Thursday, December 11, 2008

Girls IN film

I'm writing my final paper on women's authorship in films, and to my great dismay have found that even in film circles many people aren't aware of the amazing female filmmakers of yore. Since many a great style blogger has posted about silent film starlets, I thought I'd show you the talented, intelligent and equally stylish ladies behind the camera.

Alice Guy Blaché who was arguably the writer, director, cinematographer and set and costume designer of the world's first ever fiction film. Mainstream film history, when it's not ignoring her entirely, will state her second to Melies' first, but even if that was true, I think she deserves recognition and reinstatement in the canon, especially since, unlike Melies, she had to hold down a secretary's job while doing her movie. (Her boss, Mr. Gaumont, told her she could mess around with the cameras if it didn't affect her day job.)

Jeanie MacPherson, actress, writer, director. In the teens she worked in collaboration with none other than Cecil b. DeMille. As film historians would have it his name has the kind of instant recognition hers does not.

Lois Weber, who among woman filmmakers is my hero and role model. Not only was she one of America's first true auteurs, but the themes of her work were often those of social injustice, feminism, and the battle against hypocrisy in politics, the church and society.

Frances Marion became in 1930 the first woman ever to win an Academy Award for the best adapted screenplay. She's credited with writing and producing over 130 films.

Anita Loos came into the scene a little later than most, but she also stayed on a lot longer, perhaps, sadly, because she never clamored for that man's job known as directing. (She, by the by, wrote the original version of The Women, which was remade this year. The original was quite the blockbuster of it's time.)

This of course is only the tip of the iceberg. And sadly, more often than not mainstream history's forgetfulness when it comes to talented ladies, is not a thing of the past. Today's female filmmakers are often ignored by the media, the industry bosses and awards juries.
(Hands up if you know how many times a woman has been nominated for a best director Oscar.)
So if your interested got piqued by these here ladies, do check out such contemporary geniuses as Kelly Reichadt,

Courtney Hunt,

and Julie Taymor.

For example. Do go see a movie directed by a woman. Go see them in the theatre, go see them the first weekend they open. If you like them, tell a friend, your auntie, tell your dentist. Remember that it might be your story that's left untold, when women filmmakers aren't allowed a voice in the business.

Rant over. Correct answer is 3 (Sofia Coppola, Jane Campion and Lina Wartmuller. None of them have won.)


  1. hank you so much! this is a great - and necessary - post! i do think, but i might be wrong, that there are more women actually producing than directing films. but then also, it's still far too few and even fewer who are recognized.

  2. Extraordinary post, Milla! I enjoyed this tremendously!

  3. How interesting!When I was a young teenager I kinda wanted to be a filmmaker. I researched the internet and lost all hope when I saw how hard it was for female filmmakers in the business. I guess I was not cut for it :)
    Thank you for making me discover some of those talented ladies. It is important to listen to the voices of the past and give them their much deserved recognition.

  4. What an informative crash course on female filmakers of yore Milla. I'd never heard of any of these women before, so thankyou! As your hero and role model, is there a particular film by Lois Weber that you would recommend?

    'Across the Universe' looks so right up my alley, looking forward to that one!

    Good luck with the final paper :)

  5. i think it's absurd no woman has ever won an oscar for directing a film.

  6. What an interesting post and what a great subject for a paper! Have you btw head of the actress/director/producer/writer Fern Andra?