So I’m back in one piece from the opening weekend of the Dublin International Film Festival. My sister had lured me up to the capital for Women Make Film, a 14-hour documentary in five sittings written and directed by Mark Cousins. Cousins was there to introduce the first two installments and share his passion for his project which has been described as “a documentary that spans 13 decades and five continents to give a guided tour of the art and craft of movies as told by female filmmakers.”
What we see is a labour of love that delivers on his promise to shine the spotlight, at last, on hundreds of female filmmakers around the world who have up to now not been given then attention they deserve in a male-dominated industry. And boy has he got some real heavyweights behind him with narration by Tilda Swinton, Jane Fonda, Adjoa Andoh, Sharmila Tagore, Kerry Fox, Thandie Newton, and Debra Winger.
Women Make Film is a must-see for two reasons.
- Firstly, we’re introduced to scenes and commentary involving 214 Directors and 334 films, regrettably many of which I had never seen or heard of. For this reason alone, it was worth the investment in time to discover so much talent across so many countries. I for one have earmarked several that I’m going to track down and watch over the coming months and years.
- Secondly, it’s a Master Class in Film Making. The documentary is presented in 41 chapters ranging from set-up, storytelling, plot development, technical elements and so much more. In fact, here is the list of the chapters: Introductions, Openings, Tone, Believability, Introducing characters, Meet Cute, Conversation, Framing, Tracking, Staging, Journey, Discovery, Adult/Child, Economy, Editing, POV, Close Up, Surrealism and Dreams, Bodies, Sex, Home, Religion, Work, Politics, Gear Change, Comedy, Melodrama, Sci-Fi, Horror and Hell, Tension, Stasis, Leave Out, Reveal, Memory, Time, Life Inside, The Meaning of Life, Love, Death, Endings, and Song and Dance.
Within each chapter, we’re presented with a number of clips that demonstrate what the director has done, the choices she has made and the options available to her. A 14-hour MFA in Film Making all neatly packaged in one big brilliant bundle and a must purchase for any art college or film school to make available to its students.
The really great news is that Cousins has built a fantastic website, WomenMakeFilm.net, which shows the main chapter headings and lists the films he has referenced in each section. An excellent resource to reacquaint myself with the directors I had bookmarked and also as a source of inspiration when next looking for a quality movie to watch.
I won’t lie and say it wasn’t heavy going watching it in 4 x 3-hour sittings and 1 x 2-hour sitting over a day and a half and that there were some genres or chapters I just wasn’t interested in. No big spoiler to say ‘Song and Dance’ was high on this list with musical theatre being one of my great pet peeves in life or those huge choreographed historical film crowd scenes involving thousands of extras and usually a trumpet but they were few and far between in an opus worthy of the title opus. I’ve no doubt it’ll turn up as an online masterclass that you’ll subscribe to someday and I really think it’ll be worth every penny you spend.
Theatre was my first love. It all started with the One-Act and 3-Act AmDram festivals in our local theatre to get out of the house to smoke cigarettes on school nights. It wasn’t long before I had graduated onto the Class As in the Abbey, Peacock, Project, Tivoli and even more fringe events and locations. It’s physical. Being present with the cast, the crew, the soundscape of mutters, coughs, and gasps from the audience; the dust, the set, the murmur murmur hum before curtain. Pure energy. I can forgive anything — set, direction, costumes, props, performance — except bad writing.
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