While we've certainly made strides toward greater inclusion over the years, women still have a long way to go for representation in the film industry both in front of the camera, opens a new window and behind the scenes, opens a new window.
Nevertheless, women have persisted in telling their stories. In honor of Women's History Month, I did some excavating over at our streaming service Kanopy, opens a new window to bring you some of my favorite films created by women.
It's New York City in the not so distant future, and America has undergone a major socialist revolution. But even in this supposedly enlightened new world, women are still maligned, exploited, and abused. Feminist activists decide to plot a revolution within the revolution, and join forces to form the vigilante Women's Army. Director Lizzie Borden's scrappy documentary-style film throbs with a raw, punk rock energy and aesthetic that manages to feel fresh and potent more than 35 years after its release. Plus, Borden gets bonus DIY points for simulating a building explosion by blowing glitter from a straw next to a model skyscraper!
In October 1991, a law professor named Anita Hill testified before an all-male, all-white Senate Judiciary Committee about the sexual harassment she endured while working for Clarence Thomas, who at the time was waiting to be confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. Hill's testimony didn't stop Thomas' Supreme Court confirmation, but it did turn the American public's attention to the oft-dismissed issue of workplace sexual harassment. Academy Award winner Freida Lee Mock, opens a new window's brief but powerful documentary revisits the notorious hearings, and examines how the case affected both Anita Hill and America at large.
Shy, troubled teenager Madeline discovers she has a natural gift for performance art after joining a prestigious theater troupe. When the troupe's director starts to mine Madeline's life story and tempestuous relationship with her mother (played by Miranda July, opens a new window) for her own artistic gain, Madeline must learn to advocate for both herself and her work. Featuring an astonishing debut from Helena Harper in the role of Madeline, director Josephine Decker, opens a new window deftly crafts a hypnotic, dreamlike tale of a young woman finding herself and her own power through art.
Best friends Angela and Jessie are looking forward to a much-needed beach holiday, but have just lost all of their money in their slacker roommate's botched drug deal. Through a series of increasingly wild mishaps involving juvenile detention, marijuana-laced baked goods, and the attempted robbery of a sandwich shop, the two girls try to get their money back and salvage their vacation. Although there's plenty of gross-out humor and all the goofy antics you'd expect from a stoner comedy, director Augustine Frizzell's madcap debut manages to create moments of genuine poignancy that capture the intimacy and intensity of adolescent friendship.
After being cruelly dumped by her boyfriend in a comedy club bathroom, stand-up comic Donna (the wonderful Jenny Slate, opens a new window) has one too many drinks at the bar and goes home with Max, a sweet, affable guy she's just met. However, what she thought was a one-night stand turns out to be much more complicated when she discovers she's pregnant. Director Gillian Robespierre, opens a new window handles Donna's dilemma with total candor, humor, and respect, never patronizing the characters or the audience. It's an invigorating portrayal of the messiness of life that feels both bittersweet and triumphant.