Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Spike Lee Thinks Only One Woman Has Made an Essential Movie

News
by Melissa Silverstein
July 30, 2013 1:00 PM
49 Comments
  • |
Katia Lund

Another list, and another list that another list that includes hardly any women - one to be exact. Sometimes I try to let these pass, but you can't ignore a list put out by Spike Lee. He is a respected filmmaker who is out there with a new kickstarter campaign for a film (Steven Soderbergh donated $10,000), and a new film Oldboy coming out this fall and he is a professor at NYU's film school.

And his list of "essential" films -- which includes 87 films and 62 directors -- is what he gives his students to watch to learn from.  Now, of course, there are not as many female directors as male directors, but STILL.  He is an educator.  And this is what he is teaching the students -- that only one woman (Katia Lund who co-directed City of Gods) is the worthy of having made an essential film.  

I think that the administrators of NYU Film School should take a look at this list and get creative.  If they are looking for directors that have made some great movies they can check out In Her Voice: Women Directors Talk Directing.

You can see his list of essential films here.

News
  • |

More: Sexism

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

49 Comments

  • Michael Kingston | October 30, 2013 11:27 PMReply

    All the films he listed are well-known classics. He is not going to include some mediocre film made by a woman just for inclusion sake. This article reeks of entitlment at it's worst.

  • Sparky | August 7, 2013 3:44 PMReply

    The list is eccentric, but any list would be. What makes it kind of worthless as a learning tool is that it leaves out the entire silent era. And ha ha good luck pretending Gone with the Wind doesn't exist.

  • Paul | August 6, 2013 1:48 PMReply

    Mary Harron, Agnes Varda

  • sgine | August 4, 2013 4:34 AMReply

    The revolution will be televised, apparently. As a man, I'm not arguing against this kind of retaliation against the hierarchy. Any argument of that kind is valid. Men and women should find themselves on the same platform and fend for each other. However, this article is so stupid and pointless. Does no one else see this? If arguments like this are leading any kind of charge what so ever than that says a lot more about the movement than about the argument.

  • Filmbuff | August 3, 2013 1:41 PMReply

    The "manosphere" barks back. Poor male trolls having to face the "injustice" of having one woman listed as a co-director by Spike Lee.

  • grrljock | August 2, 2013 4:03 PMReply

    Furious, furious come the defensive statements from the trolls. I can guarantee any time a Women and Hollywood blog post challenges the prevailing conventional dudedom, there will be numerous overreactions in the comments section, ranging from the somewhat thoughtful to the semi-coherent. All will say the same thing: WandHdon'tknowwhatchutlkin'aboutshutup!
    Guess what dudes, W and H will keep on talking.

  • fhfhfh | August 3, 2013 3:42 AM

    Speaking on such a topic, there was the Daria fake trailer online today, and as a male I can remember finding her character to be the closest figure I could relate to on television when I was younger. Yeah. So please somebody stop this bullshit mentality against men where it's not worth it and start it where it does. The stem is not where this blog site proclaims it, they just have your attention and think you're stupid enough to follow them to the bank.

  • ejgoirm | August 2, 2013 5:40 PM

    Although I agreed right when I read the list that Spike Lee should really give women directors (especially Maya Derren and the director of the The House is Black) a level of importance on his list, his opinion is strictly that, a matter of opinion. This is stuff that's brought up in film classes by the students and should probably be left there. It's not an important issue. So I feel this article equally earns a challenge right back due to it's simple and obvious points and topical button pushing to flare up people's emotions about a deservedly important issue. It just further creates an us and them podium for the whole issue that generates anger instead of ideas.

  • D | August 2, 2013 7:33 AMReply

    This is the worst argument of all time. For the record, I've seen as a student at NYU Spike personally champion every year new feature and short film projects by all races, genders, creeds and colors. With his own money. I've seen him personally champion ambitious projects by female directors sometimes directly against the department's wishes. And here you are with your cereal box feminism. There are actual women out there trying to make great films that could really use a little blurb from you Melissa. How about writing about Una Noche for instance? It doesn't of course fit your narrative about Spike (he supported that), but it's a great movie and seems to fit your criteria for what's newsworthy-a film directed by a woman.

    But to the point. And this an absolute FACT. Spike has supported directly and greatly more first-time and burgeoning female film talents coming out of NYU than any other person on the faculty. There are more female film directors today than there were even five years ago directly because of his aid. Slamming him because he didn't fulfill a quota you felt was acceptable is a convenient ignorance of the facts.

  • Samuel | August 1, 2013 6:33 PMReply

    There is only black director on the list. Would that mean that Spike Lee thinks that only one black man has made an essential movie?

    To clarify my fault finding comment, this article takes offense at something which should not be offensive to the person taking the offense. When Spike Lee is quoted saying the title of the article then complain.

  • FILMBUFF | August 3, 2013 1:43 PM

    Well obviously Spike doesn't think too highly of his black director counterparts. Maybe his ego is too large to acknowledge any competition.

  • Samuel | August 1, 2013 6:04 PMReply

    Fault finding, when there isn't any.

  • FILMBUFF | August 3, 2013 1:49 PM

    Oh sweetie just because you don't see a problem doesn't mean that one doesn't exist. Denying the existence of sexism goes hand in hand with denying the existence of female directors making quality films. Not that you're capable of understanding the issue anyway. Just go play a video game and have a beer. Leave the real thinking to the adults.

  • Eric N. | August 1, 2013 5:19 PMReply

    Can any film students come forward and verify that they took classes with Spike?

  • Grace | August 1, 2013 1:15 AMReply

    NYU knows nothing.

  • ToDoLists | July 31, 2013 2:58 PMReply

    I think this has nothing to do with Spike Lee. He picked 87 Films, I wouldn't assume he focused on the directors. Plus, it would be different if it were a list of essential films from the last ten years - then you would expect some women. But back in the day women weren't directing films. While I believe that was a problem, it's a problem that's slowly being fixed. But it's also just the truth. If you are looking at a list of someone's favorite movies of ALL TIME, it's way less likely to be directed by a man.

  • hkJVN | July 31, 2013 10:22 AMReply

    I skimmed this list before this article knowing that, these days, this exact article would show up and I was just waiting for it. Oof. It's not that it's a defense tactic to say this argument is pointing out the obvious, but it is annoying in that it's an argument that doesn't tell me anything noteworthy or productive in the matter it's supposedly giving me the chance to see. Any film teacher would point these films out as classic and important films as well. I find it more disconcerting that there aren't more women filmmakers, in general, to choose from due to a cultural mentality that disallows women's voices. It's not enough to go Look At This Guy Saying An Opinion because if you do that, you're totally missing the point. Also, Catherine Breillat's top ten films don't include women filmmakers, and Chantal Akerman wanted to be a filmmaker because of Godard. And this is great whoring of a topical issue to get people to keep checking in on this site. Worked for me!

  • Nathan | July 31, 2013 2:45 AMReply

    Get off the guy's back, crusaders of political correctness. Agnes Varda or Larisa Shepitko would have been worthy additions, but his list is solid. If you want to put Nora Ephron on your own list no one is stopping you.

  • ShortFilmIdeacom | July 30, 2013 11:06 PMReply

    This list isn't too bad. As someone said, Citizen Kane maybe. But I see, as a filmmaker, myself and Lee have similar tastes. By the way, "La Strada" is easily one of my top 5 films of all time...

  • Kathy | July 30, 2013 10:41 PMReply

    It's too bad that people get so defensive when Melissa makes a valid comment about Spike Lee's list only having one women on it. These people who get so defensive need to make a commitment to promoting women as directors.

  • Marian | July 30, 2013 8:33 PMReply

    Great to see discussion about this (again!) And we can check out alternate lists! In a conversation at The Black Board we can add to the list-in-response from director CampbellX (Stud Life) at Blackman Vision. (I added the links, but can't post them, got a message re spamming!)

  • Marian | July 30, 2013 8:33 PMReply

    Great to see discussion about this (again!) And we can check out alternate lists! In a conversation at The Black Board we can add to the list-in-response from director CampbellX (Stud Life) at Blackman Vision. (I added the links, but can't post them, got a message re spamming!)

  • Grouchobeer | July 30, 2013 6:24 PMReply

    Also, J, Martin S did not hardly direct THE GODFATHER (or even THE GODFATHER, PART 2.

  • Grouchobeer | July 30, 2013 6:20 PMReply

    "Does not include hardly any women?" Seriously?

  • J | July 30, 2013 5:49 PMReply

    I am disappointed by the list .......its too common, should I even say pedestrian .....I expected more from one of my favorite directors....Only one film by Jim Jarmusch? Nothing from indie female Directors that paved the way for introspective films like his own work .....and while I appreciate The Godfather being most men's favorite film..as a filmmaker that is not the Martin S work to put on a list for film students.

  • Raquel | July 30, 2013 5:10 PMReply

    Its his list and films that influence him. I am a woman I don't think women should take it personally. Besides how many women directors are on their list????

  • Joe | July 30, 2013 3:47 PMReply

    Spike Lee's list is rather unsurprising. Where's the color? Where the action? Where's stuff that people really want to sit through that aren't part of the Brooklyn faux-hip culture? No listings for movies that weren't already on some other lame film professor's "greatest of all time" list. Nothing obscure enough that it seems like Spike Lee is championing the unknown to his young mind. Where are the guilty pleasures? It is interesting that any filmmaker he's had a public beef with is missing from that list. And no Buster Keaton? Or Birth of a Nation - that film had an impact on Spike's career. It's the rather sad list I'd expect to see from the new guy at Blockbuster trying to look like a cinema snob, "Spartacus is so superior to A Clockwork Orange...."

  • Emily Wilcox | July 30, 2013 3:45 PMReply

    "another list that does not include hardly any women"? I think you mean "another list that includes hardly any women." Your sentence is a double negative.

  • Sterling Cooper | July 31, 2013 3:50 AM

    You just proved why there aren't any women on the list. Sweetheart, another olive, please.

  • ShortFilmIdea.com | July 30, 2013 11:11 PM

    Actually we get the gist adn sometimes, writing agramatically is a refreshing cahnge :)

  • Melissa Silverstein | July 30, 2013 8:07 PM

    Thanks for the grammar help.

  • IGNORANTPEEGS | July 30, 2013 2:41 PMReply

    Hey,
    You. Ignorant commenters.
    Know your film history before you chime in. Or any history. Or anything. This comment has nothing to do with Spike Lee, it has to do with YOU.

    On the essential nature of women in film:

    "Alice Guy, a French woman director, is generally credited as having directed the first narrative film. Her film, La Fe aux choux, is in many ways a film like that of her male contemporaries; it tells the story of a fairy tale in which a woman who cannot bear children creates them in a cabbage patch. Guy was instrumental in the development of such early pioneering techniques as special effects (masking, superimposition, and other in-camera effects). She was also very much a pioneer of the very first genre vehicles, yet Alice Guy is rarely cited as the originator of these genres. The hundreds of films she directed include everything from melodramas to gangster films, horror films, fairy tales, and even short music films featuring famous opera singers,forerunners to today's music videos."

    So suck it. For real. Also, on behalf of Alice Guy, you're welcome.

  • IGNORANTPEEGS | July 30, 2013 2:40 PMReply

    Hey,
    You. Ignorant commenters.
    Know your film history before you chime in. Or any history. Or anything. This comment has nothing to do with Spike Lee, it has to do with YOU.

    On the essential nature of women in film:

    "Alice Guy, a French woman director, is generally credited as having directed the first narrative film. Her film, La Fe aux choux, is in many ways a film like that of her male contemporaries; it tells the story of a fairy tale in which a woman who cannot bear children creates them in a cabbage patch. Guy was instrumental in the development of such early pioneering techniques as special effects (masking, superimposition, and other in-camera effects). She was also very much a pioneer of the very first genre vehicles, yet Alice Guy is rarely cited as the originator of these genres. The hundreds of films she directed include everything from melodramas to gangster films, horror films, fairy tales, and even short music films featuring famous opera singers,forerunners to today's music videos."

    So suck it. For real. Also, you're welcome.

  • IGNORANTPEEGS | July 30, 2013 2:40 PMReply

    Hey,
    You. Ignorant commenters.
    Know your film history before you chime in. Or any history. Or anything. This comment has nothing to do with Spike Lee, it has to do with YOU.

    On the essential nature of women in film:

    "Alice Guy, a French woman director, is generally credited as having directed the first narrative film. Her film, La Fe aux choux, is in many ways a film like that of her male contemporaries; it tells the story of a fairy tale in which a woman who cannot bear children creates them in a cabbage patch. Guy was instrumental in the development of such early pioneering techniques as special effects (masking, superimposition, and other in-camera effects). She was also very much a pioneer of the very first genre vehicles, yet Alice Guy is rarely cited as the originator of these genres. The hundreds of films she directed include everything from melodramas to gangster films, horror films, fairy tales, and even short music films featuring famous opera singers,forerunners to today's music videos."

    So suck it. For real. Also, you're welcome.

  • M. | July 30, 2013 3:00 PM

    What in heaven's name are you talking about?

  • fjejejej | July 30, 2013 2:01 PMReply

    Why does this matter? Who gives a shit what Spike Lee thinks? He's listing off film school curriculum. Women haven't had the floor nearly as much as men so clearly their voice will be substantially lessened by the last hundred years of a male dominated art form. Give it another decade and we'll see what happens. Film is so fucking young and everyone acts like it's been around as long as novels or painting. Give the guy a break. He clearly didn't mean to offend anyone. Also he's not scared of women whoever thinks that shit, Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Mo Better Blues, Crooklyn, give me a break.

  • Donella | July 30, 2013 1:58 PMReply

    And maybe only one woman will find his Kickstarter campaign essential.

  • grrljock | July 30, 2013 1:51 PMReply

    The commenters doth protest too much, methinks. Insecure much?

  • andrew | July 30, 2013 2:08 PM

    Oh get off it. This has less to do with sexual politics in cinema than with the persecution of a filmmakers opinions. Implying that anyone calling out this article as a click-whoring endeavor is "insecure" is immature.

  • jar | July 30, 2013 1:44 PMReply

    I'm a NYU graduate film student who has taken Spike Lee's directing class. This list is not part of the curriculum. Being given a window into the cinematic make up of an accomplished filmmaker's influences is an added bonus. The NYU graduate film program is somewhat of a technical program; meaning that we learn by writing, directing and editing. We do not study films nor directors. At the most we study techniques and strategies. The gender of the director is irrelevant.

  • andrew | July 30, 2013 1:23 PMReply

    This is pure headline whoring... Fastcocreate(dot)com has 85 films Scorsese says are required viewing for filmmakers. None are from women... Where's your article on Martin Scorsese being sexist? He also taught at NYU. I guess Spike Lee is just an easier target right now.

    Obviously nobody will argue that we need more female filmmakers and nobody will argue there haven't been essential films by filmmakers but this article seems unnecessarily vindictive.

  • Ted | July 30, 2013 1:21 PMReply

    I think it's worth remembering that while there are female directors, how many of them have directed "essential films" ? If I were to write down a list of female directors who have created at least one film worthy of being termed "essential,"the list would be short: Maya Deren, Agnes Varda, Chantal Akerman, Vera Chytilova, Barbara Loden, Shirley Clarke, Elaine May, Daniele Huillet, Kira Muratova, Claire Denis - maybe Samira Makmalbaf, Sally Field or Marguerite Duras could be added to this list. Now, this is a fantastic list of filmmakers. Some of the greatest films ever were directed by these women, but this list is surely dramatically shorter than a male list.

    Now, think about the films these women made - would Spike Lee really appreciate any of these people given the other films listed. He's clearly not interested in any kind of filmmaking that could broadly be construed as either experimental or a product of unconventional narrative - this means we can write of Deren, Varda, Akerman, Chytilova, Clarke, Huillet, Muratova, Makmalbaf, & Duras right there. Maybe Spike Lee would like "Beau Travail" and maybe he would have some affections for Barbara Loden's "Wanda" given his appreciation for Jarmusch. My point is that the greatest women filmmakers have typically made films that would be outside Spike Lee's narrow aesthetic interests. It's less of an anti-women story than that Spike Lee doesn't appreciate the styles the greatest women have trafficked in.

  • mp | July 30, 2013 4:38 PM

    Sally Field? Perhaps you meant Sally Potter - I hope so! Otherwise, I completely agree with Ted - what is very striking about this list (to me) is how terribly narrow the aesthetic is!- but then again, it is Spike Lee, so why be surprised?

  • J_Johnston | July 30, 2013 1:13 PMReply

    Rather than simply playing out a political correctness card - can you please make some argument based on the merit of films? I don't disagree that there are movies out there made by women that are essential - however simply gripping about it from an "I'm a woman - there should be more of us" perspective doesn't really help. Give us some refutation and explanation from your artistic point of view on which films you'd add and subtract.

  • M. | July 30, 2013 1:11 PMReply

    Wow let the man have an opinion, hyper-sensitive anyone? as if it reflects on everyone else's. Indiewire is pathetic

  • Leon Raymond | July 30, 2013 12:54 PMReply

    You may respect him but Man is this dude terrified of women. He flat out has no respect for them. I can think of 5 female directors who can run circles around him. The 25th Hour was a superb film and Do The Right Thing but there are still women directors who are right up there with him!!

  • terrence moore | July 30, 2013 8:11 PM

    Spike has had women light and DP for his films....although I am surprised he didn't mention daughters of the dust by Julie Dash. He help produced one of the great love story movies Love and basketball (my opinion of course) by Gina prince Bythewood. I would think the things he has done to help women in film trumps the lack of women on a list. Also its not like he had any influence on the film output which was male dominated. he put together the list that influenced him.

  • JaySmack | July 30, 2013 2:53 PM

    Spike Lee, "afraid of women?" So Jasmine Guy, Tisha Campbell and virtually all the females on "A Different World" owe their start to him, but Spike Lee's "afraid of women?"
    If anything it's a problem that women in Hollywood are afraid of men, and are letting their hostility spill on the floor every chance they get.
    Borrowing talking points from Jezebel is not a good look for you. Makes you seem like you're doing your impersonation of what you think a smart person sounds like.

  • No | July 30, 2013 1:20 PM

    "I can think of 5 female directors who can run circles around him."

    Well, name them, Leon Raymond. You have the floor, sir. Name these five female directors.

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Emma Stone to Make Broadway Debut in ...
  • 'To Be Takei' Director Jennifer Kroot ...
  • Nicole Holofcener Announces Follow-Up ...
  • Trailer Watch: Studio Ghibli's Eerily ...
  • Elisabeth Moss and Michelle Dockery ...
  • AFI Expands Directing Workshop for Women ...
  • Sandra Bullock to Star in and Produce ...
  • "If I Stay"Weekly Update for August 22 & 29: Women ...
  • America Ferrara to Host Latino Documentary ...
  • 'Masters of Sex' Renewed for Third ...