In the world of lesbian cinema, it is startling to us here at Lesflicks that so many films in the mainstream are directed by men. Lesflicks aims to champion lesbian filmmakers like Nicole Conn and Astrid Ovalles, who pluck fragments from their own repertoire of experience, and channel them into their filmmaking for other queer womxn to watch, enjoy, and relate to. Lesbian Day of Visibility is the perfect time for us to amplify the voices of such filmmakers, without which lesbian cinema would reflect only an impression of real lesbian lived experience. Here’s our pick of five lesbian filmmakers whose work has been immeasurably valuable to the survival of lesbian cinema. If you enjoy films about lesbians, you absolutely need to know these people are.
5 Lesbian Filmmakers You Should Know About:
1. Céline Sciamma
While you may have heard of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, you might not know that Céline Sciamma has been making lesbian films since 2007, when she debuted into the industry with her film Water Lilies, about two young girls whose friendship coincides with coming-of-age and sexual awakening. Since, Sciamma has made it her imperative to capture the female gaze and prioratise on inherently female experiences from youth to growing up, and sexuality to gender. Sciamma’s films are unique in the way they immortalise femininity onscreen, anf her filmmaking is revolutionising the way films are being made about women. We are incredibly lucky to have Céline Sciamma as such a powerhouse of queer female representation, and we can’t wait for what she has still to bring to lesbian cinema.
2. Cheryl Dunye
Cheryl Dunye is known for combining both fiction and reality, to bring together narratives of lived experience and invented history of queer people of colour. Dunye’s work brings to the surface the question of lesbian BIPOC invisibility and solidifies the need to do better in lesbian cinema to guarantee the visibility of black lesbians. One of Dunye’s most popular lesbian films, The Watermelon Woman, is a prime example of this, as it centres on a young black lesbian, played by Dunye herself, trying to reclaim black queer history in cinema. Dunye is truly a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, and though her recent work has been mostly in television, we remain hopeful that she will return to the Sapphic silver screen once more.
3. Fowzia Mirza
Fawzia Mirza is a Pakistani-Canadian-American filmmaker and actor, whose films are elevating the visibility of lesbian Muslims, a group that unfortunately remains vastly under-represented. Mirza works with film in a variety of different forms, bringing her artistry to short films, feature films, documentaries, and web series. Mirza’s voice is, sadly, one that is incredibly rare in cinema, and with each project she does what Lesbian Day of Visibility sets out to do, uplifts and amplifies the less represented in our community. In Mirza’s case, the narratives she shows us on screen represent queer Islamic womxn, whose stories far too often go untold. It’s undoubtable that Mirza’s presence in the film industry is invaluable to lesbian representation, and we are so glad to be able to watch her work.
4. Alice Trueman
Alice Trueman is a queer filmmaker from London, whose directorial and screenwriting work has been acclaimed as part of the BFI Flare Festival programme in both 2019 and 2021 with the short films Jas and The Cost of Living. Though Trueman has only been filmmaking since 2015, she is already making waves in queer cinema, as both her screenwriting and directing styles feel incredibly intimate and honest, often dealing with themes that are dark and uncomfortable. Alice Trueman is definitely a name to watch out for, and we can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.
5. Barbara Hammer
Without Barbara Hammer, lesbian cinema would not be what it is today. Her boldness and bravery in capturing lesbian sexuality onscreen laid the foundations for all lesbian cinema thereafter. The thing that makes Hammer’s films so special is her ability capture glimpses into lesbian life that go beyond what is able to be shown in a narrative film. There are no words to describe the sheer tenderness and beauty in Hammer’s films and we implore you to see them for yourself. Since her passing in 2019, the immense loss of her in lesbian cinema is felt everywhere, but we are so lucky that her legacy will be eternally woven into every celluloid lesbian body.
This review was written by:
London-based Film Baby studying a film MA specialising in lesbian film.