Hannah J Davies | Contributing Writer | Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Films To Watch By Female Directors

7 Awesome Films To Watch By Female Directors

The Debrief: Our picks of the best films directed by women...

Although we're betting you can name plenty of A-list directors off the top of your head, we're also betting that most of them are men. According to new stats, just 19% of people working behind the scenes in Hollywood are women, and Kathryn Bigelow remains the only woman to have scooped the Best Director Oscar for her 2009 flick The Hurt Locker.

As such, Women In Film Los Angeles - an organisation which promotes and supports female filmmakers - has launched a campaign encouraging audiences to watch one film a week directed by a woman in 2016. Should you decide to take part in their 52 Films By Women project, here a few of our picks from across the globe:

Take My Eyes
Take My Eyes

1. Te Doy Mis Ojos/Take My Eyes - Icíar Bollaín (2003)

Spanish actress-turned-director Bollaín presents a cliché-free portait of the domestic abuse suffered by a wife and mother in this subversive melodrama. Rather than shocking her audience by explicitly showing the violence endured by protagonist Pilar at the hands of husband Antonio, she delves into the psychological aspects of their relationship, deconstructing a binary system of gender along the way. Powerful and postmodern, the director's clever use of classical art contrasts with the film's stark realism.

The Bling Ring
The Bling Ring

2. The Bling Ring - Sofia Coppola (2013)

Inspired by a real-life crime wave, this tale of Hollywood heists and adolescent ennui will ring true with every millennial who has ever felt more than a little uneasy about the conspicuous consumption that rules the world. Although this probably isn't Coppola's best film (that award should really go to Lost In Translation), it's the one that speaks most to our Kardashianised generation by harking back to the days when Paris Hilton et al paved the way for a whole generation of Instafamous celebs.

The Swamp
The Swamp

3. La Ciénaga/The Swamp - Lucretia Martel (2001)

Argentinian auteur Martel's erratic, naturalistic debut was one of Latin America's biggest cult hits in the early Noughties. It tells the story of two bourgeois families in the north west of her homeland - one governed by a pair of nonplussed alcoholics and the other a hotbed of anxiety - who unite around a disused swimming pool in stagnant marshland, both of which figure as metaphors for their own festering personal lives. Whilst there is an almost comic feel to the chaos, it's ultimately a dark tale which explores social and political malaise via parallel tales of familial dysfunction.

Girlhood
Girlhood

4. Girlhood - Céline Sciamma (2014)

Set in the deprived Parisian suburbs or banlieues, the latest in a series of coming-of-age films from French director Sciamma follows teenager Merieme, whose life changes forever when she's recruited by a gang of older girls. Violence, theft, drugs and poverty are central themes, however Sciamma's characters - most of whom are of African descent - are more than merely stereotypes. A sensitive look at the realities of growing up as a working class black female, and - thanks to a strong screenplay and a cast of young amateur actors - one which feels realistic throughout.

Diary of a Teenage Girl
Diary of a Teenage Girl

5. Diary of a Teenage Girl - Marielle Heller (2015)

Heller's debut feature film fuses vintage vibes with an unwaveringly female perspective and a message that remains current. Kicking off in 1976, we meet 15-year-old Minnie (Brit actress Bel Powley): tenacious, arty and desperate to lose her virginity. Her affair with her mother's 35-year-old boyfriend led UK censors to give the film an 18 certificate, which is a huge shame, because films about the difficulties of being a young woman really shouldn't be off limits to young women themselves.

Dreams of a Life
Dreams of a Life

6. Dreams of a Life - Carol Morley (2011)

This sensitive film about a woman who lay undiscovered in her home for three years after her death will stay in your mind long after you've watched it. British director Morley was inspired by a newspaper article about Joyce Vincent, and her docu-drama contrasts the happy recollections of the Londoner's friends and acquaintances with the reality of her final years living as a recluse in a run down bedsit. Fresh Meat's Zawe Ashton plays the lead role in this affecting tale, which is available to stream for free via Channel 4's All4 service.

Belle
Belle

7. Belle - Amma Asante (2013)

At the time of her film's release, British-born Ghanian Asante told the Guardian that she understood the 'division' traversed by protagonist Dido Belle, an 18th century woman born to a slave and a British Navy admiral. Although little is known about the real-life Belle, this semi-historical account of her life imagines the paradox created by her status as both an outsider and a member of the elite, as she grows up with her father's aristocratic family. An attractive period piece which also comments on themes of race, gender and class which remain pertinent today.

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Follow Jess on Twitter @jess_commons

Tags: Film