Interview: Scarecrow Video Chats About Their Favorite Films of 2021 Directed by Women

By Joan Amenn

It’s already that time of year when film fans start compiling lists of their favorites and the great team at Scarecrow Video are jotting them down and checking them twice. We got to sit down with Emalie Soderback and Kevin Clarke from Scarecrow’s fun YouTube program, “VIVA PHYSICAL MEDIA!” which you should definitely check out (VIVA PHYSICAL MEDIA episode 28 – YouTube) and Development Director John O’Connor. Scarecrow, for those who don’t know, has a collection of over 130,000 titles available to rent in the Pacific Northwest and they are focusing on expanding their access so that film lovers across the US can discover, learn and enjoy. (You can read more about the origins of Scarecrow here

While the pandemic brought a renewed appreciation of physical media, Scarecrow has seen a very busy year of fundraising to update their online rental system and adapt to the challenges of offering both virtual and in-person events to their customers. We were delighted they found the time to talk to us about some of their favorite films directed by women for 2021, some of which are already available in physical media form.

Hi everyone! Let’s talk about you and your favorite films directed by women this year.

Kevin: My favorite movie of the year-I think Emalie and I, one of our favorite movies of the year is “Shiva Baby” directed by Emma Seligman. I talked to John about it and he said it made him very uncomfortable, not that he didn’t like it.

John: It was like “Uncut Gems” (2019) for social anxiety. I loved it. I though it was great but I don’t think I could watch it again, just because of how it made me feel which is just a testament to how effective it was.

Kevin: And it’s on physical media! I have the box right here, because you know, that’s our thing. (Editor’s note: It really IS their thing.) Another favorite is “Titane” and it’s not out on physical media yet but it’s just an indescribable movie. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in the last decade.

Emalie: It’s a particular type of body horror. It was a painful watch, but it was also a beautiful film.

Kevin: It’s a step forward for horror movies. It’s not just copying Cronenberg, it’s doing its own thing.

Emalie: Yeah, it takes on gender identity and body dysmorphia and how that can be a horrifying thing.

Kevin: Also, I just caught up with “Nomadland” which I thought was really great. I just wanted to mention two physical releases that weren’t for this year but came out on Criterion this year, which are “Love and Basketball” (2000) and “Working Girls” (1986). Both excellent movies by women directors.

Emalie: I watch a lot of horror and thrillers so I want to give a shout out to “The Stylist” directed by Jill Gevargizian. It is a really good quiet slasher about this woman who is a hair stylist who winds up murdering her clients, particularly one who is a very picture-perfect kind of influencer type who is preparing for their wedding. It’s a good commentary on the social pressures on women to fit into certain boxes about the way they look. I thought it was really great. Then I also have “Rogue” directed by M.J. Bassett and Megan Fox is in it. I think this one really got overlooked but she is a mercenary who leads a team to rescue a group of girls who are being trafficked. They wind up trying to survive enemy insurgents and wild animals that were also being trafficked. I also watched a film at North Bend Film Fest this year that hasn’t gotten a physical release yet and I hope it does soon. It’s called ‘Superior” by Erin Vassilopoulis. It’s a psychological thriller; kind of David Lynch-y and Brian DePalma neo-noir about these estranged twins who come back together and start to impersonate each other.

John: Well, I really liked “Zola” a lot directed by Janicza Bravo. It’s Florida in a bottle but it’s really creative and refreshing storytelling. It’s based on an epic Twitter thread about strippers, kidnapping, guns and violence and none of it is probably true. It’s a fun story that pivots between humor and mayhem and menace and back to humor again. It’s a really fun ride. I liked “Censor” a lot by Prano Bailey-Bond. It’s a horror film but I enjoyed it way more because of the lead (Niamh Algar) who plays a woman in the ‘80’s who has to censor video nasties in the UK. The film really nails ambiguity, which is hard to do. It’s not frustrating, it feels necessary to drive the tension of the film and it has a great ending. I like “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” by Marilyn Agrelo. It’s not groundbreaking. It’s very formulaic but the focus on how “Sesame Street” got started, the depiction of people getting together to do a good thing is just so life-affirming. It’s got good interviews, original footage and I was so happy when it was done.

Thank you to everyone at Scarecrow Video for all of your recommendations. As a not for profit, Scarecrow relies on donations in addition to rental fees for their videos to keep them going. If you can, please consider chipping in here at their annual Giving Tuesday fundraiser so that they can continue to grow their accessibility to film lovers everywhere.


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