It’s telling that, despite a year of stunning releases by women in the director’s chair, when the Oscar nominees were announced this year, films directed by women were notably absent. Omitted from the Best Director lineup entirely, the efforts of filmmakers like Gina Prince-Bythewood, Carla Simon, Sarah Polley, Charlotte Wells and many, many more felt like a rebuke of the efforts to increase visibility and recognition for women in film in recent years. It’s a setback at odds with the back-to-back wins of Jane Campion and Chloe Zhao in recent Oscar ceremonies. It’s also a reminder that, even with advances in women-led films in the twenty-tens and twenties, there is a long way to go.
In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, Rialto Channel’s The Female Lead presents a range of essential stories with women front and centre, both in front of and often behind the lens. Throughout the month, there are some wonderful premieres. My pick for must-see is Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria, a mysterious and astonishing piece of cinema starring Tilda Swinton that is not to be missed. As well as this, there is a retrospective of one of the finest actresses of her generation, Juliette Binoche, premiering a new film every Friday night in March. Most essential to catch is Three Colours: Blue, part of Krysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy; Code Unknown, the brilliant and deeply disturbing vision of modern France from Austrian master Michael Haneke; and Certified Copy, the transcendant international debut of Abbas Kiarostami, who might just be the greatest filmmaker who ever lived.
To mark International Women’s Day 2023, Rialto Channel has compiled an eclectic and thrilling lineup of films that focus on the experiences and interiority of women. From the worlds of politics, art, cuisine and culture, the films represent a litany of viewpoints and trailblazing successes.
Among the documentaries on offer throughout the month are Julia, which explores the life of culinary icon Julia Child; The Princess, the most comprehensive documentary on the life of Princess Diana you’re likely to see; and New Zealand film Frocks and Divas, capturing the biennial event that celebrates women’s talents from across Aotearoa. Premiering on International Women’s Day itself is Pelosi’s Power, part of the ongoing PBS Frontline documentary series.
Frontline has been a fixture in American reporting for decades now, with almost 800 individual episodes on a range of subjects. Pelosi’s Power is a part of the Frontline’s house style – talking heads, reams of archival footage, detailed interviews – with the focus being Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House leader and political figure who has been intimately involved with a range of governments both Democrat and Republican. The film begins breathlessly and with great intent, diving headfirst into the attempted insurrection by pro-Trump protesters on January 6th 2021, storming the Capitol Building while members of Congress were still inside. Pelosi’s Power presents this moment as a kind of Rosetta Stone for Pelosi’s entire career, in which her ideals and political savvy comes up against a stubborn buttress of right-wing sentiment. Pelosi’s Power takes this catalyst and builds outward, covering much of Pelosi’s political career and attempting to decode the person beneath the title. Pelosi is an uncharacteristically mysterious figure for one of such powerful standing – arguably the most powerful woman in America on a number of occasions, her intentions and underlying beliefs can often be murky or hard to parse beyond the headlines. Frontline does well to trace the roots of her efficiency and ability to move within the corridors of power, as one who has been part of an American family intimately involved with power throughout her life.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Pelosi’s Power is in the presentation of a person whose idealism in the American system has been routinely whittled down by a corrupt and stubborn Republican body. The film presents an early days version of Pelosi attempting across-the-line dealing with Republicans, then details the many ways in which the opposing party betrayed, outright lied, and attempted to humiliate Pelosi across the years, culminating in Trump’s outward aggression toward Pelosi during his Presidency. It’s a reminder of the inherent sexism that remains even in the highest corridors of power, even as Pelosi’s Power skimps on criticism of Pelosi herself in key moments. It’s a fascinating and hearty centrepiece of The Female Lead’s roster.
The Female Lead premieres every Wednesday throughout March at 8:30pm on Rialto Channel.
The Female Lead - Rialto Channel
Movie title: The Female Lead - Rialto Channel
Movie description: To mark International Women’s Day 2023, Rialto Channel has compiled an eclectic and thrilling lineup of films that focus on the experiences and interiority of women. From the worlds of politics, art, cuisine and culture, the films represent a litany of viewpoints and trailblazing successes.
Date published: March 2, 2023