Remember when Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar and for a minute, the whole world was talking about women directing films? It’s not a bad issue to return to, considering that female voices are still notably, even shockingly, absent in our theaters. At the end of 2009, Indiewire published a set of dismal statistics regarding women in film over this last decade (the 00’s)—in ten years, over 200 films hit the 100 million dollar mark. Five of those films—or about two percent—were directed by women. Of the 1000-plus films to gross $20 million, only 31 were directed by women. Money isn’t everything, but these are the films that you are most likely to have seen. NPR put it this way: if you went to the movies last year, it’s “statistically likely that fewer than 10 percent” of the films you saw were directed by a woman.
So that’s why it’s cool, and newsworthy, when one film distributor releases a whole season’s worth of lady-helmed features. First Run Features (“Independent, Documentary, and Foreign Films since 1979) has five theatrical films either playing or opening soon in New York, and all of them (that’s 100 percent for those of you keeping up with the stats) are either directed or co-directed by a woman. Stonewall Uprising, directed by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner) tells the story of what happened at the Stonewall Inn one summer in 1969. Mugabe and the White African (Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey) documents “white African” Mike Campbell’s international court battle against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, over the forced re-allocation of white-owned farmland. Neshoba: The Price of Freedom returns to Neshoba County, Mississippi forty years after three civil rights workers were murdered there. Antiplano (Brosens and Woodworth) is a feature film about a riot in a small village in the Peruvian Andes, and about two women—one native, one foreign—brought together in its aftermath. Finally, Kings of Pastry (Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker), due out this September, is another documentary about France’s Meilleurs Ouvriers de France pastry competition—what critic Damien Love calls “…the culinary Hurt Locker.”
And with that, we come full circle. While these films may not make it in to the “top-grossing” category, no major studio—and perhaps no other distribution company at all—can boast an entire summer’s worth of films from a different perspective.