Celebrating Female Voices in Hollywood
By Noah Dauncey
I have been writing about film for The Collegian for some time now. I have covered some of my favorite movies of all time. However, I’ve never written about a film directed by a woman. I promise it’s not because of some innate sense of misogyny; female filmmakers have just had it rough when it comes to making movies.
When the first wave of feminism hit the film industry, we had a bunch of women coming forward saying, “Hey! We want to make movies too!” How did Hollywood respond? They put them in the editing room and other subcategories of film production so they could feel like they were helping. “With men universally installed at the helm of big studios, women were ‘systemically purged.’” 
I am in no way dismissing editors. Women like Thelma Schoonmaker have found respectable careers in editing (Schoonmaker is Martin Scorsese’s go-to editor and has won three Oscars).
But still, pointing women towards editing was a strategic way for Hollywood to give women something to do while men got to work as directors on feature films. Fortunately, women are finally being given opportunities, and with these opportunities have come some phenomenal films. Here are some female directors who have been able to get their visions onto the big screen.
One of Bigelow’s earliest hits is her 1991 film “Point Break,” a story about undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah (isn’t that an awesome name!?) played by Keanu Reeves as he attempts to take out a gang of thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies who are robbing banks when they aren’t surfing and skydiving. She later went on to direct “The Hurt Locker” (2008), which won her the Oscar for best director at the 2010 Academy Awards. This was a milestone in film history, making her the first woman to ever win an Oscar. It only took 82 years for the Acadamy Awards to give a woman an Oscar for directing!
Imagine making a movie for the first time, and it ends up being the best movie of the year. Greta Gerwig doesn’t have to imagine. Gerwig’s directorial debut was “Lady Bird” (2017), and it ended up being the most positively reviewed film of the year on the film review site Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a hilarious coming of age movie with great performances all around. Gerwig’s following 2019 film “Little Women” was also a hit. Both films received nominations for best picture, meaning Gerwig has never made a movie that was not nominated for best of the year.
Though Chloe Zhao has been making indie films for a while now, she was recently in the news for her 2020 movie “Nomadland.” It did alright, winning best director, best actress, and best picture at the 2021 Oscars. No biggie. The movie is an intimate look at humanity through the eyes of a wandering soul living in a van. This film made Zhao the second woman and first Asian woman to win best director at the Academy Awards.
These women are setting the stage for the next generation of female filmmakers who want their voices to be heard. Though it’s a good start, the level of progress the film industry has developed is nowhere near the place it could and should be, and women are still facing challenges in the industry. In the meantime, however, it is inspiring to look back at the women who came before and made this movement possible.
- Meuel, David. (2019, Spetember 12). Women film editors: Unseen artists of the American cinema. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2SJrxLf.