The 10 Best Women-Directed Films of 2015

It has been a good year for Women Directors and it is only getting better! Below is a list of the 10 best films directed by women via Women and Hollywood. 

Three of my favorite films of 2015 are on there: Sufragette, Diary of a Teenage Girl, and Mustang.

Girlhood

Girlhood

The 10 Best Women-Directed Films of 2015

By Melissa Silverstein, Inkoo Kang and Laura Berger | Women and Hollywood

2015 was a big step forward for women directors. Not only did the institutional employment discrimination against female filmmakers in Hollywood compel the ACLU into action and enter the mainstream conversation (thanks, NY Times!), but women directors got to direct two bona fide blockbusters this year in Elizabeth Banks' "Pitch Perfect 2" and Sam Taylor-Johnson's "Fifty Shades of Grey." (Of course, we want way more in 2016.) 

Only two female-helmed movies made the top 100 list of 2014: Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken" and Ava DuVernay's "Selma." As of December 14, 2015, there are 7 women-directed movies in this year's top 100. In addition to "Pitch Perfect 2" and "50 Shades of Grey," there's Nancy Meyers' "The Intern," Andy and Lana Wachowski's "Jupiter Ascending," Niki Caro's "McFarland, USA," Anne Fletcher's "Hot Pursuit" and Jessie Nelson's "Love the Coopers." 

The people have spoken, but now it's our turn. Here are the Women and Hollywood team's ten favorite women-directed films of 2015, in no particular order: 

"Girlhood" - Written and Directed by Celine Sciamma

You'll never hear Rihanna's "Diamonds" the same way again after watching "Girlhood," French writer-director Celine Sciamma's indelible coming-of-age portrait of a black Parisian teen with few prospects for the future. Desperate for a refuge from her repressively sexist family and her callously indifferent school, Marieme (played with Karidja Touré with warmth and grace) finds that and so much more in her newfound friendship with a group of tough but similarly vulnerable girls. "Girlhood" is above all a celebration of female friendship, but Sciamma's film is never so naive to mistake solidarity for institutional support. Marieme's journey of self-discovery with and without her friends is remarkably poignant for both the distance she has to travel and how far she comes.


"Suffragette" - Directed by Sarah Gavron; Written by Abi Morgan

The fight for women's suffragette finally, finally got the big-screen treatment this year. A film chronicling women's violent, heart wrenching struggle for the right to vote was long overdue, but mercifully this important story about women's rights is told by women, and boasts a female helmer (Sarah Gavron, "Brick Lane") and screenwriter (Abi Morgan, "Shame"). Gavron's period piece portrays the feminist activists pushing for respect and autonomy as wonderfully multi-layered. The women struggle to do right by their loved ones as well as the cause. The team behind "Suffragette" showcase the valor and humanity of the women who fought relentlessly for a better future, making "Suffragette" a character drama and war story all at once. 


"52 Tuesdays" - Directed by Sophie Hyde

A teenage girl discovers her own sexuality while her lesbian mother undergoes the process of becoming a transgender man in Aussie filmmaker Sophie Hyde's wonderfully intimate and thoughtful debut. Daughter Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) and parent James (Del Herbert-Jane) decide to separate temporarily so that the latter can have the space to think and heal (from surgery) in private, but they agree to meet every Tuesday to catch up. Hyde's film, too, was shot once a week, with her excellent amateur actors finding new depths in their pained but searching characters. The drama serves as both a compassionate primer on gender transitioning and an alternately lovely and tense tale about the roles of gender and sexuality within a family. 


"Mustang" - Directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven; Written by Deniz Gamze Erguven and Alice Winocour 

This tale of sexually repressed sisters living in Turkey dazzled us at its premiere in Cannes, and its steadily rising profile in recent months couldn't be more well-deserved. Deniz Gamze Erguven's coming-of-age story has been selected as France's Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film and is also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in the same category, which will hopefully introduce a bigger audience to the engrossing and emotionally resonant portrait of a family ravaged by patriarchy and religious intolerance. These sisters -- particularly the youngest, indefatigable Lale (Gunes Sensoy) -- and their story will leave a lasting impression on viewers who watch them transform from wild, carefree girls playing on the beach to prisoners in their own home as it becomes a "wife factory" where the girls are married off with brutal regularity. 

 

"The Diary of a Teenage Girl" - Written and Directed by Marielle Heller

Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is a character we've needed -- an artistic, rebellious, smart, sensitive and thoughtful teenage girl who is also unapologetically horny. Powley is a delight to behold, beautifully showcasing the nuances of Minnie's relationship with her mother's boyfriend as their interactions totter between sexual liberation and sexual exploitation. Heller brings to life Phoebe Gloeckner's graphic novel with empathy and longing, as well as a beautiful visual language borrowed from both '70s San Francisco and the indie comics scene. 
 


"Breathe" - Directed and Co-Written by Melanie Laurent

Melanie Laurent's visceral sophomore effort takes a familiar tale -- that of a best friendship between two adolescent girls going sour -- and makes it feel both novel and terrifying. Charlie (Joséphine Japy) longs to spend every day with new-girl-in-school Sarah (Lou de Laâge), an Africa-raised vision of cool with all the right clothes and cigarettes. (Don't freak out about the teenage smoking: This takes place in France, after all.) But when Sarah cruelly betrays her new friend, Laurent immerses us in Charlie's panicked torment, which leads to an act of abject but believable horror. Most compelling of all, though, might be Laurent and her co-writer Julien Lambroschini's suggestive psychologizing about how these girls tragically repeat patterns of emotional violence learned from their mothers. 

 

"The 33" - Directed by Patricia Riggen

Patricia Riggins proved she was more than up for technical challenges in telling the story of the trapped Chilean miners in "The 33." As you'd expect, much of the film takes place in a mine -- a confined location for both filming and storytelling. Women rarely get the opportunity to direct this kind of movie, and Riggins takes such a distinct, interesting approach to framing this harrowing story. The film is (painfully) good at capturing a sense of claustrophobia. And rather than spending the bulk of the film focusing on the rescue of the trapped men, the focus here is on what the miners were going through -- the emotions they were experiencing, and the fears they were confronting. 



"Appropriate Behavior" - Written and Directed by Desiree Akhavan

"Appropriate Behavior" covers well-trodden ground: We've all seen many a movie about a young woman dealing with a bad break-up, awkward rebound sex and parents who just don't understand. But told through writer-director-star Desiree Akhavan's lens, all this feels like something fresh. It's the details that make the main character, Shirin (played by Akhavan), so compelling. Her parents are Iranian-American immigrants, she's bisexual and her recently ended relationship was a with woman. (The causes of the split -- which we won't spoil, but will acknowledge for being unusually interesting -- are explored through flashbacks.) As Inkoo wrote in her review at TheWrap, Shirin and her "pursuit of her true self isn't just a story we've rarely, if ever, seen on film; it's the introduction of a hilarious and essential new voice." 

 

"The Second Mother" - Written and Directed by Anna Muylaert

Brazil's submission for the Oscars' Foreign Language Film category is a sensitive and incisive exploration of how class divides can and can't be overcome through the lens of one deeply troubled mother-daughter relationship. Two decades in the making, writer-director Anna Muylaert's much-feted drama stars Regina Casé as the live-in servant to a wealthy, dysfunctional family whose complacency with her lot in life is challenged by her ambitious and estranged college-bound daughter (Camila Mardila). As accessible as it is thoughtful and emotionally layered, "The Second Mother" will resonate with a much broader audience than its August arthouse release might suggest. 


"Infinitely Polar Bear" - Written and Directed by Maya Forbes

Maya Forbes mines her love-filled but not-always-stable childhood for her autobiographical directorial debut. Mark Ruffalo gives one of the best performances of the year (recognized by a Golden Globe nod) as the bipolar Cameron, who struggles to take care of his two young daughters while their educationally ambitious mother (played with enormous heart by Zoe Saldana) attends business school out of state. A Boston Brahmin whose mood swings prevent him from getting a regular job, the proud but penniless Cameron poignantly tries his best to provide a comfortable home for his daughters as they come of age and are forced to reckon with issues of race and class. Too often stranded in space, Saldana finally gets a minor but meaty role as an woman who has difficulty advancing in the corporate world despite her impressive resumé because of her status as a mother and a person of color. Suffused with youthful innocence and an adult's wisdom, "Infinitely Polar Bear" is the love letter every parent wishes they could receive from their child. 

Honorable Mentions: Leslye Headland's "Sleeping With Other People," Isabel Coixet's "Learning to Drive," Catherine Hardwicke's "Miss You Already," Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz's "Gett," and  Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala's "Goodnight Mommy."

UN Climate Change Conference starts today! Let's follow Björk & David Bowies lead....

...and request World Leaders to reach a Climate Change Deal! Our planet needs it! Well, actually we need it more than earth.

I'm going to try some reverse psychology here. The reality is that Mother Earth will almost certainly keep spinning no matter what- That is not the issue here! The issue here is in what shape and form it will keep spinning, and if we want to be able to continue living on it.

The reality is that if we continue to treat our environment the way we have then we will soon be left with an inhabitable environment, most likely a scorched dust ball as seen in the film Interstella.

There is more. Check out this article with pictures that will leave you with little doubt: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3043849/Mystery-surrounds-spate-huge-dust-storms-world-year-grounded-flights-blotted-sun.html#v-4177789203001

So this is already happening, and has happened before, but we are moving toward making it into a permanent reality like in films like Mad Max. Looks great on screen, but not in real life! 

So let's be part of creating a change in how we treat our planet. It is not too late! But we have to act now. We all can start at home, in small ways by recycling and conserving water. Or even better we can calculate our Carbon Footprint Calculator and donate to plant trees around the world to reduce your personal carbon footprint. It does not cost a lot, but does a lot of good. Just try out the Carbon Fund calculator (there are plenty of others, but I like them because they plant trees around the world) and see how little it is too make a change:

https://www.carbonfund.org/individuals

And trees are my personal mission since they really are the lung of our planet, especially the Amazon Forest, which is up for discussion at the UN Climate Change Conference. Yes, the numbers look better, but they are deceiving,  deforestation in Brazil is still very real and a huge problem. At the rate in which the Amazon is destroyed, we will soon have much bigger problems and no one is doing anything about it, except for some environmental renegades and natives who call themselves the Guardians of the Forest. 

NPR did a great story on this. Check it here: http://www.npr.org/2015/11/04/452555878/deep-in-the-amazon-an-unseen-battle-over-the-most-valuable-trees

We cannot ignore the reality! So let's stand with such amazing people as Björk and David Bowie and appeal to the people who can change things on a big scale by sharing and being very vocal today on social media!

 

Björk, David Bowie, Thom Yorke, More Urge World Leaders to Reach Climate Change Deal

Ahead of UN climate change conference in Paris on Monday

By Jazz Monroe

Photo by Timothée Lambrecq

Photo by Timothée Lambrecq

  • An open letter signed by Björk, Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Phil Selway, David Bowie, Damon Albarn, and more urges world leaders to reach a deal at the UN's climate change conference in Paris this Monday, Dazed reports. Compiled by charity Julie's Bicycle on behalf of the "creative community," the letter calls for an "ambitious and inspiring international agreement" to tackle post-2020 environmental challenges. Other musicians to sign include Courtney Barnett, Robert Plant, Chrissie Hynde, Bobby Gillespie, David Gilmour, My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver's S. Carey, Angélique Kidjo, and Young Fathers. Read extracts below.

The creative community – design, advertising, broadcasting, publishing, film, gaming, fashion, literature, music, the performing and visual arts, galleries and museums – can make a unique contribution to the global sustainability challenge. Collectively we shape not just our material world, but our conceptual world too, including the values that underpin our lives. The creative industries generate wealth and employment but we also innovate, we shape and express cultural values, influencing how people feel and the choices they make: as such we have huge potential to prompt, and reinforce, positive and sustainable change.

The letter goes on to outline next steps for the creative industries themselves:

 

  • Take action ourselves to make our businesses and our industries more sustainable, actively managing our impacts.
  • Speak out to our audiences and customers, using our creative voices to affect the public narrative and create social consensus for action on climate change and environmental degradation.
  • Work together to influence and support policy makers who have the capacity to accelerate positive change, to make the right decisions.
  • Take a leadership role with a cultural mandate for action, which exceeds the commitments of governments.
  • Do what we do best and use our creativity and our collaborative culture to help find, and scale, solutions to global environmental challenges.

Read the full letter at Julie's Bicycle.

We interviewed Björk about environmental issues back in 2008. Read parts one and two here.

Watch Björk's recent video calling for global action to save Iceland's Highlands: