With all due respect to the art and craft of acting, the following post deals almost exclusively with film directors and other behind-the-camera talents. Actresses never really had to worry about the lack of screen time, although the male-dominated industry mistreated them in numerous other ways. It is the female filmmakers that were, and still are, severely underrepresented in both film business and culture. It wasn’t until 2009 that the first woman won an Academy Award for best director, and that she remains the only woman to date to win that prestigious award.
We are well aware of this anachronistic gender gap, and pay close attention to it when curating film programs for the Dryden Theatre. We also believe that it would be equally outdated if we were to bang the drum every single time we screen a film directed by a woman or even create a special corner in our schedule devoted to films directed by women (or any other neglected group). Such a decision could be easily misinterpreted as our way of hinting that women artists never contributed anything really significant to the riches of film histories, and thus need a separate exhibition category.
Quite the contrary is true for the reasoning behind our curatorial choices. Our primary goal is to educate the public about the many diverse aspects of motion picture and visual media history, and we achieve this goal by screening the broadest range of films that reflect an entire history of international film production. Women directors are a regular presence at the Dryden, and their films are treated as the important works that they are and not a niche product that deserves special attention.
And so our very recent series, for example, that celebrated the talents of Agnès Varda and Lina Wertmüller, didn’t merely celebrate two hugely successful international talents who managed to rise above oppression. They also celebrated one of the most important French, and one of the most subversive Italian, filmmakers of the twentieth century. Similarly, the films by Haile Gerima or Mahamat-Saleh Haroun were not shown at the Dryden because of the color of their filmmaker’s skin, but because there are an absolutely essential part of film history and belong on our screen.
While not wanting to draw special attention to every single film created by a woman artist that is showing at the Dryden, we do believe that it is important to acknowledge the gender inequality itself. It is due to this, that we are celebrating International Women's Day with a screening of a brand new 35mm print of Maren Ade’s very first film The Forest for the Trees (2003). If you have seen her latest, Oscar-nominated Toni Erdmann, and if you agree that cinema only rarely achieves such levels of intellectual complexity and emotional intensity, then all I can say is that unless you come to the Dryden on Wednesday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m., you haven’t seen anything yet!
Jurij Meden, Curator of Film Exhibitions, Moving Image Department