Great Documentaries Directed by Women
There is no denying that women are grossly underrepresented in movies. The film industry, like so many other professions, has traditionally been more welcoming to men. Women are frequently written off as unfit for roles that are more typically held by men. Fortunately, this outdated perspective is gradually changing. In fact in 2021 there were a record number of female-led movies. In the realm of documentaries, there is far less of a gender disparity. Studies demonstrate that practically every role in non-fiction productions has a significantly higher representation of women.
Since documentaries are far less expensive than narrative fiction, many producers are ready to support smaller, documentaries made by women since they view them as a sure bet. The nightmare bureaucracy and restrictive checklists of major studios are often not as applicable to documentaries. This allows female documentarians to explore topics that are frequently shunned by popular cinema.
Blackfish, Free Solo, Knock Down the House and a number of other outstanding female-directed documentaries may be already known to you. However, there are several more out there if you require more.
13th (2016) – ( Ava DuVernay)
The USA is home to 25% of the world’s prisoners despite having just about 5% of the global population.
The 13th is unquestionably Ava DuVernay’s best and most significant picture. It is a damning indictment of Black history’s oppression and the legacy of slavery that still haunts today’s Americans. This enlightening documentary explores lynchings, the war on drugs, Jim Crow legislation, voting restrictions, the prison industrial complex, redlining and gerrymandering. Basically all last-ditch attempts by those in positions of authority to maintain the spirit of slavery. he and her interview subjects dissect the “Mythology of Black Criminality,” and the media’s participation.
She also addresses neoliberalism’s appalling inability to transform racist institutions without pulling any punches. It also examines how “States Rights” is a ruse to suppress minorities. This is important to remember at this time when “States Rights” is being invoked as a justification for restricting people’s freedoms.
Despite its somber subject matter, it’s not an unpleasant ordeal to watch. The straightforwardness of its message and the conciseness with which it makes its points are one of 13th’s greatest strengths. Additionally, it has some great tracks by Public Enemy, Dead Prez, and Killer Mike. Anyone who cares about equality and social change should watch this movie.
Jesus Camp (2006) – (Rachel Grady & Heidi Ewing)
Jesus Camp chronicles the scourge of far-right militant Christians teaching kids to idolize conservative politicians, disdain Harry Potter, hate homosexual people, and battle tenaciously against the right to an abortion. It’s essentially a documentary about Becky Fischer, a Pentecostal preacher, and her three-week summer camp aimed to radicalize children.
Despite her claims of impartiality, Fischer frequently promotes radical viewpoints to naïve children by playing on their worry about going to hell. She continuously emphasizes the significance of using children as political pawns for her cause. She even lectures about how much President Bush has encouraged them since he is openly upfront about his trust in God.
Jesus Camp is pertinent today given the rise of the religious right in recent years. The co-directors of Love Fraud and One of Us, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, are scathing in their criticism of public officials and religious figures who use the Bible to excuse their despicable actions. The entire cult-like experience is sickening, which is made worse by the fact that racist, anti-science fundamentalism of this kind is still a major issue in the US today. Seek out Pray Away on Netflix for a similarly frustrating documentary directed by a woman (Kristine Stolakis).
Athlete A (2020) – (Bonni Cohen & Jon Shenk)
Documentaries depicting abusers of women and predators hidden in plain sight have become increasingly prevalent. Not in small part due to the aftermath of the #MeToo movement’s flurry of alarming discoveries. The documentaries Surviving R. Kelly, Jimmy Saville: A British Horror Story, and Secrets of Playboy are just a few recent examples of how society so frequently ignores victims; especially women and children. The abuse suffered by dozens, probably hundreds, of young girls who competed for the US national gymnastics team is the subject of the book Athlete A. Larry Nassar, the osteopathic doctor for the team, received a life term in jail in 2017 for his heinous acts.
Like so many of these heartbreaking tales, Nassar’s victims were frequently bullied into keeping quiet. Or they were simply told they were “faking it” although there were clear warning signals for years. Athlete Arightly focuses on the victims and their inability to stop an abuser from preying on young women. Watch Eva Orner’s documentary Bikram, Yogi, Guru, Predator for more information about a trusted mentor who preyed on young women.
Ascension (2021) – (Jessica Kingdon)
Jessica Kingdon’s first film, Ascension, is a distinctive one. It’s just a compilation of images showing Chinese labourers engaged in various tasks; all of them pursuing the mythical “Chinese Dream,” with no storyline or talking-head interviews. Explanatory images provide light on everyone’s job process, from industrial workers to social media influencers. At first, it’s a meditative experience, but soon, a crushing sensation of dread and anxiousness sets in. Every day, the Ascension employees perform the same monotonous jobs. It’s intriguing at first, just like when you start a new job, but as you become more accustomed to it, the excitement wears off, and you’re left watching the same monotonous task repeatedly.
With the exception of Dan Deacon’s eerily apocalyptic music, there is no commentary. But the end product is a scathing critique of capitalism. Ascension educates viewers on how much needless trash is produced by manufacturing businesses. It shows that, despite the disparities in their governments and economy, China and the United States have very similar work cultures.