Looking Forward to More Female-Led Films

March 8, 2019
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Features, Film

A few months ago, producer Jason Blum made a notorious comment in a magazine interview stating “There are not a lot of female directors period, and even less who are inclined to do horror,” and almost immediately, lists of female directors were presented to him and the world, all across the Internet. Granted, the proportion of female directors to male is still small, but it is growing; and steadily the number of female directors being taken seriously is growing too; consider Patty Jenkins, Lynne Ramsay, Agnes Varda, Anna Biller, Ava DuVernay and of course Jennifer Kent.

I was surprised to see just how many films directed by women are due to be released in the foreseeable future. A quick Google search will show you several lists of such films, so Audrey and I thought we would highlight a few that we’re particularly excited about.

High Life (dir Claire Denis)

French director Claire Denis, already famous for many films including 35 Shots of Rum and Trouble Every Day, has a sci-fi horror doing the festival circuit. High Life takes us on a space voyage featuring sexual experimentation and forced reproduction… yeah, I know: sounds like lots of fun. Denis, though, is renowned for unhurried, stylish production, focusing with care especially on the physical appearance of her cast. She uses sound and colors to add to the atmosphere and tension, and this is her first film in the English language.

And Robert Pattinson is in it! Most famous, of course, for the Twilight films; though I admired his down-to-Earth compassion in Good Time. High Life’s female lead is Juliette Binoche, famous for almost countless films such as the Three Colours films, The English Patient, and Les Amants du Pont-Neuf.

Anyway: we’ve got sex, violence, great actors, great style and space. Suits me.

Candyman (dir Nia DaCosta)

Now Nia DaCosta is not so well established, having directed only one feature (Little Woods, starring Tessa Thompson) and one short before. But those showed enough potential that when Jordan Peele was scouting around for the ideal director for his new Candyman film, she was his clear choice.

I loved the original Candyman. I loved Tony Todd’s voice and Clive Barker’s story. But I’m excited about this new film for a number of reasons. This isn’t one of those classic horrors which spawned a series of (often straight to video) sequels, but just one, and many years ago. The sympathetic monster, the Candyman, was a black man whose painful history lay in slavery and oppression. The new film has two people of color behind it, who will hopefully be able to rebalance the slightly awkward racial tropes of the original film; and Peele especially is a champion of the modern horror genre.

The upcoming Candyman film is said to be a “spiritual sequel” to the original, rather than a remake as such. Even if it were a straightforward remake/reboot, enough time has passed that it can surely be given a modern angle. It worked for Suspiria, for Halloween… Hell, it worked for A Star is Born several times.

Just as long as they respect Barker’s source story.

Little Women (dir Greta Gerwig)

There are few filmmakers working today who are routinely capable of bringing to the big screen stories about teenage girls that really resonate with female audiences. After Lady Bird, a film that so many women were able to see themselves in, it’s clear that rising star Greta Gerwig is among them.

So it was wonderful news to hear that her first post-Oscar nomination film would be a new adaptation of Little Women, a story famously written by women for women. And what’s more, the group of actors she’s assembled for the film reads like a wish list that a casting director would put together, hoping that they would maybe get one of them to sign on.

You’ve got Emma Watson as Meg. Saoirse Ronan as Jo. Florence Pugh as Amy. Meryl Streep as Marmee. And Timothee Chalamet as Laurie? Are you even kidding me right now? Anyway, it’s going to be awesome and you can check your edgy cynicism at the door because I’m not here for it.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (dir. Marielle Heller)

You remember that one time when Marielle Heller made one of the best films of 2018 and the Academy didn’t nominate her, trying to pretend that the movie got good all on its own without the help of an excellent director? (That was Can You Ever Forgive Me? by the way, and if you haven’t seen it, please go see it.) They have a chance to make up for all that this year because Heller’s newest movie is A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

This is, of course, a biopic about Mr. Rogers, actual perfect human being, starring none other than Tom Hanks. So to suggest that it’s the cinematic version of a warm, comforting mug of cocoa on a winter’s day is a bit of an understatement. It’ll be wonderful to see Heller, who has always seemed to have such a knack for working with her actors, help Hanks and the rest of the cast bring an emotional authenticity that a film like this will require.

Buffaloed (dir. Tanya Wexler)

Speaking as a proud Buffalo native who left the city more or less as soon as she was legally allowed to, the idea of a comedy about a young woman desperate to leave the City of Good Neighbors was always going to strike a chord with me.

This one also happens to have incredibly lovable casting, with Zoe Deutch (Set It Up) in the lead role as a girl who finds her calling as a debt collector, and Jermaine Fowler (Sorry to Bother You) and Judy Greer (the snarky best friend in every quality rom-com you’ve ever seen) supporting.

Buffaloed is directed by Tanya Wexler, whose last film was the criminally underrated Hysteria, a period rom-com about the invention of the vibrator, so I think it’s safe to say we’re in good hands. I’m confident that she has the chops to succeed with another female-centered comedy, a genre that is only really beginning to be tapped into properly.

Harriet (dir. Kasi Lemmons)

What do Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr, and Janelle Monae all have in common (besides being too good for this Earth)? They’re all slated to star in Harriet, the new biopic about Harriet Tubman scheduled to come out this fall.

Cynthia Erivo had quite a year in 2018, with scene-stealing performances in Bad Times at the El Royale and Widows – it’s fair to say that she’s one of the most exciting rising actresses working today. So her casting as Harriet Tubman is an inspired choice.

Directed and co-written by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou, Black Nativity), Harriet will hopefully be a powerful experience for audiences, and indicate a growing movement where black women filmmakers are given an opportunity to tell black female narratives on their own terms.

There are countless female-led films to look forward to on the horizon. But more than that, I’m looking forward to a time when the ratio balances out to such an extent that no male figure in the industry will make a “mistake” like Blum’s again.

By Alice Field and Audrey Fox

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