National Film Registry selects films by women for preservation

The Library of Congress National Film Registry announced Wednesday the 25 films selected for historic preservation this year. Movies like Amadeus, Clerks, Old Yeller and Purple Rain were chosen from 5,200 entries because of their “cultural, historic and aesthetic importance.”

A record 28 percent of films on the list are directed by women – seven of the 25 selections, including Kimberly Peirce’s groundbreaking feature Boys Don’t Cry (1999) and Patricia Cardoso’s Real Women Have Curves (2002).  

It is the highest number of films selected from female filmmakers since the Registry was founded 30 years ago to preserve culturally significant film titles. Other 2019 selections directed by women include documentaries Before Stonewall (1984) and I Am Somebody (1970) from directors Greta Schiller and Madeline Anderson. Girlfriends (1978) from Claudia Weill and Gunvor Nelson’s My Name Is Oona (1969) will also be preserved under the National Film Preservation Act.

Rounding out the films from women is Elaine May’s A New Leaf (1971), which “made her the first woman to write, direct and star in a major American studio feature,” according to Deadline

Less than eight percent of the 775 films on this “culturally significant” list are directed by women. In 2018, only two were chosen. The previous year, four of the 25 selections were directed by women. 

“Even if every single film added to the Registry from here forward was directed by a woman, it would take 26 years for the list to be balanced with 50 percent female-directed films,” writes Dr. Michele Meek,  author of  Independent Female Filmmakers: A Chronicle Through Interviews, Profiles and Manifestos. “If 70 percent of the films added annually were directed by women, it would take 51 years for the list to reach gender parity. If the LOC continues to add less than 50 percent of women to the list as they have been doing, then it will never be equal.” 

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden calls the Registry “an important record of American history, culture and creativity. Unlike many other honors, the registry is not restricted to a time, place or genre. It encompasses 130 years of the full American cinematic experience — a virtual Olympiad of motion pictures. With the support of Congress, the studios and other archives, we are ensuring that the nation’s cinematic history will be around for generations to come.”

Meek believes that cinematic preservation of culturally significant films should reflect a diverse country. “If the goal of the Registry is as stated to ‘reflect who we are as a people and as a nation,’ then it must be addressed how to make it more reflective of all of us. To resolve this, more films directed by women and people of color should immediately be added to the Registry.” 

© Georgiana E. Presecky (12/12/19) FF2 Media

Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

Full list of 2019 National Film Registry Selections:

Amadeus (1984)

Becky Sharp (1935)

Before Stonewall (1984)

Body And Soul (1925)

Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

Clerks (1994)

Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)

Emigrants Landing At Ellis Island (1903)

Employees Entrance (1933)

Fog Of War (2003)

Gaslight (1944)

George Washington Carver At Tuskegee Institute (1937)

Girlfriends (1978)

I Am Somebody (1970)

The Last Waltz (1978)

My Name Is Oona (1969)

A New Leaf (1971)

Old Yeller (1957)

The Phenix City Story (1955)

Platoon (1986)

Purple Rain (1984)

Real Women Have Curves (2002)

She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Zoot Suit (1981)

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