Celluloid Heroines – Fearless Filmmaking Females

Kathryn Bigelow Lina Wertmüller Jane Campion Sofia Coppola

Every female director who’s been nominated for an Oscar for direction: Katherine Bigelow, Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion, and Sofia Coppola

On 31 January, The Guardian published an article titled “Why are there so few female filmmakers?” Less than a month later, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the director’s prize at the 62nd Directors’ Guild of America Awards. Then, in March, she repeated that feat at the 82nd Oscars, where only three women (Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion and Sofia Coppola) have previously even been nominated. Although membership of the Academy remains secret, it’s probably fair to assume that it’s disproportionatly male. What is known is that, when it was founded in 1927, there were 33 male members and three females (Mary Pickford, Jeanie MacPherson and Bess Meredyth) – or 8%.

Vicky Jenson Nancy Meyers Catherine Hardwicke Anne Fletcher Phyllida Lloyd

The money-makers: Vicky Jenson, Nancy Meyers, Catherine Hardwicke, Anne Fletcher and Phyllida Lloyd

Although women make up a large percentage of directing students enrolled in film schools, as of 2008, they made up only 9% of Hollywood feature directors. Of the 241 films that have grossed over $100 million in the US in the last decade, only five female directors made the list, Vicky Jenson, Nancy Meyers, Catherine Hardwicke, Anne Fletcher and Phyllida Lloyd. None of them enjoy the fame or recognition of most of their counterparts who appear in front of the camera.

Doris Wishman Enid Baxter Blader Johanna Vaude Maya Deren Su Friedrich

Amoeba’s female directors with sections: Doris Wishman, Enid Baxter Blader, Johanna Vaude, Maya Deren and Su Friedrich

Here at Amoeba Hollywood, of the 97 directors with their own sections, only five are female — Doris Wishman, Enid Baxter Blader, Johanna Vaude, Maya Deren and Su Friedrich.

There are of course other female directors out there — some are responsible for some of the greatest films in film history. So in honor of Women’s History Month (and given my completist’s need to make long lists), here are a few more (click here for Female Experimental Filmmakers: A Noncomprehensive A-Z):


Anne Mungai Cheryl Dunye Cindy Magara
Anne Mungai, Cheryl Dunye, and Cindy Magara

Fanta Régina Nacro Gurinder Chadha Khady Sylla
Fanta Régina Nacro, Gurinder Chadha, and Khady Sylla

Ngozi Onwurah Peace Anyiam-Fiberesima Pratibha Parmar
Ngozi Onwurah, Peace Anyiam-Fiberesima, and Pratibha Parmar

Safi Faye Sarah Bouyain Sarah Maldoror
                     Safi Faye, Sarah Bouyain, and Sarah Maldoror


Ann Hui Aparna Sen Byambasuren Davaa

Ann Hui, Aparna Sen, and Byambasuren Davaa

Dalia Hager Deepa Mehta Hana Makhmalbaf
Dalia Hager, Deepa Mehta, and Hana Makhmalbaf

  Ivy Ho Jiayin Liu Joan Chen
Ivy Ho, Jiayin Liu, and Joan Chen

 Kaori Momoi Kinuyo Tanaka Lee Suk-Gyung
Kaori Momoi, Kinuyo Tanaka, and Lee Suk-Gyung

Marguerite Duras  Maryam Keshavarz Marzieh Meshkini Marguerite Duras, Maryam Keshavarz, and Marzieh Meshkini

 Mehreen Jabbar Mira Nair  Nadine Labaki
Mehreen Jabbar, Mira Nair, and Nadine Labaki

  Naomi Kawase Niki Karimi Pouran Derakhshandeh
Naomi Kawase, Niki Karimi, and Pouran Derakhshandeh

Rakhshan Bani-Etemad Sabiha Sumar Samira Makhmalbaf
Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Sabiha Sumar, and Samira Makhmalbaf

Sepideh Farsi Shamim Ara Shashwati Talukdar
Sepideh Farsi, Shamim Ara, and Shashwati Talukdar

Shimako Sato  So Yong Kim Soonrye Yim Shimako Sato, So Yong Kim, and Soonrye Yim

Suma Josson  Sylvia Chang  Tahmineh Milani
Suma Josson, Sylvia Chang, and Tahmineh Milani

  Trinh T. Minh-ha Ying Ning Yu Li
Trnh Th Minh Hà,  Ying Ning , and Yu Li

  Zero Chou
Zero Chou

Not Pictured: Indu Krishnan, Mahin Oskouei, Mona Zandi-Haqiqi, Parisa Bakhtavar, Vidi Bilu and Yasman Malek-Nasr.


Agnès Jaoui Agnès Varda Agnieszka Holland
Agnès Jaoui, Agnès Varda, and Agnieszka Holland

Alice Guy Blaché Annabella Miscuglio Antonia Bird Alice Guy Blaché, Annabella Miscuglio, and Antonia Bird

Asia Argento Beeban Kidron Caroline Link
Asia Argento, Beeban Kidron, Caroline Link

  Catherine Breillat Chantal Akerman Claire Denis
Catherine Breilla, Chantal Akerman, and Claire Denis

 Coline Serreau Doris Dörrie Elfi Mikesch
Coline Serreau, Doris Dörrie, and Elfi Mikesch

 Floria Sigismondi Germaine Dulac Helke Sander
Floria Sigismondi, Germaine Dulac, and Helke Sander

 Icíar Bollaín Jacqueline Audry Leni Riefenstahl
Icíar Bollaín, Jacqueline Audry, and Leni Riefenstahl

Liliana Cavani Lindy Heymann Lucile Hadzihalilovic
             Liliana Cavani, Lindy Heymann, and Lucile Hadzihalilovic            

Lynn Ramsey Mai Zetterling Marleen Gorris  Lynn Ramsey, Mai Zetterling, and Margarethe von Trotta

   Margarethe von Trotta Márta Mészáros Martha Fiennes
Marleen Gorris, Márta Mészáros, and Martha Fiennes

 Monika Treut Sally Potter Sharon Maguire
            Monika Treut, Sally Potter, and Sharon Maguire

  Susanne Bier Ulrike Ottinger Vera Chytilová
Susanne Bier, Ulrike Ottinger, and Vera Chytilová

  Zana Briski
Zana Briski

Not pictured: Birgit Hein, Christine Edzard, Helma Sanders-Brahms, Johanna Vaude, Phyllida Lloyd, Shona Auerbach (Already pictured: Lina Wertmüller)


Alison Maclean Allison Anders Amy Heckerling
Alison Maclean, Allison Anders, and Amy Heckerling

Amy Holden Jones Barbara Hammer Barbara KoppleAmy Holden Jones, Barbara Hammer, and Barbara Kopple

 Barbara Loden Barbara Peters Barbra Streisand
                      Barbara Loden, Barbara Peters, and Barbra Streisand

   Betty Thomas Christine Choy Colette Burson

Betty Thomas, Christine Choy, and Colette Burson

  Connie Field  Darnell Martin  Dennie Gordon
Connie Field, Darnell Martin, and Dennie Gordon

 Diane Keaton Dianne Houston Dorothy Arzner
Diane Keaton, Dianne Houston, and Dorothy Arzner

Drew Barrymore Eisha Marjara Elaine May
Drew Barrymore, Eisha Marjara, and Elaine May

Ellen Perry EstherEng(2) Euzhan Palcy Ellen Perry, Esther Eng, and Euzhan Palcy

Frances-Anne Solomon Grace Lee Ida Lupino
Frances-Anne Solomon, Grace Lee, and Ida Lupino

  Jamie Babbit Jennifer Chambers Lynch Jennifer Jason Leigh
Jamie Babbit, Jennifer Chambers Lynch, and Jennifer Jason Leigh

 Jessica Yu Joan Darling Joan Micklin Silver
Jessica Yu, Joan Darling, and Joan Micklin Silver

Jodie Foster Joyce Wieland Julie Dash Jodie Foster, Joyce Wieland, and Julie Dash

Julie Taymor Jürgen Vsych Kasi Lemmons
Julie Taymor,  Jürgen Vsych, and Kasi Lemmons

  Kelly Reichardt Kimberly Peirce Lesli Linka Glatter
Kelly Reichardt, Kimberly Peirce, and Lesli Linka Glatter

Lesli Linka Glatter Loni Ding Louise Alaimo
Lizzie Borden, Loni Ding, and Louise Alaimo

 Madonna Maggie Greenwald Maria Maggenti
Madonna,  Maggie Greenwald, and Maria Maggenti

 Marion_Evelyn_Wong Martha Coolidge Mary HarronMarion Wong, Mary Benjamin, and Mary Harron

 Mary Lambert Maya Angelou Maya Santos
Mary Lambert, Maya Angelou, and Maya Santos

  2965879_300x300 Mimi Leder Miranda July
Melissa Yu, Mimi Leder, and Miranda July

Nancy Savoca Neema Barnette Nia Vardalos Nancy Savoca, Neema Barnette, and Nia Vardalos

Nicole Holofcener Nisha Ganatra Nnegest Likké
Nicole Holofcener, Nisha Ganatra, and Nnegest Likké

  Nora Ephron Patricia Rozema Patty Jenkins
Nora Ephron, Patricia Rozema, and Patty Jenkins

  Penelope Spheeris  Penny Marshall  Rebecca Miller                     Penelope Spheeris, Penny Marshall, and Rebecca Miller                                

 Rebecca Miller Scarlet Perez Shirley Clarke
Sarah Polley, Scarlet Perez, and Shirley Clarke

Sonali Gulati Stephanie Rothman Susan Seidelman Sonali Gulati, Stephanie Rothman, and Susan Seidelman

Tamara Jenkins Tiffany Huang Tita Poe
Tamara Jenkins,  Tiffany Huang, and Tita Poe

Valerie Faris Zahra Dowlatabadi Zoe Cassavetes
Valerie Faris, Zahra Dowlatabadi, and Zoe Cassavetes

Not pictured: Caroline Thompson, Hilary Birmingham, Judy Smith, Karen Arthur, Kate Davis, Monika Treut, and Yunah Hong

(Already pictured: Anne Fletcher, Catherine Hardwicke, Doris Wishman, Enid Baxter Blader, Katherine Bigelow, Martha Coolidge, Maya Deren, Nancy Meyers, Sofia Coppola, Su Friedrich and Vicky Jenson)


Cate Shortland Gillian Armstrong Jocelyn Moorhouse
          Cate Shortland, Gillian Armstrong, and Jocelyn Moorhouse

(already pictured: Jane Campion)


Carla Camurati Eliane Caffé Helena Solberg
    Carla Camurati, Eliane Caffé, and Helena Solberg

Lúcia Murat Lucrecia Martel Nelly Kaplan

Lúcia Murat, Lucrecia Martel, and Nelly Kaplan

Sandra Kogut Suzana Amaral Tata Amaral
Sandra Kogut, Suzana Amaral, and Tata Amaral

Not pictured: Ana Carolina, Betse De Paula and Marta Rodríguez


I know there are a lot more, so please hit me with some additions!


Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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