Women and Film

"The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story." – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author

The 77th Venice Film Festival concluded on Saturday with Ann Hui, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent directors, making history by becoming the first female Chinese director to be honoured with a Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award. She is known for her honest portrayals of ordinary women and family life and it is heartening to see her stories win esteemed recognition. With film festivals around the world cautiously taking place and cinemas across Hong Kong back open for business, it’s a good time to talk about women and film.

The industry is taking small steps in the right direction, with more stories about women being told and more female leads than we have ever seen before. There is a welcome effort to address how women are objectified on screen, including gratuitous nudity and sex scenes.

Behind the scenes, the number of female directors and producers is growing, but there is a long way to go before we hit parity and comprehensive changes still need to be made. We have seen extensive coverage around the gender pay gap disparity among actors, and the 2018 #MeToo movement spotlighted the issue of sexual violence.

As consumers, it’s important to support films with female leads, directors and producers. Here are 5 movies that focus on female perspectives that TWF recommends: 

The Way We Are (2009), directed by Ann Hui, tells the story of a hardworking, widowed, single mother in Tin Shui Wai.

Misbehaviour (2019) tells the true story of the 1970 Miss World beauty contest and the feminist activists who disrupted it.

RBG (2018) is a documentary of the exceptional life and career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice and cultural icon. 

Kim Ji-young: Born 1982 (2019) the story of an ordinary woman facing gender discrimination which reignited tensions in South Korea.

The Glorias (2020), directed by Julie Taymor, explores the life of Gloria Steinem through the women and men who inspired her. 

Traditionally hyper-male, the superhero genre is also moving forward. After last year’s Captain Marvel, the first female lead in the Marvel franchise, 2020 sees 3 superhero movies with female leads and directors: Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman 1984 and Black Widow. James Bond is getting updated too, with Lashana Lynch playing 007 for part of the film and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the writer’s chair. These films are not perfect, but it is a start.

At TWF we love film. It has the capacity to connect us, to make sense of ourselves and reflect our world but also enables us to consider new ways of thinking and create a different one. Film can reinforce stereotypes but it can also completely disrupt them and lead the way for change. We use long and short films at TWF to tell stories that inspire change. Our award-winning SheObjects documentary was a first of its kind in Hong Kong in 2016 featuring an all-female team. Other campaigns – #MyRealCareerLine#FlippingtheScript and #MakePeopleCount – combine the power of visual storytelling with strategic action.

Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.


Written by

The Women's Foundation