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52 films by women: start counting (and watching) now

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The #52FilmsByWomen pledge was started in 2015 by Los Angeles’ Women in Film, an organisation dedicated to promoting equal opportunities for women in the film industry.

The pledge asks those who sign up to watch one film by a female director each week for a calendar year. Since the pledge is 52 weeks long, it makes for the perfect New Year’s resolution. I have taken (and failed) the pledge before, so this year, I’m putting my best foot forward and attempting to complete the challenge by the end of 2018. While I may not have completed the challenge the first time round, I’ve learned a lot about female dominated media thanks to the #52FilmsByWomen pledge, and wrote a piece about what the pledge taught me towards the end of 2016.

The role (or lack) of women in film has been highly publicised in recent years; the last woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director was back in 2009 and there have only been four women nominated for a best directing Oscar in its 87-year history. Kathryn Bigelow won the award that year for her war thriller The Hurt Locker and was named one of the 100 most influential people by Time Magazine the following year.

Since then, not a single female director has been nominated for an Academy Award. Unlike the Academy Awards, the BAFTAs have recognised female directors since The Hurt Locker’s release, nominating Ava Duvernay (pictured above) for her work on Selma in 2014 and Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty in 2012. However, in both these instances the female nominees were the only women nominated in their category.

A 2015 study revealed that only 9% of the year’s top grossing films featured a female director. The same study also said that ‘33% of films employed 0 or 1 woman in the roles considered’.  So it isn’t only the director’s chair that is void of female filmmakers, but others throughout film production.

Although quite a few actresses have come forward about the discrimination and inequality they experience, their voices only count for a small portion of women who work within the entertainment industry. The countless voices of writers, cinematographers, lighting and sound technicians, editors and other professionals often go unheard.

The interesting thing is that in recent years we have seen an increase of popular franchise reboots and continuations featuring an all female cast. With films such as 2016’s Ghostbusters and the upcoming Ocean’s Eleven, many people find solace knowing that there will be wonderful representation of strong women on screen. But great as it is to see these films feature female casts, they still seem to be spear-headed by male directors, proving again that Hollywood’s openness to diversity is only skin deep.

Last August, it was announced that DuVernay will be the first Black woman to take on a $US100 million dollar production for the upcoming Disney film A Wrinkle In Time. DuVernay is set to join only two other female directors who have been tasked with the same responsibility. Bigelow became the first director to helm a $US100 million project with her 2002 film K-19: The Widowmaker and Patty Jenkins was handed the reigns of DC’s upcoming blockbuster Wonder Woman.

What is absurd is how often it seems female independent directors are passed over for their male counterparts. For example, independent film director Colin Trevorrow had been entrusted with franchise reboots such as Jurassic World despite only having one independent feature film under his belt. Jurassic World sported a comfy budget of $US129 million. Despite DuVernay’s critical success with her previous independent films for which she earned a Sundance and Independent Spirit awards, she still had to prove her commercial and critical success with Selma before being considered for a larger budget production. In an industry known for it’s liberal politics, it seems ridiculous that even in 2017, women are simply not handed the same opportunities as men.

It seems that despite its attempts at masquerading its sexism, Hollywood is reluctant to offer equal opportunities to women as it does men. This is why the #52FilmsByWomen pledge is so important. If you are interested in the pledge, I also urge you to consume female directed media in cinemas as well as at home in order to show producers worldwide that there is a demand for female-led films. If you want to take the pledge but don’t know where to start, you can check out a list I have compiled on Letterboxd for inspiration.

You can join the #52FilmsByWomen pledge on LA’s Women in Film’s website here. Remember to use the hashtag on any and all social media accounts to increase awareness about the movement as well as recommending films to other cinephiles who have taken the pledge. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter as well as in the comments section below to recommend any films you think other readers should watch during the pledge.

2 responses to “52 films by women: start counting (and watching) now

  1. Wonder if there are 52 female directed films that i’ll be able to access. Not meaning to put this down. I try to watch female directed films, Claire Denis and Hungarian Marta Meszaros aren’t so easy to get and the director of Silences of the Palace…where is it? I guess this is also indicative of female directors scarcity, access to their films. They don’t often have the backing…..

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