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Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Women Filmmakers’

New Article – Kelly Reichardt: Working Against The Grain

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

I have a new article on the films of Kelly Reichardt in Quarterly Review of Film and Video.

As I write in the article on her film River of Grass, ”like so many of Reichardt’s protagonists, Cozy and Lee want to leave the lives they’re drifting through behind, but they have no clear idea – indeed no idea at all, what to do about it. They have no money, no real aim, in life, but they’re not so much hopeless as they are bereft of imagination. There’s a world out there beyond Florida, but somehow, home is home, and that’s where they seem to be stuck, in a state of permanent stasis.

And, of course, the film has many stylistic and thematic debts, which Reichardt is all too willing to acknowledge. As she told Iain Blair, in River of Grass ‘I can clearly see Godard’s influence, and noir and early Terrence Malick. It’s all laid quite bare.’ The film was recently restored as part of a Kickstarter campaign by Oscilloscope Laboratories, and released as an extra on Oscilloscope’s DVD of Reichardt’s ultra-realistic, almost existential Western Meek’s Cutoff (2010). It’s a solid first effort, and certainly offers an early clue to the direction her career was heading in.

Reichardt followed this up with two shorter films, Ode (1999), clocking in at 48 minutes, which is a sort of riff on the plot of the 1960s pop song hit Ode to Billy Joe, and then two very short films: Then A Year (2001), dealing with the consequences of a ‘crime of passion,’ and Travis (2004), centering on the human cost of Iraq war. But at the same time, Reichardt’s enthusiasm for making films had dwindled; these newer films were shorter, less ambitious, and she was clearly backpedaling in her career – indeed, she wondered if she had any real future as a filmmaker in any realistic sense, even working at the margins of the industry.

River of Grass has made something of a splash on the festival circuit, being nominated for Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay, and Best Debut Performance (Lisa Bowman), as well as the rather enigmatically named Someone to Watch Award at the 1996 Independent Spirit Awards, as well as being nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994, and for Best Feature Film at the Torino International Festival of Young Cinema – but none of those nominations translated into a win, and gradually, the ‘heat’ surrounding Reichardt began to wear off.

As she admitted to Iain Blair, ‘making [River of Grass] was a real eye-opener, and even going to Sundance and all of it – that was my first realization that it was different for women in this business. There were just two of us women filmmakers at Sundance in ’94, and there was no sense of camaraderie or welcoming – no fault of Sundance. And I took it really personally and it took me a long time to get over it. That was a part of my retreating afterwards.

The other part was, I just couldn’t get financing, and it was so frustrating. I tried so hard to be a more avant-garde, less narrative filmmaker, but it just didn’t come naturally to me. I went to L.A. for a while, and Jodie Foster was going to produce a film I was doing, but it never got made. I simply didn’t have the social skills needed to operate in the business. So I went back to Super 8, which is what I’d done in college.

It seemed like nothing happened during my time in L.A., but I’d worked – in the art department – on Poison, and I became friends with (director) Todd Haynes. And he introduced me to (novelist) Jonathan Raymond, and one of his stories became the basis for Old Joy (2006) – but I had no idea when we did it that it’d even become a feature.’”

In short, it’s a tough world out there, but Kelly Reichardt keeps working, which is the only way to get anything to happen, no matter what your chosen field. Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall, but you can gain access through Love Library Reference, if you’re interested, and in the meantime, check out some of Reichardt’s superb films – she’s one of the most truly original directors working in America today.

That’s Kelly Reichardt – working against the grain.

The Film Fatales Collective

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

“We’re a group of filmmakers who make each other’s dreams come true.” – Danielle Lurie

As their site – follow the links above in the photo and the opening quote – accurately notes, “Film Fatales is a collective of female filmmakers based in New York who have written or directed at least one feature narrative or documentary film. Our members meet the first week of every month, hosted at the home of a different filmmaker each time. Gatherings consist of a meal, a topical conversation relevant to the creative process, and a sharing of the current projects of our members. Film Fatales has quickly become a grassroots community of collaboration and support, with over a dozen films in production by our members this year alone. By offering a space for mentorship, peer networking and direct participation, we hope to promote the creation of more stories by and about women.”

Filmmaking is tough; collectives such as this make it easier to create new and original work.

For Your Consideration: Women Directors Missing From the Oscars

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

This video has been tearing up the web, as well it should.

As far as I can tell, it’s the work of Melissa Silverstein, and she’s absolutely right about everything she says.

Women created the cinema. Alice Guy was arguably the first person to make a film with a plot, La fée aux choux (The Cabbage Patch Fairy, 1896); the first to make a film with sound; the first to make a film in hand-stenciled color; the first to make a film longer than 1 minute; the first to make a multi-reel film; and she started her long career in 1896, long before D.W. Griffith even thought of making a film. Her contemporaries were Georges Méliès, The Lumière Brothers, and numerous others, but Alice Guy’s more than 354 films stand as a monumental achievement at the dawn of cinema.

As Ms. Silverstein points out, “in 2011, only 5% of the top grossing films in Hollywood were directed by Women. The number has decreased since 1998. In 84 years only 4 women — Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow — have been nominated for best director. One 1 has won.

Please feel free to send this video out far and wide, and on Sunday, remember that women directors voices and visions are missing from this very large cultural conversation. Telling people this is a cultural problem and not just a gender equity problem is a first step.”

Happy to help. A change would definitely do you good . . .

For more information on women in film, check out Gwendolyn Audrey Foster’s book Women Film Directors: An International Bio-Critical Dictionary, by clicking this link.

Ten Contemporary Women Directors

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Here’s a list of ten contemporary women directors you should know about from Women’s Press by Judy Berman.

As she writes; “Kathryn Bigelow may have been the first female filmmaker to win a Best Director Oscar for 2009′s The Hurt Locker. But did you happen to notice that for the most recent Academy Awards, the nominees in the same category were all men — in a year when two movies directed by women, Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right, were up for Best Picture?

Gender inequalities exist throughout the arts, but they’re especially pronounced in the rarefied world of film directing. We all know a few big-name women filmmakers: Bigelow, Sofia Coppola, Susan Seidelman, Catherine Hardwicke, Nora Ephron, Julie Taymor. In honor of International Women’s Day, we present ten great, contemporary female directors who you may not know but should definitely check out.”

And so you should, by clicking here, or on the image above.

About the Author

Headshot of Wheeler Winston Dixon Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. All comments by Dixon on this blog are his own opinions.

In The National News

Wheeler Winston Dixon has been quoted by Fast Company, The New Yorker, The New York Times, the BBC, CNN, The Christian Science Monitor, US News and World Report, The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, The PBS Newshour, USA Today and other national media outlets on digital cinema, film and related topics - see the UNL newsroom at http://news.unl.edu/news-releases/1/ for more details.

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