Female Director Spotlight: Angela Robinson is an inspiration to lesbians everywhere

If you’re into lesbian cinema, then you’ve probably heard of Angela Robinson. Her profile has recently expanded; long after blessing us with the likes of D.E.B.S. and Girltrash!, the writer-director went mainstream last year with her vastly under-appreciated Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. (You can read our LFF review of the film here.)

At Much Ado About Cinema, we cherish LGBTQ+ film, and queer cinema is a core foundation of our lives. Robinson is an example of a filmmaker who constantly centres lesbian/bisexual women in her stories, and produces these stories in a way that often makes us feel validated and genuinely represented – she is a brilliant example of why LGBT stories are told best by LGBT people. Whether it’s through comedic parodies or psychosexual dramas, we’ll be following Robinson’s career wherever she chooses to go. If you’re new to her work, take a gander at the profile below: you’ve got a whole lot to catch up on.

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Female Director Spotlight: Ida Lupino, a Hollywood Trailblazer

From the very beginning, Ida Lupino was destined to become an influential figure in the entertainment industry. Coming from the Lupino theatrical family, she wrote her first play at age seven and by ten she had memorized all the female leading roles in Shakespeare’s plays. That acting bug resulted in her 105 acting credits in films like High Sierra (1941), and appearances in television shows like Bonanza. But in an industry where good roles for women were hard to get, and with up and coming starlets vying for those roles, Lupino decided to leave Warner Brothers and create her own production company, The Filmakers [sic], with her husband, Collier Young. It was, primarily, an outlet for Lupino to direct, write, and produce her own low-budget and issue-oriented films. Their production company produced 12 feature films, six of which Lupino directed, five she wrote or co-wrote, and two she co-produced. It was during this time that Lupino became the first woman to direct a film noir: The Hitch-Hiker (1953). She later turned to television where she directed episodes for shows like The Twilight Zone, Gilligan’s Island, and Bewitched.

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Female Director Spotlight: The minimalist observations of Céline Sciamma

Adolescence is an important time for all of us. It’s a rollercoaster of unexplainable emotions – emotions that often cannot be accurately captured in words. It’s the first time we feel attraction, discover sexuality, and explore romantic relationships. It’s a crossroads for all, but it can be especially painful for LGBTQ+ youth. While heterosexual and cisgender teenagers will see their own desires reflected in the rest of their community, their trans and same gender attracted counterparts can often experience the throes of adolescence in complete loneliness.

Much of French filmmaker Céline Sciamma’s work focuses on the unique conflicts of adolescent life. Her camera juxtaposes the joy of new maturity with a fear of the unknown, calmly recounting the stories of strikingly individual characters. Her work is best watched collectively, for maximum appreciation of her minimal style, but if you’re looking for somewhere to start, take a look at the summaries below.

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Female Director Spotlight: Maren Ade and the Discreet Charm of (Emotional) Nudity

As Megan has been off at BFI Flare, Kareem has kindly taken over the spotlight this month! Read on to hear his thoughts on the wonderful Maren Ade. 

It’s a moment of overwhelming helplessness; Ines, an emotionally drained corporate consultant (and human being), lies on a couch of a Bucharestian club. Her body language is equal to, how Germans would say, “einem Schluck Wasser” (a gulp of water) and as the techno remix of “Safe and Sound” enters a phase of temporary tranquility before the beat drops, her eyes well up with tears as the words “I could lift you up” inhabit the entire room for a second – almost like a whispered promise of comfort, directly addressed to her. She looks over at Toni Erdmann, a wigged character with fake teeth, invented by her desperate father. She sees how helpless he himself is – the tears are an expression of the powerlessness against the emotional chasm between them. She knows how hard he tries, despite his feeling of impotence – maybe because he has no one else to turn to at this point. They are both deeply lonely people, torn apart by time, space and societal conventions of emotional self-oppression.

Toni Erdmann is a film about many things, but like German auteur Maren Ade’s entire body of work, especially about how disconnected we can be from each other and ourselves, and thus how lonely.

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Female Director Spotlight: Ava DuVernay’s Social Impact

When considering the work of female filmmakers, Ava DuVernay is a name that stands out in the minds of many. Her achievements are overwhelming; she is the first African-American woman to win the Best Director prize at Sundance, the first black woman to be nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe, and the first black female director to have a film nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. She has Emmys, Black Reel Awards, Independent Spirit Awards and countless nominations under her belt. In 2018, her film ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ will make Ava DuVernay the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million.

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Photo by Charley Gallay – © 2015 Getty Images

In many ways, these facts are shocking – DuVernay should not have had to be the first to lay claim to these achievements. Regardless, her filmography paints a picture of true passion for the moving image. From short films to television specials, documentaries to biographical films, there doesn’t seem to be much that the filmmaker won’t try her hand at. As a director, writer, producer, marketer, and distributor, DuVernay is also involved in every level of the process – occasionally even making appearances in front of the camera (‘This is the Life (2008)’). The variety of her work represents not only an ability to adapt to various genres, but also the method by which she rose to fame. DuVernay did not go to film school, and instead practised her craft through lower-budget documentary filmmaking.

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Female Director Spotlight: Mia Hansen-Løve’s Detailed Portraits of Familial Strife

This month, I wanted to choose a director whose work I had little familiarity with, so that I too would get to experience their filmography for the first time. A few recommendations later (thanks Iana!) and I settled on Mia Hansen-Løve, a French filmmaker whose work I had always intended to get around to watching, but never really did – until now. Hansen-Løve’s films have received widespread critical acclaim, in particular, ‘Things to Come’ in 2016, which stars Isabelle Huppert and won the Silver Bear at Berlinale. Her work has been lauded for its muted and empathetic observations on everyday life, a variety of character and attention to human detail, and the slow artistry of her camera. Sure, her films may not be for everyone; they epitomise the leisurely French drama, concerned with intricate relationships, difficult emotions, and the impact of time. For the right viewer, however, Hansen-Løve’s filmography is a luxurious exhibition of real life, and an experience that I would highly recommend.

 

Fathers and Daughters: ‘All is Forgiven’ (2007) and ‘Father of My Children’ (2009)

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Chiara Caselli, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Manelle Driss, and Alice Gautier in ‘Father of My Children’. © 2009 Les Films du Losange

First features can often be necessary stumbling blocks for filmmakers. In Hansen-Løve’s case, however, her first two films, which both focus on familial difficulties, immediately landed on their feet, contributing an assured, refined start to her career and easily holding up against her later works.

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Female Director Spotlight: Dee Rees and the Beauty of Personal Identity

I first came across the work of Dee Rees a few years ago, during a search for good quality LGBTQ+ cinema to add to my viewing list – ‘Pariah’ is, to this day, one of the best lesbian films I have ever seen. It was to my complete joy, then, that I heard her name bandied around film circles once more earlier this year, this time in the context of a potentially awards-worthy Netflix original, ‘Mudbound’ (2017). Regardless of that ongoing debate, and the overall impact of Netflix on the prestige of cinema, Rees’ work contains a depth of character and attention to detail that is befitting of a director with much more experience than her current three feature films; her introduction into a more mainstream circuit can only result in a great gain for the industry in the future.

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