The 2019 Women’s Film Critic Circle (WFCC) awards winners

If you’re feeling disheartened by the latest Golden Globe nominations ignoring fantastic female filmmakers just take a look at the WFCC awards. Hopefully, you can find comfort in their celebration of women in film.

The Women’s Film Critic Circle is a group of 75 female critics and scholars. It was established 15 years ago in the belief that women’s perspectives in criticism need to be fully recognised.

­­They have members working at dozens of major and speciality outlets including Variety, Indiewire, Vogue and Senses of Cinema. It is the first national association of women critics (in the USA).

It was with much anticipation that the team at In Their Own League awaited the announcement of their 2019 winners as each year they vote on some of the best categories we’ve ever heard of.


What sets the WFCC awards apart is that they aren’t necessarily about choosing one overall winner and leaving all others with nothing. They allow ties and they appoint a runner up. It doesn’t take anything away from the winners but it allows for more films to be celebrated.

This approach makes the awards about celebrating great films and lifting each other up rather than identifying one single elite winner.

This year “Harriet”, directed by Kasi Lemmons, was the frontrunner winning four of the main awards – Best Movie About a Woman, Best Movie by a Woman, the Josephine Baker Award and the Karen Morley Award.

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” won three awards – Best Movie About Women, Best Foreign Film by or About Women, and Best Screen Couple, which it shared with “Marriage Story”.

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” also came runner up for Best Movie by a Woman and its director Celine Sciamma came runner up in the Best Woman Storyteller award for screenwriting.


Aside from the usual categories, there are a number of awards that celebrate films or people who affect social change. The Adrienne Shelly Award is for a film that most passionately opposes violence against women. This award is in stark contrast with the many films that use violence against women as a plot point to further a man’s narrative.

The Karen Morley Award is for the film which best exemplifies a woman’s place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity. What a wonderful and inspiring award, and one that honours realistic and inspirational portrayals of women. This year the award went to “Harriet”, directed by Kasi Lemmons.

The Josephine Baker Award honours a film which best expresses the experience of women of colour in America. With the disproportionate abundance of films about white people, this award is incredibly important. It helps to showcase films with realistic portrayals of women of colour and celebrates their representation on screen.

The Josephine Barker Award was given to “Harriet”, which was up against six other films in this category, including “Us” and “Queen and Slim”.


The WFCC Pauline Kael Special Jury Awards section includes the Invisible Woman Award which honours a supporting performance whose impact has been ignored. The runner up was Anna Paquin for her role in “The Irishman” and the winner was Janelle Monae for her role in “Harriet”.

little women

Adam Driver won Best Actor for his part in “Marriage Story” which also won for Best Equality of the Sexes and Best Screen Couple.

Jane Fonda, who at the age of 81 has been arrested on a weekly basis for protesting against inaction on climate change, won the Acting and Activism Award.

With such glacial progress across the rest of the awards season mark your calendar for the WFCC. It’s a wonderful celebration of positive representation of women on screen and female filmmakers.

Here is the full list of winners


Best Movie About Women
Winner – “Little Women” dir. Greta Gerwig
Runner Up – “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” dir. Celine Sciamma

Best Movie by a Woman
Winner – “Harriet” dir. Kasi Lemmons
Runner Up – “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” dir. Celine Sciamma

Best Woman Storyteller (for screenwriting)
Winner – Greta Gerwig for “Little Women”
Runner Up – Celine Sciamma for “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

Best Actress
Joint Winner – Cynthia Erivo in “Harriet”
Joint Winner – Lupita Nyong’o in “Us”
Runner Up – Renee Zellweger in “Judy”

Best Actor
Winner – Adam Driver in “Marriage Story”
Runner Up – Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker”

Best Foreign Film by or About Women
Winner – “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” dir. Celine Sciamma
Runner Up – “Atlantics” dir. Mati Diop

Best Documentary by or About Women
Winner – “Varda By Agnes” dir. Agnes Varda
Joint Runner Up – “Maiden” dir. Alex Holmes
Joint Runner Up – “Honeyland” dir. Tamara Kotevska and Ljubo Stefanov

Best Equality of the Sexes
Winner – “Marriage Story”
Runner Up – “The Aeronauts”

Best Animated Female
Winner – Anna in “Frozen 2”
Runner Up – Bo Peep in “Toy Story 4”

Best Screen Couple
Joint Winner – “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (Noemie Merlant and Adele Haenel)
Joint Winner – “Marriage Story” (Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver)
Runner Up – “Hustlers” (Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu)

Adrienne Shelly Award: For a film that most passionately opposes violence against women
Joint Winner – “The Nightingale” dir. Jennifer Kent
Joint Winner – “Bombshell” dir. Jay Roach
Runner Up – “Hustlers” dir. Lorene Scafaria

Josephine Baker Award: For best exressing the women of colour experience in America
Winner – “Harriet” dir. Kasi Lemmons
Runner Up – “Queen & Slim” dir. Melina Matsoukas

Karen Morley Award: For best exemplifying a woman’s place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity
Winner – “Harriet” dir. Kasi Lemmons
Runner Up – “Little Women” dir. Greta Gerwig

Acting and Activism Award
Winner – Jane Fonda

Lifetime Achievement Award
Alfre Woodard

The Invisible Woman Award: Supporting performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored
Winner – Anna Paquin in “The Irishman”
Runner Up – Janelle Monae in “Harriet”

Best Female Action Heroes(May be a collective, or social action rather than physical action)
Winner – Cynthia Eviro in “Harriet”
Runner Up – Keira Knightley in “Official Secrets”

Mommie Dearest Worst Screen Mom of the Year Award
Winner – Frances Conroy as Penny Fleck in “Joker”


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