Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Top Twenty of Decade by Women Filmmakers

Indie or Studio, Women Filmmakers Still Underrepresented is headline screaming from the Atlanta Film Festival website atalantafilmfestival.com/content/view/420/ The article asserts that according to a new study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, the number of female directors and cinematographers has declined over the past decade. However, the study, "Independent Women: Behind-the-Scene Representation on Film Festivals," found the percentage of women working as directors, writers, producers, cinematographers and editors on domestically produced feature-length films appearing at film festivals is higher than the percentage of women working on the top 250 domestic grossing films- 24 percent versus 16 percent. Some notable numbers from the study:
• 77% percent of festival films employed no women directors
• Women accounted for 19% of writers working on films appearing at festivals, but only 12% on top-grossing films
• Women comprised 22% of executive producers working on films appearing at festivals, compared to 16% working on top-grossing films
• Women accounted for 33% of producers working on films appearing at festivals, but only 20% of those working on top-grossing films
• Women comprised 23% of editors working on festival films compared with 17% of those working on top-grossing films

Here are my Top Twenty of the Decade by women filmmakers:
1. REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES (2002) Directed by Patricia Cardoso, this coming-of-age story with newcomer and Golden Globe Award winner America Ferrera as a first-generation Mexican-American from East Los Angeles who struggles to balance her mainstream ambitions with a traditional cultural heritage. The film won the Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival.
2. WHALE RIDER (2002) A New Zealand film directed by Niki Caro, this tribal coming-of-age story embraced tradition, overcoming obstacles in a patrilineal society premiered at Toronto International Film Festival, won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Language and World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival. Unsurpassed beauty of the South Pacific.
3. BLUE CAR (2002) Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Karen Moncrieff, the film is about a neglected teenage girl in a dysfunctional family environment finding solace in writing poetry with support from her English teacher who has passions other writing on his mind. The film was self-distributed and had a limited theatrical release and nominated for Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards.
4. LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003) directed by Sofia Coppola. Lost in long distance loneliness.
5. MONSTER (2003) Written and directed by Patty Jenkins based on the life of Aileen Wuomos, an abused woman who was executed as a serial killer. The film doesn't excuse the murders, the woman becomes pitiful not despicable and Charlize Theron's performance is incredible as she transformed herself - not merely impersonating- into a character collecting accolades for Best Actress (Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actor Guild Award).
6. NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE (2005) Directed by Mary Harmon, is a biographical account of pin up and bondage model Bettie Page whose photos gave her the nickname "Dark Angel" and eventually led to a U.S. Senate Committee investigation. Gretchen Mol was right on and the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
7. WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL (2005) directed by Judy Irving and still finding audiences with its remarkably long tail.
8. JESUS CAMP (2006) directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing is about a pentecostal summer camp for kids focusing on three remarkably intelligent and eloquent children being trained to become evangelists centering around conservative political values. The film premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary Feature category.
9. DIXIE CHICKS: SHUT UP AND SING (2006) Directed by two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple and Celia Peck, takes the audience on the road, behind the scenes, recording studio and family home life of the Dixie Chicks - the biggest-selling female group in history. The infamous off-hand anti-Bush remark by lead singer Natalie Maines created a political firestorm that changed all three Dixie Chicks' lives and careers forever. World premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
10. LADY CHATTERLEY (2007) director Pascale Ferran picked up five Cesar Awards (the French equivalent of Academy Awards) for this beautifully shot, visually poetic and sensuous adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's once infamous novel. A true high-erotica art film.
11. RED ROAD (2007) directed by Academy Award winner Andrea Arnold. This feature debut, an exceptionally emotionally powerful film kept taking the audience on its sexually-charged twists and turns, premiered at Sundance Film Festival and won the Prix Du Jury Award at Cannes Film Festival.
12. PROTAGONIST (2007) Written and directed by Jessica Wu about the parallels of human life and its emotions against a background of Euripidean dramatic structure. A compelling perspective, the film premiered at Sundance Film Festival.
13. MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES (2007) Director Jennifer Baichwal follows world renowned still photographer Edward Burtynsky on his quest to document who we are in relation to our plant. World premiere at Toronto International Film Festival.
14. AWAY FROM HER (2007) Directed by Sarah Polley with beautiful memorable performances by Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent and Olympis Dukakis celebrating life and relationships with reality and optimism.
15. WATER LILIES (2007) Written and directed by first time filmmaker Celine Sciamma, a French coming-of-age story about teenage girls' burgeoning sexuality with a confluence of emotions and hormones in the rigid schedules of competitive swimming. Selected for screening in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes Film Festival.
16. THE BETRAYAL (NERKHOON) (2007) Written and directed by cinematographer Ellen Kuras (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF A SPOTLESS MIND) and Thavisouk Phrasavath, a historic epic following a Laotian family forced to emigrate after the U.S. pulled out from its secret mission leaving behind their affiliates to fend for themselves against the communist government. Nominated for an Academy award for Best Documentary Feature.
17. THE ORDER OF MYTHS (2007) Written and directed by Margaret Brown taking the audience along the rim of the rabbit-hole she had free fallen into, unlocking that ornately embellished door and drawing us into an exotic world of Southern decorum and secret, mystical societies with both blacks and whites staunchly clinging to their centuries-old traditions. Mardi Gras masks still invade my dreams.
18. FROZEN RIVER (2007) Written and directed by Courtney Hunt with Melissa Leo in the role of one of two desperate women who smuggle illegal immigrants across the frozen St. Lawrence River. The film was Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance Film Festival, Melissa Leo was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress and won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead.
19. BRIGHT STAR (2009) Directed by Jane Campion, this beautifully shot Festival de Cannes competition entry is a treat for literary romantics who allow their senses to become absorbed by carefully selected words and thus emotionally awakened. Read the prize-winning love letter on the website and swoon.
20. THE HURT LOCKER (2009) Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the film is set in Iraq with an opening title, War is a Drug setting the stage that can be blown up at any time through the exploits of the main character, a bomb disposal expert living on the edge. No stunts or CGI used as Bigelow builds tension with classic tools of fear and surprise. Explosive.

Listen in on Film Festival reViews podcast conversations with Melissa Leo and Courtney Hunt (FROZEN RIVER), Ellen Kuras (THE BETRAYAL), Margaret Brown (ORDER OF MYTHS), Pascale Ferran (LADY CHATTERLEY) www.filmfestivalreviews.com

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