The Golden Globes nominations this year have been under fire for the fact that only male filmmakers have been nominated in the Best Motion Picture – Drama, Musical or Comedy, Best Director, and Best Screenplay categories. Female directed films have been relegated to the Foreign Language category alone, ignoring Portrait of a Lady on Fire and The Farewell for their directing, writing and acting merits.
Notably too in the TV categories, the 12-time Emmy nominated and twice Emmy winning series When They See Us from Ava Duvernay has been completely snubbed, which is particularly pertinent with such an overwhelmingly white and non-black set of nominees.
Director Alma Har’el has been vocal in her condemnation, tweeting : “I was on the inside for the first time this year. These are not our people and they do not represent us. Do not look for justice in the awards system. We are building a new world.”
In the spirit of that comment, here is a list of female directed films that deserve recognition this year. Whether they are recognised by awards or not, they should be recognised by audiences.
Agnès Varda‘s Varda by Agnès
A fascinatingly introspective documentary from one of the most potent voices in cinema, the late Varda opens the door to her creative process and allows an unprecedented look into her body of work from the inside, as well as her experiences as a female director.
Alma Har’el‘s Honey Boy
A deeply emotional exploration of Shia La Boeuf’s own childhood as a child star, Har’el’s powerful film blends fact and fiction in an impressionistic and unique vision. Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges star, alongside La Boeuf himself in the role of his father in a incredibly intimate, painful and ultimately cathartic film.
Céline Sciamma‘s Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire)
French auteur Sciamma’s delicate and elegant film centres the female gaze unapologetically and without fanfare. Men feature on screen for four minutes of the total run time, and so the majority of the film is a blissful oasis of female love, friendship, loss, laughter, grief and joy as a painter is commissioned to paint a portrait for the wedding of a young noblewoman in 18th century France. This film has been nominated for a Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language award at the Golden Globes.
Chinonye Chukwu‘s Clemency
Alfre Woodard delivers a potent and painful performance in Chukwu’s film about a prison warden whose life overseeing execution on death row begins to take its toll. Forming a bond with a prisoner sentenced to death, they both must come to terms with their growing bond and the duty she is bound to carry out.
Greta Gerwig‘s Little Women
After her directing breakthrough with Lady Bird last year, Gerwig’s adaptation of this British classic is much anticipated, and follows the lives of four sisters as they tackle love, life and growing up. Gerwig said: “I like writing about women in relation to other women — mothers and daughters, friends, sisters, mentors — because men don’t know what women do when they aren’t there.”
Kasi Lemmons‘ Harriet
Centring the story of freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, Lemmons’ film shines a spotlight on this oft-overlooked figure. Brought to life by the brilliant Cynthia Erivo, this biopic paints Harriet in all her dimensions – as a daughter, sister, wife, ex-slave, leader, and inspirational defender of justice.
Lorene Scafaria‘s Hustlers
Perhaps the surprise hit of the year, Hustlers tells the true story of strippers conning their clients and getting sucked into a world of crime and glamour. Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez lead the incredible and diverse cast of women that win our hearts, and Scafaria’s unflinching eye shows us the warmth and joy in equal measure with the pain and sadness of these women’s lives.
Lulu Wang‘s The Farewell
Wang’s tender family drama brings humour with an incredible lightness of touch to a true story of diaspora culture clash as Awkwafina’s Billi visits her family in China and is horrified to discover they are keeping the terminal nature of her grandmother’s illness a secret from her. East meets West as values are debated and agonised over, but at the centre of it all is the enduring love that holds this family together. This film has been nominated for a Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language award at the Golden Globes.
Marielle Heller‘s A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
Following last year’s sleeper hit Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Heller returns with yet another understated and deeply moving true story, finding the extraordinary in the lives of ordinary people. Tom Hanks plays beloved children’s presenter Mr Rogers, who changes the life of a cynical journalist sent to interview him.
Mati Diop‘s Atlantique (Atlantics)
This French/Senegalese love story turns relationship drama into ghost story, following a young woman who must marry another man when her boyfriend goes away to sea. Giving voice to the eternal theme of the woman left behind, this film is vital and utterly unique.
Melina Matsoukas‘ Queen & Slim
Billed as a Bonnie and Clyde story for a new generation, Insecure director Matsoukas’ film utilises a script from rising TV mogul Lena Waithe about a couple on a first date that turns into a run for their lives as a traffic incident goes horribly wrong. Centring Black Lives in this #BlackLivesMatter story, Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith shine in this urgent drama.
Mirrah Foulkes‘ Judy and Punch
This clever, though sometimes hard to watch drama subverts the classic children’s entertainment Punch & Judy, where domestic abuse is the punchline, and creates a revenge story with thrumming tension. Mia Wasikowska delivers a rousing performance as a woman pushed to the very edge, with nothing left to lose.
Olivia Wilde‘s Booksmart
A coming of age comedy that will be considered a classic for many years to come, rising stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein star as a pair of goodie-two-shoes friends who decide to go wild the day before graduation, realising they haven’t broken any rules at all throughout high school. Half buddy-comedy romp, half touching exploration of girlhood, this is entertainment at its best.
Waad Al-Khateab‘s For Sama
A documentary that’s brought a movement to the mainstream, Al-Khateab puts her own life on screen as she lives through the growing conflict in Aleppo, falling in love, getting married, and giving birth to her daughter Sama. Making a choice between staying to continue the fight for freedom, or leaving Syria to build a safer life for her child, this film exposes the female experience of war and is vital viewing.
Next year we can look forward to a record number of female directed studio films, including Wonder Woman 1984 (dir. Patty Jenkins), Black Widow (dir. Cate Shortland), Mulan (dir. Niki Caro), Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn (dir. Cathy Yan) and Eternals (dir. Chloé Zhao).
In the mean time, use the hashtag #VoteForWomen liberally this award season.