I had this brilliant plan to watch 52 movies directed by women in 2020. I even made a Letterboxd list. Well, this year has not gone according to plan so I will be trying to finish my list by 2021. At this point (at the end of November) I’ve seen 19 out of which two are co-directed with men. It’s not a lot and it’s a shame but I feel like giving more attention to the lack of female directors in the industry will eventually push the needle to the middle. Netflix could start by giving some of their movies for women to direct. It’s not much to ask, okay!?
3. THE MUSTANG (2019) directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
Thanks to my list keeping I had no trouble picking three unique movies directed by women. They won’t have a connected theme within a theme except the fact that they all are great and released in 2019 (edit: they will, see me realise that later on). The Mustang’s synopsis reads as following: while participating in a rehabilitation program training wild mustangs, a convict at first struggles to connect with the horses and his fellow inmates, but he learns to confront his violent past as he soothes an especially feisty horse. It’s a very minimal, intimate look into a man and his connection to a horse. I loved this one, I cried with this one, I’ll cherish the memory of this movie for many years to come. It’s just a beautifully told story! And for a directorial debut, it’s even more magical. Matthias Schoenaerts as the lead is also quietly powerful. Gonna keep my eye out for him from now on.
2. BABYTEETH (2019) directed by Shannon Murphy
I loved Babyteeth as well! It was such a sad movie though and I feel like that’s kind of a connective theme with these movies as well. Yet it is beautifully acted, it’s visually interesting and stunning. The characters are compelling and different, a bit outside the box. While there are some script based decisions that I don’t understand and the timeline messes with my head a little, Babyteeth is still a great movie. Its synopsis reads: Milla, a seriously ill teenager, falls in love with a drug dealer, Moses, her parents worst nightmare. I also just realised its also a directorial debut because Murphy had done just shorts before. What a great movie right out of the gate. Especially for those beautiful visual moments. Give female directors more opportunities to tell these types of stories!!
1. HONEY BOY (2019) directed by Alma Har’el
I’m sorry for saying these movies had no theme within a theme. Honey Boy is also sort of a directorial debut since it’s Har’el’s first fiction feature film. She has previously directed shorts and documentaries, as well as music videos and commercials. So in a way 2019 brought out these three amazing female directors who made their feature film debuts with emotionally filled movies that told very character driven stories. Honey Boy is no different to my first two picks except it’s somehow the most powerful of the three.
Written by Shia LaBeouf in rehab Honey Boy is a semi autobiographical story of himself, his childhood, his alcoholic father and it’s almost harrowing. He himself plays the father and there’s something painful yet cathartic about that. Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges play Otis (based on LaBeouf) in different ages and they are both brilliant!! Jupe is so good, Hedges as well. You can tell Har’el has pulled out so much from these three that it’s a tour de force from start to finish.
I scheduled this post a month ago, before FKA twigs sued LaBeouf but I didn’t want to replace it. Har’el’s work here is good and I think it needs to be acknowledged.
PS: For more female directed movies you can read my post from May 2020, Top 10 Female Led Movies Directed & Written By Amazing Women here.
THIS SERIES IS CREATED BY WANDERING THROUGH THE SHELVES3
Those movies all sound super interesting! And I will have to check out your list on Letterboxd to get some more inspo!
I haven’t seen any of these though this is the second time today I saw Honey Boy pop up. I’ll have to add these to my to see list.
I was fortunate that TCM ran a series this year for several months looking at films directed by women which gave me plenty to choose from.
The Hitch-Hiker (1953)-Two buddies Ray (Edmond O’Brien) and Gilbert (Frank Lovejoy) head off for what is supposed to be a relaxing fishing trip but make the mistake of picking up an innocuous hitchhiker Emmett Myers (William Talman) who turns out to be a sociopath on the run from the law. Knowing that he’s a killer and sure that as soon as he’s done with them they are dead they plot an escape. But their plan is hampered by the fact that even when he sleeps Myers keeps one eye open. Director Ida Lupino, the only woman in the 50’s listed as a member of the DGA, keeps the action economical and the atmosphere tense.
The Ascent (1977)-In the deep winter of the German countryside during WWII a pair of starving Soviet soldiers leave their unit in search of food but are captured by a Nazi patrol. Tortured for information they don’t possess one of them stands by his principles while the other seeks a way out but both pay a heavy cost. A big success upon release this proved to be the final film of director Larisa Shepitko who was killed along with her crew in a car accident shortly afterwards scouting locations for her next film.
Daughters of the Dust (1991)-Julie Dash directed this look at the Gullah community off the coast of South Carolina at the turn of the last century where the descendants of former slaves kept a mix of African and colonial ways alive. As the changing times intermingle with the old ways conflicts ensue.
Zero Motivation (2014)-Stationed in a remote desert location a disparate group of female Israeli soldiers wait until their period of service is up while they bicker, bond and fight against the ennui that comes with living in such an isolated spot. Tayla Lavie directs this with a fine mix of humor and gravitas.
I haven’t seen any of these films and I do want to. Mustang I didn’t realize is directed by a woman so now I can remind myself that as I hope to watch it on HBO soon. Honey Boy I still want to see despite the fact that Shia LaBeouf is a piece of shit and I do believe FKA twigs considering that LaBeouf had also beaten up his ex-wife Mia Goth.
We match on Honey Boy! I’ve seen all three of your picks and while I didn’t care for Mustang, I liked the other two a lot.
I actually just hit #52 for films directed by women this year. Thankfully I watched a lot of short films directed by women, I think that helped push me over. I’m going to try harder next year.
Hi! Interesting choices and all new to me.
I think I would really enjoy The Mustang but being a huge animal lover I always get worried about watching films centered on animals as I just assume something tragic will happen! I will try and watch it if I get the opportunity so hopefully this won’t be the case…
I agree with a comment on Rambling Film’s post about LaBeouf. Like you’ve written, we should judge the film based on Har’el’s work and acknowledge that rather than focus on LaBeouf and what a nasty piece of work he is.
Thank you. Great choice!
The Mustang was a good first feature (see https://wordpress.com/post/renhirratings.wordpress.com/6311)
The other two are on my list (I publish 6 movies directed by women every week :))
Mustang sounds great and close to my heart since I love anything with animals in it as long as the animal doesn’t die because that is too hard to see. I do like your theme within a theme of redemption and struggle.
Your bottom two picks are completely new to me and it’s the second time I’ve seen Honey Boy picked this week.
This is the first time I hear of The Mustang and I’m immediately adding it to my watchlist. I really liked Babyteeth and Honey Boy is one I’ve been meaning to watch for a while.
The Mustang is a hit or miss I guess. It’s a very slow paced movie but so many indie movies are so I didn’t expect it to be anything else.