There are times when a member of an older generation mentions something they consider obvious, only to see a glaze form across the face of a member of a younger generation’s. The reference has gone completely over her head. As a child, when I told my parents I hadn’t heard of something, their response would usually be, “So what are they teaching you in school?” This is not to condemn the education I received, but a genuine inquiry: why there are certain surprisingly specific gaps in my knowledge?
By FF2 Project Coordinator Katusha Jin
There are a lot of films out there and no one is expected to have seen them all. But it’s quite surprising to learn that having gone through a film education and worked in film, so many of the filmmakers featured in Turner Classic Movies’ current “Women Make Film” series were never mentioned. As September screenings come to an end and our FF2 Media team dives into October, I can’t help but ask why there are so many holes in my knowledge?
As both a filmmaker and a writer, I felt embarrassed at first. Nevertheless, after talking to other members of our team, I realized that most of us were in the same boat:
“I grew up watching TCM as my mother always had it on and I probably watched as many black and white films as a kid as I did color ones. However, [reviewing TCM films] has introduced me to many films and many female filmmakers that I had never even heard of.” — Nicole Ackman
I had never even heard of most of the films I watched this past month before TCM. And I always found that I was able to glean something worthwhile from each and every one. I also discovered a new favorite film, Marta Meszaros’ Adoption, which had me more captivated than any action film I’ve seen as of late.” — Roza Melkumyan
“I’ve been talking about movies, telling people about new favorites I’d never seen, thinking about them, dreaming about them. I LOVED Wanda, Le Bonheur, and everything by Cheryl Dunye, and they’ve become some of my favorite films. [TCM’s films are] such a strong curation of evidence that yes, women can and do have formidable filmmaking careers, and not only do we need to make them part of our history—they already are.” — Amelie Lasker
Many of these filmmakers and films that we’re watching and reviewing in the TCM series are new to us. And since all of us are more immersed in film than the average person, it’s very likely that these are also new to the majority of our generation (and maybe other generations as well).
Perhaps there are things in the culture which surrounds our generation that makes us prone to being less knowledgeable about the older women filmmakers? Yet why is it that we’ve heard of Francis Ford Coppola, but not Larisa Shepitko, the director of The Ascent? How did it come to be that we can name Martin Scorsese’s works, but be completely unaware of the work of Marleen Gorris? For reference, in 1996, Gorris became the first women director to ever receive an Academy Award for her film Antonia’s Line (winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar). Scorsese, on the other hand, was nominated multiple times, but received his win for Best Director in 2006.
To put it mildly, 2020 has been an unfortunate year for theatrical releases. We were all very excited when Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman, signed a contract with Warner Bros. in 2017 for a sequel, and became the highest paid female director in Hollywood. But sadly, the theatrical release of Wonder Woman 1984 has been repeatedly moved from June to mid August, to October, and now to December. (Read our discussion about the film three years after its release here!)
So why should we be watching what’s on Turner Classic Movies now? Because by watching these films we educate ourselves and together we can revive women’s cinematic footprint. Seeing as most theatrical releases have either been pushed to 2021, or TBD, what better time to fill in some of the holes in our knowledge of women’s true role in film history?
© Katusha Jin (08/10/20) FF2 Media
TCM will feature films from 12 decades—and representing 44 countries—totaling 100 classic and current titles all created by women. Read more about this here!
Movies mentioned in this piece and their reviews can also be found below:
Feature Photo: TCM Website Banner
Middle Photo: Katalin Berek and Gyöngyvér Vigh in Adoption (1975)
Bottom Photo: Willeke van Ammelrooy, Elsie de Brauw, and Els Dottermans in Antonia’s Line (1995)
Photo Credits:TCM; Magda B. Müller; Elisabeth Broeckaert