Movie Guru: Women directors bring diverse perspectives, and Vail Film Festival brings only women directors. That’s cool.
More female directors mean more interesting movies.
It’s the same principle as a choir. The greater variety of singers you have performing, the richer the sound will be. Directors are most responsible in shaping a movie’s voice, which means that directors with different perspectives make different movies. And in movies, just as in life, variety is what keeps things interesting.
At the Vail Film Festival, wrapping up today, that principle will be on full display as women directed all movies showing. It’s important to see diverse voices in the film industry, so we can capture the diverse world we live in.
On the most obvious level, women are more likely to bring female-focused movies to the big screen. Nancy Meyers’ 2003 classic “Something’s Gotta Give” presents a world where older women deserves as active and interesting a romantic life as an attractive 20-year-old. Rachel Wortall’s “Romance Analyst,” playing at this year’s festival, shows that the relationships a woman can have with her best friend and therapist can be just as complicated and important as any love story.
Women are also more willing to dig into the messier, grittier sides of femininity, and can do it in a way that feels more real than sensationalistic. Catherine Hardwicke’s “Thirteen,” also released in 2003, takes a clear-eyed look at a teenage girl’s slide into a drug- and alcohol-fueled world she isn’t ready for. Marielle Heller, on the other hand, brought to life a woman who was already so deep into alcoholism she’s practically pickled. Last year’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” focuses on Lee Israel, a liar and a con who’s desperate for recognition. Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Israel is not someone you’d want to have dinner with, but she speaks to being a woman just as much as softer protagonists.
Women of color bring their own unique stories to the big screen. Mira Nair brought us into the colorful, complicated world of an Indian woman preparing for her arranged marriage in “Monsoon Wedding.” Patricia Cardoso highlighted the struggle between family obligation and personal dreams that a lot of Latinas struggle with in “Real Women Have Curves.” Gurinder Chadha did the same thing for Punjabi Sikh girls growing up in England with her hit “Bend It Like Beckham.”
Female directors are also more willing to explore the family dynamic in films. Allison Anders made the stories of a single mother and her two teenage daughters into gripping cinema in “Gas Food Lodging.” “Monsoon Wedding,” “Real Women Have Curves” and “Bend It Like Beckham” all tackle family, as does Nora Twomey’s wrenching, hopeful “The Breadwinner.”
Women are also just as capable tackling issues outside ones women typically face, often adding their own unique perspective. Director Kathryn Bigelow became famous for “The Hurt Locker,” which delved into the psychology behind the oh-so-masculine topic of war. Penny Marshall made sure the little-boy fantasy “Big” had all the magic and child-like innocence it needed, turning it into a timeless classic. On the flip side, Mary Harron had the attention to detail and thematic awareness that made “American Psycho” so unforgettable.
Even all this is only a small slice of the richness and women have brought to the big screen. Imagine how much more we’d get if we let more women bring their voices to the world of cinema. I’m just glad the Vail Film Festival does that already.
Jenniffer Wardell is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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