This course will examine the engaging and challenging works of four accomplished female directors whose films place women at the center of their respective dramas. Set across varied historical periods and locales, each presents a dilemma (personal or political) that confronts a female protagonist and carries repercussions for her and her community. These are women at a crossroads.
Belle (2013), directed by Amma Asante, is a British period drama inspired by the 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate mixed-race young woman, standing beside her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray at Kenwood House. Dido is the child of a slave and a Royal Navy Captain, and her story is an exploration of racism, classism, and sexism in 18th century England. Camila (1984), a subversive love story directed by María Luisa Bemberg, is based on historical accounts of 19th century Argentina and dramatizes a forbidden romance in a code-bound society, illustrating how the personal is political.
Anne Fontaine's The Innocents (2016) is inspired by the journal notes of Madeleine Pauliac, a young Red Cross doctor at the end of World War II who found herself in a situation fraught with moral and spiritual complexity. Set mostly in the close quarters of a monastery in Northern Poland, lit in a manner reminiscent of Italian Renaissance paintings, Fontaine's camera ventures out only to reveal the frozen landscape, a barren farm and a bleak village with orphaned children. Fish Tank (2009) is a contemporary British drama, written and directed by Andrea Arnold, about a volatile and socially isolated 15-year-old who lives with her self-centered single mother and combative younger sister. The film combines elements of melodrama and social realism in the manner of Ken Loach, but reveals a resilient and affirmative spirit—a quality shared by these bold directors and their films.