I simply can’t think of any other female filmmaker who is as inspiring as Greta Gerwig. Of course, there’s a lot of equally talented women directors in Hollywood, headed by Chloé Zhao, Jane Campion and Kathryn Bigelow. What is special about Gerwig is that she managed to demonstrate to the critics and the viewers that stories about women deserve recognition and place at the award ceremonies.
While Bigelow proved that a woman can make great war films, mostly focusing on men and stereotypically targeted for the male audience, Gerwig showed that female cinema is for everyone. After all, both of her films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars tell coming of age stories of female characters. Lady Bird (2017) traces a complicated relationship between mother and teenage daughter, while Little Women (2019) concentrates on sisterhood, friendship and women’s hardships in 19th century America. Even though it’s been two years since Gerwig was snubbed at the Oscar nominations for Best Director, I’m still upset – shame on you, Academy. The fact that she still struggles to get well-deserved recognition shows how far we are from equality in the film industry.
I have absolutely no idea what to expect from her upcoming project, Barbie, but as soon as it’s released, I will run to the cinema (definitely not to see Ryan Gosling). Above all, Gerwig’s films bring much-needed freshness to male-dominated Hollywood. And we need her beautiful stories about women because as she said, “writing about something makes it important”.
International Women’s Day, like every day, is a day to celebrate all the women in our life: the ones who inspire us, the ones who are there for us and the ones who make us the women that we are. It feels only natural to celebrate the women in front of and behind our screens that have been all those things, even if some of them are fictional.
There are so many women behind the scenes and in front of the camera that show us not only is it women that run the world, but there are so many different stories and voices that unite us, and that should be told. From Emerland Fennel’s incredible portrayal of sexual assault in Promising Young Woman, Mindy Kaling and Nisha Ganatra’s breaking down of the patriarchal structures in late-night tv in Late Night, or the absolute classic Bend it Like Beckham, directed by Gurinder Chadha, these women show that there will always be stories and voices, and those are things that unite us.
And it’s not only the woman behind the camera or at the writing seat. I can only speak from personal experience but for me, female characters have formed who I am: Bridget Jones taught me it’s okay to be clumsy, Donna from Mamma Mia taught me the importance of female friendship and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter, which I’ve replicated with my own mum.
If I named every woman in film that formed a part of who I am and my relationships with other women, I would honestly be here all day – so all I’ll say is it’s these characters and people behind the screens that we need, and we need to keep telling our stories.
So happy International Women’s Day to all the wonderful women reading this. Whether you’re spending it with your nearest and dearest female friends or watching your favourite female-led or created films, remember you all have a story and we all want to hear it. To quote the masterpiece that is Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, spoken by the iconic Soarsie Ronan: "women, they have minds and they have souls, as well as hearts they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent as well as just beauty."
For me, director Greta Gerwig is a leading image in my mind for International Women’s Day and film. Although admittingly, I have only seen Little Women and Ladybird, she has left such a lasting impression on me not only as a woman as a whole, but as a woman who loves film. Ladybird, I feel, was a very relatable film for most women that grew up in the early 2000s. Gerwig really captured all areas of that life, down to romantic relationships, change in technology, growing up with money issues and that key mother-daughter relationship that, I feel up until this point, was quite romanticised in film.
For me, seeing this kind of mother-daughter relationship on screen, one that is completely loving yet so flawed, made my relationship with my own mother feel understood. I’ll admit, it made me cry quite a bit seeing it on my own television. As a female director, she carves a place for herself and other women in the film industry, alongside other legendary female directors such as Chloé Zhao (renowned for her Oscar-winning, Nomadland). Although Ladybird has now become a cult classic, and thus has a representation of being aesthetically empowered and niche, I still think that Greta Gerwig is a director that everyone should highly consider any day, but especially on International Women’s Day.
She’s of the last remaining stars of the Golden age of Hollywood, she’s one of the few performers to achieve EGOT status, and at 90 years old, she’s more alive than ever. This International Women’s Day I’d like to talk to you about the legend that is Rita Moreno.
Born in Puerto Rico in 1931, Rita Moreno has fought against Latina stereotype casting since her first role. More than sixty years after her breakout role as Anita in Westside Story, she’s still campaigning for better representation.
The Puerto Rican actress openly states that she dislikes most of her early roles as they were very stereotypical depictions of Hispanic women. She praised Gene Kelly's influence in casting her in Singin’ in the Rain, calling her experience working on the film and being cast in a non-stereotypical role a ‘privilege’ and an ‘amazing experience.’
After winning an academy award for her role in Westside Story, Moreno was disappointed that her roles hadn’t evolved. She stated she didn't make another movie for seven years after the role as all the auditions on offer were degrading and prejudiced; she returned to Hollywood years later, taking more control of her career.
But it’s not only her campaign for Latino representation and her talent in dancing, singing and acting that Moreno is inspiring, but her refusal to slow down as she dances (quite literally!) into her nineties.
Between 2017-2020 she portrayed Lydia Alvarez in the remake of One Day At A Time, a sitcom about a Cuban-American family living in Los Angeles. Norman Lear requested Moreno for the part, and she agreed on the condition that her character be ‘sexual’ and vibrantly full of life as a grandparent.
To this day, Moreno continues to act, sing and campaign for better representation of Latina women on screen, and hopefully, she will for years to come.