Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Kathryn Bigelow
My film theory classes in college had a female-to-male ratio of - easily - 2:1. Ironically, my experience on set is the reverse, and then some. Certain categories in film appear to be dominated by men, case-in-point: film direction. Historically speaking, film direction has been a man's job. That is, if measured by awards. For some reason or another, female film directors fly under the radar, despite having made some of the most critically acclaimed, well-received films.

Still from Near Dark
Still from The Hurt Locker

Female directors are most commonly associated with making indie dramas, but this is not the case. Kathryn Bigelow is a perfect example of a female director who makes "men's movies"-- that is to say, she makes high-adrenaline, action films. She is one of four women ever to be nominated for best director at the Academy Awards (along with Lina Wertmuller, Jame Champion, and Sofia Coppola), and the only one to win (in 2010 for The Hurt Locker). The Oscars are the highest profile award, but Bigelow also made history as the first female to win best director at the DGA and BAFTA awards. Early in her career, when Near Dark was still in development, studios doubted Bigelow's ability to handle such a gritty, violent story. So she went out to prove them wrong, test shooting one of the more violent scenes: a shoot-out between vampire and non-vampire groups, which ends in a combination of bloody wounds and burning flesh. The studio execs ate their words. Bigelow went on (and continues) to make critically acclaimed thrillers, not to mention cult classics.

Still from Deep Impact
Kathryn Bigelow isn't the only female to break the genre/gender boundaries. Mimi Leder's Deep Impact, the action thriller about the imminent destruction of Earch, places her into a Bigelow-esque category. Aside from action films, female directors have made some of the most treasured comedies, sports and animated films, for example: Penelope Sheeris's Wayne's World, Penny Marshall's Big, Vicky Jenson's Shrek, Gurinder Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation.

Sofia Coppola
In fact, some of the highest acclaimed films of the last couple years have been directed by women: Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids are Alright, Debra Granik Winter's Bone, and Lone Scherfig's An Education.

Still from An Education
Despite the high praise and success of movies directed by women, film direction is still a man's game. Hopefully, we can change that in the future.

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