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I Spent a Month Watching Women-Directed Movies and Here's What I Learned

Spoiler alert: We need more women in the business.

I don't know what came to me when I decided to do it. Perhaps it was after I learned that only five women (all white, by the way) have been nominated for best director in 90 editions of the Oscars (yeah, yeah, awards mean nothing, but cut me some slack). Maybe I was excited about A Wrinkle in Time. Maybe I have a lot of free time (it's probably this). But whatever it was, I decided that I was going to spend March watching only female-directed, written, and/or starring movies (jackpot if it's the three). And after watching them, I came to the conclusion that there's a lack of representation from the media and the industry, which is no shocker. We can easily name ten male directors. Women directors? Until this past month, I hardly could...

I wanted to learn from female filmmakers from different backgrounds and genres. Different perspectives. I wanted to feel inspired. So I tried to watch movies that differ from one another. Some I love. Some I didn't like that much. Two of these are directed by men (so it wasn't all female-directed, my bad) because I wanted to watch something with those characters or that particular narrative, and one is a show. My main reason for this was to see more women represented, give them my little space. So here's the list:

1. 'Lady Bird' (2017)

Directed and written by Greta Gerwig. A love letter to growing up, Sacramento, leaving home, the mistakes you make, and the future. And the most real mother-daughter relation I've ever seen.

What I learned: It's refreshing to be able to relate, even if a bit, with the characters. Beanie Feldstein is a force to be reckoned with. Saorise Ronan is still one of the best actresses of her generation, and apparently, Tracy Letts is a man? Which, yes, I didn't know until I watched it.

2. 'Una Mujer Fantástica' (2017)

Directed by Sebastián Lelio. It narrates the story of Marina Vidal, a transgender woman, after her partner suddenly dies, and the transphobia she endures.

What I learned: Daniela Vega has a beautiful voice, and I need to watch more from her. We need more trans actors and not cis people playing trans characters.

3. 'You've Got Mail' (1998)

Directed by Nora Efron, who co-writes the script with her sister Delia. Based on the play Parfumerie and the movie The Shop Around the Corner (1940). The trope enemies to friends to lovers, with books, Jane Austen references, and Tom Hanks.

What I learned: I really want to work in a bookshop, and should I do a Tinder profile?

4. 'Irreplaceable You' (2018)

Directed by Stephanie Laing, written by Bess Wohl, cinematography by Magdalena Górka. When you are told that your life that you were about to start with the love of your life is going to end, you start planning his life without you.

What I learned: I'm able to brush my teeth while sobbing thanks to a movie. Go figure!

5. 'A Wrinkle in Time' (2018)

Directed by Ava DuVernay, based on the story by Madeleine L'Engle. Meg's quest to find her father that includes Oprah, Reese Witherspoon's Pokémon evolution, Mindy Kaling quoting Hamilton, and so on and so on. There's a previous post about it.

What I learned: I need the three Mrs. to guide me through life ASAP!

6. 'Annihilation' (2018)

Directed by Alex Garland. A group of (all female) scientists investigate what could be the end of our planet, or perhaps a new beginning.

What I learned: Tessa Thompson is so pure she actually becomes nature, Gina Rodrguez as someone so unlike Jane is refreshing. I love all these women and I want more.

7. 'Obvious Child' (2014)

Directed and written by Gillian Robesperre (also there are a lot of ladies behind the story). It's the story of Donna, a stand-up comedienne, and the two weeks she has to wait to have an abortion.

What I learned: This is the first time I see the topic normalized in my 23 years of existence. Shouldn't films like, catch up with the world already? Thanks.

8. 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' (2017-)

The only show on the list. It's created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, who you may (or not) know as the creator of The Gillmore Girls or Bunheads. The 50s, a woman is abandoned by her husband, so she starts doing stand-up like a boss.

What I learned: Where has Rachel Brosnahan been all my life? Also Alex Borstein? Amazing. I want to go onstage and complain about my life instead of doing so on Twitter.

9. 'Mudbound' (2017)

Directed by Dee Rees, cinematography by Rachel Morrison, who is the first woman nominated for an Oscar for it (rightfully so, because it is stunning. But really, the first one in almost 90 years? Ugh). The struggles of two WWII soldiers, one white, one black, their PTSD, and racism in rural Mississippi.

What I learned: This was one of the movies that surprised me the most. I did not expect like... THAT. I'm not even spoiling it, just watch. Dee Rees deserved a nomination for best director.

10. 'It's Kind of a Funny Story' (2010)

Co-directed (and also script) by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who are going to bring Captain Marvel next year. The movie focuses on the five days Craig spends on the psychiatric floor of a hospital after considering suicide, and how that is going to change his life.

What I learned: Zach Galifianakis is the best thing from this movie, hands down!

*Maya Deren's Shorts:

11. At Land (1944).

12. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

13. The Very Eye of Night (1952-55)

14. A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945)

I've never heard of Deren until someone gave me a ticket to a showing of her shorts with live music, which made the experience better. Deren was an actress, writer, director, actual Renaissance lady. She was a pioneer of the underground movement in American cinema (Although she was from Ukraine).

What I learned: Gene Kelly asked for her help in order to record dancing. And you don't need many resources when you have a camera and a weird idea (but a cool one, you know?). People were full of it by saying they understand the metaphors—no you didn't, you are as confused as I am and you know it!

15. 'Raw' (2016)

Directed and written by Julia Ducornau. After an initiation at college, a vegetarian student tastes meat for the first time and develops an addiction to it.

What I learned: A title has never been so accurate (well, probably it has). I read about this movie a time ago and heard it was so visceral people left the theatre. Not going to lie, some scenes made me uneasy, but overall, I loved the movie and I highly recommend it (especially because I need to discuss it with someone!).

16. 'Pet Sematary' (1989)

Directed by Mary Lambert, based on a Stephen King novel. Things that scare me from Maine: clowns, teenagers with telekinetic powers, and now adding cemeteries that revive the dead.

What I learned: Stop messing with Native American land. Haven't we all done that enough already? And if your cat starts acting odd after coming back from the dead, what makes you think your son will be peachy? I swear...

17. 'Requisitos para ser una persona normal' (2015)

Directed and written by Leticia Dolera. Things you need to be normal: a job, a significant other, a house, a social life, hobbies, family life, being happy. But do you?

What I learned: You don't need everything on that list. Thankfully, because I'd be in deep...

18. 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night' (2014)

Directed and written by Ana Lily Amirpour. A vampire + not mushy romance + a cat + taking revenge on men that hurt people + amazing shots + super interesting story.

What I learned: I want to be the girl. The beginning of the movie is great, the shots are amazing. If a story is good and willing to watch it in Iranian.

19. 'La Ciénaga' (2001).

Scripted and directed by Lucrecia Martel. The story of two cousins who think too low of themselves.

What I learned: That family is a hot mess.

20. 'Jennifer's Body' (2009)

Directed by Karyn Kusama, script by Diablo Cody. When a band tries to sacrifice Jennifer, she ends up possessed by a demon. You know, your typical Friday night.

What I learned: This movie was so ahead of its time. The dialogues are incredibly witty. I have a crush on both Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox (but this is not new, though...).

21. 'The Wild Party' (1929)

Directed by Dorothy Arzner. Stella is a college student in love with her teacher. So a lot of 20s romance comedy (pre-code), really.

What I learned: This was Clara Bow's first "talkie" (which you can tell from her expressions, which are very "there's no sound so here are a variety of facial expressions, you're welcome audience," which I like), as well as Arzner, who, by the way, was the only active female director in Hollywood during the 30s. Four for you Arzner! YOU GO ARZNER! (please get this reference).

22. 'Bend It Like Beckham' (2002)

Directed by Gurinder Chadha, who also is one of the writers of the script. It tells the story of Jess, an Indian descendant girl, and Jules, and their passion for football, first loves, and respecting your origins.

What I learned: Not gonna lie, I wanted to grab a ball and play football. Then I remembered I'm a clutz and that I went to the hospital twice the same a year because I hurt both my feet on two different occasions. Also, tag yourself, I'm the mom who thinks they're lesbians.

23. 'La Fée aux Choux' (1896)

Directed and written by Alice Guy-Blaché, who is considered the first female director. The movie is literally a minute, and tells the story of how girls come from roses and boys from cabbage.

What I learned: The movie came before the first fiction story by the Méliès, but right after the Lumière's L'Arroseur Arrosé, which was the first comedy. Alice Guy-Blaché is also thought to be the first director to make a movie adaptation of a book/story (I'm unsure whether it was this movie or other).

24. 'Cléo de 5 à 7' (1962).

Directed and written by Agnès Varda. Cleo, a famous singer, has to spend two hours waiting for some medical results that will tell if she has cancer or not.

What I learned: Varda is one of the main figures of the French "nouvelle vague," which I learned what it was thanks to Wikipedia, so cheers, Internet.

25. 'Orlando' (1992)

Directed and written by Sally Potter, based on Virginia Woolf's novel. The story of Orlando, who one day wakes up as a lady. A deconstruction of gender and sexuality.

What I learned: Actually, I read the novel years ago, and shocker, I learned some stuff from my degree. Woolf dedicated the novel to her lover, Vitta Sackville. Gotta love a (b)icon. Also, mad respect for Potter. Anything from that time is hard to read, let alone make a movie about it.

Other movies for your interest by female directors:

Wonder Woman (2017), Across the Universe (2007), Paris is Burning (1991), Selma (2014), The Kids are All Right (2010), The Edge of Seventeen (2016), Mi vida sin mi (2003), Wayne's World (1992), Persepolis (2007), Clueless (1995), Yentl (1983), An Education (2009), Lost in Translation (2003), The To Do List (2013), Waitress (2007), We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011), Mustang (2015)...

Overall, the experience was great. I knew so few female directors that this broadened my knowledge. Here's hoping for more opportunities and representation, ladies. I'm looking up to all of you!

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