Runtime: 94 minutes
Director: Amy Adrion
Stars: Ava DuVernay, Lynn Shelton, Kasi Lemmons, Miranda July, Karyn Kusama, Nisha Ganatra, Brenda Chapman, Joey Soloway, Gina Prince-Bythewood, and more.
By Rosa Parra
For August, In Their Own League decided to focus on women in action. I decided to twist it by emphasizing the “action” uniquely, directing. After watching “Half the Picture” (2018) by Amy Adrion, I was inspired to give a deserving spotlight to women who are taking action to increase the representation of women behind the camera; those same women who call “action!” for their films.
“Half the Picture” is a documentary focusing on the female directors in Hollywood, providing statistics to put things in perspective. For example, out of 1114 directors, only 45 women-directed films made the top-grossing list in the past ten years. The representation gets lower with women of color, who comprise 19.8% of the U.S population yet make up merely 0.006% of film directors. Let that sink in for a bit.
Some of the directors interviewed are Gina Prince-Bythewood, Ava DuVernay, Lynn Shelton, Joey Soloway, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, Kasi Lemmons, Karyn Kusama, Nisha Ganatra, Patricia Riggen, Patricia Cardoso, Brenda Chapman, and Catherine Hardwicke, to name a few. They dive into why women face difficulties getting into Hollywood, and for those who do get in, why can’t they stay to have careers similar to their male counterparts.
We live in a patriarchal society where women are regarded as members of a second class, whose sole purpose is to serve men. Cultural upbringing, including media, television, and film has influenced female representation onscreen and off. We’ve all grown to associate women with fragility and nurturing, an image not equivalent to a film director. The white heterosexual male lens has predominantly depicted women as sex objects or attending to the family. Years of unconscious biases are enhanced by gender roles affecting the underrepresentation of Hollywood directors. However, female directors are represented at a slightly higher percentage in the independent film arena, indicating bigger studios continue to gatekeep women out of making big-budget films.
It’s no secret we live in a misogynistic society, and many companies — particularly Hollywood studio — are patriarchal. Sadly, this hierarchy brings assumptions and biases as to what women are capable of creating. Some men refuse to take orders from a woman. I was bothered to hear testimonies from directors who experienced several encounters. Another theme women must confront is family. Why are women being asked about raising a family in interviews? Are mothers less creative? Or perhaps it’s unconscious bias thinking mothers are only “stay a home” moms (those same characters seen in films and television). Are men asked the same questions? If not, why? This topic struck a chord with me because I’m a mother. I don’t think I’m less creative for having children; if anything, motherhood brings a different perspective to any project. This lens is not typically seen in movies because mothers are rarely allowed to direct.
A recently published article presented the film critic sphere, and once again, men outnumber their female counterparts. “Half the Picture” takes a quick glimpse into these statistics, and they’ve learned this to be another obstacle for female directors. Women are an essential demographic of the movie-going audience, and if there aren’t female critics to provide their insights through the same lens, then the film may not be interpreted as it was meant to be.
Women are 50% of the world population, yet we are significantly underrepresented in many film industry areas. I’m not advocating for women to be hired simply for being women, but rather to give them the opportunity to showcase their creative abilities. Women can direct a billion-dollar film; women can star in a billion-dollar film, women are more than sexual partners, wives, mothers, and daughters. We can create our stories and bring them to life. Needless to say, this documentary is a must-watch. For #WomeninAction month, I’d like to bow down to all the women in the film industry fighting for representation. To the directors who never gave up and continued pushing, thank you. To all the aspiring directors, don’t let these statistics hold you back. Lastly, remember one thing: don’t let anyone dictate your abilities based on your gender.