This course will examine the position of women directors in the film industry. Taking a historical overview, we’ll begin in the silent period, when a woman, Lois Weber, was the highest paid director in Hollywood. Her astonishing, groundbreaking films did not, however, pave the way for the future. Once the studio system was initiated, women were shut out of the important jobs and relegated to continuity and editing work. There were, though, two women who successfully fought that system, Ida Lupino and Dorothy Arzner. These pioneers carried the directing torch for women during the studio period. We’ll examine the films of these early women directors, especially in light of the impact their work has had on the latter half of the 20th century, when European directors Agnes Varda, Chantal Akerman, Lina Wertmuller, and others made their marks as directors.
Today, women directors such as Sofia Coppola, Mimi Lederer, Allison Anders, Jane Campion, Lisa Cholodenko, and Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow are making films that address issues faced by both men and women and that examine the place of gender in the culture. We’ll look at the contributions of these women, too. We will also explore issues such as: Are films by women directors markedly different from those made by their male contemporaries? What influence do they have in the industry and on the world? Is the time ripe for women directors to become part of mainstream feature filmmaking?