Cinema in 2021 has undoubtedly been marked by women filmmakers. This was made obvious at some of the world's biggest festivals, like Cannes and Venice, but also in the most coveted trophies like the Oscars and the Prix Lumière.
Women winning awards
The year started off nicely for Chinese filmmaker, Chloe Zhao. After winning the Golden Lion in Venice in 2020, she went on to take three Oscars for Nomadland: Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress for Frances McDormand. This was a historic victory for a film directed by a woman.
Nomadland is based on the 2017 nonfiction book "Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century" by Jessica Bruder.
The film tells the story of a woman who loses her long-term job due to a plant closure and her husband at the same time. She sells her belongings to purchase a campervan that she lives in and uses to travel and find work. The character, Fern, describes her situation as "houseless but not homeless".
Chloe Zhao is mainly known for her work on independent films, but she was hired by Marvel to direct its latest creation, Eternals, which was released in Autumn.
Postponed but not cancelled
The Oscars were postponed for two months this year and the Cannes Film Festival was also held later, in the month of July instead of May. The Cannes jury was headed by the American film director, Spike Lee, and it awarded the Palme d'Or to Titane by the young French director, Julia Ducournau.
On winning the award, Ducournau said that anyone who had won the prize before her must feel as she did: she doesn't think that a director can ever consider their films perfect. To her, the award really "pays tribute to the imperfections that are really the heart and energy of films."
Titane divided critics and audiences. The film depicts gender, violence and more and it gives a new dark and gory take on sexual identity. Positive critics have commended it for creating a different female perspective.
Women were also in the spotlight at the Venice film festival. French director, Audrey Diwan was awarded the top prize, the Golden Lion, for 'Happening', a film about a young student's impossible abortion attempts in 1960s France.
'Happening' keeps you gasping for breath for the protagonist, Anne, who is desperately trying to retain her independence. Set in the De Gaulle era and in a male-dominated time, this universal subject is magnificently interpreted by the Franco-Romanian actress, Anamaria Vartolomei.
Diwan herself said that she made the film "a bit like a scream, trying to see how far it would resonate". After winning the Golden Lion, she felt like she'd actually been heard.
A lifetime Achievement Award
In autumn in Lyon, the multi-talented filmmaker from New Zealand, Jane Campion, was awarded the Prix Lumière 2021. It's the French city's version of a Nobel Prize for cinema. At the ceremony, she paid tribute to the 7th art by saying she felt it made her life possible.
She explained that growing up with cinema really worked for her. She feels like the people working in the industry with their great imaginations "were answering the big questions of life, like why are we here? What's the possibility of loving? Who Am I? What's the future?"
In her latest film, The Power of the Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, she casts a female gaze on a brutal and macho cowboy hiding a secret. The film was released directly on Netflix in November.