Alicia Malone’s ‘The Female Gaze’ highlights essential movies from female filmmakers

Film reporter and author Alicia Malone highlights 52 female-directed films in her new book, “The Female Gaze.” She argues that the male lens and perspective is objectifying women in film rather than showing women as they are.

“What happens, for example, when we look at the world from a female point of view?” Malone writes in her book. “How do women see themselves? How do women see other women? What makes a movie essentially feminine? What can audiences of any gender identification gain by looking at film through a female lens? These and other questions are at the heart of this book.”

Each of the films selected in the book is made by a woman and features stories about women. The focus is mainly on narrative and drama in films but each movie has a unique tone and genre, and they represent different time periods and locations.

“I tried to look at the whole range of films, from 1906 to 2018 and from different countries, as well. One of my criteria was for them to be available to watch on Amazon, iTunes and other places,” she told FF2 Media in an interview. “I originally wrote the list with over 100 films in mind and from there I narrowed it down to 30 films myself and I opened it to submission by film critics so I can have a total of 52 films. That way you can watch one movie a week for a year and see a broad range of characters and points of view.”

Malone’s first book, “Backwards and In Heels,” detailed the history and the lack of opportunities for women in Hollywood. When she was asked what could be done to support females in the film industry, she said, “Watch their movies. Every ticket bought in a movie theater sends a message that we want to see a movie. Hollywood, listen to money … There is a lack of female directors and females getting opportunities. I put together a guide book [“The Female Gaze”] making sure they are available to watch somewhere.”

When I asked her what has changed over the years for the female filmmakers in the industry, Malone said that the awareness has changed as now there is more conversation. “Hopefully we will see a change and awareness is the beginning of change,” she said.  

One of the differences between the male and female lens, she said, is the sex scenes in films – when they are directed by men, women appear like fantasies but when directed by women, they tend to be more real and raw. Women focus on smaller details in dramas and the common theme is they feature female characters. The female-made movies are more likely emotional. “I think female-directed films do feel different and with variety of stories. Hopefully, thanks to my book, people will take a chance and see more films by women.”

Malone reflected on how women used to be treated in the beginnings of Hollywood and how, when money started to play a part, they were pushed away by men. “When women want to move up the ladder, they get locked out, it’s a risk to give women money. Male Indie directors can get a budget to do big movies, but for women, it doesn’t seem to work the same way.”

“The Female Gaze” highlights films with similar themes: the eras of feminism from 1906 through the 1990s, when the first female director of color was given a chance in Hollywood. The book covers films like The Consequences of Feminism (1906), Daisies (1966), The Piano (1993), Fish Tank (2009), Lady Bird (2017), among many other titles.

In Malone’s international selection of female-directed movies, she highlights the politics and restrictions for women in different countries in different time periods. One, for example, is from Saudi Arabia – a country which only allowed women to drive this year.

The audience’s participation in supporting female directed films is crucial as 52 percent of ticket sales driven by women. “We have the buying power. We are gatekeepers of what to see,” she said. “We are the ones making the decisions. Women have a huge part in telling Hollywood what to see. The audience has a lot of power. More than they think. Especially women. I think if more people demanded more women, hopefully there will be change. Keep momentum going. In the meantime buy the book.”

“The Female Gaze” is available on Amazon.

More on Alicia Malone:

Alicia Malone is a film reporter, author, and self-confessed movie geek. She is a host on Turner Classic Movies, FilmStruck, The FilmStruck Podcast and is a film correspondent for Fandango.

Alicia was born in Australia and hosted several movie-centric shows before she moved to the United States in 2011. Since then, she has appeared on CNN, the Today show, MSNBC, NPR, and many more as a film expert. Alicia is passionate about classic films, independent movies, and supporting women in film. In 2015, Alicia gave a TEDx talk about the lack of women working in film and why that needs to change. In 2017, she was invited to give a second TEDx talk, expanding on the subject further. She was named of one of one hundred #Worthy Women of the year.

Photos: Alicia Malone

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