100 Overlooked Films Directed by Women: See Selections from Sight & Sound Magazine’s New List

UK film month­ly mag­a­zine Sight & Sound’s most recent issue is ded­i­cat­ed to “The Female Gaze: 100 Over­looked Films Direct­ed by Women.” The list of 100 films runs some 20 pages, and the edi­tion also col­lects mini essays from actors like Gre­ta Ger­wig, Isabelle Hup­pert, and Til­da Swin­ton; direc­tors like Jane Cam­pi­on and Claire Denis, and crit­ics like Amy Taubin and Camille Paglia, all focus­ing on female-direct­ed films that deserve a sec­ond look.

Many of the film­mak­ers are fair­ly obscure, but even bet­ter known direc­tors are rep­re­sent­ed here with less­er-known selec­tions, like Ida Lupino’s Out­rage (and not her noir clas­sic The Hitch­hik­er) and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Love­less, her first fea­ture co-direct­ed with Mon­ty Mont­gomery and fea­tur­ing a young Willem Dafoe. (Fact: Until Bigelow won for The Hurt Lock­er in 2010, no woman had earned a Best Direc­tor Oscar).

Pre­sent­ed in chrono­log­i­cal order, the list of 100 Over­looked Films Direct­ed by Women fea­tures many land­marks in film his­to­ry, like Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 The Adven­tures of Prince Achmed, the first fea­ture-length ani­mat­ed film, which we recent­ly high­light­ed here. Open Cul­ture has also pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed Ger­maine Dulac’s 1928 sur­re­al­ist film The Seashell and the Cler­gy­man.

Lois Weber’s 1913 Sus­pense, her short film co-direct­ed with Philippe Smal­l­ey (view it at the top of the post), is one of the first exam­ples of cross-cut­ting to cre­ate ten­sion, and it even fea­tures a three-way split frame. Cross-cut­ting is a tech­nique all thrillers have used since. (And Weber stars in the film as well.)

Sight & Sound also pro­files Stephanie Roth­man, the first female direc­tor to work for Roger Cor­man, and her 1971 film The Vel­vet Vam­pire, a West Coast take on a goth­ic genre. Jessie Maple, who made Will in 1981, was the first African-Amer­i­can woman to become a part of New York’s cam­era operator’s union.

Then there’s the careers of film­mak­ers whose lives were cut short: Sovi­et direc­tor Lar­isa Shep­itko died in a car crash at 40, leav­ing behind two mas­ter­pieces, while Elia Kazan’s wife Bar­bara Loden made her debut with Wan­da in 1970 and passed away soon after, too young.

Many of these films are dif­fi­cult or impos­si­ble to find, and Sight & Sound includes an online arti­cle of eight more films that might be lost for good, like the afore­men­tioned Lois Weber’s only col­or film White Heat, or the only film actor Lil­lian Gish direct­ed, Remod­el­ing Her Hus­band.

The Sight & Sound issue is avail­able on news­stands and as a dig­i­tal edi­tion to sub­scribers. As not­ed at the end of the article’s intro­duc­tion, “a sea­son relat­ed to this project will take place next year at BFI South­bank, Lon­don.”

Read­ers inter­est­ed in the con­tri­bu­tions of women film­mak­ers will want to explore the Women Film Pio­neers web­site host­ed by Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Ground­break­ing Sil­hou­ette Ani­ma­tions of Lotte Reiniger: Cin­derel­la, Hansel and Gre­tel, and More

An Ambi­tious List of 1400 Films Made by Female Film­mak­ers

Alice Guy-Blaché: The First Female Direc­tor & the Cin­e­mat­ic Trail­blaz­er You Like­ly Nev­er Heard Of

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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