2013: The Year of “A” Ratings

DigitalStampAThis time last year I was on a high.

I had just posted a review of Zero Dark Thirty in which I predicted two record-book accomplishments. First I said that Katherine Bigelow would receive her second “Best Director” nomination from AMPAS (“given how many critics groups have already anointed her”). Second, I said that Zero Dark Thirty would cross the $100 million mark in Gross Domestic Revenue (putting her in a very small club “membership in which is restricted to all the women everywhere, at any time in history, on this or on any other planet, who have ever directed a film grossing over $100 million”).

Then came January 10, 2013, a day known in my home as “Black Thursday”…

Zero Dark Thirty was nominated for 5 Oscars (including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay) that day, but Kathryn Bigelow was not nominated for Best Director, and that fact (the “swift-boating” of Kathryn Bigelow) became the first big “Oscar story” of 2013. Many men made fun of Bigelow, most women abandoned Bigelow, and box office receipts for Zero Dark Thirty stalled.

On February 25th, the night after the Oscar broadcast, my rosy optimism was in tatters. Zero Dark Thirty had won only one Oscar (Best Achievement in Sound Editing), & when Zero Dark Thirty was finally pulled from theaters one month later, Domestic Total Gross” had topped out at $95,720,716 (just shy of the summit).

At that point, there was nothing to do but move on. After all, by April 1st, 2013 had already entered its second quarter. So I proceeded to do what I do, that is, I continued to see every film that came my way that was either written &/or directed by a woman filmmaker…

Then on November 6th, something truly remarkable happened: I learned that a group of Swedish women had developed an “A Rating” for film distributors based on the Bechdel Test!

I quickly went back over the list of films I had seen in 2013 and sure enough, from 6/1/13 though 11/5/13, I had seen TWENTY-FIVE “A-Approved” feature films, each one of which had either been written &/or directed by a woman filmmaker!!!

I noted then (& I repeat now), that this initial list of 25 films did not include any films by women filmmakers that I saw before 6/1/13, it did not include any documentary films, & it did not include films by male filmmaker which pass the Bechdel Test.  

So why is this so important? My list proves what I’ve been saying all along: the films are there. Women are making wonderful films, so that is not the problem. What’s missing? The audience!

Our Swedish sisters have now put the whole world on the alert. There are a huge number of A-Approved films available. Now theaters need to offer them, & the public needs to walk the talk & go see them.

And me? Ever the optimist, I start another new year on a high 🙂


Logo Credits: Four Swedish independent cinemas launched the “A-rating” campaign (for films that pass the Bechdel Test). Click HERE to read their introductory marketing materials (in English).


Related Posts

Previous Post Next Post


  1. Avatar

    From your lips to the audience’s ears! As the organizer of Bluestocking Film Series, the only film event in the world that requires submissions pass the Bechdel Test, we struggle to find enough great, A-listed short films to show to audiences brave enough to venture outside the multiplex. Though we’ve so far managed to stay in the game (since 2011), and shown some amazing, ground-breaking films by emerging women directors, we are receiving fewer submissions than when we started.

    While there may be increasing numbers of A-listed features being made and released, we aren’t seeing the same trend in the short film category (which is where most filmmakers start). Despite the increased media coverage of gender inequities in front of and behind the camera, it somehow isn’t trickling down to the more indie world of short films. It seems to us that at least part of the problem is that film schools are failing to rise to the challenge – see this piece written by Jennifer Kesler about UCLA in 2008: http://thehathorlegacy.com/why-film-schools-teach-screenwriters-not-to-pass-the-bechdel-test/ .

    We want to believe that we are inching closer to the tipping point but we surely do wish we could make it happen faster. And if you see any A-listed short films, please send them our way!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *