Heroines of Cinema: Muriel Heslop

by Matthew Hammett Knott
August 16, 2012 6:57 PM
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Muriel Heslop (Toni Collette) in "Muriel's Wedding"
As widely reported earlier this month, the new Sight and Sound poll of the 50 Greatest Films of All Time featured only one film by a female director. It was hardly a surprise to those versed in the inequalities of the film industry. No women competed for the Palme d’or at Cannes this year. No woman has ever been nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, let alone won. In 2011 only one film with a female protagonist broached the top 20 highest grossing films worldwide.

Yet there is no corner of the film industry -- past or present -- that isn't awash with women worthy of such honours. From iconic screen roles to cult actresses, acclaimed directors, producers and writers to the swathes of creatives, agents and other under-the-radar talents, the assembled picture is never all-male far beneath the surface. Each week, Heroines of Cinema will profile a different woman, fictional or real, alive or dead, on screen or off. The only criteria for selection will be the value and interest in highlighting and celebrating that woman's contributions to the world of cinema.

Films directed by women are not the only category under-represented in the Sight and Sound poll. Comedies, films made in the past twenty years and films with feminine or feminist themes are three traits that do not show up with much frequency. It is not the purpose of this article to address the reasons why. But given the pervading prejudices, it seems appropriate for my first on-screen Heroine of Cinema to be not a Golden Age icon, a sultry femme fatale or a great dramatic role, but the star of an unashamedly feminist contemporary comedy, which I consider to be one of the most quietly subversive female roles of the past twenty years.

The is a snippet from Heroines of Cinema -- a new weekly column on Indiewire by The Lost Boys contributor Matthew Knott. Read the entire article here.

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