With 2014 about to wrap up, here's a list of 14 feminist (and women or non-binary directed) films from 2014 (in alphabetical order).
Note: I have not had the pleasure of seeing all of these films (e.g. Selma), and this list was compiled with the help of cinephile friends. I included a link to a review for each film, if you'd like to learn more.
If you think I missed a film that deserves to be on this list, or included one that doesn't (what!), please sound off in the comments section (politely).
52 Tuesdays (Director: Sophie Hyde, Australia)
A coming-of-age drama about a sixteen-year-old girl adjusting to her mother's female-to-male gender transition, while exploring her own sexuality and gender identity with a boy, another girl, and a video camera. Despite Billie's curiosity and resentment (which is just as much about the fact that her mother sent her to live with her father during the transition as the transition itself), you never doubt that Billie loves James as much as she loved Jane. It's less about gender and more about family, and that moment we all have as kids when we begin to see our parents as people with lives outside of being our parents. Read the review.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Director: Ana Lily Amirpour, USA)
"Middle Eastern feminist vampire romance." Thank you, Ana Lily Amirpour. Read the review.
Advanced Style (Director: Lina Plioplyte, USA)
"Young women, you're going to be an old woman one day. Don't worry about it." In a society that tends to erase and marginalize women as they grow older (I'm looking at you, Hollywood), Advanced Style, a documentary about fashionable New York City women "between fifty and death", proves (not that this should NEED proving) that you can be fabulous at any age. Read the reviews.
Appropriate Behavior (Director: Desiree Akhavan, USA)
Akhavan also wrote and starred in this romantic dramedy about a woman "struggling to be an ideal Persian daughter, a politically correct bisexual, and a hip young Brooklynite." Appropriate Behavior's humour and sexually-honest scenes have attracted comparisons to Girls, and the film was endorsed by Lena Dunham. (If you have thoughts about comparisons to Dunham, comments section! I haven't read Lena's book, or watched past season one of Girls, and I'm not about to for the sake of a fourteen-item list I'm writing in my jammies on a Sunday, so I'm ill-equipped to reflect on this). Read the review.
The Babadook (Director: Jennifer Kent, Australia)
The Babadook is a psychological thriller about a young widow whose son insists that a monster is coming after them after she reads him a creepy-as-hell and apparently indestructible book called Mr. Babadook. This would have been a pretty great movie even without the monster (which is terrifying); the script is clever and honest in its portrayal of grief, depression, and motherhood, and the acting is terrific. I left afraid of coats, top hats, bare feet, closets, knives, children, homemade weapons, sleeping ... this is a movie that scared Stephen King and William Friedkin to the point of tweeting about it. Read the reviews.
Belle (Director: Amma Asante, USA)
Might be cheating, since this technically premiered in 2013 at TIFF. Don't care. This is one of the best romantic period dramas of recent years, based on a true story of Dido Belle, a mixed-race gentlewoman from 18th century Britain. Unlike a lot of films on this list, it's available to download on iTunes, and a great alternative to re-watching It's A Wonderful Life for the zillionth time. Read the reviews.
Beyond The Lights (Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood, USA)
The second film (in a row!) in this list starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Like Belle, Beyond The Lights earned good reviews across the board. A rising singing sensation is overwhelmed by the pressures of stardom and her controlling stage mother, and attempts suicide. She's saved by a handsome police officer and falls in love, despite pressure to put her career before her heart. If you're prone to getting All The Feels, watch this one with tissues. Read a review.
Drunktown's Finest (Director: Sydney Freeland, USA)
The debut feature by writer/director Sydney Freeland, Drunktown's Finest is a coming-of-age story about three Native Americans; a father-to-be (Jeremiah Bitsui of Breaking Bad), an adopted daughter seeking her biological family, and a transgender woman who dreams of becoming a model (played by Navajo actress Carmen Moore). Read the review.
Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger (Director: Sam Feder, USA)
This touching, funny portrait of author, performance artist, former Scientologist, activist, and "gender outlaw" Kate Bornstein covers everything from Kate's brush with Scientology, to her theories about gender and use of the word "tranny" and the criticism this has attracted, to her recent diagnosis of lung cancer. Read the review.
Obvious Child (Director: Gillian Robespierre, USA)
A potty-mouthed stand-up comedian (played by Jenny Slate, aka Mona Lisa from Parks and Recreation and one of the funniest people ever) has a one night stand with a "pee-farter" which may or may not have involved a condom that may or may not have been used properly, gets pregnant, and decides to have an abortion. Hitting the major rom-com tropes, from multiple meet-cutes to public speeches that probably should have been private speeches, this movie deserves to knock Knocked Up off your shelf (if you still have DVDs, and shelves for these DVDs). It's on iTunes, so grab some friends and some comfy socks, and prepare to laugh until you pee-fart yourself a little. Read the review.
Out In The Night (Director: Blair Dorosh-Walther, USA)
This documentary will make you so angry. And you should be angry. In 2006, seven women were stalked and harassed by a man who threatened to "f**k them straight". When they defended themselves, injuring their attacker, they were branded as a "gang" of "Killer Lesbians". Three accepted plea bargains, four fought charges of assault and attempted murder and were convicted. This is their story. Read the review.
Regarding Susan Sontag (Director: Nancy Kates, USA)
For the literature-loving feminists who make up approximately 100% of our blog readership, award-winning filmmaker Nancy Kates brings us a new documentary on the endlessly fascinating life and work of writer, public intellectual, and activist Susan Sontag (1933-2004). Read the review.
Rocks In My Pockets (Director: Signe Baumane, Latvia)
"A funny film about depression." Baumane explores her family's history of mental illness in this darkly comic and beautifully animated feature. "Like Baumane’s earlier shorts, the years-in-the-making Rocks in My Pockets is fiercely feminist. It opposes opportunity and responsibility, and questions why women should have to please people at the expense of their dreams." -- Alissa Simon, Variety. Read the review.
Selma (Director: Ava DuVernay, USA)
Based on the true story of the voting rights marches in the United States in the sixties. Selma had a limited release on December 25, and will have a wide release in early January. Please, please see this instead of streaming The Interview. Read the reviews.