A Year of Female Filmmakers: April

This was my fourth month of A Year of Female Filmmakers and I am happy to announce that I’ve already seen 70 new-to-me woman directed films this year (which is almost twice as much as in 2014 when I saw only 36 woman-directed films, out of 340)!

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014, written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour) –  an Iranian vampire spaghetti Western that will at times remind you of French New Wave films (Godard’s Breathless) and early Jim Jarmusch (especially Stranger Than Paradise). If we got Only Lovers Left Alive and What We Do in the Shadows last year, this is the vampire film of 2015 that is showing us that – after some bad years, thanks to the Twilight saga – vampire movies are finally back and they’re in better shape than ever.

Monsoon Wedding (2001, written by Sabrina Dhawan, directed by Mira Nair) – one of Mira Nair’s best known films, revolving around a traditional Punjabi Hindu wedding in Delhi. It won the Golden Lion at 2001 Venice Film Festival.

Saving Face (2012, co-directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy) – a documentary about acid attacks on women in Pakistan. One of the most shocking and devastating documentaries I’ve seen lately – I cried through the whole thing.

At Five in the Afternoon (2003, written and directed by Samira Makhmalbaf) – film about an ambitious woman trying to get an education in Afganistan after the defeat of the Taliban by an Iranian writer/director Samira Makhmalbaf, the daughter of Mohsen Makhmalbaf and one of the most influential directors of the Iranian New Wave.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999, written and directed by Kimberly Pierce) – a dramatization of real-life story of a trans man Brandon Teena who is beaten, raped and murdered by his male friends after they discover he’s transgender. One of Hilary Swank’s best roles to date. (This was actually a re-watch, but since I last saw it when I was 16, I decided to include it on the list. I’m also not sure if I truly appreciated the brilliance of this indie film back then).

Wasp (2003, written and directed by Andrea Arnold) – Arnold’s Oscar winning short film about a single, working class mother who is determined to not let her four children be an obstacle in her pursuit of rekindling a relationship with an ex-boyfriend. It has some strong parallels with Arnold’s real-life childhood, since she herself was one of four children that were brought up by a single mother in a working class family in Dartford, England.

Sherrybaby (2006, written and directed by Laurie Collyer) – Sherry is a young woman who is trying to get her life back on track after being released from prison. She’s finally clean from heroin and ready to rebuild her relationship with her daughter; but this turns out to be a lot harder than she expected. There is not nearly enough American films that would portray the life of working class families, less alone put a woman protagonist in the centre of such a story (Debra Granik and Kelly Reichardt are the only woman directors who come to mind that make films about the difficult lives of the lower class –  but it would be great to see more stories like this being told – without any moralizing about the “wrong life choices” or false hope in a better future). This is an uneasy film to watch, but a great one nonetheless – and I should also point out that Maggie Gyllenhaal’s is absolutely brilliant as Shelly (this is my favourite work of hers, besides Secretary ). She manages to give the character, who tries her best at rebuilding her life when all the odds (and people) are against her, an unbelievable depth and complexity.

The Notorious Bettie Page (2005, written and directed by Mary Harron) – a biographical film about 1950’s pin-up and bondage model Bettie Page, starring Gretchen Mol (probably best known for her portrayal of Gillian Darmondy in Boardwalk Empire).  There’s hardly a person who hasn’t heard of Bettie, but we don’t know much about her life beyond her fame as a pin-up model. This film portrays this model icon in a completely new light: as an ambitious and naive Christian woman who leaves Nashville after a failed marriage and being a victim of a gang rape, who is trying to turn her life around in New York by becoming an actress. But when she gets an opportunity to work as a model, she puts her acting career on hold and it’s not long before she becomes a star in the underground world of bondage aficionados…

I Shot Andy Warhol (1996, co-written and directed by Mary Harron) – I knew all about Valerie Solanas shooting Andy Warhol in 1968, but up until now I knew almost nothing about Solanas herself. This film focuses primarily on her life as a prostitute and a feminist activist, whose attempted murder of Warhol was a result of her paranoid schizophrenia. Lili Taylor is outstanding as Solanas and Stephen Dorff is completely unrecognisable in the role of Candy Darling.

Mississippi Masala (1991, written by Sooni Taraporevala, directed by Mira Nair) – Mira Nair’s second feature film that is exploring the Indian diaspora and the interracial romance between an African-American (Denzdel Washington) and Indian American (Sarita Choundhury) in rural Mississippi.

Kama Sutra – A Tale of Love (1996, written by Helena Kriel, directed by Mira Nair)

Films that I didn’t particularly cared for:

  • And While We Were Here (2013, written and directed by Kat Coiro)
  • L!fe Happens (2011, written by Krysten Ritter, directed by Kat Coiro)
  • Laurel Canyon (2002, written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko)
  • The Voices (2014, directed by Marjane Satrapi)
  • 2 Days in New York (2012, co-written and directed by Julie Delpy)
  • The Sisterhood of Night (2014, written by Marilyn Fu, directed by Caryn Waechter)

Films I didn’t like:

  • A Case of You (2013, directed by Kat Coiro)
  • Post Grad (2009, written by Kelly Fremon, directed by Vicky Jenson)
  • Foxfire (1996, co-written by Joyce Carol Oates and Elizabeth White, directed by Annette Haywood-Carter)
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7 thoughts on “A Year of Female Filmmakers: April”

  1. Good write up! 🙂

    I’ve heard good things about “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” so I am keen to see it.

    I’m pleased to see “At Five In The Afternoon” on your list – a deeply evocative and provocative film.

    I take it you’ve seen Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “Wadja” and Annie Hui’s “A Simple Life”?

    1. Thank you! Yes, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was definitely one of the best films I’ve seen this year. I hope you soon get a chance to see it!

      I have yet to see A Simple Life, but I’ve seen Al-Mansour’s Wadjda (this was actually one of my first reviews on this site!) and I loved it.

      1. I’m hoping “A Girl Walks…” gets a DVD release before the year is out. I hate hearing about great films only to have wait until the following year to see it! 😡

  2. I did manage to check a Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and It’s one I will watch again. It does stand out. Notorious Bette Page was also good because Gretchen Mol is a really good double for Bette Page. I just wish that Mary Haron would make more movies but she will forever be remembered for American Psycho I actually like 2 Days in New York. Rock and Delpy have good comedy chemistry, but not so much romance chemistry. BTW I nominated you for a Versatile Award https://videovortex.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/the-vern-honors-some-great-online-critics/

    1. I’m so glad that you liked A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night! And I agree, Gretchen Mol was fantastic as Bettie Page. It would be great if Mary Harron would make more movies, yeah!

      I actually liked 2 Days in New York way better than 2 Days in Paris; probably because Delpy and Rock made a great couple. But I found the whole Delpy’s family really insufferable and this kind of ruined the whole experience for me.

      Thank you for the nomination! 🙂

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