The Role Of Women In Filmmaking | Raindance Film Festival

Agnes Varda was a Belgium-French film director widely known for addressing women’s issues and their flicks’ styles. She was also a screenwriter, an artist as well as a photographer. Agnes Varda’s use of non-professional actors in the 1950s films is quite unconventional. She preferred indoor shooting during the days, contrary to the modern era where sound technology is critical. Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) is her most notable narrative film, which focuses on a young girl ‘Cleo’ who waits for her medical tests to confirm whether she has cancer or not. The film is most notable, focusing on French feminism and how women are perceived in that part of the world (French). According to director Martin Scorsese, Agnes Varda is a rare kind in the cinema and describes her as a god of the films. Upcoming feminists Celine should emulate Agnes Varda’s work of art in their quest to solve feminism in the film industry.

Ince (2013) states that Agnes’s work is often considered feminist because of her use of female characters and her creation of female photographic power of speech. Agnes was once quoted as having said that she is not a doctrinaire of women’s movement and should not be viewed as one. She says she has done it on her terms with no directives from a male in all her entire life, from films to photography. In a 2014 interview, Varda clarifies that she is not involved in any women’s movement or party but sorts to discuss the key issues affecting women in France as her main agenda. 

It is important to note that Agnes Varda has inspired women in the modern era to start taking up key roles such as film directors, actresses, and movie producers in cinemas, which has dramatically been dominated by the opposite sex. The thesis statement will be discussing Agnes Varda’s perspectives about women in cinema with regards to girlhood/cuties (2014).

Girlhood (2014) is directed by a woman, a field vastly controlled by males. Butler and Schwartz (2010) both agree that this factor indicates women are stepping up to create a name and legacy for themselves. Sciamma is a female director determined to overcome the discrimination in France in a role where they are considered inferior to their male counterparts. The two have solely directed their films, a replica of what Agnes Varda perceived to do and achieve as a director and filmmaker. 

Marieme and her gang chanting abusive words to their rivals. Girlhood (2014).

women in filmmaking

Figure 3: Marieme smiling at her crush Ismael. Girlhood (2014)

Girlhood/Cuties (2014) focuses on a black teenage girl, Marieme, who lives in an offensive zone outside Paris. Director Sciamma points out; the plot focuses more on black adolescent girls who have been left out in the growing industry of films and look to develop or bring out their value in cinemas. The film is structured in France with Marieme as the main character in the movie. She has to overcome the tough challenges in her neighbourhood in order to survive the adversities across her path. Girlhood has its prominent roles taken by girls (all black), which indicates that the director wants to develop women’s roles as actresses in the modern era of cinema. 

Bramowitz & Julie (2015) are fascinated by how Sciamma Celina’s Girlhood film changes the traditional perspectives about women’s role in filmmaking, particularly in France, where women have been sidelined from major cinema roles. France has pretty much had its fair share of young girls been involved in gangs in and around Paris, and the director explains that her film brings to light the kind of role women were subjected to due to lack of opportunities. After winning the special jury prize during the Philadelphia film festival, Sciamma, in an interview, says she very much wanted to focus on the friendship and bond created between young girls and Girlhood (2014) brought that to light. 

In Girlhood (2014), Sciamma wants to understand the superficial anxieties about black societies’ cultural traditions. Lady’s father is seen cutting off her hair as punishment for been involved in a fight. This speaks volumes on society’s unfavourable Eurocentric ideals of beauty as a woman’s hair gives her outer power and splendor. However, many women might recognise Lady’s quiet mood (a character in the film) when she succumbs to such humiliation. Lady’s disgrace, shame, and the punishment she receives from her father show the kind of pain women have to endure to survive a world not forgiving from the male side. These are the kind of issues that Agnes is talking about when, as a feminist, she describes the type of oppression women are subjected to with no fair treatment. 

women in filmmaking

Marieme ready for a fight against her gang rival. Girlhood (2014)

On the other hand, Marieme decides to fight for her gang and her friend Lady and eventually emerge victoriously. Wilson (2017) highlights how Sciamma attempts to show the relationship between the girls and the struggle black women, in particular, have to endure. Agnes described that women such as Marieme and Lady have to fight their way for opportunities in a brutal and harsh environment faced by humiliations even from their fathers to stand victories in their life’s work. Such perception is what Agnes, Sciamma want to eliminate by intentionally giving female characters the lead roles in their respective films. In the New York Times, Scott appreciated the girlhood (2014) movie for maintaining the theme of young girls in prominent roles across the entire play. He states that the genre has positioned a young woman (Marieme) who is diligent, intelligent, fierce, and independent in her way, a character well established by Agnes Varda.

In conclusion, women have been involved in gangs as seen in girlhood (2014), the discrimination of women in the film industry, and some of the unique creative styles and methodology employed by Sciamma in her film are some of the key points outlined. Agnes Varda has clearly outlined her take on how women are perceived and how they ought to direct or produce their films. Indeed, the two directors have clearly addressed feminism by using a female protagonist as the main character in their respective films as directed by Agnes Varda, whom they have emulated. This has now led to the evolution of women in modern cinema, which is rapidly increasing with Sciamma been the tip of the iceberg.    



My name is Abdulrahman Al-mana and I am a Qatari filmmaker and international student in the UK studying film and TV production. I’m also interested in writing articles related of Filmmaking and content creation