2017 was a year that stood out for women in Hollywood, with the many campaigns set up promoting equality and safe working environments.
The year was also a great one for female directors, with Sofia Coppola winning the best director’s prize at Cannes, and many fantastic women directed films being showcased all over the world. Now let us appreciate 10 of the best films directed by women from last year.
10. Novitiate (Margaret Betts, 2017)
Religious dramas are always interesting in their presentation of faith’s effect on human psychology. First time director Margaret Betts’ Novitiate is great at exploring the challenges through the protagonist Sister Cathleen (Margaret Qualley) who is a young nun in training, in the context of reform of the Roman Catholic Church during the 60’s.
The film explores faith and what religion means at such a time, without forgetting about issues of personal identity and commenting on the institution itself. Betts is provoking with her presentation of the challenges highly revolving around sexuality and femininity and how they are affected by the order of the Church and one’s beliefs.
9. The Zookeeper’s Wife (Niki Caro, 2017)
Niki Caro creates a beautiful and heartfelt story in the historical drama The Zookeerper’s Wife. Starring Jessica Chastain in a powerful and vibrant performance as Antonina Zabinski, the story sets itself in Poland in 1939, as Antonina and her husband Dr. Jan (Johan Heldebergh) take care of the Warsaw Zoo. However, as the Nazis take control of their country, a new zoologist is put in charge of the establishment and the couple now have to report to him. As the war continues, the Zabinskis get involved with the Resistance as they try to save their people, using the zoo’s space to their advantage.
Caro explores themes of survival and human companionship, as well as once again reminding the audience of the terror of the Nazi regime. The film is an adaptation of Diane Ackerman’s book of the same name, inspired by the true story of the Zabinskis.
8. Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017)
Wonder Woman was a ground-breaking film for women in Hollywood. Not only did it make Patty Jenkins the highest paid female director, but it showed that women could also make fantastic superhero films and deserve more roles behind the camera. Despite not being nominated for best director, the film got incredibly positive reviews and potentially was a step forward for women wanting to work on high budget blockbusters.
The film is centred around the background story of Diana, princess of the Amazons, before she became Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot. After meeting a pilot (Chris Pine), Diana leaves her home to save the world, discovering her full powers in the process.
7. Raw (Julia Doucournau, 2017)
In Raw, Julia Doucournau creates an unusual and innovative coming of age drama and horror film. The dark story brings out the difficulties of moving into a new environment and the consequences of peer pressure, while exploring the instabilities and hardships of life as a young adult and trying to find oneself.
The plot follows Justine (Garrance Marillier) as she begins her studies at a veterinary school. But moving away from home is the least difficult part of her first few weeks there as she is sucked into the college environment and the various rituals that are carried out over the first years. Justine is forced to give up her principles of being a vegetarian. This small, seemingly insignificant action, however, takes an unexpected turn and changes Justine.
6. First They Killed My Father (Angelina Jolie, 2017)
First They Killed My Father is an incredible biographical thriller directed by Angelina Jolie, and her fourth film behind the camera. The film feels very personal to her considering her activity in humanitarian work, and perhaps this connection is what made the film such a big success.
The film stars first time actress Srey Moch as Loung Ung, whose biographical book the film is based on. It is set in Cambodia in 1975 when Khmer Rouge goes into power and brings with him four years of violence. The story follows Loung Ung as she is made to leave her home and arrives in Phnom Penh where she is trained for war despite her young age. The whole film is very heartfelt and honest in its depiction of the harsh brutality Ung and many other Cambodians had to face.