Why are white, “open-minded,” “intellectuals” usually the gatekeepers to art house or auteur cinema?
Since the Era of Exploration and colonization, beginning in the early fifteenth century, the institutionalization of certain Western and ethnocentric ideas have been globally established and implemented.
The current politics that govern the modern world is centrally based on the various ideas that the Western world or “first world” acts as the core and the Global South or “second” and “third world” acts as the periphery areas surrounding the core. Known as the World Systems Theory, the structure of this theory proceeds to form the culture of the modern globalized society.
These ideas continue to reign over all realms within the modern world, including the politics of circulation and judgement of art and cinema.
Growing up I spent my weekends at home with my mother who would reminisce the days of her childhood by marathoning episodes of the 1960s TV show, That Girl on our DVD player. Little did I really know, was that one of my mother’s favorite childhood shows had changed the future of TV forever, and all the shows I watched when I was a kid would have never been the same without “That Girl.”
On my daily aimless perusing of IMDb I stumble upon article and article about all the celebrated directors of our time, and user compiled lists of “greatest directors ever.” One thing I found that all these lists tend to have in common is that all of these “legendary” directors are men. And not to mention when you google the terms “greatest directors” you’re immediately met with a scrolling banner of only white men.
In one of my film courses we were asked if we could name a female director and only about two or three students in my class of thirty could utter a name.
I’m not sure if this problem is seemingly glaring to anyone outside of the entertainment industry, since the audience only extends itself as far as viewing the final product. But that still does not lessen the severity of this issue of inequality. And to say that this is only an issue of the entertainment industry is looking at only a fraction of the entire problem.
The history of film is being taught to celebrate only these specific figures, without any room or consideration of greatness for someone else (namely a woman).
Women have been making movies for just as long as men have been, but that fact goes buried beneath the repeated and tired sentiments of praise for the same male directors. The lack of discussion of women directors only continues to solidify a stigma against women being directors.
The assumption that women haven’t been directing movies just gives an underlying impression of amateurism and displacement in their work.
If a woman’s place isn’t in the director’s seat, then it must be a man’s.
Much like the rest of our textbooks, a missed opportunity for female recognition always seems to be a symptom of our society’s study of history and art.
And if women aren’t immediately recognized as directors, how can women ever be recognized as auteurs?
There are many barriers for women to be successfully recognized and celebrated as being innovative in creating films without being discredited and even labeled as an amateur filmmaker just because they aren’t male. And let’s face it, it’s only because women as a whole gender have never had any experience professionally directing and even if they did those films would only be “chick movies”! (cue eye-roll).
To be plain, without any hinge of satire, I’m so tired of only celebrating white male directors as geniuses and auteurs.
Sure, their work is innovative and different, but can we take the same amount of time to appreciate female (as well as people of color) directors just as much?
Featured image: Sofia Coppola by Liliane Yidan