The beginning of the year continues to be a drip-feed as studios and awards ceremonies focus disproportionately on men. This doesn’t mean there aren’t great films by women to find. One of my top contenders for film of the year last year and still holding my place for best performance (Jenna Ortega) was Megan Park’s “The Fallout”, and it arrived on January 27.
Take a chance on something that looks interesting to you, even if you haven’t heard of it. Especially if you haven’t heard of it. Part of the point of this weekly feature is to platform the series and films that don’t receive the same marketing budgets and windows as work by men. Every year, the best work I’ve seen on film tends to be the movies that barely get any launch.
Park’s school shooting PTSD story “The Fallout”, Anvitaa Dutt’s musical gothic horror “Qala”, and Chloe Okuno’s inverted giallo “Watcher” from 2022.
Rebecca Hall’s drama and dreamscape of privilege “Passing”, Claudia Llosa’s magical realist “Fever Dream”, and Julia Ducournau’s body horror “Titane” in 2021.
Kitty Green’s disturbing tale of normalization “The Assistant”, Isabel Sandoval’s lamentation of love and false allyship “Lingua Franca”, and Julia Hart’s crime thriller “I’m Your Woman” in 2020.
None of these saw the platforming they deserved, nor recognition from mainstream U.S. awards ceremonies. Celine Sciamma, Kelly Reichardt, Shatara Michelle Ford, Eliza Hittman, Naomi Kawase, the list of women directors constantly overlooked and rarely supported as they should be goes on.
One thing this feature has made clear to me is that prior to 2020, more than 90% of the films I watched in any given year were made by men. Now a slight majority of what I watch is made by women. And I’m watching newer ideas, fresher concepts, plots and characterizations that aren’t played out. Most filmgoers, no matter how educated, worldly, or forward-thinking we may imagine ourselves, gravitate toward what we’re familiarized to through media and marketing – even when it comes to the most experimental and ‘artsy’ work out there. If what we’re familiarized with and spend almost all our time with is made by only half the population, it will start to feel narrow and repetitive because it is.
Scale that out to include the other half of the population, and suddenly stories are less repeated, the range of perspectives aren’t so narrow because…well, you’ve just expanded them.
There are legitimate and correct arguments for fairness, equality, and access, but even a selfish argument as filmgoers – even just that one argument for what we choose to see…why would we ever limit ourselves to watching what only half of filmmakers create?
The only problem is that seeing the other half requires doing the work of familiarizing ourselves with what they’ve created. That’s work we’re used to media and marketing doing for us. Do that work, though, start seeking the perspectives you haven’t thought to prioritize in the past, and it’s suddenly very easy to recognize that this overly repetitive and self-limiting industry is a burgeoning art form full of possibility once again.
This week, we’ve got new series from France and Japan, and new movies from the U.K. and the U.S.
Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre (Netflix)
directed by Tagashira Shinobu
Junji Ito is a manga author whose blend of Kafka-esque concepts and cosmic horror imagery has helped his ideas go viral. Now, he gets an anthology anime series.
Director Tagashira Shinobu has long run character design for series ranging from “Hunter x Hunter” to “Batman: Gotham Knight”.
You can watch “Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre” on Netflix. All 12 episodes are out immediately.
Women at War (Netflix)
showrunner Cecile Lorne
As the First World War breaks out and men are called to the front, four French women see their lives intersect. A prostitute, the sudden head of a factory, a Mother Superior, and a nurse all face the war in their own way as they draw toward a common goal.
This is the third French series on which Cecile Lorne has written.
You can watch “Women at War” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are out.
showrunner Nogi Akiko
In this Japanese mystery series, a distrustful detective played by Ayano Go is paired with an inexperienced partner. Their unit works to solve cases quickly, before they get turned over to specialized departments.
Showrunner Nogi Akiko also wrote “The Voice of Sin” and “Unnatural”.
Despite seeing shows like this take off, Netflix still regularly forgets to post embeddable trailers for them. You can watch “MIU404” (and its trailer) on Netflix. All 11 episodes are out now.
Ali & Ava (Showtime)
directed by Clio Barnard
Ali and Ava have a whirlwind romance over the course of a month, while each navigating the lingering wreckage of their prior relationships.
Writer-director Clio Barnard has been nominated for three BAFTAs, including British Film of the Year for “Ali & Ava”.
You can watch “Ali & Ava” on Showtime.
Actual People (MUBI)
directed by Kit Zauhar
As her final week of college comes to a close, Riley tries to get the attention of her crush. She has to confront anxiety about racism she’s faced along the way, and what future is out there for recent college grads.
Kit Zauhar writes, directs, and stars. “Actual People” is her first feature.
You can watch “Actual People” on MUBI.
Sorry About the Demon (Shudder)
directed by Emily Hagins
Nursing a broken heart, Will moves into his new place hoping for a fresh start. As often happens in horror-comedies, it turns out to be haunted. If that weren’t bad enough, now he’s got to save his ex from being possessed.
Writer-director Emily Hagins has directed a number of horror anthology segments and low-budget movies.
You can watch “Sorry About the Demon” on Shudder.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.