SlashFilm today asked, following on from The Guardian, ‘Why are there so few female filmmakers?’
There’s a clue in your article, SlashFilm. You write that Sofia Coppola was the first woman to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar, even though the article from The Guardian that you’re discussing clearly states that three women have been nominated for Best Director, the last of which was Coppola (the others being Lina Wertmüller in 1976 and Jane Campion in 1993; Coppola was nominated in 2003). Small fact to get wrong, isn’t it?
The far more insightful article in The Guardian describes at great length the sorts of chauvinism faced by women who enter the film industry – particularly the Hollywood film industry. I can’t say my knowledge is vast here, and I’m not going to try to answer the question of why there are so few female filmmakers, either. In thinking about the question, though, I realised something: I can name more continental European female directors than I can American or British ones – off the top of my head, that is. Maya Deren, Agnes Varda, Liliana Cavani, Catherine Breillat, Claire Denis. Having just looked up an arbitrary list of ‘female directors’, I then realised that, of the names on that list, I recognised far more American and British ones, yet I wasn’t able to recall the names myself. Why?
So I wonder: is it because I’ve never seen the European directors listed above treated as oddities (not in the case of the more modern Breillat and Denis, anyway)? Perhaps I’m just not looking closely enough, granted, and please do point me in the direction of any articles to that effect. Regardless, you’re probably wondering why I’m nattering on about this on a horror blog, and in relation to Women in Horror Recognition Month.
Breillat and Denis have both made horrific films. Denis made the languid Trouble Every Day, about a compulsive, sexual, cannibalism. Breillat made the brutal examination of teenage sexuality, À Ma Soeur!, as well as the graphic Romance. While Denis’ film is more strictly a horror film, Breillat’s films inject the horrific into the mundane, with a refreshing frankness. Her films deal with femininity, with no holds barred. Nancy Meyers, she ain’t.
Anyway – this got me thinking about European horror films, which, in my opinion, are the best modern horror films. They are, I believe, exclusively (so far) directed by men. These films, however, feature incredibly strong or interesting female characters, in my opinion, far more interesting than those seen the majority of recent American horror. Think of The Orphanage’s Laura, Martyrs’ Anna and Lucie, or Let the Right One In’s Eli. Perhaps in the same way that Kathryn Bigelow successfully directs male-orientated action movies, so these male directors have, somehow, managed to portray women in horror successfully.
I’m not really concluding anything here, nor arguing a particular case: this is me, thinking out loud. Is there really that much of a difference in attitudes toward gender in the Hollywood and European film industries? To what degree might the attitudes toward gender in Hollywood and the independent American film industry differ? I can’t help but think that attitude – of men and women – does play a large role in there being so few female filmmakers, but you know, I think the question needs rewording. Why are there so few prominent female filmmakers might be a more relevant question to ask.
For more information on Women in Horror Recognition Month, visit the website here: www.womeninhorrormonth.com, or the Facebook fanpage HERE.