Women's Work: Essential Films by Female Filmmakers

Women's Work: Essential Films by Female Filmmakers

The ongoing struggle for a more equitable cinema of the future, in which male filmmakers don’t overwhelmingly dominate director’s chair assignments, can draw inspiration from the existence of a rich history of work by woman directors—a cross-section of which is on offer in this series. Here you’ll find a Weimar-era lesbian drama (Mädchen in Uniform), one of first feature-length dramas directed by an African American woman (Losing Ground), a tribute from Claire Denis to another towering female artist (Towards Mathilde), and many, many other landmark works drawn from the long alternative history of women’s cinema.

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Women's Work: Essential Films by Female Filmmakers
  • Western

    Directed by Valeska Grisebach | 121 mins | 2017
    Tensions rise during a work stoppage when a group of German laborers erecting a hydroelectric plant in rural Bulgaria suddenly find themselves with time to get into trouble in Grisebach’s patient, tonally precise, naturalist drama, which thoughtfull...

  • It Felt Like Love

    Directed by Eliza Hittman | 82 mins | 2013
    There’s not a single false moment in It Felt Like Love, Never Rarely Sometimes Always director Hittman’s feature debut about a sexually inexperienced south Brooklyn teenager (Gina Piersanti) who’s embarrassed to fess up to everything she doesn’t know abo...

  • Hannah Arendt

    Directed by Margarethe von Trotta | 113 mins | 2012
    In her sixth teaming with von Trotta, a sublime Barbara Sukowa plays philosopher and writer Arendt, in Jerusalem to report on the 1961 trial of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann for the New Yorker—the assignment that will produce her famous coi...

  • Songs My Brothers Taught Me

    Directed by Chloé Zhao | 93 mins | 2015
    The feature debut of Zhao, future winner of Best Director Oscar for Nomadland, Songs My Brother Taught Me is an understated yet deeply felt naturalistic drama about life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, focused on two siblings (Jashuan ...

  • Mädchen in Uniform

    Directed by Leontine Sagan | 89 mins | 1931
    Actress-turned-director Sagan’s pioneering all-female cast lesbian romance sets its scene at a boarding school for military officer’s daughters where a new student has begun to develop an unusually passionate attachment to one of her teachers—and then f...

  • Unrelated

    Directed by Joanna Hogg | 100 mins | 2007
    Anna (Kathryn Worth) arrives in Tuscany to visit her school friend Verena (Mary Roscoe), Verena’s cousin, and her new husband—but to the dismay of all, 45-year-old Anna seems more interested in spending time with the trio’s teenaged kids (including a youn...

  • Variety

    Directed by Bette Gordon | 100 mins | 1983
    A young woman lands a job as a cashier at a downtown porno theater, and soon finds herself inexorably drawn towards what’s happening onscreen—as well as other troubling fantasies. One of the great independent films of the ’80s, featuring a who’s who of t...

  • A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

    Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour | 104 mins | 2014
    Amirpour’s atmospheric, entirely original, black-and-white thriller gave an infusion of fresh blood to the venerable vampire movie genre, revolving around the figure of a mysterious, chador-clad female bloodsucker who exercises a powerful pull on a ...

  • 2 Friends

    Directed by Jane Campion | 76 mins | 1986
    A formally daring inquest into a fractured friendship from Campion with a screenplay by novelist Helen Garner, 2 Friends opens with once-inseparable teenage girlfriends who having drifted apart, then moves back through the years to observe the episodes th...

  • Home

    Directed by Ursula Meier | 98 mins | 2009
    Isabelle Huppert gives a nuanced and fascinatingly opaque performance in Meier’s tragicomic tale of a fracturing family, with La Huppert starring as the uncompromising, iconoclastic matriarch of a clan that’s forsaken society to lead an idyllic, isolated ...

  • All is Forgiven

    Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve | 105 mins | 2007
    Mia Hansen-Løve was only twenty-five when she directed one of the most striking and auspicious first features in 21st century French cinema, which finds the brisk economy of expression, nuanced characterization, and formal daring of her future films (...

  • Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami

    Directed by Sophie Fiennes | 115 mins | 2018
    One doesn’t have to do much to make a film about the towering, tempestuous Jamaican-born Grace Jones visually stunning and frequently outrageous, but Fiennes goes above and beyond in this documentary portrait of the powerful and pansexual glam-pop diva...

  • Duet for Cannibals

    Directed by Susan Sontag | 105 mins | 1969
    In the late ’60s, a Swedish studio invited essayist, novelist, critic, cinephile, and all-around intellectual dynamo Susan Sontag to make her directorial debut in Stockholm. The resulting film, revolving around the quadrangular relationship between an ar...

  • The Competition

    Directed by Claire Simon | 121 mins | 2016
    The Competition begins, significantly, with the image of a locked gate—that of La Fémis, one of the most prestigious film schools in the world, offering hands-on training from working professionals and accepting only 40 students per year from hundreds of...

  • Swept Away

    Directed by Lina Wertmüller | 114 mins | 1974
    A battle royale of the sexes/classes begins when vacationing socialite Mariangela Melatoand her Communist servant Giancarlo Giannini find themselves stranded alone together on a Mediterranean island in Wertmüller’s kinky, anarchic reworking of "The Ta...

  • Milla

    Directed by Valérie Massadian | 128 mins | 2017
    A lyric cinematic meditation on love and loss, Massadian’s film focuses on two young partners, Milla and Leo, whose tenuous existence on the margins of society is only made tolerable due to their mutual passion. “A quietly moving and unassumingly pr...

  • Losing Ground

    Directed by Kathleen Collins | 86 mins | 1982
    One of the first feature films directed by an African American woman, and a charming, complex tale of personal discovery that follows the marriage between a philosophy professor (Seret Scott) and her painter husband (Bill Gunn), both at a crossroads ...