From Some Women to All Women- Feminist Films by Women Behind the Cameras.

It should come as no surprise that, across the world, male filmmakers outnumber female filmmakers. The field is indubitably hegemonized by male directors, screenwriters, producers and so on. According to the 26th Celluloid Ceiling Report which maintains a statistical record of women employees behind the cameras in Hollywood films, ‘94% of the 250 top grossing films in 2023 had no women cinematographers’, ‘83% had no women directors’, and 74% had no women writers. This apparent disparity puts forth the discrimination women encounter behind the lenses which subsequently obscures their individuality. The opportunity extended to women to demonstrate their skills or to make their dreams come to fruition is dramatically negligible.

As it has always been the case, men have been dominating every field since ages and this truth has been well put by one of the most celebrated authors, Jane Austen in her classic “Persuasion” in which she writes- “Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much a higher degree; the pen has been in their hands.” Every word of Austen rings true, bespeaking of the brutal and grim reality of the society. Amidst such scenario, within the male-dominated film industry, there exist several trailblazing women filmmakers, who have made and are continuing to make astounding movies that not only present their individualistic views but also allow the viewers to understand the gynocentric approach of the movies. Undeterred and undaunted by the onerous challenges that are posed within the male-dominated realm, these female filmmakers push the boundaries of the patriarchal precinct, thereby gaining grounds for themselves in order to present to the world their masterpieces.

Threatening remarks, suppression and irrelevant adverse reactions have followed these women filmmakers whenever they make any realistic movies about women. Terrible public furore arose when Deepa Mehta’s critically acclaimed movie ‘Fire’ was released in 1996. The film navigates through the lives of two women trapped in the shackles of patriarchy and how they set themselves free of their sealed fates to make own choices by discovering their identity that drew the two women closer to each other. Mehta’s last movie of the elements trilogy, ‘Water’ (2005) is simply a veracious depiction of the plight of widows in colonial India. The film exudes the tribulations faced by a group of widows who were married off as a child bride to men thrice their age. Deepa Mehta’s attempt to present before the audience the predicaments of young girls or women who tragically became widows and got caught in the maze of patriarchal practices was met with massive public outcry.

In Saudi Arabia, where cinemas were banned for 35 years (1983-2018), Haifa Al-Mansour became the first female filmmaker in the country. Her movie Wadjda (2012) has a candid and thought-provoking storyline. The movie itself is very simple, it is about a ‘rebellious’ ten-year-old girl named Wadjda who wishes to buy a bicycle to compete against her friend Abdullah. But she is denied of it by her mother who sharply tells her that if she rides a bike, she “won’t be able to have children”. Despite her persona as a wayward among her teachers, Wadjda decides to take part in a Quran reciting competition that has cash rewards with the hope of purchasing her favourite bicycle using the money. Al-Mansour’s Wadjda is a tranquil tale of a ‘defiant’ little girl with strong determination of fulfilling her ‘forbidden’ dreams of buying a bicycle by refusing to abide by the rules set-up within a patriarchal society.

The Iranian-American filmmaker, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut movie ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ is an enthralling top-notch black and white feminist movie. The movie cast a spell of awe among the viewers with the portrayal of its protagonist who is a ‘terrifying’ formidable ‘chador-clad’ vampire, skateboarding and preying on the ‘Bad Men’ who resides on the fictionalized Iranian town called ‘Bad City’. She bears no name and is just called as ‘The Girl’ throughout the movie. She is a typical fanged-mouth, bloodthirsty vampire who feasts on miscreant men who mistreats women or commit other vile deeds. By portraying a chador-clad vengeful and malefic vampire girl who ‘walks home alone at night’ in a city filled with terrible men, Amirpour altered the vulnerable status of women in a society of pompous patriarchs.

Well, there are several other movies made by women about women that most certainly deserves high praise and attention. The list is definitely exhaustive despite the smaller number of women filmmakers compared to men. These women filmmakers are compelled to make low-budget movies because of lack of funding or rather a lack of interest by investors and financiers in investing on these filmmakers. These movies being portrayed from a gynocentric perspective might not appeal to the patriarchs who therefore resort to violence, hooliganism and protests demanding a ban on both the films and the filmmakers. Despite facing all sorts of obstruction and resistance by the fundamentalists and chauvinists, these filmmakers with their forthright views and uninhibited attitude continue to challenge the patriarchal norms by making riveting movies.


About the Author

Durba Chakraborty

Cocooning and writing sporadically on things that I read, see, think and feel. Arenas that particularly intrigue me include gender studies, subtleties of history and international policy issues. I write particularly from a gynocentric point read more...

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