It’s very interesting to watch films from a female perspective, as most of the time you can see a sensibility that is missing in most male-directed productions. This is a personal list of female filmmakers that I consider the best. Now have in mind that these are simply my own personal opinions, so don’t get your vagina in a twist if you don’t find your own personal favorites. It’s completely based on my own personal tastes.
In my opinion, the greatest female filmmaker to ever live. I know it’s a controversial pick, considering that her most famous work was the propaganda documentary Triumph Of The Will. And I’m no Nazi sympathizer either, I hate the fuckers, but at the same time I love Birth of a Nation, and DW Griffith was by all accounts a full-blown racist. A great film is a great film, even with it’s political ideology, and Triumph of the Will has influenced many films that have come since (just look at Starship Troopers). But because of her association with the Nazi party, Riefenstahl will probably never get the recognition she deserves as a filmmaker. And if the montage and production levels of Triumph Of The Will aren’t enough to convince you, why not look at her other works like her famous Mountain films like The Blue Light, which is a beautiful artistic achievement of the German silent era, or her documentary Olympia, on the Munich Olympics. Riefenstahl was a true pioneer of every technical aspect of the motion picture, and hopefully one day she will get the credit that she deserves.
Catherine Breillat is my kind of filmmaker: she’s got the energy of a teenager and isn’t afraid of being shocking or confrontational. Pictures like Fat Girl and Anatomy Of Hell show us a bleak, destructive world where sexuality can be just as dangerous as it is appealing, and the film’s content can really make us question the line between art and pornography. In this viewer’s opinion, however, it is unquestionably art.
The female version of John Cassavettes, Allison Anders’ pictures have been able to show us a world where different but troubled characters are able to interact in a very realistic but disfunctional enviroment. Her punk debut Border Radio is heavy on the influence of Cassavettes, but she was soon able to find her own voice in pictures like Gas Food Lodging and Grace of my Heart. Why she isn’t as famous as Scorcese is beyond me.
Pierce has not made as many films as some of our other filmmakers on this list, but her two main films, Boys Don’t Cry and Stop-Loss (a very underrated film), are truly breathtaking works of art, showing us an ugly world with ugly consequences, where hatred rules above all, but in the end there is always a feeling of hope. She is a true artist, only making the movies she wants to make instead of going from one job to aother, kind of like a female Kubrick (only not as dull). I hope she gets to make more films in the future, I absolutely love her work.
She’s recently become more famous thanks to the fact that she became the first female director to win an academy award for direction (over her ex husband, no less). However, film fans who know better have known her since the early eighties when she became, and still is, the best female practicionar in the action film genre. From having the best vampire movie ever (Near Dark) to an intense police drama (Blue Steel), a powerful action film about robbers who surf (Point Break) and a bleak cyberpunk future (Strange Days), the woman has made truly edge-of-your-sear experiences, and now that the rest of the world is finally catching up to her, is funny imagining what the future will look like, and the great films she’ll be able to produce. Go Kathryn!
In the French New Wave, Agnes Varda was one of the few females creating films on the genre, with Cleo From 5 to 7 to Le Bonheur. However, it’s Vagabond, the story of a young woman who lives in the wild streets, that really makes her shine as an artist. She’s not very known around the world except to fans of arthouse cinema, but I urge anyone who is into daring but subtle material to take a look at her films.
She might be known as a beautiful and glamorous actress from the 40’s in different film noirs, but her true talents shined as a director of low budget films, showing material that almost nobody dared to show. Outrage was the first mainstream film to deal honestly with rape, while The Hitch-Hiker predated the Rutger Hauer thriller The Hitcher by almost 40 years. The Bigamist showed a man who was married with two women, and Hard Fast and Beautiful showed the theme of a mother living through her daughter’s career. As you can see, these are all very confrontational subjects, and done during the 40’s and 50’s where movies were more ‘safe’. Ida Lupino was a true maverick.
Although she’s more famous for silly comedies like Wayne’s World and The Beverly Hillbillies, it’s her “Decline Of Western Civilization’ series that put her on this list for me. The three films are excellent, particularly the first and third ones. While the first one showed us the LA punk scene in it’s beginnings, it’s her third entry, showing us the group of punk rockers who live on the streets, that truly made the strings of my emotions sing. They’re shocking and not easy to watch, but that’s what great documentaries are all about, aren’t they?
Maya Deren was an experimental filmmaker during the 40’s until the 60’s, making movies outside the mainstream and being some of the only truly independent films to be made at the time. Her short “Meshes in the Afternoon” has influenced many of the modern surrealist filmmakers like David Lynch, a work of truly nightmarish logic that gives us the limits of what film can do. She also made THE most interesting documentary on Haiti, The Living Gods Of Haiti.
And that's it! A special mention has to go to Doris Wishman, who made some of the most interesting, if not downright insane exploitation films of the 60's and 70's, Marguerite Von Trotta who made the great Lost Honor Of Katharina Blum, Mary Harron of American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol and Notorious Bettie Page, and to Catherine Hardwicke, who made the great Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown, before she fucked it all up with Twilight.