52 Weeks = 52 Female Directed Films & Tv Shows
So normally at this point in the year I would talk about the Top 10 female directed films I saw released in 2020. Unfortunately with the little something called Coronavirus cinemas shut down and I barely even saw any new releases before becoming a hermit in lockdown and eating myself 10kg heavier. However at the start of the year I made a pledge to watch 52 films by women, the initiative originally started by Women in Film LA, so instead of a yearly retrospective I thought I would talk about what I watched, the highlights and the struggles of the entire “challenge” to round off the end of the challenge that was 2020.
I started this challenge straight from day one when I took my boyfriend to see Little Women directed by Great Gerwig on New Years Day. Still one of my favourite films from this year with such a beautifully adapted script, magnificent performances and many tears dabbed away silently in the cinema. My other highlight from this month was I Think We’re Alone Now directed by Reed Morano, which I picked up in a DVD sale. The strength of this movie is the camerawork which is to be expected from a director who started out in cinematography. The visuals just do so much of the storytelling it could almost be a dialogue free movie and still tell the same story.
The other films and TV Shows I watch directed by women this month were The Witcher Episodes 5 & 6 on Netflix, The Bold Type Season 4 Episodes 3-8, and Feminists: What Were They Thinking? an insightful documentary directed by Johanna Demetrakas.
February continued strong with the documentary Miss Representation directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, which I had read and heard about before but never watched. It was a heart breaking but poignant look into sexism in pop culture and by extension society and well worth viewing. I also went to the then-open cinemas to see Birds Of Prey: The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn directed by Cathy Yan in its opening weekend and you can read my full review here. Rounding out the month was Autumn de Wilde’s Emma adaptation, which I enjoyed but also wish had been a little funnier than it eventually turned out, and Sex Education Season 2 with episodes 2-5 being directed by women.
This month was when the pandemic hit the hardest in Australia and when watching trash as opposed to trying to be a supporter of women triumphed for me. I managed to get two films in this month directed by women the first being political documentary This Is Personal directed by Amy Berg all about the women’s march in America and the other one, well three, were The Matrix Trilogy that I binged with my boyfriend on a particularly dull weekend, of course all directed by The Wachowski’s.
We’re not even going to go there with April. Let’s just say this was the month I lost my job, had an existential crisis, and ended up deciding to start my own freelance videography business in the middle of a global pandemic. Refer to my article on going freelance for the first time for more insight into my psyche during this particular month.
After the disaster that was April I was very determined that May would set me on the path once again. And I stuck to my word with a diverse range of viewing content directed by women this month. I watched the incredibly sad Where Hands Touch with my sister, brilliantly directed by Amma Asante and then balanced it out with the quirky comedy Diedra & Laney Rob A Train on Netflix directed by Sydney Freeland. Finally my boyfriend and I binged watched the brilliant Stan series The Great, which had four episodes directed by women. Chaotic, hilarious, and dramatic if you haven’t seen it yet you definitely should.
June was Sydney Film Festival month and whilst this year’s festival was all virtual I still enjoyed a week of watching female directed films all from the comfort of my own couch. I even reviewed them all on the blog so you can go check out my in depth analysis of each one. A Year Full Of Drama directed by Marta Pulk was a documentary about a non-theatre goer watching all the theatre around Russia for a whole year and writing reviews of each one. A Perfectly Normal Family directed by Malou Reymann was a personal story about the directors father who came out as transgender. And Force of Habit an anthology film about female sexual abuse stories that was extremely poignant and brilliantly strung together with each story exploring how sexual abuse can surface in different areas of society.
I can’t remember what made July so full of viewing but I managed to watch a female directed film every week of this month kicking it all off with Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar nominated Zero Dark Thirty. Following this was a film I’d wanted to see since last year Judy & Punch directed by Mirrah Foulkes. It’s dark humour and mystical tone were right up my alley but don’t mistake the addition of comedy in this film for a light hearted experience. Exploring abusive relationships and misogyny it was a dark journey but I still enjoyed it overall. I finished off the month with Netflix’s superhero adaptation The Old Guard directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and staring Charlize Theron. It was nice to see the superhero genre include two badass women as the main leads and it even handled a gay relationship with poise and realism. Some people may be tiring of the superhero film in general but if this is what the genre is going to be from now on I’m happy to see it.
I also watched two short films this month from women who I’ve featured on the blog Bad Mother directed by Marnie Baxter & Keep Mum directed by Luana Di Pasquale and you can read their featured posts to find out more about each of those films.
August wasn’t as good as July but started with a movie I had already seen and really enjoyed Hail Satan? directed by Penny Lane. This film was a highlight from The Sydney Film festival last year and was just as good the second time round. Then I watched a film that had been on my list for a long time The Virgin Suicides directed by Sophia Coppola. In watching this film though I realised that I don’t really vibe with Coppola’s directing style and the film overall to me felt very strange. I wasn’t sure what the point of the story was in the end and if there was meant to be one at all. Lastly I topped off the month with Stan Docu series Love Fraud directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady about a man who conned an abundance of women into marrying him before taking everything they had and disappearing.
September was another good month for viewing and kicked off with controversial French film Cuties directed by Maïmouna Doucouré. You’ve probably heard about why this film in controversial but can read more on my take here. I then watch Paradise Hills directed by Alice Waddington. A pretty shallow film that had a lot of aesthetics and not much plot, which was shame given the actresses who were involved. Then I had the first date night since corona hit and went with my boyfriend to see romantic comedy The Broken Hearts Gallery directed by Natalie Krinsky. A little overwritten at times but overall a fun night out and my partner fell in love with it immediately. Then I ended the month with something a little different. Melanie Martinez’ album film K-12 which she wrote, produced, directed and the put on YouTube for free. I’m still not really sure I fully understand it but it was an interesting watch.
In October I had the pleasure of watching another of our featured filmmakers films All Joking Aside. I even did an accompanying blog post with an interview with director Shannon Kohli which you can read here. Then I watch body positivity documentary Embrace directed by Taryn Brumfitt. This was an emotional watch for me as someone who has struggled with body confidence issues but it was also a good exploration into why there is so much body loathing out there. I also mentioned it in our article about female filmmakers who bring diverse bodies to screen which you can read here.
November felt like I didn’t really watch anything. I got so busy that leisure fell by the wayside and so I only ended up watching two female directed films this month which were 40 Year Old Version directed and written by Radha Blank and Dumplin‘ directed by Anne Fletcher. 40 Year Old Version was a film with a target audience that was most definitely not me but it was an interesting insight into both a culture and an age group that are not part of my lived experience. Then Dumplin’ is just a feel good movie about loving yourself which felt right to watch whilst putting up my Christmas Tree even though it wasn’t a Holiday film.
This month had a good selection of female directed new releases to sink my teeth into. First was the advance screening of Promising Young Woman directed by Emerald Fennell. A twisty turny revenge film that is in my Top 5 for the year for sure. For my full review click here. And then to get into the holiday spirit I took my boyfriend on a Christmas date to see Happiest Season directed by Clea DuVall, which was a funny but also kind of emotional holiday film that I also reviewed on the blog here. Then I was super excited to go an see Wonder Woman 1984 in cinemas on boxing day but unfortunately I came down with a cold instead and ended up binging the Bridget Jones‘ Diary films with a box a tissues, a pack of Panadol mini caps and a 2 litre jug of water. But at least 1 and 3 were directed by Sharon Maguire.
So what did I learn…I learnt that a lot of the lazy junk food type of entertainment that we put on when we cannot really be bothered is unfortunately directed by men. This is where I really fell short particularly during the lockdown months. But on the flip side I also learnt that women make really thought provoking and challenging films, not in a hard to watch kind of a way, but just branching out our norms and asking us to look beyond the bubbles that we live in to try and understand other people’s lived experiences. Essentially I learnt that diversifying your watching routine with content made by a variety of different people makes watching films and Tv shows that much more enjoyable. There are so many stories out there and broadening our minds to view them makes for a better understanding of others and ourselves. So here’s to more amazing female stories in 2021.