Female directed films you should watch!

If you are looking for films to watch, here’s a list of  female directed films:

Céline Sciamma wrote and directed Portrait of a Lady on Fire – a visually stunning film set in 18th Century France, telling the story of two women who fall in love. It was the first directed by a woman to win the Queer Palm award at Cannes.  “People keep telling me, “You don’t like boys!” And I’m saying, “Wow, no, it’s just that you’re not used to them being objectified in movies, but women are so often objectified in movies and we don’t care.” (Interview magazine, 2015)

Julie Dash wrote, directed and produced Daughters of the Dust. It was the first film to be distributed theatrically in the United States which was directed by an African-American woman. It tells the story of three generations of women on Saint Helena Island.  “I didn’t want to tell a historical drama about African-American women in the same way that I had seen other dramas. I decided to work with a different type of narrative structure…[and] that the typical male-oriented western-narrative structure was not appropriate for this particular film. So I let the story unravel and reveal itself in a way in which an African Gullah would tell the story, because that’s part of our tradition. The story unfolds throughout this day-and-a-half in various vignettes. It unfolds and comes back. It’s a different way of telling a story. It’s totally different, new.”  (Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African American Woman’s Film)
It is a visually stunning film – and inspired Beyonce’s Lemonade film, which in turn brought new attention to Daughters of The Dust and led to its re-release.

Melina Matsoukas directed Queen and Slim, which was written by Lena Waithe. Queen and Slim start out with a very awkward first date, after which they are pulled over by a white cop, who shoots at them, and ends up dead, leading to Queen & Slim going on the run.  Matsoukas’ career has mostly been directing music videos for artists including Beyonce, Solange and Rihanna. “The reason I got into filmmaking was super naive: to change the world, you know? To really make the voices that we don’t get to hear heard and the images and the stories that we don’t get to see seen. I would like to normalize that.” (The New York Times, 2016).

Kimberly Peirce wrote and directed Boys Don’t Cry – the devastatingly true story of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was violently murdered. It stars Hilary Swank (who won a Best Actress Oscar) and Chloë Sevigny.  The casting of Swank, a cis-woman, has recently been questioned. Peirce maintains she auditioned for 3 years to find the right person for the role before casting Swank.  Peirce has also directed the remake of Carrie. Peirce identifies as genderqueer.

…And four surprising films directed by women:

Point Break, American Psycho, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Matrix: four famously ‘bro’ films – were in fact directed by women (and The Matrix was written and directed by two trans women)! Just don’t tell the frat boys, their poor little minds might explode.

Amy Heckerling directed Fast Times at Ridgemont High – a high school coming of age cult classic. Heckerling also directed National Lampoon’s European Vacation, Look Who’s Talking, and Clueless. Heckerling was born in the Bronx, and grew up surrounded by Holocaust survivors, many of whom still had tattoos from that time. She credits this with sparking her interest in people’s stories.  

Mary Harron, co-wrote and directed American Psycho – starring Christian Bale as a Wall Street serial killer. Prior to directing, used to work as a critic for The Guardian, The Observer and the New Statesman.  Speaking about her influence as a female director she says: “I feel that without feminism, I wouldn’t be doing this. So I feel very grateful. Without it, God knows what my life would be. I don’t make feminist films in the sense that I don’t make anything ideological. But I do find that women get my films better. Women and gay men. Maybe because they’re less threatened by it, or they see what I’m trying to say better”. (Washington Post 2006)

Kathryn Bigelow directed Point Break, the surfer classic starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. Bigelow also directed The Hurt Locker, for which she was the first female director to win an Oscar. Bigelow embraces violence in films, and is also a famously willing to go to extremes herself, as a director: In Point Break, Bigelow wore a parachute and was in the airplane for the skydiving scene with Patrick Swayze. While filming Keanu Reeves surfing, she would paddle board or lean far over boats to get her shots. 

The Wachowskis, as they are known: are Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski – two sisters – wrote and directed all three Matrix films, as well as V for Vendetta, and Sense8.  The Wachowskis  aim to create a positive environment on all their films: they have hired almost the same basic film crew for most of their films. Lana: ”It’s like family. Everyone is very respectful of each other.” (The New York Times, 2014).  Lana was the first major Hollywood director to come out as trans, and she created a production company called Venus Castina – the name which is a version of the Roman Godess, Venus, who represented “the yearnings of feminine souls locked up in male bodies”.(CJ Bulliet, 1933)

By Naomi Maguire

Naomi is a writer and voice artist, currently working for a mindfulness app.  She took the scenic route to university, and is now also studying Landscape Architecture. Her favourite thing in the world is eating dinner with beloved friends.