6 Movies Directed By Women, On Women, For Women
A report from the BBC revealed that out of the directors working in Hollywood in 2018, only 8% of them were women, and the statistics are reportedly lower in Asia. Presently, there are only two female directors that have won the Academy Award for Best Director; the first being Kathryn Bigelow for the movie, The Hurt Locker in 2010, and the second being Chloé Zhao who recently won the award for her directing of the movie Nomadland in 2021! Hence, this International Women’s Day, we want to pay a tribute to both local and international female directors who have directed movies about the many faces and stages of a woman’s life.
Here are six movies by women on women for women with key messages that every female should constantly remember!
Race towards your dreams – You are free to choose to excel in any field you like.
1. Bend It Like Beckham – Gurinder Chadha (British Indian)
Jess Bhmara (Parminder Nagra) is passionate about football and David Beckham, but her conservative British Sikh family disapproves of her interest, claiming that she should be more ladylike to improve her marriage prospects. Unbeknownst to her family, she joined a local female football club with her new friend, Jules (Keira Knightley). Her secret was soon exposed and her family’s objection eventually caused her to withdraw to play for an important game that could land her an opportunity to be scouted by an American coach because her sister’s wedding also fell on the same day!
After some twists and turn, she managed to join the game and scored the winning goal for her team! As a result, she and Jules both received sports scholarship offers to study in America. She decided to tell her family about the scholarship and how much she wanted to go and play football professionally. Jess’s father eventually revealed that he is very proud of her football skills after seeing her in action one day and he agreed to let her go to America because he wants her to be truly happy and not give up on something she really loves, like he regretfully did in the past.
2. Little Women – Greta Gerwig (American)
This movie features the March sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy) as they learn to thrive and support each other in the absence of their father while finding their dreams as they march towards adulthood. Every March sister has a distinct character. Meg, the eldest (Emma Watson) is the beautiful eldest who initially struggled to fit in with her rich friends, allowing them to “doll her up”, later regretting it. Beth is the quiet one who loves to play the piano while Amy, the youngest is the artistic one who desires to be an artist, while the most outspoken one, Jo aspires to be an author.
Each sister eventually led very different lives. The highlight of this movie falls on Jo who has always taken pride in her writing since her childhood. However, she eventually had to swallow a bitter pill when her then-crush (ouch!) directly criticized her writing (For her own good of course!). She eventually learnt to accept constructive criticisms and wrote a good, genuine story that is accepted by a publisher. She stood by her principles by keeping her copyright (Every author wannabe is screaming the same sentence: I want to own my own book!) and negotiating about her rightful royalty rights with her publisher, not compromising her values due to her financial circumstances.
Insights: Jess and Jo from both of these movies are brave to go after their “unconventional” dreams despite the enormous expectations for them to follow the “normal” footsteps of other females (to get married and be a good wife and mother) in their culture and community. While there is nothing wrong with settling down, we should not conform to the norms out of pressure. It is also worth noting that their dreams only became a reality due to their great effort in improving and developing their skills. Though sometimes faced with oppositions and challenges along the way, it is through both practice (effort) and perseverance (character) that one can achieve their goals.
Rise above the glass ceiling – You can effectively contribute both at home and at work.
3. On The Basis Of Sex – Mimi Leder (American)
Based on a real story, Harvard law graduate Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) juggles between her career and family and eventually rose to be the second woman to serve on the United States Supreme court. Ginsburg played the role of the caregiver of her husband, Martin Ginsburg (Armie Hammer) and daughter when he was diagnosed with cancer during their undergraduate studies, and managed to graduate with flying colours. However, she was rejected so many times by law firms because they were unwilling to employ a woman to be a lawyer while her husband, also a law graduate, was hired by a law firm in New York.
Though she worked as a law professor, Ginsburg could not hide her disappointment and unknowingly harboured bitterness towards the industry throughout the years. Later on, she was reminded by her now grown-up daughter that times have changed and the future is worth fighting for. With the support of her husband, she eventually found a new passion and calling for gender equality where she was introduced to a case that discriminates against a man and decided to use this opportunity to set a notion to overrule all the laws that discriminate against women.
Fun fact: The real Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a cameo scene in this movie.
4. Kim Ji Young: Born 1982 – Kim Do Young (South Korean)
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Cho Nam Joo, the movie centres around Kim Ji Young (Jung Yu-Mi) decided to become a stay-at-home mum after childbirth but later suffers from depression, worrying her husband, Jung Dae- Hyun (Gong Yoo) and mother. Between flashback scenes, the movie showed that as a young girl, Ji Young had her fair share of discrimination because she is a female. From her own father’s favouritism towards her young brother since childhood (the difference of gifts, only remembering her brother’s favourite food, blaming her dressing because she was stalked) to a missed opportunity to be promoted at work, Ji Young’s story is a reflection many women’s experiences in South Korea.
What is comforting is the support and sensitivity shown by Ji Young’s husband during this process. He helps her with housework and childcare and continuously persuades her to see a psychiatrist (There is no shame in seeking support during difficult transitions in life. It is not okay to suffer in silence). He even volunteered to take paternity leave so that she could return to the workforce without worrying about her daughter. Thankfully after seeking treatment, she recovered and is actively publishing articles and is seen working on a book about her own story towards the finale.
Insights: Discrimination against women at the workplace is universal across the globe and is still prevalent today. Working mothers are constantly compared with stay-at-home mothers (by both males and females!), the former being judged for being greedy for success while the latter being judged for having it “easy” at home. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Kim Ji Young were eventually able to pursue a balance in their family and career due to their supportive husbands who really walk the talk. So to the males out there, know that your support means a great deal to your sisters, future wives, female colleagues and daughters!
Reconcile with your past and regrets – You will experience more meaningful relationships.
5. The Kid from the Big Apple – Jess Teong (Malaysian)
This movie is Jess Teong’s directorial debut which addresses the real issues of the generational gap and the importance of communication and reconciliation. Sarah (Sarah Tan) is a young kid who was raised in New York who has to adapt to a new culture when she stays with her grandfather in Malaysia for the first time when her mother had to go for a long business trip in China. Unwilling to open up initially due to the vast differences in culture, eating habits and language barriers, Sarah eventually formed a precious bond with her grandfather and the neighbourhood.
It is also worth mentioning how her mother, Sophia (Jessica Hsuan) single-handedly raised her in New York while juggling her studies and eventually launched her career as a fashion designer after Sarah’s father left them. Besides working hard to provide financially for her daughter, she also made sure Sarah could communicate in Chinese and also enrolled her for martial arts classes so that she does not forget her roots. She eventually chose to reconnect and communicate with her estranged father after so many years, after realizing that her father still cared deeply for her and her daughter. Sophia’s return and reunion with her father and daughter at the finale will leave you in happy tears.
6. The Farewell – Lulu Wang (Asian American)
You might remember Awkwafina as the bubbly Peik Lin in Crazy Rich Asians, but she certainly shines in this role as Billi Wang who immigrated to America at a young age with her family, but still bonds closely with her grandmother (fondly called Nai Nai). Unfortunately, Nai Nai was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer (but she does not know about it), causing the extended family to quickly plan for a reunion in China to attend the wedding of Billi’s cousin (so that it is not suspicious but auspicious!) to allow everyone to bid her a “quiet” farewell.
During this occasion, Billi got to reveal her fears and insecurities to her mother when she and her family immigrated to America. She had to cope with loss and loneliness, when her parents did not inform her of her grandfather’s sickness, causing her to miss the opportunity to say goodbye to him in China. It is precisely for this reason that she is experiencing internal conflicts between the Western and Eastern notion of facing death, contemplating on whether she should reveal the truth to Nai Nai or continue to keep it a secret for her own “good” as advised by her family.
Insights: At times, deep conflicts may arise in our family. Running away from it may seem like the “easiest” way to get away from it. But as we let misunderstandings pile up, it may lead to a lack of closure, resulting in regrets in the future. Both movies highlighted the theme of homecoming and the importance of always expressing our love while we can before it is too late.
There you have it, 6 wonderful female-directed movies with takeaways that you can enjoy with the amazing women (sisters, girlfriends, daughters, mothers and grandmothers!) in your lives! Always appreciate them!