YOU MAY HAVE SPOTTED #52FilmsByWomen popping up in the Twitter feed of your favorite online cinephiles. The hashtag is an initiative by Women In Film, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing about awareness, opportunity, and acknowledgement to female creatives in the film industry. #52FilmsByWomen is a call for film-lovers around the globe to watch 52 films directed by women across 2016. That’s one a week, which is pretty easy. Too often people default to ordained “classic” movies without considering for a moment that women have been systemically sidelined from major directing opportunities for generation after generation. Not to mention that many of those classic films are lauded as such in a vacuum that, for decades, discounted female voices as relevant or worthy.
By asking people to intentionally seek out 52 films made by women directors, they are asking people to take a different path and watch films that may otherwise not get the recognition they deserve. And that includes documentaries, animations, and short films. It’s with the latter that the internet really comes in handy, with plenty of short films available easily on YouTube. You can watch them on your lunch break or before bed. They routinely get ignored, and yet can offer some of the strongest cinematic visions. Here are just ten that we found that will open your eyes and your minds and will get you closer to being able to brag about your social cinematic justice.
Monster (Jennifer Kent)
If you were a fan of Jennifer Kent’s gothic, scary fright show The Babadook in 2014, then you must see where it all started. Made nine years earlier, Monster lays the groundwork for what was to come in the storybook spooks of The Babadook, but this time does so in eerie black and white. If you’re not sure you can handle the horror of 90 minutes, then at least give the short a watch to test your abilities.
Wasp (dir. Andrea Arnold)
British filmmaker Andrea Arnold won an Academy Award for this 24-minute film that preceded her highly-acclaimed feature films Red Road, Fish Tank (with a pre-breakout Michael Fassbender), Wuthering Heights, and American Honey. The story of a young, clearly out-of-her-depth council estate mother who leaves her kids to have a night at the pub with her boyfriend, Wasp is an excellent female take on the British social realism movement that is full of humanity in the most surprising of places.
A Girl’s Own Story (Jane Campion)
To this day, Jane Campion is the only female director to win the top prize of the Cannes Film Festival. She began her career in Australia with a series of award-winning shorts including Peel, Passionless Moments, and After Hours. In the delightful black-and-white A Girl’s Own Story from 1984, Campion explores the friendship between three Beatles-obsessed girls and the men that hover in their orbit and threaten to tear them apart. Funny, yet all too relatable.
Flamenco at 5.15 (Cynthia Scott)
Another Oscar winner, this time for Best Documentary Short in 1983. This Canadian production takes cameras inside the National Ballet School of Canada as students learn the art of flamenco from Susana and Antonio Robledo after their regularly scheduled classes. Tension arises as the teachers must get the ballet dancers to lose their apprehensiveness to this new form of dance and embrace the emotions that come with it.
Una Hora Por Favora (Jill Soloway)
Before she was the key creative identity behind Amazon streaming hit and award-winning series Transparent, director Jill Soloway made the 13-minute Una Hora Por Favora about an eager-to-please Jewish woman in Los Angeles and the Hispanic day laborer that she finds on the street to fix her shower. Starring Michaela Watkins and Wilmer Valderrama, this short is a funny — reality TV can’t complete — look at culture clash, romance, and the fleeting nature of attraction.
Dawn (Rose McGowan)
The Scream and Charmed star turned to directing recently as a reaction to the sexist roles she was being offered as an actor. Her breakthrough is Dawn, a period drama about an innocent girl whose first moment of teenage rebellion leads to tragedy. McGowan explores the way that societal expectation of young girls can lead to any number of disastrous consequences, and how the cliche of the over-protective patriarch come to life can be detrimental. Stylish and disturbing, Dawn should indicate strong things for McGowan’s blossoming career as a director.
Virgin, Whore, Saint (Niki Caro)
New Zealand filmmaker Niki Caro is apparently the likeliest contender for the directing gig on the upcoming Captain Marvel. If she lands the role, it would be quite a change from her earliest film. This 1990 student film was produced during her time studying in Australia, and is a deeply feminist look at the way society tears at women no matter their position in life, sometimes forcing them to upturn everything and not give a damn. Caro would eventually make the film Whale Rider and use her skills to tell a more genteel film about a woman rising above the patriachy, but Virgin, Whore, Saint is a wonderfully angry film, and one that makes us excited for the chance at seeing its director movie into bigger terrain.
Cargo (Yolanda Ramke)
Co-directed with Ben Howling, Cargo is about a man trying desperately to save his young child during a zombie outbreak. As he himself turns into a flesh-seeking corpse, the dad seeks a safe zone for his baby through some rather ingenious thinking. It will soon be adapted into a feature-length film with Ramke and Howling once again directing together. It will star Martin Freeman of Sherlock and The Hobbit fame.
Bridges-go-Round (Shirley Clarke)
One of the most famous names in early art cinema is American filmmaker Shirley Clarke. Among her many acclaimed works is Portrait of Jason, a documentary about a former houseboy and wannabe cabaret star slowly losing control because of alcohol. Far different is Bridges-go-Round, a dreamlike experiment crafted from scraps of film, superimposed and blended into a colorful and disorientating manipulation of sound and image. A strange, but compelling glimpse of the American avant garde.
Kitchen Sink (Alison Maclean)
Because we started with horror, why not end with horror, too? Winner of multiple awards, and screening at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, Kitchen Sink from New Zealand director Alison Maclean is a slice of grotesque body horror about a woman who finds something surprising and shocking in the drain of her sink. I recoiled several times from what I was watching, and that’s a good thing. Horror is meant to be horrific, yes?