1. Mustang (2015) Dir: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Co-produced and directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Mustang follows five young orphaned sisters, who live with their aunt and uncle in a remote Turkish village, and explores the challenges they face in a traditional and highly conservative society.
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Feature this year, the film has received a great reception, winning the Europa Cinema Label at Cannes, and has been applauded for it’s great casting and frank portrayal of the exploration of women’s rights.
2. An Education (2009) Dir: Lone Scherfig
Nominated for several Academy awards including Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, An Education explores the loss of innocence for Oxford hopeful Jenny Mellor, (Carey Mulligan) who in her final year of school is seduced by older man David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard) which alters her perception of life and the world forever.
Based on the memoir of British journalist Lynn Barber, the film is known for Mulligan’s stand out performance, and is less celebrated for it’s exploration of attitudes towards women in 1960s London.
3. Wadjda (2012) Dir: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Wadjda centres on the title character, a 10 year old schoolgirl who enters a Quran competition in order to raise enough funds to buy the green bicycle which has captured her interest.
The film which received critical acclaim, is the first feature film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and the first to be directed by a female Saudi director. As well as being light hearted, the film is fundamentally about Wadjda’s liberation (and lack of), and is based on Al-Mansour’s own experiences growing up in the highly conservative country.
4. Electrick Children (2012) Dir: Rebecca Thomas
When 15 year old Mormon Rachel McKnight (Julia Garner) hears a cover of Blondie’s Hanging on the Telephone on an old cassette, she believes she’s had an immaculate conception. Soon after, she embarks on a journey in search of the man behind the voice, joining a group of skaters on the way.
As well as questioning female autonomy, Electrick Children also gives a glimpse into the alienation marginally inspired by the director’s own experiences as a young-female Mormon growing up in the States.
5. Fish Tank (2009) Dir: Andrea Arnold
Set on an East London council estate, Fish Tank centres on the socially isolated Mia Williams (Kate Jarvis) a working class teenager living with her single mother and sister, who becomes attached to her mother’s new boyfriend Connor O’Reily, (Michael Fassbender) leading to devastating results.
Winner of the 2009 Bafta for Best British Film and the Jury Prize at Cannes, Fish Tank is almost identical to An Education in it’s exploration of loss of innocence in youth, but what differs is Mia’s lack of redemption, making the film a great example of social commentary for British working class women.
6. Pariah (2011) Dir: Dee Rees
In Dee Rees’ 2011 art drama film set in Brooklyn, New York, African American teenager Alike (Adepero Oduye) comes to terms with her sexuality, whilst navigating through relationships, friends and family who aren’t as accepting.
Winner of the Excellence in Cinematography Award at Sundance, Pariah has been a hit with critics, who have applauded it’s strong lead performance by Adepero Oduye and how succinctly the film deals with it’s delicately portrayed subject matter.
7. Blood Pulls A Gun (2014) Dir: Ben Briand
This 16 minute short film, is an Australian thriller/drama focussing Alice, (Odessa Young) a teenager whose life is altered when a stranger checks into her roadside motel.
Directed by Ben Briand, Blood Pulls A Gun was the highly anticipated follow up to Briand’s Apricot, and is noted for Odessa Young’s strong breakthrough performance, along with the protagonist’s intentional lack of passivity which is set against the film’s high-octane narrative.
8. Samson & Delilah (2009) Dir: Warwick Thornton
Next on the list is another Australian film, Samson & Delilah. Set in an Aboriginal community in the Australian desert, this film has been dubbed a “survivalist love story” and centres on two indigenous Australian teenagers who head to Alice Springs to escape their difficult lives.
Winner of the Caméra d’Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and noted for it’s beautiful cinematography, Samson & Delilah is symbolic of the lack of basic rights and protection women have around the world, seen with the hardships Delilah faces throughout the film.
9. Girlhood (2014) Dir: Céline Sciamma
Hailed as one of the best coming of age films in years, Céline Sciamma’s 2014 film Girlhood challenges perceptions of race, class and gender by focussing on Marieme’s (Karidja Touré) engagement with a girl gang in a rough neighbourhood on the outskirts Paris.
Applauded for it’s frank depiction of youth, it’s all black female cast and for showcasing the stories of black teenagers in and around Paris, Girlhood has been described by critics as a moral film, one which is as equally entertaining.
10. He Named Me Malala (2015) Dir: Davis Guggenheim
This documentary film traces the story of Nobel Peace Prize winning Malala Yousafzai’s journey from Pakistani schoolgirl, all the way up to her 2013 UN speech, giving glimpse into the aftermath of the Taliban’s brutal attack and what the highly influencial Malala is like behind closed doors. Although the film has mixed reviews, He Named Me Malala‘s subject matter can’t be ignored due to Malala’s incredible true story.