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10 New Films Directed by Women to Stream During Women’s History Month

You may not believe it judging by the most recent Academy Awards, but 2018 was a strong year for films directed by women. From indies exploring youthful creativity and paternal abandonment to blockbusters about losing your virginity, last year’s films challenged, shocked, and delighted viewers.

Women unfortunately still make up about only 4.3% of all directors, and their absence from the Golden Globes and Oscars shows there’s still a lot more work to do in recognizing their contributions. So for women’s history month, let’s show these works some love. All of them can be found streaming right now!

Leave No Trace

Directed by Debra Granik

Shot in the forests of Oregon, Leave No Trace is a quiet, moving film that’s as much a love letter to the outdoors as it is a meditation on familial love. Will, an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD, is content to live off-the-grid in a national park with his daughter Tom, away from the noise and bustle of the city. When a simple mistake throws their way of life into chaos, it’s up to both of them to figure out just what they’re willing to give up to remain happy.

Available on: Amazon Prime

Blockers

Directed by Kay Cannon

Blockers is a surprising film. With a premise like “three parents attempt to stop their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night,” one would expect a shallow, raunchy, perhaps sexist film. But Cannon’s film makes this wild premise pretty thoughtful and almost tender. It manages to explore teen girl and adult friendships, consent, feminism, and queer identity all while, yes, featuring a scene where John Cena sticks something unmentionable up his butt.

Available on: Hulu

First Match

Directed by Olivia Newman

Based off her 2010 short by the same name, Newman’s First Match is a searing film. Elvire Emanuelle stars as Monique, a girl who’s had to claw her way up from a lifetime of disappointments to survive. After getting kicked out of another foster home and running into her father (who didn’t tell her he was out of prison), Mo joins the all-boys wrestling team. It’s a ploy to win her father’s approval, and it’s up to Mo to either take the second chances that are given to her or be sucked into her father’s orbit.

Available on: Netflix

The Rider

Directed by Chloé Zhao

Zhao’s film is based on (and stars) a real-life cowboy who suffered head trauma after a near-fatal riding accident. Playing the fictional version of himself, Brady Jandreau’s lead performance is arresting as he tries to figure out what to do now that his main passion and identity have been stolen from him. Featuring a cast of non-actors, the film is as sparse as it is authentic. It’s an interesting window into reservation life as well as a soft examination of what masculinity really means.

Available on: Amazon Prime

Shirkers

Directed by Sandi Tan

Shirkers is marked by a distinct sense of bitterness and tragedy. The film unravels the real life mystery of a project that broke apart a friendship. At the age of 19, Tan, alongside Jasmine Ng and Sophia Siddique, was determined to create Singapore’s first indie film that involved the local community. It’s a project that held the promise of stardom and opportunities for the young women—that is, until, their film teacher Georges Cardona made off with the footage. It’s a frustrating tale of hubris and the stifling of the female creative.

Available on: Netflix

You Were Never Really Here

Directed by Lynne Ramsay

Ramsay’s first film since 2011 is a brutal, gory affair that’s less concerned with a unique plot than it is with creating a character study and examining cycles of violence. The film follows Joaquin Phoenix’s mostly silent Joe as he rescues young women from sex trafficking rings, cares for his ailing mother, and contemplates suicide. The film feels like you’re rattling around in Joe’s head for 88 minutes; while Nina, a girl he saves, provides some light in the darkness, it’s a challenging, but artistic and deftly shot film.

Available on: Amazon Prime

The Kindergarten Teacher

Directed by Sara Colangelo

In The Kindergarten Teacher, Maggie Gyllenhaal deftly plays Lisa, a kindergarten teacher frustrated by her life, technology, and society’s disconnect from the arts. When Lisa discovers her student Jimmy is a literary prodigy, she begins to pass his poetry off as her own. In Jimmy she sees an opportunity for a different life, and as Lisa bounces back and forth between mentor and manipulator, so do we become increasingly uncomfortable at the lengths she’s willing to go.

Lionheart

Directed by Genevieve Nnaji

Optioned by Netflix ahead of its debut at TIFF, Nigerian superstar Nnaji both directs and stars in this film about honoring family legacies. When her father falls ill, it’s up to Nnaji’s Adaeze to deal with workplace sexism and lead the family business. Lionheart’s greatest strength is Nnaji herself, who keeps propelling the film forward when an otherwise predictable plot threatens to weigh it down. Lionheart gives a taste of the kind of interesting works coming out of Nollywood right now.

Available on: Netflix

They

Directed by Anahita Ghazvinizadeh

They is Iranian director Ghazvinizadeh’s first feature and tells the story of J, a 14-year-old on the cusp of puberty who uses they/them pronouns and is trying to figure out how they identify. Notable for casting a trans actor in the lead, the film is a dreamlike exploration of gender identity. Lacking the structure it perhaps needed to make it more mainstream, it is still a lovely portrait of a young person taking space to discover themselves.

Available on: Amazon Prime

Madeline’s Madeline

Directed by Josephine Decker

The best way to absorb Madeline’s Madeline is to consider it a character study. The film centers around newcomer Helena Howard, a force of nature who caught Decker’s eye while at a New Jersey arts festival. It is tough to always tell what’s going on in the film, but Howard’s acting is worth checking out here, as it’s clear she’s a fantastically mesmerizing actress who deserves to sink her teeth into more roles.

Available on: Amazon Prime

Image: Netflix

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