Earlier this year, I set up a few film challenges for myself. The major one was watching 52 films by women - one film a week for a year.
I thought it'd be a pretty seamless challenge - find a movie every week and watch it. But it took quite a few different turns. Streaming services or rentals dropped a lot of titles before I got the chance to watch them, or movies I wanted to check out at random were difficult to find. More often than not, my work schedule took over my days and nights, so squeezing in time was tougher than it was a couple of years ago when I was mainly working from home. Covering the Athena Film Festival gave me a bit of an edge in Spring. But, my original list looks absolutely nothing with what it looks now.
Consciously trying to watch more films by a wide range of directors truly put into perspective just how much more movies (usually by male directors) are out there and easily available. Browse any genre across Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, etc. and it's dominated by one gender instead of a spectrum. That's not the same with films directed by women. Many don't get a second time to helm another feature, even if they're first is a financial success, making movie goers opportunities to find unique films in multiple genres extremely limited. Want to watch animated movie by a woman? They're out there, definitely, but harder to access.
Besides some of the cons, there were also pros. There is such a great variety of stories to be told. Every time a female director steps behind the camera, the representation on-screen and off becomes more normalized yet remains inspiring. Even if a film didn't land with me, I still appreciated knowing a female director was behind the camera and was putting a piece of her ideas and work or a female-lead out there, and to cover more ground with a focus on women of color, LGBTQ+ community, etc.
I didn't quite keep up with a side-goal to review every movie - as I just really lost my sense of writing this year. Anxiety became so bad that I restarted my letterboxd and deleted my other one. While I wish I could specifically talk about the movies I watched, my heart wasn't just in it beyond brief recaps of when I watched what.
One of the biggest habits that I have is waiting to watch a film when the time is right - whatever that means. But this challenge opened me up to watching movies that sounded interesting and just checking it out without putting any preface and expectations on the experience. I found that it gave me a lot more freedom to watch whatever I felt I was in the mood for, and not worry about whether it was good or bad, if I could write about it or not.
Out of the 52 films that I watched, these stood out to me the most: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Love and Basketball, Julia Scotti: Funny That Way, Test Pattern, Abominable, The Piano, But I'm A Cheerleader, A Vigilante, Miss You Already, Our Friend, and Shiva Baby.