Click on Read More and the green. Since I made this list there have been some more comprehensive ones on films by women here on Mubi: this is a gradually expanding but hopefully manageable selection.
*The HIStory of cinema is still to be re-written. Alice Guy-Blaché was one of the great pioneers of cinema, made hundreds of films, the first in 1896 before Méliès. Do check her out, there is skill and charm aplenty: I’ve done a list Alice Guy-Blaché, Queen of the Pioneers. In 1910s Hollywood, in films like Suspense, Lois Weber matched Griffith for panache. Lotte Reiniger was a pioneering feature film animator in the 1920s, with her silhouettes in The Adventures of Prince Achmed, while Germaine Dulac is widely credited with the first Surrealist film, The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928). Before Fantasia’s animated abstract Bach Fugue there was Mary Ellen Bute’s. Maya Deren was very influential on the post-war American avant-garde, though i must say her husband in the 40s Alexander Hammid, who co-directed Meshes of the Afternoon, deserves more recognition too. Marie Menken is described by our great list-maker Grey Daisies as the unsung heroine of the avant-garde. Agnes Varda is the mother of the French New Wave, Chantal Akerman surely a major director, Jeanne Dielman one of the great minimalist films. Is the Bulgarian Binka Zheliazkova’s The Attached Balloon one of the neglected treasures of the world? In notoriously patriarchal Iran, there have been several prominent female directors, putting Hollywood to shame. Often female co-directors get overlooked; Miéville with Godard, Ágnes Hranitzky with Bela Tarr, Evelyn Lambart with Norman McLaren…
This site is honoured to have Chantal Akerman, Maria de Medeiros, Sally Potter, Julie Dash, Sadaf Foroughi, Allison Anders, Ava DuVernay among the users. Sally Potter has even done a list, My Teachers, as has Julie Dash. And good to have Agnes Varda’s liaison with the site and her films being championed
Mädchen in Uniform, dir Leontine Sagan, Germany, 1931
Mädchen in Uniform is still a surprisingly neglected film in the history of cinema. It’s about an orphaned teenage girl who attends a Prussian all-girl boarding school, which is run by the headmistress with a rod of iron. The girl develops a crush on a pretty and kind female teacher, but problems arise when she goes public about her feelings.
This certainly wasn’t the first German film with prominent lesbian tones- the much more famous Pandora’s Box comes to mind, and of course we had Marlene Dietrich in trouser suit serenading a woman in (the Hollywood film) Morocco, but here the sexual urges go beyond flirtatiousness. It’s a surprise to read that at the time critics were more interested in the critique of authoritarian education, since the film has become something of a landmark Lesbian cult classic. I very much like the way both main themes, of authoritarianism (going beyond education to the whole disciplined and intolerant state machine), and same-sex love are handled; of course in a repressive system they are linked, and the Nazis were quick to ban the film on coming to power not long after.
The sexual frissons are not only sensual but also delicate and very poignant, with excellent central performances. Although officially co-directed by a man, to my mind this is very much Sagan’s film. Today we still have boarding schools, maybe less authoritarian, but in many countries they are part of and support a privileged class system. In such cases, get rid of them, i say.
Another of my favourite films by a female director, Innocence, by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, is set in a girls’ boarding school, albeit a more mysterious and less aggressive establishment.
I now include films by Lilly and Lana Wachowski who made their name when officially male, before their transgender assignments.
Werckmeister Harmonies (Hranitzky) co-d
Madchen in Uniform (Sagan) co-d
Testament of Youth (Armstrong) TV
Silences of the Palace (Tlatli)
The Saltmen of Tibet (Koch)
The Attached Balloon (Zheliazkova)
Four Women of Egypt (Rached)
Brickmakers (Rodriguez) co-d
The House is Black (Farrokhzad)
Le Bonheur (Varda)
The Piano (Campion)
Itineraire de Jean Bricard (Huillet) co-d
Saving Face (Obaid-Chinoy) co-d
Take Care of my Cat (Jeong Jae-Eun)
The Other Side of Underneath (Arden)
The Act of Killing (Cynn) co-d
Fish Tank (Arnold)
A Tree in Tanjung Malim (Tan Chui Mui)
Les Rendezvous d’Anna (Akerman)
How Yukong Moved the Mountains (Loridan) co-d
Begone Dull Care (Lambart) co-d
La Cienaga (Martel)
Story of the Weeping Camel (Davaa) co-d
The Long Farewells (Muratova)
Women without Men (Neshat)
Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Huillet) co-d
Daughters of the Dust (Dash)
The Day I Became a Woman (Meshkini)
Jeanne Dielman (Akerman)
The list below is in year order. I’m hoping many more films by Alice Guy-Blaché will be added to the site, and too many others on the list above are also missing. As well as personal favourites, i’ve included some popular hits and landmark films i’m less keen on.Leer menos