Since the birth of cinema, women directors have made stunning contributions across all genres. Yet most cinema histories tell a male-dominated story. Mark Cousins shows us what we’ve been missing with the 14-hour documentary Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema, which weaves over 700 film clips from 183 female directors into a corrective film essay. (Its 14 episodes include narration from Tilda Swinton, Adjoa Andoh, Jane Fonda, Thandiwe Newton, Sharmila Tagore, Debra Winger, and Kerry Fox.)
The focus isn’t on the directors’ biographies or career obstacles, but on their artistry. Some names may be familiar: Akerman, Arzner, Bigelow, Campion, Denis, Dunye, DuVernay, Harron, Kopple, Lupino, Spheeris, Varda. But be prepared to make countless discoveries among the 150 films in over 30 languages quoted here. Perhaps your discovery will be British animator Alison de Vere or Auschwitz survivor Wanda Jakubowska or Japanese actress-turned-director Kinuyo Tanaka.
The cascading images stir many emotions. Perhaps you’ll feel embarrassment confronting so many gaps in your knowledge, or anger over the filmmakers’ canonical neglect. Ultimately, those feelings give way to amazement at the abundance and magnificence of Women Make Film.