women are viewed in film, not only as filmmakers but as fictional characters as well.

African American women's cinema

Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust (1991) was the first full-length film with general theatrical release written and directed by an African American woman. Since then there have been several African women who have written, produced or directed films with national release. Neema Barnette (Civil Brand), Maya Angelou (Down in the Delta), Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou), Cheryl Dunye (My Baby's Daddy), Stephanie Allain (Biker Boyz), Tracey Edmonds (Soul Food), Frances-Anne Solomon (A Winter Tale) and Dianne Houston (City of Angels) are among these filmmakers. In 1994 Darnell Martin became the first African American woman to write and direct a film produced by a major studio when Columbia Pictures backed I Like It Like That.

To date, Nnegest Likké is the first African American woman to write, direct and act in a full-length movie released by a major studio, Phat Girlz (2006) starring Jimmy Jean-Louis and Mo'Nique.

For a much fuller accounting of the larger history of black women filmmakers, see Yvonne Welbon's 62-minute documentary Sisters in Cinema (2003).


The Cameroonian journalist Thérèse Sita-Bella directed a 1963 documentary, Tam-Tam à Paris, and Sarah Maldoror, a French filmmaker of Guadeloupean descent, shot the feature-film Sambizanga in Angola in 1972. But the first African woman film director to gain international recognition was the Senegalese ethnologist Safi Faye with a film about the village in which she was born (Letter from the Village, 1975). The 1989 Créteil International Women's Film Festival included short films by Leonie Yangba Zowe of the Central African Republic (Yangba-Bola and Lengue, 1985) and Flora M'mbugu-Schelling of Tanzania. Other African women filmmakers include Anne Mungai, Fanta Régina Nacro (The Night of Truth, 2004), Tsitsi Dangarembga (Mother's Day, 2004) and Marguerite Abouet, an Ivorian graphic novel writer who co-directed an animated film based on her graphic novel: Aya de Yopougon (2012).


Mira Nair, Aparna Sen, Deepa Mehta, Gurinder Chadha, Manju Borah are among the best known Indian women filmmakers, partly because of commercial success of their films. However, there are a number of other Indian women filmmakers who have made some remarkable films that address a variety of issues. Other noteworthy Indian women filmmakers include Nisha Ganatra, Sonali Gulati, Indu Krishnan, Eisha Marjara, Pratibha PJaaparmar, Nandini Sikand, Ish Amitoj Kaur, Harpreet Kaur, Leena Manimekalai and Shashwati Talukdar.


In Japan for a long time Kinuyo Tanaka was the only woman to make feature films. She was able to do this against fierce resistance because she enjoyed a status as star actress. Using genre conventions her fshowed women "with a humorous affection rare in Japanese cinema of the period" (Philip Kemp).

Currently, the best-known women filmmaker of Japan may be Naomi Kawase; 2007 she won the Grand Prix in Cannes, while Memoirs of a fig tree, the directorial debut of well-known actress Kaori Momoi, saw the light of the day in 2006. The sociocritical adventure film K-20: Legend of the Mask by Shimako Sato's was Sa breakthrough into a bigger budget; it starred Takeshi Kaneshiro and was released all over the world.

South Korea

Similarly in South Korea, Yim Soon-rye landed a box-office-hit with Forever the Moment, while So Yong Kim got some attention for her film In Between Days and Lee Suk-Gyung made the women-themed and subtly feminist The Day After.


One of the important fifth-generation filmmakers of China is Ning Ying, who won several prices for her films; in contrast to the controversy over some of her sixth-generation colleagues such as Zhang Yimou, who got accused of having sold out their ideals, Ning Ying has gone on to realize small independent films with themes strongly linked to Chinese daily life, therefore also being a link between the 5th and 6th generation. The Sixth Generation has seen a growing number of women filmmakers such as Liu Jiayin, best known for her film Oxhide, and Xiaolu Guo; in 2001 Li Yu caused quite a stir with her lesbian love story Fish and Elephant.

The most famous women filmmaker from Hong Kong is undoubtedly Ann Hui, who has made a wide array of films ranging from the wuxia genre to drama; Ivy Ho and Taiwanese Sylvia Chang also are known names in the Hong Kong industry, while in Taiwan queer filmmaker Zero Chou has gotten acclaim on festivals around the world.


Yasmin Ahmad (1958-2009) is considered one of the most important directors of Malaysia; originally a commercial director, she switched to feature films relatively late and gained international acclaim while also stirring controversy among conservatives in her home country.


In Pakistan, where the film industry is not very big, some prominent and brilliant directors are working. Conventional film industry has directors like Sangeeta and Shamim Ara who are making films with feminist themes. Especially to Sangeeta's credit there are some issue-based films. Now some new directors from television industry are also coming towards the medium of films. Sabiha Sumar and Mehreen Jabbar are two new names for films in Pakistan and are making brilliant films. Both of these directors has made films which are not only issue based addressing national issues but also these films have won international awards at different film festivals.


Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, a writer and a director, is probably Iran's best known and certainly most prolific female filmmaker. She has established herself as the elder stateswoman of Iranian cinema with documentaries and films dealing with social pathology. Contemporary Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad (1935—1967) was also a filmmaker. Her best-known film is The House is Black (Khane siah ast, 1962), a documentary of a leper colony in the north of Iran. Samira Makhmalbaf directed her first film The Apple when she was only 17 years old and won Cannes Jury Prize in 2000 for her following film The Blackboard. Her step-mother Marzieh Meshkini made "The Day I Became a Woman" and Samira's sister Hana Makhmalbaf started her career with "The Joy of Madness," a behind-the-scenes documentary about Samira's film "At Five in the Afternoon," and has subsequently made two features, Buddha Collapsed out of Shame and "Green Days," a film about the Green Revolution that was banned in Iran.

Sri Lanka

Sumitra Peries is a veteran film director in Sri Lankan cinema and she is the wife of great Lester James Peries. She also held the post of Sri Lanka's ambassador to France, Spain and the United Nations in the late 1990s.

Inoka Sathyangani is an internationally acclaimed Sri Lankan film director and producer. In the year 2002, she received many number awards for her maiden effort Sulang Kirilli, which deals with the theme of abortion. The film secured the highest number of awards won by a single film in the history of Sri Lanka's film industry.


Marta Rodriguez is a Colombian documentary film maker.


Though women played a "minimal" role in the development of cinema in Argentina, two pioneering women were the director María Luisa Bemberg and the producer Lita Stantic. Lucrecia Martel is a major figure of the Argentinean "buena onda," the post-economic crash new cinema. Lucia Puenzo is the other prominent contemporary Argentinean director. Each of them has made three features to date (2014). In addition, María Victoria Menis has written and directed several critically acclaimed films, including La cámara oscura (2008) and María y el araña (2013).


Brazilian Cinema has a number of women directors whose works date from the 1930s. Brazilian women directors' most prolific era unfolds from the 1970s. Some contemporary names include: Ana Carolina, Betse De Paula, Carla Camurati, Eliane Caffe, Helena Solberg, Lucia Murat, Sandra Kogut, Suzana Amaral, Tata Amaral.


Matilde Landeta was the first woman to become a filmmaker during the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. Her films focused on the portrayal of strong, realistic female protagonists in a patriarchal world. Some of her films are adaptations of Francisco Rojas González's novel Lola Casanova (1948) and La Negra Angustias (1949).


In the silent era French women directors were prominent Alice Guy-Blaché directed around 700 films and is credited with introducing the narrative form. Germaine Dulac was one of the most creative art film directors and went on to be the leader of the French cinéclub movement. Marie-Louise Iribe developed from being an actor into owing a production company and directing significant feature films.

During the "golden age" of "Classical" French cinema Jacqueline Audry was the only woman to direct commercial films. In 1959 writer Marguerite Duras wrote the script for Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour. She turned to directing with La Musica in 1966. Among the best known French women film makers are Agnès Varda, Claire Denis, Diane Kurys, Danièle Huillet, Nelly Kaplan and Catherine Breillat. The work of many more French female directors is rarely screened outside France. Others include Zabou Breitman, Julie Delpy, Virginie Despentes, Valérie Donzelli, Pascale Ferran, Alice Guy-Blaché, Maïwenn (Le Besco), Mia Hansen-Love, Agnès Jaoui, Isild le Besco, Noémie Lvovsky, Tonie Marshall, Christelle Raynal, Céline Sciamma, Coline Serreau, and Danièle Thompson.


The Economist wrote of Leni Riefenstahl that Triumph of the Will "sealed her reputation as the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century".

German woman filmmaker Helke Sander was also one of the pioneers of the feminist movement. Other prominent female film-makers include Margarethe von Trotta and Helma Sanders-Brahms. Monika Treut has also won recognition for her depictions of queer and alternative sexuality. Contemporary German-language women directors of note include Maren Ade, Barbara Albert, Doris Dörrie, Frauke Finsterwalder, Katja von Garnier, Jessica Hausner, Nicolette Krebitz, Caroline Link and Angela Schanelec.

Feminist german movies were helped and praised by all kind of organisations ; Festivals, cinemas just for women (Frauenkino), newspaper "frauen und film", association of film makers... Those tended to be exclusively for women, arguing that they wanted to bring balance. Different objectives were pursued with those organisations : more attention, more discussion and claims like 50% of the grant allowed to film makers should be given to female directors.


In Hungary Marta Meszaros has been making important films for decades.


Elvira Notari was a pioneer of Italian cinema, and she was followed by other prominent female directors as Lina Wertmüller and Liliana Cavani.


Chantal Akerman was a notable Belgian director. Her best-known film is Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975).


Edith Carlmar was a prominent Norwegian film director, working in a variety of genres (crime, melodrama, comedy).


Portuguese editor and director Manuela Viegas' 1999 film Gloria, premiered in competition at the 57th Berlinale, is considered in her country the climax of a cinema of feminin sensibility. Other Portuguese female film directors include Teresa Villaverde, Catarina Ruivo, Raquel Freire, Margarida Gil, Cláudia Tomaz and Rita Azevedo Gomes. The current President of the Portuguese Directors Association is Margarida Gil.


Ana Mariscal was a pioneer among Spanish female filmmakers. She was also a prolific actress in the 1940s and 1950s. In the early 1950s she became a producer and shortly after started directing and writing her own films. Her best-known film is perhaps El camino (1963), an adaptation of the novel by Miguel Delibes. Other films include Segundo López, aventurero urbano (1953) inspired by Italian neorealism or Con la vida hicieron fuego (1959), about a former combatant of the Republican faction who tries to start a new life while battling the haunting memories of the Spanish Civil War.

Josefina Molina, also a novelist, started her career in the 1960s. She was the first woman who graduated from Spain's National Film School in 1967. Her prolific TV résumé includes the highly successful miniseries Teresa de Jesús (1984), a dramatization of Teresa of Avila's life. Her work on film includes Vera, un cuento cruel (1974), Función de noche (1981) or Esquilache (1989) which was entered into the 39th Berlin International Film Festival.

Pilar Miró was a celebrated director and screenwriter of film and TV whose notable works include Gary Cooper, Who Art in Heaven (1980), Prince of Shadows (1991) which won the Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution at the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival and El perro del hortelano (1996), an adaptation of a Lope de Vega play which won 7 Goya Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. She was also in charge of Spain's national broadcast television TVE from 1986 to 1989.

Icíar Bollaín made her acting debut as a teenager under Víctor Erice's direction in El sur (1983). She made the jump to directing and writing in 1995 with Hola, ¿estás sola? which earned her a nomination for a Goya Award for Best New Director. Her subsequent filmography includes Flores de otro mundo (1999) winner of the Grand Prix award at the International Critics' Week at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, Te doy mis ojos (2003) which won her a Goya Award for Best Director and a nomination for a European Film Award for Best Director or Even the Rain (2010) which made the January shortlist for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Isabel Coixet directed numerous commercials during the 1990s for clients like IKEA, Pepsi or Ford. She usually films in English with international actors. Some of her best known films include My Life Without Me (2003), starring Sarah Polley, Mark Ruffalo, Scott Speedman and Deborah Harry, The Secret Life of Words (2005) once again starring Polley as well as Tim Robbins and Julie Christie, a segment on the omnibus film Paris, je t'aime (2006) and the Philip Roth adaptation Elegy (2008) starring Ben Kingsley, Penélope Cruz, Dennis Hopper and Patricia Clarkson.

Gracia Querejeta has won acclaim for her ensemble dramas By My Side Again (1999), Héctor (2004) and Seven Billiard Tables (2007). She has also directed documentaries and TV episodes.

Other notable filmmakers include María Ripoll (Tortilla Soup, The Man with Rain in His Shoes), Patricia Ferreira, Chus Gutiérrez, María Lidón aka Luna (Stranded: Náufragos, Moscow Zero), Rosa Vergés, Lydia Zimmermann, or Laura Mañá.

United Kingdom

In Britain Jane Arden (1927–82), following up her television drama The Logic Game (1965), wrote and starred in the film Separation (Jack Bond 1967), which explores a woman's mental landscape during a marital breakup. Arden went on to be the only British woman to gain a solo feature-directing credit for The Other Side of the Underneath (1972), a disturbing study of female madness shot mainly in South Wales. Arden's overtly feminist work was neglected and almost lost until the British Film Institute rediscovered and reissued her three features, and the short Vibration (1974), in 2009.

Andrea Arnold won a 2005 Academy Award for her short film Wasp, and has twice won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, in 2006 for Red Road, and in 2009 for Fish Tank.

Two of Lynne Ramsay's early short films (Small Deaths and Gasman) won the Prix du Jury at the Cannes Film Festival, and her subsequent three feature films, Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar and We Need to Talk About Kevin have all screened at the Cannes Festival.

Mamma Mia! directed by Phyllida Lloyd became the #5 highest-grossing film of 2008 and the highest-grossing film ever in the United Kingdom. Lloyd's next film, the Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady (2012) grossed $114 million worldwide. Debbie Isitt has directed successful mainstream films, including "Confetti" and the "Nativity!" trilogy.

Cinenova is a London-based organization that distributes women produced films.

Sally Potter is a prominent British feminist film maker.

British filmmakers Ngozi Onwurah and Pratibha Parmar explore the legacies of colonialism.

Partially as a result of funding from the UK Film Council (disbanded in 2010), a new generation of British women filmmakers has emerged in the twenty-first century, including Penny Woolcock, Carol Morley, Joanna Hogg, Clio Barnard, Sally El Hosaini, Amma Asante, and Tina Gharavi. Gallery artists Gillian Wearing and Sam Taylor-Wood have both moved into feature cinema, with Taylor-Wood (now Taylor-Johnson) named as director for the adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey.


  • 1896 La fée aux choux; director: Alice Guy-Blaché; one of the first narrative (fiction) films
  • 1911 Bufera d'anime; director: Elvira Notari
  • 1912 Algie the Miner; director: Alice Guy-Blaché(uncredited) first western directed by a woman.
  • 1914 The Merchant of Venice; director: Lois Weber; the first full-length feature film directed by a woman
  • 1915 The Hypocrites; director: Lois Weber
  • 1921 The Blot; director: Lois Weber
  • 1921 The Love Light; director: Frances Marion, starring Mary Pickford
  • 1922 La souriante Madame Beudet (The Smiling Madame Beudet); director: Germaine Dulac; often cited as one of the first feminist feature films
  • 1923 The Song of Love; director: Frances Marion, starring Norma Talmadge
  • 1923–1926 Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (The Adventures of Prince Achmed); director: Lotte Reiniger — animated feature film
  • 1927 Laila ; director: Aziza Amir
  • 1927 The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty; director: Esfir Shub
  • 1931 Mädchen in Uniform (Girls in uniform); director: Leontine Sagan
  • 1932 Merrily We Go to Hell; director: Dorothy Arzner, a Hollywood studio feature film starring Sylvia Sidney
  • 1933 Christopher Strong; director: Dorothy Arzner, a Hollywood studio feature film starring Katharine Hepburn
  • 1935 Robin Hood (animated film); director: Joy Batchelor
  • 1935 Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will); director: Leni Riefenstahl
  • 1937 The Bride Wore Red; director: Dorothy Arzner, a Hollywood studio feature film starring Joan Crawford
  • 1938 Olympia (1938 film); director: Leni Riefenstahl
  • 1940 Dance, Girl, Dance; director: Dorothy Arzner
  • 1943 Meshes of the Afternoon (experimental film); director: Maya Deren; selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry
  • 1949 Gigi; director: Jacqueline Audry.
  • 1950s–1960s

  • 1950 Outrage; director: Ida Lupino, the first Hollywood studio feature directed by a woman after Dorothy Arzner's films; the story of a rape
  • 1953 The Hitch-Hiker; director: Ida Lupino, the first film noir directed by a woman; selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
  • 1955 La Pointe Courte; director: Agnès Varda
  • 1959 Bridges Go-Round; director: Shirley Clarke
  • 1961 The Connection; director Shirley Clarke
  • 1961 Cléo de 5 à 7 (Cleo from 5 to 7); director: Agnes Varda
  • 1964 The Cool World; director: Shirley Clarke; the cruel reality of street life in the U.S.
  • 1964 Älskande par (Loving Couples); director: Mai Zetterling
  • 1965 The East is Red; director: Wang Ping
  • 1966 Sedmikrasky (Daisies); director: Věra Chytilová — the story of two young girls who explore the world without taking it too seriously
  • 1966 Blood Bath; director: Stephanie Rothman
  • 1967 Portrait of Jason; director Shirley Clarke
  • 1967 Separation; writer and leading actor Jane Arden
  • 1968 Rat Life and Diet in North America; director: Joyce Wieland
  • 1969 La fiancée du pirate (A very curious girl); director: Nelly Kaplan
  • 1970s

  • 1971 The Woman's Film; directors: Louise Alaimo, Judy Smith
  • 1971 L'aggettivo donna; directors: Ronny Daopolus, Annabella Miscuglio; a radical feminist documentary which analyses the double exploitation of women workers and the isolated situation of housewives and children
  • 1971 Wanda; director: Barbara Loden; an innovative, influential independent American film
  • 1971 Für Frauen: 1. Kapitel (For Women: Chapter 1); writer and director: Cristina Perincioli - award-winning documentary fiction on a women's strike in Berlin
  • 1972 Sambizanga; director: Sarah Maldoror — feature film about the liberation movement in Angola
  • 1972 The Heartbreak Kid; the first Hollywood studio film directed by a woman after Ida Lupino's The Trouble With Angels (1966), starring Hayley Mills; director: Elaine May
  • 1972 The Other Side of the Underneath; director Jane Arden
  • 1972/73 Es kommt darauf an, sie zu verändern; director: Claudia von Alemann — organised women workers discuss the possibilities for change
  • 1974 Il portiere di notte (The Night Porter); director: Liliana Cavani
  • 1974 Vibration (short) ; co-director: Jane Arden
  • 1974 The Hour of Liberation Has Arrived ; director: Heiny Srour
  • 1975 Kaddy Bekat — Lettre Paysanne (Letter from My Village); director: Safi Faye
  • 1975 The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (Die Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann); directors: Margarethe von Trotta and Volker Schlöndorff
  • 1975 Hester Street; director: Joan Micklin Silver; Academy Award nomination for Carol Kane as best actress
  • 1975 Anna und Edith; writers: Cristina Perincioli and Cäcilia Rentmeister - first feature film in German TV ZDF on a lesbian relationship
  • 1976 Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles; director: Chantal Akerman — the daily life of a housewife
  • 1976 Pasqualino settebellezze (Seven Beauties); director: Lina Wertmüller; the first time a woman was nominated for an Academy Award for directing a feature film
  • 1976 Harlan County, USA; director: Barbara Kopple; Academy Award winner for best documentary feature; selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
  • 1977 First Love; director: Joan Darling
  • 1978 Die allseitig reduzierte Persönlichkeit (The Universally Reduced Personality); director: Helke Sander
  • 1978 The Mafu Cage; director: Karen Arthur
  • 1978 Mais qu'est ce qu'elles veulent? (But what do they want, after all?) — director: Coline Serreau
  • 1978 Rabbit Test; director: Joan Rivers
  • 1978 Die Macht der Männer ist die Geduld der Frauen (The Power of Men is the Patience of Women); writer, director, producer: Cristina Perincioli - (ZDF TV) feature film/documentary fiction on domestic violence
  • 1979 Daughter Rite; director: Michelle Citron — a feminist pseudo-documentary which deconstructs the conventions of Direct Cinema
  • 1979 Bildnis einer Trinkerin (Aller jamais retour; Portrait of a Female Drunkard); director: Ulrike Ottinger
  • 1979 Killing Us Softly; directors: Margaret Lazarus, Renner Wunderlich — the effects of advertising on women
  • 1979 Deutschland bleiche Mutter (Germany Pale Mother); director: Helma Sanders-Brahms
  • 1979 My Brilliant Career, starring Judy Davis; director: Gillian Armstrong
  • 1979 Anti-Clock; writer and co-director Jane Arden
  • 1980s

  • 1980 The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter (documentary); director: Connie Field; selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
  • 1981 Eight Minutes to Midnight: A Portrait of Dr. Helen Caldicott; director: Mary Benjamin; Academy Award nomination for best feature documentary
  • 1981 The Decline of Western Civilization; director: Penelope Spheeris
  • 1981 36 Chowringhee Lane; director: Aparna Sen
  • 1982 Fast Times at Ridgemont High, starring Sean Penn; director: Amy Heckerling
  • 1983 Yentl; director: Barbra Streisand
  • 1983 Born in Flames; director: Lizzie Borden
  • 1983 Le Grain de sable (Grain of Sand); director: Pomme Meffre — the gradual disintegration of a woman (played by Delphine Seyrig)
  • 1983 "Variety"; director: Bette Gordon, starring Sandy McLeod
  • 1985 Desperately Seeking Susan, starring Madonna; director: Susan Seidelman
  • 1985 Verführung: die grausame Frau (Seduction: The Cruel Woman); directors: Elfi Mikesch, Monika Treut
  • 1986 Children of a Lesser God; director: Randa Haines; Academy Award for Marlee Matlin as best actress
  • 1986 Jumpin' Jack Flash (film); director: Penny Marshall, starring Whoopi Goldberg
  • 1988 Big, starring Tom Hanks; director: Penny Marshall
  • 1988 Salaam Bombay!; director: Mira Nair; nominated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film (India)
  • 1988 Love, Women, and Flowers (AmorR, Mujeres, y Flores); directors: Marta Rodriguez and Jorge Silva (Colombia)
  • 1988 Little Dorrit (film); director: Christine Edzard
  • 1988 Agnes Escapes from the Nursing Home; director: Eileen O'Meara
  • 1988 Die Jungfrauenmaschine (Virgin Machine); director: Monika Treut
  • 1988 Kali-Filme (Kalih Films); directors: Birgit Hein and Wilhelm Hein
  • 1989 A Dry White Season; director: Euzhan Palcy
  • 1990s

  • 1990 Europa, Europa; director: Agnieszka Holland
  • 1990 An Angel at My Table; director: Jane Campion
  • 1991 Point Break; director Kathryn Bigelow
  • 1991 Daughters of the Dust; director: Julie Dash; selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
  • 1991 A Place of Rage; director: Pratibha Parmar
  • 1991 American Dream (film); director: Barbara Kopple; Academy Award winner for best documentary feature
  • 1991 Proof (1991 film); director: Jocelyn Moorhouse;
  • 1991 Danzon; director: Maria Novaro
  • 1991 The Prince of Tides; director: Barbra Streisand; 7 Academy Award nominations including for Barbra Streisand (producer) as Best Picture
  • 1992 Little Noises; director: Jane Spencer
  • 1992 Gas Food Lodging; director: Allison Anders
  • 1992 Orlando; director: Sally Potter
  • 1992 History and Memory: For Akiko and Takashige 1992 ; director Rea Tajiri
  • 1992 A League of Their Own; director: Penny Marshall
  • 1992 Wayne's World; director: Penelope Spheeris
  • 1993 Bhaji on the Beach; director: Gurinder Chadha
  • 1993 Sleepless in Seattle; director: Nora Ephron
  • 1994 The Piano; director: Jane Campion, the second time a woman was nominated for an Academy Award for directing a feature film; Academy Award for Holly Hunter as best actress and Anna Paquin as best supporting actress
  • 1994 Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter; director: Deborah Hoffman
  • 1994 Mi Vida Loca; director: Allison Anders
  • 1994 Black Beauty; director: Caroline Thompson
  • 1994 Little Women; director: Gillian Armstrong
  • 1995 Coûte que coûte (At all costs); director: Claire Simon — documentary
  • 1995 Antonia's Line; director: Marleen Gorris; Academy Award for best foreign film, the first time awarded to a female film director.
  • 1996 Fire; director: Deepa Mehta
  • 1996 Unstrung Heroes; director: Diane Keaton
  • 1996 White Men Are Cracking Up; director: Ngozi Onwurah
  • 1996 The Mirror Has Two Faces; director: Barbra Streisand; Academy Award nomination for Lauren Bacall as best supporting actress
  • 1997Strawberry Fields; director: Rea Tajiri
  • 1997 The Peacemaker; director: Mimi Leder
  • 1998 That Strange Person, director: Eileen O'Meara
  • 1998 Free Tibet, director: Sarah Pirozek
  • 1998 Deep Impact, director: Mimi Leder
  • 1999 Boys Don't Cry (film); director: Kimberly Peirce; Academy Award for Hilary Swank as best actress; nomination for Chloë Sevigny as best supporting actress
  • 1999 Romance; director: Catherine Breillat
  • 1999 Titus; director: Julie Taymor
  • 2000s

  • 2000 American Psycho (film); director: Mary Harron
  • 2000 Luminous Motion; director: Bette Gordon, starring Deborah Kara Unger
  • 2001 Nowhere in Africa; director: Caroline Link; Academy Award winner as Best Foreign Language Film (Germany)
  • 2001 Ophelia Learns to Swim; director: Jurgen Vsych
  • 2002 Frida; director: Julie Taymor
  • 2003 Whale Rider; director Niki Caro; Academy Award nomination for Keisha Castle-Hughes as best actress
  • 2003 Take my eyes; director: Icíar Bollaín
  • 2003 Thirteen; director Catherine Hardwicke; Academy Award nomination for Holly Hunter as best supporting actress
  • 2003 Gujarat: A Laboratory of Hindu Rastra, Fascism; director: Suma Josson
  • 2003 Monster; director: Patty Jenkins; Academy Award for Charlize Theron as best actress
  • 2003 At Five in the Afternoon; director: Samira Makhmalbaf
  • 2004 Lost in Translation; director: Sofia Coppola, the third time a woman was nominated for an Academy Award for directing a feature film; also nominated for best picture and best actor, Bill Murray
  • 2004 Dear Frankie; director: Shona Auerbach, a 2004 British drama film set in a Glasgow suburb, starring Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler
  • 2004 Somersault; director: Cate Shortland, a 2004 Australian coming of age drama, starring Abbie Cornish
  • 2004 "(Mother's Day)" director (Tsitsi Dangarembga)
  • 2005 Close to Home, directors: Dalia Hager, Vidi Bilu
  • 2005 Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids (documentary); directors: Zana Briski, Ross Kauffman; Academy Award winner for best documentary feature
  • 2005 North Country; director: Niki Caro; Academy Award nominated performances by Charlize Theron (best actress) and Frances McDormand (best supporting actress)
  • 2005 Sisters of '77; producers and directors: Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell; executive producer Ed Delaney; produced in association with The Women's Museum
  • 2005 Look Both Ways; director: Sarah Watt, a 2005 Australian drama
  • 2006 Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst; director: Sofia Coppola
  • 2007 Feminine, Masculine (2007), director: Sadaf Foroughi
  • 2007 Across the Universe; director: Julie Taymor
  • 2007 Away From Her; director: Sarah Polley
  • 2007 The Savages; director: Tamara Jenkins
  • 2008 Frozen River; director: Courtney Hunt, Academy Award nominations for Melissa Leo (Best Actress) and Hunt (Best Original Screenplay)
  • 2008 Punisher: War Zone; director: Lexi Alexander
  • 2009 The Hurt Locker; director: Kathryn Bigelow The first female to win an Oscar for direction.
  • 2010s

  • 2010 Denizen; director: J.A. Steel
  • 2010 Winter's Bone; director: Debra Granik
  • 2010 The Kids Are All Right; director: Lisa Cholodenko
  • 2011 Sengadal; director: Leena Manimekalai
  • 2012 Wadjda; director: Haifaa al-Mansour first film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia
  • 2012 Saving Face; director: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Academy award winning documentary film
  • 2013 Frozen (2013 film), director: Jennifer Lee (filmmaker) co-directed with Chris Buck, The first female director of a feature film that earned more than $1 billion in gross box office revenue.
  • 2014 Selma (film); director: Ava DuVernay
  • 2014 Dukhtar; director: Afia Nathaniel
  • 2015 Good Morning Karachi; director: Sabiha Sumar
  • 2015 3 Bahadur; director: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
  • Film festivals

  • Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival
  • Asian Lesbian Film and Video Festival
  • Birds Eye View Film Festival, London
  • Créteil International Women's Film Festival
  • Seen & Heard Film Festival, Sydney & Melbourne
  • World of Women (WOW) Film Festival
  • International images film festival for Women(Harare, Zimbabwe)
  • Female Film Festival of Kerala (FFFK)(Kerala, India)
  • Women's Voices Now Online Film Festival
  • References

    Women's cinema Wikipedia