Film by: Men

After visiting with women in managerial jobs, and the apparent stall in their progress – and the idea of mandating equal representation at the top of the corporate ladder (as in France and Norway) – here’s something on the cultural side: movies.

On receiving her lifetime achievement award at the Women in Film and Television Awards, Dame Helen Mirren paused to comment on sexism in the film industry:

Women represent half of the population and I want to see as many female roles as there are male roles, because at the moment the balance is very unfair. … My God, it’s changed, but it hasn’t gone nearly far enough. … It’s incredible to see now the number of women in producing and writing, and I’ve worked with wonderful female assistant directors, but I want to see more women behind the camera because in my experience there are not enough female cinematographers and that’s an area we have to keep working on.

There is extreme gender disparity in the production of top movies, as we learn in the regular reports from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. And she’s right about cinematographers in particular. The latest report on the top 250 movies of 2008 shows that just 4% had female cinematographers – unchanged from 10 years earlier.

The numbers are bleak, and not showing much in the way of long-term progress. As we get ready to look back at the decade in film, what does the industry have to show for itself? According to the Women and Hollywood blog, Hollywood Reporter‘s top ten movies of the decade list doesn’t include any directed by women. FYI, they are:

1- Letters from Iwo Jima

2-United 93

3- No Country for Old Men

4- The Fog of War

5- 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

6- Far From Heaven

7- Divine Intervention

8- Cache

9- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

10- The White Ribbon

If my interpretation of photos and names is correct, that top movie of the decade, Letters from Iwo Jima, has a cast that is only 8% female (4 out of 58 named, only one of whom has a name other than “woman,” “wife,” or “mother”). Like that other war-related classic, First Blood, a.k.a Rambo – which had only one woman, “woman on street.”

The list-makers have their own problems, of course.

(Someone who doesn’t have two children under 6 might be in a better position to nominate female-directed films of the last 10 years. Some of my favorites missed the cutoff by a little [Boys Don’t Cry, directed by Kimberly Peirce in 1999] or not so little [Daughters of the Dust, directed by Julie Dash in 1991]. Lost in Translation, directed in 2003 by Sofia Coppola, is a legitimate contender, though legacy achievements by women are in a special category. I’m open to suggestions.)

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