It’s International Women’s Day this weekend, which you’d think presents an easy enough opportunity for streaming sites to promote a timely season or two: a selection of feminist films, or key works by female film-makers, and so on. Yet there doesn’t appear to be much out there. Perhaps marketing films by and about 50% of the world’s population for a single day strikes the big guns as unnecessary; perhaps it doesn’t occur to them at all. Yet at a time when, on balance, even major female directors’ films tend to be harder to track down online than those by their male counterparts, it seems worth doing some curating on one’s own.
Mubi is the one site marking the occasion, streaming Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s elegant, empowering coming-of-age tale Mustang as their International Women’s Day pick – though their rotating menu, to be fair, is more conscientiously inclusive than most. Right now, for example, you can stream Little Joe director Jessica Hausner’s meticulously ambiguous spiritual fable Lourdes, Claire Denis’s untamed, sensualist sci-fi High Life or Belgian director Isabelle Tollenaere’s short The Remembered Film, an inventive soldier study blurring and overlapping multiple wars, from their selection.
Over to Netflix, which last year took a significant step by adding Films Directed by Women to its range of searchable genre categories: hardly a genre in itself, admittedly, but a useful shortcut for those looking to break out of their predominantly patriarchal viewing diet. The films most prominently highlighted under this banner aren’t deep cuts – at the moment, Greta Gerwig’s universally beloved Lady Bird, the original To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and the fine Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana get the top spot. It’s also a handy reminder of just how many celebrated Netflix Originals have been female-directed, ranging from Mati Diop’s mesmerising postcolonial ghost story Atlantics to Tamara Jenkins’s acutely observed marital drama Private Life to Kitty Green’s ingenious, form-busting documentary Casting JonBenet.
As you scroll down, less expected highlights show up, including Beach Rats, recent Berlinale winner Eliza Hittman’s rawly moving study of unarticulated male queerness, and Fast Color, a beautifully conceived fantasy from director Julia Hart that bypassed UK cinemas to show up very quietly online. Suitable for older kids and their parents, its story of a supernaturally abled young woman (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) turning to her estranged mother and daughter for shelter – as shadowy pursuers seek to exploit her powers – reshapes superhero lore for a more diverse real world.
Finding less contemporary essentials from female directors, however, entails a bit more hunting. Beyond its fascinating silent-film omnibus Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers, which I’ve singled out before, Netflix is unsurprisingly not the place. Last year, the BBC took a large global critics’ poll to determine the 100 best films by women. It’s a useful starter canon, but it’s surprising how many high-ranking titles on the list – including Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, Larisa Shepitko’s The Ascent and Barbara Loden’s Wanda – are unavailable to stream in the UK.
At least you can head to the BFI Player to see Věra Chytilová’s head-scrambling, path-breaking dadaist freakout Daisies from 1966, which has gained an ardent following over the years: you couldn’t spend International Women’s Day in any trippier a way. And while the work of trailblazing Hollywood actor-director Ida Lupino still gets less of a profile than it deserves, her riveting, razor-cut 1953 film noir The Hitch-Hiker – widely credited as the first in the genre to be directed by a woman – is free to stream on Amazon Prime. Perfectly curt, crisp and nasty at 71 minutes, it’s a bracingly clear-eyed gaze at the evil men do. And if you’ve never seen Jane Campion’s The Piano, a still-luminescent brute beauty that topped the BBC’s poll to no one’s surprise, iTunes can fill that gap. Still, the streaming world could be doing more to lift women’s voices, past and present.
New to streaming & DVD this week
(Warner Bros, 15)
It fizzled in cinemas, but Mike Flanagan’s stylish, shivery sequel to The Shining isn’t the misguided folly it sounds like on paper. It’s a tribute that gradually cultivates its own meditative mood.
Sorry We Missed You
Ken Loach’s furious snapshot of Britain’s zero-hours economy and its human casualties is politically pointed as ever, but dramatically he’s off form, with flat characters feeling subservient to the message.
The kitsch hypermasculinity of Roland Emmerich’s cotton-brained second world war epic gives it a certain camp zest – whole passages of it look like Tom of Finland for kids – but it does go on a bit.
This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our journalism is independent and is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative. By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that third-party cookies will be set. More information.