Back to IndieWire

An Open Letter to Martin Scorsese

An Open Letter to Martin Scorsese

Dear Mr. Scorsese-

Your letter to your daughter Francesca came to my attention and I just had a few comments in response. 

First, I apologize for not seeing The Wolf of Wall Street. There was a time not too long ago where I would have been one of the first people at the theatre to see your films.  Goodfellas is one of my all time favorites. But I can’t bring myself to see The Wolf of Wall Street.  Women who I have spoken with have told me how difficult it was to sit through and how uncomfortable they were about the portrayals of women in the film. 

Hey, it might be a great film according to some folks. It might even win the Oscar, but I’m just not going to put myself through it. Life is too short.

Back to the letter 

I am really glad that you are excited about the future of film even while you acknowledge the closing of a chapter which you were one of the leaders of. I too am excited. This is the wild west and while it is scary for many filmmakers the possibilities are great. I’m really glad that you have exposed your daughter to many films since she was a young girl. I can’t even imagine how cool it must have been to see films with you and have you explain shots and story details. She is a lucky girl.

But Mr. Scorsese, have you shown your daughter any films directed by women? You tell her how important it is for her to embrace her voice, but at the same time all the directors you name as people who keep you heartened about the future of moviemaking are all MEN.

And since she is a girl have you told her that it will be harder for her as a director? (Do you even know how hard it is for women?) That there are less opportunities for women, and that in 2012 only 9% of the top grossing films were directed by women? And will you also tell her that you got a DGA nomination yesterday and that no women were nominated? And have you told her yet that only one woman has ever won an Oscar for best director? 

I hope your daughter has a vision like you do. I would be delighted to see a movie directed by Francesca Scorsese. But remember, role models and visionaries come in both sexes and we need female directors to inspire young boys and girls so that all children can grow up and trust their voices and visions.


Melissa Silverstein

This Article is related to: Features and tagged



Give me a break. The Wolf of Wall Street was a great movie, and it had nothing to do with women whatsoever. It’s not that he’s overlooking female directors — it’s just happenstance that there aren’t any outstanding female directors. What’s interesting about entertainment and the free market is that people are completely objective when they want to be entertained and they spend their money accordingly. I’m confident that the top grossing films would be exactly what they are without anyone knowing what gender the director is.This is just another silly attempt to make people pretend they enjoy movies solely because a female directed them (social pressure for a gender quota). Women like you are the worst enemy for women. The idea that maybe — just maybe — the shortcomings of women in certain areas are the fault of nobody other than (gasp! dare I say it) the women themselves is a totally foreign concept to you.

Sad and true

Thanks for stating the obvious. Women’s stories and characters are not depicted by male directors, as if women are not people but only objects. Even Scorcese, who cares about his daughter, can’t see his own gender privilege and his own biases. It reflects the culture of Hollywood and the larger US.


The problem is: there aren’t many critically acclaimed or even good mainstream female directors.. The only ones that come to mind are Sophia Coppola (who’s butt) and Angelina Jolie (also terrible). I hope that changes and more female directors come to light, but it’s not Scorsese’s job to scout female talent. I believe it is extremely ignorant to not watch a movie and base all judgements on what you have heard. All of Wolf of Wall Street’s sexism has a point and sadly, that point was largely ignored by most of the audience, simply because it was subtle and people no longer like to critically think. Wolf of Wall Street is not a shallow, face value film, it is filled with very important themes. Google: Wolf of Wall Street Themes if you don’t believe me.


The problem is – there aren’t many


What a ridiculous statement. The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie that portrays the real events surrounding Jordan Belfort, events not always pretty or for the squeamish. Scorsese is not trying to objectify women for any reason other than to portray this accurately based on first hand accounts. The film has been said to be less outlandish than the actual antics that went on on the trading floors of Stratford Oakmont. The fact that you are unwilling to even watch the movie and are so willing to condemn Scorsese for something that is so broad and unprompted shows the narrow-mindedness of your criticism. His film may make you uncomfortable, but that in no way invalidates the artistic credibility and integrity of his work. It’s a truly beautifully done film, the acting is astounding, cinematography was stellar, and the writing was organic. The only thing that you are criticizing is the subject matter, which in 99.99 percent of artistic situations, is not a valid criticism.


i dont have a problem with the movie. its not about that this Scorseses view on women, its how the bankers in the 80s and still today see women. they are all horrible characters in the movie, exploiting people left and right. and i personally enjoyed it more that this wasnt a movie like so many others with just a raised finger how bad that behaviour is. it just showed how they behaved. and let the people decided what they think. every person with a right mind will be repulsed by what they do in the movie. but thats about the characters behaving like that. hate the wall street guys, not scorsese


What he says is possibly true but that is only because women directors are a relatively new thing, at least in terms of how long and how many good movies you have to make to establish a reputation like Mr S.

Sean Finnegan

I seriously can't wrap my head around how twisted and insincere this article is. No joke, I feel my blood boiling when I think about it too much. Scorsese's open letter to his daughter was an insightful, personal and inspiring glimpse into the perspective of one of cinema's greatest auteurs. The wisdom he imparted speaks volumes to filmmakers of all walks of life, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The values he cites are universally human.

Ms. Silverstein, you are perverting the message of Marty's letter by making it about gender equality. Yes, gender equality is a huge problem in the film industry and in the media as a whole, and yes it's a hot button topic that's bound to get clicks, but in my opinion as a filmmaker and a writer it's nothing but intellectual fraud. You're making mountains out of molehills to criticize an artist for having his own preferences. His influences are his influences, and in this discipline we've all got our own preferences. Who he wants to tell his daughter about as far as filmmakers goes is his own deal. He owes nothing to you. He owes nothing to women as a social demographic. He owes nothing to anyone in this regard.

I would be embarrassed to have written and published this.


Chantal Ackerman wanted to be a filmmaker after watching Pierrot le Fou by Godard. Catherine Breillat wanted to be a filmmaker after watching Sawdust and Tinsel by Ingmar Bergman. Jane Campion's top ten on Criterion has one film by a female director.

Not saying women directors don't deserve the same recognition in the film world, which you seem to think is Scorsese's opinion, especially when you brought up, "beside the point", the apparent misogyny of his newest film. However, I would argue that the gender behind those movies which influenced the above mentioned directors weren't recognized because of what kind of genitals their director's sported. They spoke to those women on a common, genderless level.

Their artistic awakenings just happened to be nudged by men, and they felt it was fair play in the film world, a feeling which they acted upon and that started to change things. The source of influence doesn't matter when it creates the kind of change you're advocating.


This is a ridiculous article. Scorsese named these directors because they're great, not because of their ethnicity, nationality, skin colour, gender or something else. And the worst thing about this is, that she actually won't watch The Wolf of Wall Street and make up her own mind. "No", she says, "if my friends say it's sexist and doesn't have female roles with depth, then it MUST be true!"


Gender is irrelevant, in my opinion. It's likely that the percentage of women in the industry is less than men. So, of course there aren't going to be as many female nominees. Not as many women choose this line of work. Scorcese chose to mention the names he did because of reasons meaningful to him, not based on gender to sympathize with her.

I believe what he is doing, and is what I would do with my own daughter, is teach her as if she is no different from anyone else, that she would have to compete on a level that does not discriminate or provide any special treatment, and will slaughter anyone, man or woman, who can't compete.

It may be tougher on women, but that just means she would have to work harder. And naturally, his daughter will figure that out on her own, without Scorces putting it in her mind that she has a disadvantage.


Maybe Scorsese didn't name any female directors because he doesn't think the filmmakers his daughter should aspire to be amongside needs to include females because his daughter is a female. He was objectively listing names. Also, like ANON stated, there were only white names but this doesn't mean he was trying to be unsupportive of filmmakers of color.

Since he would like to involve his daughter in the world of film and cinema I hope that this means he doesn't exclude women from directing and such.

Rachel Feldman

Bravo Melissa.


I don't really see where this came from, as his letter was about cinema and filmmakers. The filmmakers listed just so happened to be men, so what? Why did this have to turn into a "girl-power" feminist rebuttal. Women expect equality in the film industry, working in this business I see countless women getting stuff done for films, in an office-setting and on-set. Have you ever considered the fact that those women who DO make films just don't ever make the cut due to quality? As proven, most recently with Kathryn Bigelow (love her films), women DO get recognition… when it is of quality work just like everyone else out there in the world. It is unfair to just pick women as "great filmmakers" for the sake of picking women. I'll give you an example, Sofia Coppola. She can make a decent film every now and then (personally I am not a fan of her work) but she gets plenty of recognition as a filmmaker and she is a woman. And by the way, these are people he thinks are great filmmakers, his subjective opinion and it doesn't have to match yours. I would like to know which women you would think deserve to be listed here as you have provided none.


Okay Melissa, since you're such an avid lover of women filmmakers, I challenge you to name TEN influential female filmmakers without having to search on Google.

I'll give you a head start with 3 names: (1) Jane Campion (2) Kathryn Bigelow (3) Leni Reifenstahl


An artist shouldn't have to cater towards anyone. Martin Scorsese is a brilliant filmmaker and to make him cave to the demands of "feminists" and other ideologies for the sake of political correctness is a sin. We create art so that we can explore all sorts of worlds and mindsets, and by creating a film like Wolf of Wall Street is bold and even praiseworthy, because it shows that Scorsese is going to give the audience an experience of immorality which leads us to to gain new perspectives on the meaning of such terms. This almost harkens back to Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange which was seen as dangerous and shocking in its portrayal of sexuality and violence, yet nonetheless gave audience goers a perspective and a harbinger on the nature of human mischief. The Wolf Of Wall Street is a similar piece on the nature of greed, and because it explicitly bombards us with a portrayal of women and sex, the movie is intended to sicken us of the character's guiltlessness of his heinous actions. The movie doesn't tell us how to feel about the subject, we are supposed to watch it and respond as humanly we can to it. That is how Scorsese's brilliance works with the counterpoint of glamorization to what the subtext really is.

Secondly, it is a shame that people judge a film like the Wolf of Wall Street without watching it. Art is supposed to be experienced up front. If you choose not to see it and then make claims about it, you are only perpetuating a generic ignorance and a lack of comprehension of the true nature of the piece. It is not wise to read a report on a film and then claim you know exactly what it means and what the filmmaker is saying (what you really know is what somebody else thinks with an injection of their own bias).

Finally, just because Scorsese writes a letter to his daughter mentioning a few specific names doesn't mean he doesn't show her movies by female directors. He is talking about a select few great filmmakers of today who have created brilliant films, nothing more, nothing less. The fact that you're reading into a part of the letter (literally a sentence) as some grand mantra of Scorsese's antagonism towards women is absolute baloney and nothing more than a lame overreaction based on some political agenda of yours.


While I think it's brilliantly made, I am no fan of "Wolf," because I feel that Scorsese was a just a tad too entranced with the gonzo-ness of it all and lacked sufficient critical distance on his subject matter. That includes the enthusiastic depiction of hookers, although of course that was part of the world he's portraying. But I do think it's unfair to slag him as unsupportive of female filmmakers. Some years back Scorsese hosted a screening I attended for Debra Granik's first feature "Down the Bone" (which preceded "Winter's Bone"); he was clearly a major fan of the film was using his influence to try and get both Debra and Vera Farmiga, in her first significant role, out in front of audiences. It's hardly his fault that the history of great cinematic achievement is dominated by men — and yes, white men — because that's simply a fact, whether anyone likes it or not, although of course many people wish the history were different, myself included. At the same time, a title by Jane Campion and another by Charles Burnett would've gone a long way to both remove the sting and improve his list.


I think it's amazing that all you White women have been in an outrage about Scorsese not naming any women but at the same time have just completely ignored the fact that he only named White people. This right here is White feminism in a nutshell. We're supposed to feel bad about you not getting equal oppurtunities but you couldn't care less about the marginalization of men and women of color. This article is such a joke.

& just as an fyi: I'm only trying to make a point about how hypocritical White feminists can be.
I'm not actually upset that Scorsese didn't name any women or poc because I'm pretty sure that he was talking about filmmakers that get to make creative films with a good amount of money behind them. There aren't many women or poc in that position. This isn't his fault, it's just a sad reality.

Christopher Strong

Oh No! Concern Troll (ie. Melissa Silverstein) is Concerned. I so tired of this. It's basically another example of Outrage Porn. Anyone can play that game: Why didn't Scorsese mention an appropriate ratio of African-American, Latino American, Native American & Asian American filmmakers in that letter? Why did he not have an appropriate ratio of French, Spanish, Mexican, Chilean, Canadian, Iranian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, British, Russian, German, Irish, Israeli, Australian, Indian etc. filmmakers? Reductio Ad Absurdum. This is what online cultural discourse has devolved into…Concern Trolling.

How many films has Melissa Silverstein made? What contributions to film restoration has Melissa Silverstein accomplished? How many independent & foreign films has Melissa Silverstein brought to US theaters?

Furthermore who is Melissa Silverstein to adjudicate what advice should be given in an open letter from Scorsese to his daughter? If she were in those same shoes, one would hope that random bloggers wouldn't attempt to pester and cajole and browbeat and badger and Concern Troll the living daylights out of those open letters solely for the page clicks and attention.

Obviously it's easier to attack someone for sins of omission (THAT YOU DECIDED ALL BY YOURSELF) than to actually CREATE something. She can go pound sand as far as I'm concerned.

Sonya Alexander

For God's sake, I wish people would leave this man alone. He has been directing high-testosterone, macho films forever. He did however do "The Age of Innocence." Did any of his usual fanbase come out and say the film was too soft? Don't think so. But, in this era of being ultra-PC, now everything gets picked apart. "Wolf of Wall Street" reminded me of some of the 80s films that portrayed excess and decadence, "Wall Street," "American Psycho," "Less Than Zero." It's a shame you won't allow yourself to see the film because of the way women are portrayed. What if they're being portrayed correctly? Why should he have to harness in his form of storytelling so he doesn't offend anyone?

I think the letter to his daughter is wonderful. He's not a female director and he's not obligated to be an advocate for women filmmakers. His films aren't things like "Steel Magnolias" or "The Notebook." Screenwriting #101 tells you to write what you know. Seems the same would apply to directing. Please leave this legendary director alone. It's bad enough that it took him so long to get an Oscar. All this knitpicking and tearing down someone's artform is sure sign of the times. And it's a sad one.


Thanks for speaking out, Melissa.


This was a very very good movie. Sorry you're unwilling to watch it due to the way women are portrayed. I wasn't offended, but I don't tend to try and find offense for the sake of an argument.


Thank you so much for this letter. I have often, throughout my life, been on the recieving end of baffled looks of friends when I haven't raved over the latest Scorsese film. Don't get wrong I like his films, but I've never been gobsmacked, bowled over, cowered by awe at after watching one of his movies. It took me a long time to realize that it's because I just don't connect with the hyper masculinity of his films. They are good films, but generally I'd rather watch something with at least some women (interesting non victim women). I hope that his daughter, who I imagine is an intelligent creature, will recognize this dearth in her father's films and his education of her and seek out the female directors he's overlooked. It's what I've been trying to do for myself for years.


I applaud you for speaking out. I too, am not seeing the movie. One only had to look at the trailer and that part with Jonah Hill telling a blonde model to shut up, that it was his money that she was taping to her breasts, to see that something was wrong here. They say it's just art, but think of how many 7 yr old boys and girls are going to see this because the majority of Americans are completely uncritical of the movies they see and let their children see. For that reason, there is some moral responsibility for film makers, at least those in the mainstream, which is totally lacking in Hollywood. Think about if we had a country where the art actually tried to inspire good things in people.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *