2020 Movies Directed or Written by Women

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This is a ongoing list of 2020 movies written or directed by women, mostly narrative films, but I’ve thrown in some documentaries, too. I’ve included specific dates when available, but as you’ll see, there are many movies at the bottom of my list that are slated for 2020 but don’t yet have release dates. I’m sure I’ve missed some titles, so if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.

Last updated: 4/23/20, I added color coding to help me make sense of all the postponements and streaming changes due to quarantine.

RED = postponed or unknown (to me) release date
GREEN = premiering on video on demand and drive-in theaters
BLUE = originated in theaters, now streaming or will soon stream on paid platforms
PURPLE = originated on streaming subscription platforms

It may be that in a few weeks this color-coding will be obsolete because everything will just have a new streaming release date. Or it could be that I’ll have to have a new color for movies that are postponed but will be released in theaters in the fall.

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Review: Clemency

clemencyClemency (2019) ★★★1/2
Written and directed by Chinonye Chukwu

Clemency looks closely at the bureaucratic processes and day-to-day workplace politics behind the administration of the death penalty. In doing so, it powerfully argues that the death penalty is psychologically cruel to the prisoners who receive it as a sentence, the prison workers who carry out the executions, and even the families of those victimized by crime. It’s one of the most intellectually engaging movies I’ve seen over the past year, one that forced me to sit with a lot of difficult questions that went beyond whether or not the death penalty should exist.

The movie opens on the evening of an execution, overseen by the prison warden, Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard). Warden Williams is pensive as she manages the people who will join her in the execution room: a priest, a security officer, her deputy, and a medic who will give the convicted man with a lethal chemical injection. Everyone seems tense as they strive to follow set procedures. When the medic has difficulty finding a good vein, the injection goes shockingly wrong, resulting in a cruel, painful death that leaves everyone shaken.

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Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

portraitPortrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) ★★★★1/2
Writer & Director: Céline Sciamma

In 1770, Brittany, France, a young female painter, Marianne, is hired to paint a wedding portrait of a noblewoman. But the assignment is unusual: she must make the painting in secret because the bride, Héloïse, is reluctant to marry. Héloïse and her mother live in an isolated seaside estate, and her mother explains to the young painter that the portrait is necessary to entice the bridegroom, who lives in Milan. Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) is arrestingly beautiful, and I can imagine many movies that might begin with the groom’s approving gaze upon receiving Héloïse’s portrait, kicking off a storyline that would take viewers into Milanese high society. But Portrait of a Lady on Fire instead focuses on the two weeks that Héloïse and Marianne spend together in a nearly empty house by the sea (the bridegroom in question never appears on screen). Written and directed by French filmmaker Céline Sciamma, and with a nearly all-female cast, Portrait is both a romantic story of two people falling in love, and a sensitive depiction of a female painter’s life and artistic practice in the eighteenth century.

(Read the rest over at The Common. . .)

Revisiting Frances Ha

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I re-watched Frances Ha the other night and it’s as fresh as a daisy despite being made seven years ago. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t hold up because I remembered its plot as being somewhat slight, focused on the travails of Frances Ha (Greta Gerwig) a late-blooming twenty-something who hasn’t quite figured out her path in life — or as she puts it, “I’m not a real person yet.” In our exhausting, post-Trump world, where we seem constantly to be in the midst of environmental and human rights catastrophes, I wasn’t sure the story would feel urgent enough. But I forgot how funny and self-aware this movie is.

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Movie Diary: May – July

I’ve been working on a novel so I haven’t had as much time for reviewing, but I have been watching. Here’s a quick round up of what I’ve seen over the past few months . . .

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KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE
Director: Rachel Lears

I decided to watch this on Monday night in solidarity for AOC, who had deal with Trump tweeting racist comments at her all weekend. When it was over I felt like Trump’s tweets can’t even touch her, she’s too powerful, too gifted. She just doesn’t take the bait. I believe her response to Trump was something like, “he’s attacking me personally because he can’t defend his policies.” It’s incredible to see such clarity in someone so young. In this documentary, you meet AOC when she is just beginning her campaign, and even then, she has the ability to communicate in an authentic way very quickly and off the cuff.

I feel bad because I’m not mentioning the other women in this film, who also ran for Congress: Cori Bush, Paula Jean Swearengin, and Amy Vilela. They were all in equally difficult races, and unfortunately, they did not win, but seemed poised to unseat someone if they try again. I highly recommend this one for when you’re feeling discouraged by the Trump administration or if you just need to have a good cry.

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Long Shot

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I saw Long Shot last weekend, when it opened, and really enjoyed it, but I’ve been struggling since then to write a review. On the one hand, it was the easygoing, funny, romantic comedy I’ve been waiting for. Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron are both charming and fun to watch. I laughed a lot and never felt bored. On the other hand, there was something amiss about the world they occupied, an alternate version of D.C. that was sometimes depicted realistically, sometimes satirically, and sometimes seemed to be a part of a TV-D.C. whose qualities I hadn’t yet learned. I wasn’t there for the sharp political satire, so I mostly didn’t mind, but some of the nonsensical aspects of the setting did make the characters less believable — and that made their romance a little less believable too.

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My Favorite Movies Written and Directed by Women in 2018

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This post is long overdue. First I got sucked into a holiday vortex and then all the viruses came to roost in our household. The little one would get sick, then the bigger one, then the bigger one, then the little one, then the little one . . . meanwhile, I got some variation of everything. I’ve done a lot of reading but have barely watched any movies. I have, however, had a chance to think back on the movies I saw last year.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that for the past year I’ve made a special effort to see movies written or directed by women. After the Harvey Weinstein revelations, I felt so sickened by the movie industry that I wanted to change my viewing habits to see more films made by women—not only to support women, but for my own viewing pleasure.

In 2017, before I made any special effort to see women-made films, only 9 of the 28 movies I saw were written or directed by women. This year, I watched 43 movies, a mix of old and new, but mostly new. Of those 43 films, 29 were written or directed by women. So, that’s a big improvement over last year! Still, given that I only saw around 30 movies written or directed by women, it seems a little too easy do a top ten list of film. There’s not a lot of discernment when you’re choosing the top third. Instead, I’ve decided to make two top three lists: Top Three Films Directed by Women, and Top Three Films Written by Women.

As I was putting together these lists, I asked myself how much they would differ from a top three list of all movies, regardless of gender, and I will admit that First Reformed, Roma, and Sorry To Bother You might have edged out some of the films on these lists. But, these films would definitely make any of my top ten lists—and that’s one of the reasons I limited myself to three films. One last caveat: I never got to see Happy As Lazzarro, Zama, and Let the Sunshine In, and judging from the critical response, these were great films that might have also made the list.

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