Nov 2, 2014

Update: How many women filmmakers are represented on the National Film Registry?

"How many women filmmakers are represented on the National Film Registry?"

The question was addressed here nearly five years ago, when the answer was something like 31 out of 525.  As we await the December 2014 naming of the next Registry entries, below is an updated list of 39 titles on the master list of 625 films "registered" from 1989 through 2013. Still about 6% of the total.

The issue of authorship and representation is of course not a simple one. Conventionally, most films have one director, but some have two or more. In independent, experimental, animation, or documentary sectors, the term director is sometimes not used at all. Official credits might say "A film by . . . ". Even if we accept that a director is a film's auteur, we know of cases in which a producer, screenwriter, animation team, performer, or even an uncredited person is better understood as the creative force behind a work. 

The Registry entry "Martha Graham Early Dance Films, 1931-1944" is a case in which the director criterion is less relevant. The four titles included in that entry do not have conventional filmographic credits. For at least one, Lamentation (1943), the solo director's credit is for the cinematographer; but the evidence is clear that there were two cinematographers (husband and wife), and that the extensive photo documentation of Martha Graham dancing "Lamentation" was done by Hera Moselsio. However, clearly the Registry is recognizing the artistry of choreographer-dancer Martha Graham at least as much as (and probably more than) the four short films themselves.  

For several films on the list below, published accounts have, more often than note, omitted a woman's co-directing credit in favor of attributing the film to the male director(s). Grass (1925), for example, is typically attributed to the duo of Cooper & Schoedsack. Little Fugitive (1953) to Morris Engel. A Time for Burning to William C. (or Bill) Jersey (as on the official LOC NFR website, and the Wikipedia entry). Frank Film (1973) to Frank Mouris. Rarely is the opposite true, as when Meshes of the Afternoon is more often attributed solely to Maya Deren.


1. Matrimony's Speed Limit (1913) Alice Guy Blaché
2. Mabel’s Blunder (1914) Mabel Normand
3. The Curse of Quon Gwon (1916) Marion Wong
4. Where Are My Children? (1916) Lois Weber
5. Grass (1925) Merian C. Cooper, Ernest Schoedsack, and Marguerite Harrison
6. The Forgotten Frontier (1930) Marvin Breckinridge
7. A Study in Reds (1932) Miriam Bennett
8. Trance and Dance in Bali (1936-39) Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson
9. Cologne: From the Diary of Ray and Esther (1939) Ray Dowidat and Esther Dowidat
10. Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort, SC (1940) Zora Neale Hurston and Jane Belo
11. Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) Dorothy Arzner
12.   Men and Dust (1940) Lee Dick
13. Tarantella (1940) Mary Ellen Bute
14. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid
15. Martha Graham Early Dance Films (1931-1944), includes Lamentation (1943) Simon Moselsio and Herta Moselsio. Herta is not credited in most accounts, but she operated one of the two cameras.
16. In the Street (1948) Helen Levitt, James Agee, and Janice Loeb
17. The Hitch-Hiker (1953) Ida Lupino
18. Glimpse of the Garden (1957) Marie Menken
19. Little Fugitive (1953) Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, and Ruth Orkin
20. The Hole (1962) John Hubley and Faith Hubley
21. The Cool World (1963) Shirley Clarke
22. Through Navajo Eyes (1966) Maxine Tsosie & Mary Jane Tsosie; Susie Benally; and Alta Kahn made films in the series collectively known as Through Navajo Eyes.
23. A Time for Burning (1966) Barbara Connell and Bill Jersey
24. Growing Up Female (1971) Julia Reichert and Jim Klein
25. Frank Film (1973) Caroline Mouris and Frank Mouris
26. Antonia: Portrait of a Woman (1974) Judy Collins and Jill Godmilow
27. The Buffalo Creek Flood (1975) Mimi Pickering
28. Hester Street (1975) Joan Micklin Silver
29. Quasi at the Quackadero (1975) Sally Cruikshank
30. Harlan County, USA (1976) Barbara Kopple
31. Powers of Ten (1978) Ray Eames and Charles Eames
32. The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter (1981) Connie Field
33. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) Amy Heckerling
34. Fake Fruit Factory (1986) Chick Strand
35. Drums of Winter (1988) Sarah Elder and Leonard Kamerling
36. Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia (1990) Ellen Bruno
37. Daughters of the Dust (1991) Julie Dash
38. The Red Book (1994) Janie Geiser
39. Scratch and Crow (1995) Helen Hill