The high-profile success of several films had already made 2019 a historic one for women. Those include Wang’s The Farewell, one of the year’s most popular indie releases, Scafaria’s acclaimed Hustlers ($US105 million domestically), Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim ($US40.7 million) and Gerwig’s Little Women, which last week opened strongly with $US29 million in its first five days of release in the US. (It has just released at Australian cinemas.)

Frozen II, with $US1.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales, is close to setting a new box-office record for a movie directed by a woman. Jennifer Lee, who co- directed the film, set the record with the first Frozen film. In 2018, Lee became the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Big bucks: Frozen 2 just shows what the power of women in film can do.

Big bucks: Frozen 2 just shows what the power of women in film can do.

Other notable films included Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet, Tina Gordon’s Little and Jill Culton’s Abominable.

USC researchers singled out Universal Pictures, which put forward a slate of films with 26 per cent directed by women. Universal is the only major studio with a female studio chief, Donna Langley.

Netflix also fared well. While the streaming company’s films largely bypass theaters – leaving them outside the study’s parameters – 20 per cent of Netflix’s 2019 movies were directed by women.

Paramount Pictures, however, hasn’t released a movie directed by a woman in the past five years.


Four women of colour directed one of the top 100 movies in 2019, though the overall statistics for underrepresented directors dipped. Underrepresented filmmakers were behind 16.8 per cent of films in 2019, a decline from last year’s 21.4 per cent, a record.

“While 2019 is a banner year for women, we will not be able to say there is true change until all women have access and opportunity to work at this level,” said Smith.

Another study released Thursday by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University examined women in the top films as not just directors but writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers. Women accounted for 20 per cent of all such roles in the year’s top films, up from 16 per cent the year before.

But the San Diego State University study, the 22nd annual Celluloid Ceiling authored by Martha Lauzen, found less progress when the movies researched were expanded to the top 500 films. In that metric, Lauzen found women held steady at 23 per cent.


“While the numbers moved in a positive direction this year, men continue to outnumber women four to one in key behind-the-scenes roles,” Lauzen said in a statement. “It’s odd to talk about reaching historic highs when women remain so far from parity.”

In Australia, the Gender Matters initiative, which was launched in December 2015, has attained its key objective of ensuring at least 50 per cent of all agency-funded projects, including online and television drama and documentary, have women in at least half of the key creative roles (writer, director, producer and, for drama, protagonist).

Despite gains, female filmmakers have been largely overlooked in this awards season. Sunday’s Golden Globes, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, includes no women nominated for best director. None of the 10 films nominated for best picture were directed by women, either.


Rebecca Goldman, Time’s Up chief operating officer, earlier said those results were unacceptable.

“This year, there have been twice as many women-led features than ever, with more films by female directors on the way,” Goldman said. “Women – and especially women of colour – continue to be pushed to the sidelines by a system that holds women back, onscreen and off.”

AP, with staff writers

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