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by Matthew Hammett Knott
December 20, 2012 11:33 AM
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Heroines of Cinema: An A-Z of Women in Film in 2012

U is for Ursula Meier
Though not a box office smash, one of the best-reviewed films of the year was Ursula Meier's "Sister". Since claiming the Silver Bear at Berlin in February, it has been picking up a steady stream of awards for its Swiss writer / director. By coincidence, Brenda Davis's harrowing childbirth documentary of the same name has been doing the festival rounds to similar acclaim.

V is for Valdis Oskardottir
She may not have been a big name as far as this year's releases were concerned, but one of my highlights of 2012 was the appearance of the legendary Icelandic editor of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" at the Reykjavik Film Festival. Her comments - which are transcribed here - gave short thrift to the many director egos she has had to deal with over the years, and make for highly refreshing reading.

W is for Women Audiences
Every year female audiences are ignored by studio executives, and every year they prove the market is there for the taking. It is a cliche to assume that all women want to watch romantic comedies, but it was a female demographic that drove Rachel McAdams weepy "The Vow" to a $125 million gross, despite being less than spectacular viewing. Meanwhile "Magic Mike", produced for just $7 million, took home $165 million, whilst the successes of "Breaking Dawn", "The Hunger Games" and "Brave" are documented above. Despite all this, the year's offerings as a whole continued to be dominated by deeply male-oriented fare.

READ MORE: Heroines of Cinema: Ten $100 million Hits Starring Women Over 50

Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, and Rosemarie DeWitt in "Your Sister's Sister"
X is for Project X
Anyone worried that misogyny was not alive and well in 2012 could do worse than watch "Project X", a grotesquely sexist and depressing sleeper hit. Imagine a film displaying a similar attitude by women towards men, and you realise how far we have to go.

Y is for Your Sister's Sister
Box office returns may have been modest, but writer / director Lynn Shelton delivered a compelling story and two brilliant, complex characters for stars Emily Blunt and Rosemary DeWitt, inspiring Gawker to nominate her as the "next great American director".

Z is for Zero Dark Thirty
Saving the best til last - if the critics are anything to go by - Kathryn Bigelow has succeeded in following up the Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker" with what many are calling a superior piece of work. The questions of gender that surround Bigelow and her ouevre are compelling and important, but Bigelow herself has always been understandably keen to be recognised as nothing other than a brilliant filmmaker. With "Zero Dark Thirty", it appears the battle has been conclusively won.

Matthew Hammett Knott is a London-based filmmaker and writer and contributor to Indiewire's Lost Boys blog. Follow him on Twitter.


  • Barbara Everett Heintz | December 31, 2012 4:56 AMReply

    Why is the over 60 yrs. of my lifetime have I never seen a story about: Southern Appalachia;s diasphora, the loss of agrarian farmers who were satisfied with independence and subsistence, but whose way of life was torn away from them, (Us), in the 20th century, when everyone knows about the dust bowl. We are the, "Hillbillies, " Bible Thumpers," and, "Crackers," and the white hicks in rust belt cities. My Hollywood winning 2012 festival book - First in its division, and Hon Mention in SF book festival 2012 needs a film reader who gives one damn about the deliverance of women and children who suffer the shards of our broken lives this day. Please, look at my book, "Pinkhoneysuckle," available on Amazon, Kindle Ready, and if you are not hooked by Chpt 2--6; I did not do my job. In Hollywood, I was advised to take my book to Sundance. My Santa Monica son, heading up the new film division of Amazon, the legal department and contracts said I need to make myself Known; How? But if I can get a person willing to risk taking my, "Woman's - Deliverance - Book," and turning it in to film; Then Amazon may want in, but my Harvard Law grad son is making me go the hard way for Amazon to be fair. Please, someone read, "Pinkhoneysuckle," and be prepared to face new material, truth, USA's 3rd world, and the bad things the Rust belt brought back to leave women and children more destitude. "Pinkhoneysuckle," By Barbara Everett Heintz, Amazon. I thank you so much. Barb Heintz

  • MHK | December 21, 2012 9:00 AMReply

    Just realised I forgot all about Haifaa Al-Mansour and "Wadjda" - great film, great director, great story. Consider it included!