Celebrating International Women’s Day w/ Cinema

Thursday the buzz was about books (World Book Day). Today (March 8th), the focus is on celebrating women all over the world with International Women’s  Day.

I cannot think of any better way to join in the celebrations by taking a look at women’s role in global cinema.


Women Behind the Scenes

woman director with clapboard

Indiewire has done a great job in covering women in the film industry:

The New York Times has also over the years, examined women’s participation as both performers and creators; here are some articles that have resonated with me:


Women Front and Center on Screen

Oscar Cate Blanchett

Michael Yada © A.M.P.A.S.

Cate Blanchett drew a lot attention this past week when, during her Oscar acceptance speech, she called out the ‘powers that be’ for their hesitance to promote and encourage the production of films that have women in central roles. The box office returns for 2013 back her up. According to Time.com, in 2013, movies featuring strong female characters actually were a financial boon to the industry. The basis for determining this phenomenon used the now infamous Bechdel Test. Created by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985, it is a ‘sniff test’ of sorts that asks a work of fiction:

1. to have at least two [named] women in it,
2. who talk to each other,
3. about something besides a man.
(Source: bechdeltest.com)

I encourage you to go to the website (http://bechdeltest.com/) to see if (any) of your favorite films pass. The best part of this Time.com piece is the infographic which shows in unquestionable detail Hollywood’s hits and misses for 2013 and the correlation to the presence of female lead(s) (Source: Vocativ).



Some Movie Recommendations

pariah dee rees

It would be remiss of me to close out this post without offering up some suggestions for films featuring a strong women in the narrative. After drafting my preliminary list, I ran all of the films through the Bechdel; unfortunately, some of my favorites did not make the cut, either they are not in the database or  they really did not meet the minimum criteria. Note, an asterisk (*) indicates that the film was directed by a female.

  • * Strange Days (1995): directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Angela Bassett, Strange Days is a pulse-pounding actioner that remains a personal favorite of mine (but it just passes).
  • All About Eve (1950): Backstage drama on the Great White Way. Margo (Bette Davis) and Eve (Ann Baxter) are formidable sparring partners.
  • Alien (1979): Ripley! Sigourney Weaver became a hero for a generation of young women.
  • The Color Purple (1985): While this film is a beautiful and sweeping epic I know it also courts controversy in many corners with its depiction of the male (emasculated?) and female (wanton?) characters.  But for me, it has an emotional resonance because it is one of the few moments in my life I have accompanied my mother to the cinema.
  • Children of Men (2006): Nothing stronger than being the carrier of the future of human civilization.
  • * Pariah (2011): Embarrassingly this has been in my queue for a minute and is the only entry that I am recommending sight-unseen.
  • A Room With a View (1985): This film is simply sublime for me.
  • G.I. Jane (1997): Just ‘cuz.
  • Heavenly Creatures (1994): The picture that gave us the gift of Kate Winslet’s presence on our screens. Based on a true story.
  • * Daughters of the Dust (1991): I need to rewatch this it has been a while.
  • Never Let Me Go (2010): This one fell under so many radars, it deserved a lot of recognition than it received. Haunting and beautiful.
  • Jane Eyre (2006/2011): Take your pick as to the version; Jane is boss.
  • Before Midnight (2013)
  • * Red Road (2006)/Fish Tank (2009): Double-bill directed by Andrea Arnold.
  • Persuasion (1995)
  • Black Narcissus (1947): The most passionate film about a group of nuns you will ever see.
  • * Bend it Like Beckham (2002): The air is indeed rare when you have a teen/sports/cultural clash comedy that features strong young women.
  • Far From Heaven (2002): Julianne Moore gives an Academy-nominated performance in Todd Haynes’ homage to the Sirkian (subversive) melodramas of the 1950s.
  • * Love & Basketball (2000)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995): It’s Jane Austen, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet.
  • Short Term 12 (2013)
  • Muriel’s Wedding (1994): Toni Collette and ABBA go on a journey of self-discovery.
  • 12 Years a Slave (2013): Nothing more needs to be said on my part.

… I could go on. In fact this list is growing a lot longer than I imagined. Let me know if you think I missed anything!


  1. Thought-provoking money chart graphic. Great post, Iba.
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