I could have sworn, even before the poll, that the Top 10, or Top 100 Films would be, while entirely deserved, dominated by white Western women
Recently, I was invited by BBC Culture to participate in a worldwide poll to discover the Top #100FilmsByWomen. The poll included 368 film experts from 84 countries. It is very worthy effort to shine a light on women filmmakers—traditionally overlooked—worldwide. In India, the Women in Cinema Collective's PK Rosy Film Society has similar intentions. To no one's surprise, the poll was topped by Jane Campion's The Piano (New Zealand, No 1) and Agnes Varda's Cleo from 5 to 7 (France, No 2). The other films in the Top 10 (in descending order) are Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Claire Denis' Beau Travail, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, Vera Chytilova's Daisies, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann, Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank and Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust.
I could have sworn, even before the poll, that the Top 10, or Top 100 Films would be, while entirely deserved, dominated by white Western women. Even though they had film experts from every continent poll, including nations like India, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Chile and Zimbabwe.
Therefore, my Top 10, was intentionally a skewed list, based on the simple truth, that we have seen their films, but they have hardly seen ours, so there is no level playing field to begin with:
1. Salaam Bombay! by Mira Nair (Hindi, English; UK, India, France, 1988)
2. 36 Chowringhee Lane by Aparna Sen (English, Bengali; India, 1981)
3. Firaaq by Nandita Das (Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu; India, 2008)
4. Om Shanti Om by Farah Khan (Hindi, India, 2007)
5. Manjadikuru by Anjali Menon (Malayalam, India, 2008)
6. Silent Waters by Sabiha Sumar (Punjabi, Urdu; Pakistan, France, Germany, 2003)
7. The Apple by Samira Makhmalbaf (Farsi; Iran, France, Netherlands, 1998)
8. The Seen and Unseen by Kamila Andini (Bahasa Indonesia; Indonesia, Netherlands, Australia, Qatar, 2017)
9. Invoking Justice by Deepa Dhanraj (Documentary, Tamil; India, US, Japan, 2011)
10. Printed Rainbow by Gitanjali Rao (Animation short; no dialogues; India, 2006)
Each film is here on merit and after a lot of consideration of women filmmakers around the world, over the decades. Also, since the intention of the poll is to honour women filmmakers, I extended the logic further to include top films in various regional Indian and foreign languages, as well as documentaries and animation and short films. Beyond that, my choice is informed by the simple logic that if we don't stand up for our great Asian women filmmakers to be counted, no one else will.
Along with the glorious traditional greats like Jane Campion and Agnes Varda, the poll revealed brilliant women filmmakers worldwide whose work you can now put on your bucket lists, if you haven't seen them already. These include Nadine Labaki's Capernaum, Moufida Tlatli's The Silences of the Palace, Kira Muratova's The Long Farewell and Wanuri Kahiu's From A Whisper. In a previous BBC poll, Amitabh Bachchan was voted the greatest star of stage or screen, beating Robert De Niro, Sir Laurence Olivier and Marylin Monroe. This century may well belong to India and China. Perhaps it will soon be #TimesUp for the goras.
Meenakshi Shedde is India and South Asia Delegate to the Berlin International Film Festival, National Award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist.
Reach her at meenakshi.shedde @mid-day.com
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