With iPad in hand and ear pods in place – the only way I can watch anything these days – I transcended time and space through an epic cinematic journey. It was unexpected, eye opening and soul enhancing. I hurried to put a few words together at the conclusion of Mark Cousins’ 14-part documentary Women Make Film: A New Road Through Movie Cinema because I wanted the exuberance to translate to this. It is must-see cinema on cinema and it is making its U.S. premiere as part of a massive celebration of women filmmakers presented by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on September 1.
“Most films have been directed by men. Most of the recognized so-called movie classics were directed by men. But for 13 decades and on all six filmmaking continents thousands of women have been directing films too. Some of the best films.”
Women Make Film: A New Road Through Movie Cinema explores the work of filmmakers from around the globe with themes divided into 40 chapters, which makes the epic work completely watchable as a whole. Despite its length, the entire thing moves fast thanks to its vibrancy and the way it is presented. Each chapter focuses on such themes as tracking, humor, surrealism and dreams, or character introductions, which is particularly interesting as is the chapter on framing. Scenes are examined for intent, motivation, and sheer artistry. We can see how camera angles are used to depict specific feelings or you’ll see how the framing of a shot can change or enhance mood, dictate to an audience exactly what a character is feeling or illustrate his or her connection to others in a scene. While we may all be familiar with how scenes look, it is rare that such attention is paid to these details, to the how or why of movies. Mark Cousins, who directed, wrote and edited the documentary, presents an exhaustive exploration of films across decades and continents. It is a masterclass and I did not expect to be as entranced as I was. Thank you to TCM for the screeners.
Women Make Film is narrated by Tilda Swinton, Jane Fonda, Adjoa Andoh, Sharmila Tagore, Kerry Fox, Thandie Newton and Debra Winger. It was 20 years in the making and it is spectacular. Particularly exciting is the awakening to international cinema this offers to many (like me) who are lacking in viewing these films.
“And we are ignoring great filmmakers – loads and loads of them.” – Mark Cousins, The Skinny Interview
As if the Cousins documentary were not enough, in conjunction with the premiere of Women Make Film, TCM is highlighting 100 films directed by women in a one of a kind, 14-week festival airing on Tuesday nights starting September 1. Films adhering to the night’s theme will follow an episode of the Women Make Film documentary. You can peruse the schedule here.
TCM hosts Alicia Malone and Jacqueline Stewart will take the lead in the Women Make Film festival, which promises an eye-opening array of movies spanning the entire history of film. Spotlighted will be films directed by pioneers like Alice Guy Blaché, Lois Weber, Dorothy Arzner, and Mabel Normand as well as more recent luminaries like Agnes Varda, Jane Campion, Mira Nair, and Ava DuVernay. There are just too many to mention. I cannot wait to delve into the films – and am equally excited to hear the commentary of the TCM hosts and the special guests who will be a part of this festival.