By Fiona Kiung
“I can connect with whoever I want to connect with in the world. And I can also write my own script. I don’t have to follow rules. I can sort of just be unconventional.” – Lynn Shelton.
While we may have heard of blockbuster movies made by male filmmakers, how often do we take notice of great movies made by female filmmakers? There are many barriers for female directors in the film industry, but the rise of streaming platforms is opening up opportunities for these amazing women. In addition to that, several film festivals focused on promoting female filmmakers like Cairo International Women’s Film Festival in Egypt, China Women’s Film Festival in Hong Kong and Ndiva Women’s Film Festival in Ghana can give female filmmakers a chance to showcase their work to the world.
If there are women who want to create films, then why are there not many female directors? According to Dame Heather Rabbatts, the Chair of Time’s Up UK, there are two main reasons, with the first one being, “People tend to recruit in their own image.” When the majority of directors are male, they hire men. Secondly, she stated that, “[Directing] has not been a role where women have seen many other women role models.” Directing has always been a male preserve. However, many women started to realise that directing could be a possibility for them as well. There is an upward trend of female directors taking on big and better projects in Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood and beyond. For example, The Wedding Party directed by Kemi Adebita is Nigeria’s highest-grossing film of 2016. Dame Heather Rabbatts also concluded that, “The more that we see women directors coming through, the greater encouragement that will give to other women to believe that they too cando these roles.”
In conjunction with International Women’s Day this month, let us appreciate four rising female filmmakers, Lulu Wang, Nahnatchka Khan, Waad Al-Kateab, and Tina Gordon Chism. These filmmakers convey their stories through film to express their experiences and ideas. These are the top four picks of female filmmakers that have made films not only true and raw but created it into a piece that the audiences can learn from and experience differently every time. Certainly, films with different concepts, ideologies, and meanings are more beguiling to both the creator and viewer’s field of interests.
Now, let us look at some of the amazing films made by these top filmmakers. The first movie is The Farewell by Lulu Wang. This movie is based on a true story about the pending death of Nai Nai, and dives into the lives of a Chinese family that exhibits diverse emotions in each scene. It is a bittersweet, funny, and awkward film for anyone who loves a heartfelt movie. Lulu Wang stated that for her, the movie is about identity and what arises when you leave home. What are the values that you bring from the home you leave, and what are the values that you leave behind? These questions about identity go much deeper than the person’s skin colour and physical outlook.
Second, the movie Always Be My Maybe is a rom-com film by Nahnatchka Khan that displays two childhood best friends, Sasha and Marcus, meeting again in their 30s after 15 years of not speaking to each other. They both live in different worlds, but the sparks are still there. Throughout her years in Hollywood, Nahnatchka has encountered many rejections, However, she does not let that affect her. Instead, she focuses on the joy of collaborating with people who understands her and her vision.
Third, For Sama is a documentary film directed and filmed by Waad Al-Kateab in Aleppo, Syria that highlights the journey of Waad Al-Kateab falling in love, getting married and the birth of Sama in the midst of war. Waad Al-Kateab started out as a citizen journalist for Channel 4 news and has been renowned for her harrowing and human series of reports inside Aleppo. That series won her an Emmy and the Foreign Affairs Prize at the British Journalism Awards. For Sama, dedicated to her daughter Sama is personal. For Sama displays the flow of parenthood being disrupted and explores the hardships of what it is like to survive during war as a family.
Finally, the film Little by Tina Gordon Chism narrates a successful businesswoman who treats her employees poorly, waking up one morning as a 13-year-old kid. This movie shows a fierce, unbothered woman who is always on edge, but as she becomes a kid again, she starts to understand herself better when she builds meaningful relationships with others. Though the film Little is filled with some magical aspects, it still represents the very true narrative about childhood, love, and admiration in the Black community. Tina Gordon Chism is also the writer behind some other blockbuster films such as Drumline, ATL, Peeples, and What Men Want.
As the 21st century is reeling towards equality more than before, it is only right that female filmmakers are given the credit that they deserve. May the films be witty, sad, romantic, awkward, or happy, because that is what films are for, to tell a story. Films remind us of the importance of acknowledging our insecurities, flaws, and emotions, and teaches us what it means to be human in different contexts. Thank you to all the female filmmakers out there for being so brave to pursue your dreams in an industry that is male-dominated and sharing your stories to the world through filmmaking.
“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” – Michelle Obama
*Photo credits to the rightful owners*