Despite facing numerous obstacles, women* filmmakers have made immense contributions to the world of cinema throughout history. To celebrate their work this International Women’s Day, we’ve gathered a collection of some of our film students’ favourite women filmmakers.
These are filmmakers that have led the charge to inspire, challenge stereotypes and pave the way for the next generation.
Anyway, over to the experts…
Issa Rae by Aurore Ineza
Jo-Issa Rae Diop, professionally known as Issa Rae, is a writer, producer, director, actress (amongst other things). She began to garner attention after her YouTube series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl was released in 2011. The show went on to win a Shorty award for Best Web Show in 2013. She used the web series as a starting point for her critically acclaimed show Insecure. It follows the main character, Issa, as she tries to figure life out for herself along with her friends. In this show Rae explores the complexities of Black womanhood, and created multi-faceted characters to do this; her characters are not superficial but dynamic, allowing many people in the Black community to relate to them. The show gave a platform to many black men and women to be able to voice their frustrations with characters that did not reflect their lives in the slightest. Many takes on what life looks like for people of colour are written by people who do not understand their backgrounds or their experiences. This allowed Issa Rae to be cemented as a legend and was even given the key to the city of Inglewood, which made her the first person from South Los Angeles to receive the honour.
Issa Rae inspires me because she took the everyday experiences of regular people and created a story that allowed these people to see themselves represented on screen. Her work continues to challenge an industry that has always been seen as an exclusive club and creates opportunities for people of all backgrounds. She inspires me to keep going so that I too can one day walk through the doors opened by her.
Claire Mathon by Mila Kreft-Sietnicka
As an aspiring cinematographer who also happens to be a woman, I always get emotional when reading industry reports on the participation of women* in artistic professions. The disproportion between cameramen and camerawomen is still so huge that it can be demotivating for young filmmakers – myself included.
What always lifts me up and keeps me going is remembering the careers and amazing works of woman-identifying directors of photography – such as Claire Mathon. Mathon is still young but has successfully cemented her position by leading the department in big productions like Spencer (Larraín, 2021) or charming with visuals in festival favourites like Petit Maman (Sciamma, 2021). However, I most dearly adore her work as a cinematographer on the beautiful Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Sciamma, 2019).
In my (and many others’) opinion it’s one of the best movies of the 2010s. Its stunning visuals help to immerse the audience into the lonesome world of an isolated island in the 18th century, the tenderness of the characters’ relationship and the weight of their tension-filled drama. Claire Mathon proves her talent with every project, most of which are films by and about women – bringing the female gaze, and her personal perspective, to screens all around the world.
Alisa Kovalenko by Dasha Kostina
There are truly many wonderful people who can be mentioned on this list, but I decided to choose Alisa Kovalenko, a Ukrainian documentary film director, that I recently met while interning at the Berlinale. I had the chance to watch her latest film We Will Not Fade Away during the film festival, and I was amazed at how beautifully she showed a difficult and horrifying reality. I think it was by far one of the best examples of films about the ongoing war in Ukraine, as it makes sure that the story is carved into your head after the credits are gone. True, empowering and heartbreaking at the same time.
I admire Alisa very much, especially after seeing this film. It warms my heart to see how much talent and potential people like Alisa bring to the Ukrainian filmmaking community. After finding out that before finishing postproduction on her latest film, she herself had been fighting in the front lines, my respect towards her work and her story grew even more. I gained a new understanding of the values that every director should hold dear thanks to Alisa.
A powerful example of a talented director, a brave soldier, a kind soul and an amazing human being.
* In this blog, use of the term women refers to anyone who identifies as a woman.
Find out more about BA (Hons) Filmmaking at BIMM Institute Berlin here.