Women Make Film: Celebrating Great Female Filmmakers

by Tom Warner, Best & Next Department

Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema

“This is a film school of sorts, in which all the teachers are women. An academy of Venus.” – Women Make Film writer/director Mark Cousins.

Though more and more women are making movies today, the film industry has long been a boy’s club practicing sexism by omission. This year may mark the first time in Academy Award history that two women – Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) – are up for best director. But they represent only the sixth and seventh women ever nominated for the prize in the academy’s 92-year history. Kathryn Bigelow remains the lone woman to have won a best director Oscar, for 2008’s The Hurt Locker. Now, just in time for our March celebration of Women’s History Month, comes a binge-worthy exploration of cinema history as seen through the lens of some of the world’s greatest directors – all of them women – that you can watch for free on Kanopy using your library card.

Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema, which premiered at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, is the latest critically-acclaimed documentary series from writer-director Mark Cousins, the respected film scholar who previously gave us the epic The Story of Film: An Odyssey (also available on Kanopy). Over the course of 14 one-hour episodes, Cousins delivers an alternative history of cinema that exposes us to over 700 film clips from 183 female directors. (No wonder the impressively edited film was 20 years in the making.) Using only women filmmakers as examples and organized like a curriculum with a visual textbook of 40 “chapters,” Cousins’ presents a “film school of sorts” that introduces viewers to various themes and techniques of cinema from around the world as seen through the “female gaze.” Each episode stands alone and can either be viewed in order or sampled randomly. The emphasis is on inspiring viewers to explore previously unknown films and directors, regardless of how they watch.

The series is narrated by a number of well-known actresses, including Cousins’ long-time collaborator Tilda Swinton (who also served as executive producer on the series), Jane Fonda, Debra Winger, Thandie Newton, Kerry Fox, Adjoa Andoh and Sharmila Tagore. And it features analysis from such noted film scholars as Cari Beauchamp, Claire Johntson and Lynda Miles.

The Toronto International Film Festival observed that “Women Make Film overturns our understanding of cinematic history” by forcing “a deeper reckoning for the professional barriers against women” while championing “the global breadth of female filmmakers who overcame those obstacles.” 

But perhaps Tilda Swinton sums up the importance of the series best when she advises viewers: “Feel free to be angry because some of these great films have been overlooked. But feel free to be delighted at the medium of film, and at the women on whose shoulders we stand.”

More Kanopy movies about women:

Interested in learning more about women in film? Mary Mandy’s Filming Desire: A Journey Through Women In Cinema (2000) makes a good companion piece to Mark Cousins’ series. And Kanopy has hundreds more outstanding films about women’s issues, including 137 from the world’s leading distributor of independent films by and about women, Women Make Movies

New and Notable in YA Fiction

Teens, take a look at what’s new at the Pratt Library in Young Adult Fiction. From first love stories, to paranormal adventures, You just might find your new favorite book. Happy reading!

A Taste for Love
by Jennifer Yen
The Initial Insult
by Mindy McGinnis

If I Tell You The Truth
by Jasmin Kaur
by Marie Lu
Roman and Jewel
by Dana L. Davis
Get A Clue
by Tiffany Schmidt
Empowered Black Girl
by M.J. Fievre
City Of Villains
by Estelle Laure
Circle of Shadows
by Evelyn Skye
The Color Of Lies
by C.J. Lyons
What Big Teeth
by Rose Szabo
Yesterday Is History
by KosoKo Jackson

Celebrate Maryland Day with a Good Book

by Lisa Greenhouse, Librarian

Working from home has given me a chance to break open some Maryland history titles on my bookshelf. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay  by William W. Warner was first published by Little, Brown & Co. in 1976.  Warner was a biologist with the Smithsonian Institution when he wrote about the interdependent biological and cultural ecosystems of the Chesapeake watershed. The reader learns about the life cycle of the blue crab — which is way more fascinating than one might expect — as well as the lives and folkways of the watermen, who depend on it for a living. 

Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay
by William W. Warner

As a participant observer, Warner set out before dawn on the boats of skilled watermen to watch and help as they emptied crab pots, scraped the grassy shoals for peelers, dredged for sooks, netted crabs on trot lines, and captured herring and menhaden in pound nets. Warner developed lasting relationships with these men.  He wrote with sensitivity and a deep respect for their intimate knowledge of the Bay, knowledge which often accorded with that of the scientists who studied the Chesapeake.  

The book was written at a time when ecological awareness was beginning to reveal how imperiled the Chesapeake was but before the lifestyles of those dependent on it had become anachronistic.  It was a time when there was still a skipjack fleet that dredged oysters under sail in the winter and when many watermen’s wives were still working in the packing houses, though some had begun to leave for jobs in chain retail.  

Full of careful observation, humor, lore, and history, today’s reader will come away with an appreciation of a local way of life that was once vibrant but now hangs on by the thinnest blade of eelgrass.

Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake
by Stephen T. Whitman

Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake: Black and White Resistance to Human Bondage, 1775-1865 (2007, Maryland Historical Society) by T. Stephen Whitman looks at a different aspect of regional history.  The Mid-Atlantic states had varying relationships to slavery and resistance.  For example, while the Pennsylvania line and freedom didn’t seem far off for slaves from Delaware and Maryland, Virginia’s remoteness from that line played a role in the choice of rebellion over flight.  In Maryland and Delaware, self-purchase agreements and manumissions after a term of slavery were more common. 

Whitman covers the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, when many slaves fled behind British lines and others fought for the Americans, hoping to be rewarded with freedom.  Abolitionists, Quakers, the black Methodist church, freedom petitions, slave rebellions, the Underground Railroad, and colonization are all discussed at length.  Whitman’s book closes with the period leading up to the Civil War, when the Fugitive Slave Law helped to radicalize the north, and ends with that conflict. 

That the Genius of Universal Emancipation, an important early abolitionist newspaper, was published out of Baltimore and that its co-editor William Lloyd Garrison spent time in a Baltimore jail are among the interesting locally-tinged facts presented by Whitman.  Anti-slavery activists, from Maryland or operating there, such as Daniel Coker, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Jarena Lee are covered. Both of these books are held by the Enoch Pratt Free Library Maryland Department.

Just for Kids: STEM Spotlight for Women’s History Month

This March, check out these kid-friendly books available on Hoopla! Spend storytime learning more about women inventors and getting inspired about the wonders of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Hidden Figures
by Margot Lee Shetterly

In this beautifully illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, known as “computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

Hedy Lamar
by William Roy

From her native Austria to the limelight of Hollywood, Hedy Lamarr was constantly bombarded with societal limitations and personal obstacles-including her own beauty. Only through courage, ambition, and intellect would she rise to become both a cultural icon and an unparalleled inventor whose creations would alter the course of history.

Women Who Made History
by Julia Adams

Women have always made great contributions to science, and some of the greatest inventors in history were women. Kids can learn about these inspiring women who changed the course of history through their inventions and contributions to science.

Also, here are more books to check out this month.

Ada’s Ideas
by Fiona Robinson
Mary Had A Little Lamb
by Sue Fliess
Rosie Revere, Engineer
by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Mae Carol Jemison
by Lemima Ploscariu
Grace Hopper
by Nancy Loewen
Madam C.J. Walker
by Sally Lee

Get the Hottest Titles Now with the Lucky Day Collection

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! You don’t need the luck of the Irish to pick out your next book. Take a look at the latest books available in the Lucky Day Collection on Overdrive. With no wait, you might just find the perfect book to spend the holiday with.

Girl Gone Viral
by Alisha Rai eBook|Audiobook
My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me
by Jason B. Rose eBook|Audiobook

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
The Jetsetters
by Amanda Eyre Ward eBook|Audiobook
The Other Mrs.
by Mary Kubica
Such A Fun Age
by Kiley Reid eBook|Audiobook
The Giver of Stars
by Jojo Moyes eBook|Audiobook
The Secrets We Kept
by Lara Prescott eBook|Audiobook
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo eBook|Audiobook
King of Scars
by Leigh Bardugo
The Silent Patient
by Alec Michaelides eBook|Audiobook
A Wanted Man
by Lee Child eBook|Audiobook