20 Great Movies By Female Directors You Can Stream Now, Film Companion
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Women have always been behind the camera. One of the first people to make a narrative fiction film was Alice Guy-Blaché, the French pioneer filmmaker. Her 1912 silent-comedy, A Fool and His Money was probably the first with an all African-American cast. In India, Fatima Begum became the first female director behind the lens, directing Bulbul-e-Paristan (1926), a fantasy film.

Almost a century later, we are still grappling with female representation, in front of, and behind the lens. This Women’s Day Ormax Media and Film Companion produced a report that noted, between 2019 and 2020, only 6% of the 129 films analyzed were directed by women. 

This is a list of films helmed by women that you can find on streaming. 

20 Great Movies By Female Directors You Can Stream Now, Film Companion

Little Women (2020), Greta Gerwig

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime

Little Women is about four women — sisters —  (Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen) outgrowing the little-ness that is bestowed upon them at birth. Based on Louisa May Alcott’s iconic 1868 novel of the same name, it was adapted by Greta Gerwig, known for her signature quick-wit and charm. 

The Namesake (2006), Mira Nair

Streaming Platform: Disney+Hotstar

The film is based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel of Bengali immigrants, played by Tabu and the late Irrfan, trying to carve out a home in the snowy, isolated wonderland of America. It’s also the story of a child of immigrant parents, played by Kal Penn, who is unable to figure out what the hyphen of Indian-American means. 

Sir (2018), Rohena Gera

Streaming Platform: Netflix

This film-festival sensation that finally dropped on Netflix last year is about the love between a house-help played by Tillotama Shome, and her posh employer, a broken but sympathetic man, played by Vivek Gomber. 

Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd (2007), Reema Kagti 

Streaming Platform: Prime/Netflix

Reema Kagti’s debut multi-starrer set in Goa features a bunch of couples, old, young, passionate, frigid, liberal, cloistered, all traveling together celebrating the first flush of marriage. This kind of quirk and free-love feminism is a precursor to Alankrita Shrivastava’s oeuvre of stated feminism in cinema. 

20 Great Movies By Female Directors You Can Stream Now, Film Companion

Luck By Chance (2009), Zoya Akhtar 

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime, Netflix

Zoya Akhtar’s directorial debut is both an ode to and a satire of Bollywood, starring Farhan Akhtar and Konkona Sen Sharma. Its iconic opening credits sequence of how the magic of the cinema gets produced by mundane logistics is padded by a story of love, fame, and the heady disillusionment that comes with it.

The House Is Black (1963), Forough Farrokhzad

Streaming Platform: Pad.ma

A landmark short film  by one of Iran’s most coveted modern poets, this takes a look at a leper colony in Tabriz, Iran, a forgotten, marginal colony in people’s imagination of the city. Many critics note this film as the beginning of the Iranian New Wave. 

Where’s Sandra (2006), Paromita Vohra 

Streaming Platform: YouTube

This documentary short film by documentary maven Paromita Vohra is a study of the sexual and community stereotyping of Christian women, through the “Sandra From Bandra” archetype, a fantasy of the racy Christian girl. The film tries to search for Sandra in cinema, in tombstones, in poetry, and finally by actually speaking to 5 Sandras from Bandra, each living a different kind of life. 

 

One day (2011), Lone Scherfig

Streaming Platform: Netflix

Based on David Nicholls’ novel, this is one of the most quietly devastating portraits of love and ageing. It follows Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, every year on July 15, for over 18 years. They love, they loathe, they part, they come back, they learn, they break, they are broken. 

The Silences of the Palace (1994), Moufida Tlatli

Streaming Platform: YouTube

This Tunisian film delves into gender, class, colonialism, and sexuality in the Arab world on the cusp of independence. The film states its position through the lives of two generations of women (Hend Sabry, Amel Ledhili) at a palace, both run down by a reputation of servitude, but relentlessly pushing back. 

 

Cleo de 5 à 7 (1962), Agnès Varda 

Streaming Platform: MUBI

A French Left Bank film, which attempts to overthrow conventional cinema’s form and style, starts with a young singer, Cléo, at 5pm as she waits to hear the results of a medical test that will possibly confirm a diagnosis of cancer. 

A Death in the Gunj (2016), Konkona Sensharma

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime

Konkona Sensharma’s directorial debut, based on a short story written by her father, is a delicate but deftly told tale of forgotten kindness and simmering resentment that, when provided an escape, erupts. It is an ensemble cast including Vikrant Massey, Tillotama Shome, Om Puri, Tanuja, Gulshan Devaiah, Kalki Koechlin, Jim Sarbh, and Ranvir Shorey.

Also Read: First Shot Last Shot: Konkona Sensharma’s A Death In The Gunj

Village Rockstars (2017), Rima Das

Streaming Platform: Netflix

This is a coming-of-age film that follows a 10-year old’s life (Bhanita Das) in a quiet Assamese village, written, edited, co-produced, and directed by Rima Das, who is a self-taught filmmaker.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), Céline Sciamma

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime

Set in 1770s France, this film follows the quietly palpable love between Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a painter and Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), a young woman, whose wedding portrait Mariannae is commissioned to do. There is both the expression of erotic desire and the transgression of rules of desire. 

Koode (2018), Anjali Menon

Streaming Platform: Disney+Hotstar

Anjali Menon is best known for Bangalore Days (2014), but this quiet, quirky film on grief, and the aftermath of death in a closely-knit family, starring Prithviraj Sukumaran, Nazriya Nazim and Parvathy Thiruvothu, has a striking simplicity that is both endearing and moving.

Main Hoon Na (2004), Farah Khan 

Streaming Platform: Netflix

Farah Khan’s debut as a director began the stream of choreographer-to-director transitions over the decade. This is a coming-of-age tale, that treats Indian national security and family drama with equal heft. Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Zayed Khan, Amrita Rao, Suniel Shetty and Sushmita Sen, this film became an iconic reckoner for reintroducing the sari as a sex-symbol ala Sridevi. 

Chashme Buddoor (1981), Sai Paranjpye 

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime

Two comic-womanizers (Rakesh Bedi and Ravi Baswani) are surprised when their nerdy friend (Farooq Shaikh) wins over a beautiful girl (Deepti Naval), whom they failed to woo. It’s a story of early youth told with the comic innocence that only the 80s could conjure. 

The Japanese Wife (2010), Aparna Sen

Streaming Platform: YouTube

Based on Kunal Basu’s short story, this is a story of lovers — one Bengali (Rahul Bose), one Japanese (Chigusa Takaku) —  who never meet, first introduced as pen pals, and through letters they exchange love, photographs, and marriage vows. Set on the banks of the bloating Matla river, this is a mood piece that looks at how affection and desire bleed into one another. 

20 Great Movies By Female Directors You Can Stream Now, Film Companion

The Hurt Locker (2008), Kathryn Bigelow 

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime

The film is a study of both the excesses, addiction, and intolerance to violence that becomes part of the fabric of the life of a veteran. It follows an Iraq War Explosive Ordnance Disposal team (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Christian Camargo, David Morse) as they attempt to defuse bombs in a, literally, politically explosive state. It won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. It remains the only Best Picture and Best Director winner to a woman. 

The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), Barbra Streisand 

Streaming Platform: Netflix

The story focuses on a shy, middle-aged professor (Steisand herself) who enters into a platonic relationship with an unlucky colleague (Jeff Bridges). It’s a relentlessly verbal movie, unlike many of the time, and has an unlikely, silly charm. 

Marie Antoinette (2006), Sofia Coppola 

Streaming Platform: Netflix

Based on the life of Queen Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) in the years leading up to the French Revolution, this incredibly stylized reproduction of the decadent times had left many French critics booing the film at the Cannes Film Festival. 

One Night In Miami (2020), Regina King

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime

A fictionalized account of a meeting between male stalwarts of the Civil Rights Movement in 1964, the film follows the events of the night of Feb. 25, 1964, in Miami, when Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) joins Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir). 

Soorarai Pottru (2020), Sudha Kongara

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime

A rousing author-backed Suriya plays Maara, a man with a dream for affordable flying, and Aparna Balamurali plays his foil, his wife who pushes back against his arbitrary impulses of misogyny, but loves him deeply anyway. 

Atlantics (2019), Mati Diop

Streaming Platform: Netflix

Set along the Atlantic coast, this is a film about Ada (Mama Bineta Sane) who is caught in the crosscurrents of love, marriage, and murder, as she struggles with migration, employment, grief, and the enduring legacy of the Atlantic Ocean, a monument of slave-ships. 

The Rider (2017), Chloe Zhao

Streaming Platform: YouTube

Zhao’s much-hailed Nomadland will find a place in streaming on Disney+Hotstar at the end of the month. Zhao’s The Rider is a great introduction to that masterpiece— a film with the same flourishes of naturalism (Brady Jandreau plays a fictionalized version of himself, a cowboy on the cusp of self-doubt when he’s unable to ride anymore), and tender human impulses. 

20 Great Movies By Female Directors You Can Stream Now, Film Companion

Talvar (2015), Meghna Gulzar

Streaming Platform: Disney+Hotstar

Starring Konkona Sensharma and Neeraj Kabi, this film is based on the 2008 Noida double murder case involving a teenage girl and her family’s servant. The late Irrfan plays the investigating officer. The film has a Rashomon-like see-saw that refuses to entirely take a position. 

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