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In My Humble Opinion- The Best Female Directed Films of 2011

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by Melissa Silverstein
December 26, 2011 11:59 AM
11 Comments
  • |
Top L-R: Lynne Ramsay, Larysa Kondracki, Susanne Bier; Bottom L-R: Dee Rees, Angelina Jolie, Celine Sciamma

It goes without saying that women made all kinds of films this year.  But the reality is that most made indie films.  Only a couple made studio films.  And the numbers of women directing films is still abysmally low. 

But even in their small numbers women are making waves.  Here are some highlights:

Jennifer Yuh Nelson made a hugely successful animated film Kung Fu Panda 2 and now she is the highest grossing female director taking the title from Phyllida Lloyd who this year gave us Meryl Streep's tour de force in The Iron Lady

Several actresses went behind the camera for the first time including Vera Farmiga (Higher Ground) and Angelina Jolie (In the Land of Blood and Honey).  Jodie Foster made The Beaver which unfortunately was stuck with the Mel Gibson whose baggage dragged down a very interesting film. 

2011 continued to show the singular visions of  Miranda July (The Future) and Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff).  It proved that Lynne Ramsay is the real deal and introduced us to same new and exciting voices like Dee Rees (Pariah), Maryam Keshavarz (Circumstance) Ava Duvernay (I Will Follow)

Looking at the list of my best female directed films of the year most of the films tell the stories of girls and women.  And the other two look at war.  What these women are giving us are stories about women from a female perspective.  Interestingly to note five of the six films are written or co-written by the directors which shows that most women directors have to bring their own material in order to get behind the camera. 

Every single one of the films below is from a bold, visionary woman and if we lived in a world where women's stories mattered as much as men's we'd be talking about these women in the same breath as their male colleagues.  The good news is that Susanne Bier won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2011.

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lynne Ramsay
Pariah- Dee Rees
Tomboy- Celine Sciamma
The Whistleblower- Larysa Kondracki
In the Land of Blood and Honey- Angelina Jolie
In a Better World- Susanne Bier

I've linked to my reviews and some interviews for you to check out.  Interview with Dee Rees will be coming up tomorrow.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the women directed films of 2011.

Women Directed Movies of 2011 (Women and Hollywood)
 

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

11 Comments

  • Mercedes Herrero | January 13, 2012 12:21 PMReply

    You don't mention Laura Newman who co-wrote and directed We Are The Hartmans. It's a really charming indie starring Richard Chamberlain. Check it out and post it when you get a chance!
    Thank you, and thank you this site, it's so important.

  • erin | January 13, 2012 11:02 AMReply

    I loved Massy Tadjedin's Last Night. It barely got any attention but it was a really good film.

  • Loren E. Chadima | January 2, 2012 7:30 PMReply

    Just want to thank you for your service to all women directors by having this blog, making all of us take notice of women directors and keeping us up to date.

  • Angie | December 28, 2011 11:42 AMReply

    A great list! I, too, was really taken with Pariah, it's a genuinely amazing movie. And while I don't think We Need To Talk About Kevin is Lynne Ramsey's best film, I love the jarring, stylistic choices she made AND the performances she got out of Swinton and Miller. That has to count as some of the best directing of the year.

    I'm not sure when/if it's being released domestically, but for wrenching, unforgettable movies that look at women in wartime, I'd definitely throw in a movie I saw at TIFF 2010 , Juanita Wilson's As If I Am Not There.

    Some female-directed movies I saw at TIFF 2011 that were very memorable include Michale Boganim's Land of Oblivion, (which I still think of sometimes, as clearly as if I saw it yesterday and not three months ago) Julia Loktev's The Loneliest Planet, Lea Pool's Pink Ribbons, Inc., and Julia Leigh's polarizing but uncompromising Sleeping Beauty. If the world were fair, we'd see all these movies getting major art house distribution. Here's to the hope! :)

  • Connor | December 27, 2011 5:01 PMReply

    What about director of Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, Madeleine Olnek?

  • Bryan | December 27, 2011 12:29 PMReply

    You might want to have filmmakers compile your list, and maybe they won't overlook Agnieska Holland's IN DARKNESS, the only war film this year that doesn't pander to the sexualization of political conflict. IN THE LAND...is a porn movie.

  • Melissa Silverstein | December 27, 2011 2:46 PM

    Bryan-

    I did love that movie. It didn't include it on the list because it is technically being released next year but I could have included it.

  • Scarlet | December 27, 2011 10:52 AMReply

    Gaby Dellal's "Angels Crest" opens Friday and having seen a sneak preview can guarantee it will be on many a "top" list.

  • Julie Janata | December 26, 2011 6:23 PMReply

    Alliance of Women Directors is the only organization solely devoted to advancing opportunities for women directors. Each member has achieved professional status by having directed at least one film, television or new media program that has been recognized by the creative community. Based in Los Angeles, but open to women from around the world, AWD hosts industry events, panel discussions, seminars, and tradecraft workshops with leading experts in the field, and includes a daily AWD Professional list of industry information online. Our industry partners include the Producers Guild of America, American Cinematheque, Panavision, Kodak, HBO, ComericA Bank, Women & Hollywood and many others. For more information, see our website at www.allianceofwomendirectors.org

    On Sunday, January 15, we will be hosting our Members' and Potential Members' Bash! Please join us for the camaraderie and support of some of the most exciting and creative women in Hollywood! Invitation at - www.allianceofwomendirectors.org/events.html

    Tell your friends and feel free to invite them to our Bash on Sunday, January 15!

    Stacy Smith's most recent study of the top 100 films of 2009 shows that only 3.6% were directed by women. Join us to help raise awareness and build opportunities for women directors, and by extension, increase women's representation in front of and behind the camera. Join the revolution and be an inspiration and a role model for men and women, boys and girls!
    See you at AWD!

    www.allianceofwomendirectors.org

  • josephine | December 26, 2011 4:35 PMReply

    I have only seen Tomboy and In a Better World- can't wait to see the others!
    One film that blew me out of the water was "POLISSE" by writer/director MAIWENN.(it won jury prize in Cannes) Maiween is a Huge talent, cant wait to see anything she makes! It may not be out in the US yet, and i Really hope it gets distributed globally and seen, "Polisse" deserves so much success! Another wonderful film is "Declaration of War" by Valerie Donzelli, it is a jewel of a film!!

  • Val | December 26, 2011 1:49 PMReply

    Haven't seen several of these, but my list, culled from UK festival viewing, is thus:
    Dreams of a Life--Carol Morley
    The Imperialists Are Still Alive!--Zeina Durra
    Where Do We Go Now?--Nadine Labaki
    Hooters--Anna Margarita Albelo
    The Fatherless--Marie Kreutzer

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