Queer Female Directors & Lesbian Filmmakers
Through History

In 93 years of The Academy Awards, only:
7 female directors have been nominated for Best Director.
2 female Filmmakers have won!
Discover some lesbian filmmakers & queer female directors from 1896 to 2020s you should know about.

Sapphic Movies   |   Sapphic Actresses   |   Touching Queer Documentaries   |   Sapphic Filmmakers

Female & Lesbian Filmmakers

Not only are lesbian filmakers hugely under-represented in the film industry but in general why is Hollywood still so boystown? Lights, Camera, Stats! I wanted to be a cinematographer - a massive stats attack!

According to the Annenberg Institute, of the top 1,200 films from 2007 to 2018:

Female Filmmakers / Directors
. 4% of those films were directed by women.
. 17.4% of those female directors, had gotten to direct another movie beyond their debut feature
. 13% directed a second, 2.2% a third, and 2.2% a fourth.
. women worked across four decades (from their 30s through their 60s, making one to four films).

Male Filmmakers / Directors
. 96% of those films were directed by men.
. 45.7% of men who made a top movie in the last decade, had gotten to direct more movies after their feature film debut ...

. 21% directed a second, 13.1% a third, 6.2% a fourth and 5.5% a fifth or more.
. Men's careers spanned seven decades (from their 20s to their 80s, making one to 17 films)

Poignant, of the top 100 grossing movies from 2019
. 10.6% of the directors were women (up from 4.5%, in 2018)
...of course men can vote for female-directed films. Slick female-directed movies tend to deal with relationships between women, and sometimes the men in these movies are ancillary to the plot. So most of the screen time belongs to... hurrah... the ladies. Check out the past Academy Award movie winners in the last ten years Parasite, Green Book, The Shape of Water, Moonlight, Spotlight, Birdman, 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The Artist, The King's Speech.

Now check out which female filmmakers / directors have been nominated over 93 years as best Academy Award film directors:
. Lina Wertmüller (in 1976, for Seven Beauties),
. Jane Campion (in 1993, for The Piano),
. Sofia Coppola (in 2003, for Lost in Translation),
. Kathryn Bigelow (in 2009, for The Hurt Locker - winner)
. Greta Gerwig (in 2017, for Lady Bird). . Chloé Zhao (in 2021, for Nomadland - winner). . Emerald Fennell (in 2021, for Promising Young Woman).

Wohoo - it's a boy's celluloid world: portrayals of female characters in the top grossing films of 2019
. The percentage of top grossing films featuring female protagonists rose from 31% in 2018 to 40% in 2019, reaching a recent historic high.
. 68% of all female characters were white in the top 100 films of 2019. 20% were Black, 7% were Asian, and 5% were Latina according to womenandhollywood
. 43% of films featured male protagonists, and 17% had ensembles or a combination of male and female protagonists.

Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the 250 Films of 2019, from womenintvfilm:
. Women comprised 13% of directors working on the top 250 films in 2019, up from 8% in 2018, and up 2 percentage points from the previous high of 11% in 2017.
. Women working in these roles on the top 250 grossing films experienced a slight increase from 20% in 2018 to 21% in 2019.
. By role (on the top 250 films), women comprised 19% of writers, 21% of executive producers, 27% of producers, 23% of editors, 5% of cinematographers, 6% of composers, 40% of music supervisors, 9% of supervising sound editors, 4% of sound designers, 23% of production designers, 31% of art directors, 4% of special effects supervisors, and 6% of visual effects supervisors.

We are going into the 2020's, come on boy's embrace talented lesbian and female filmmakers!

Lesbian filmmakers: Alice Guy-Blaché

Alice Guy-Blaché

Alice Guy-Blaché was a French pioneer filmmaker who was one of the first women to direct a film, making more than 1,000 films, many of which put women to the fore. In 1910 she started her own company, Solax.

Her 1896 silent movie, La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage-Patch Fairy) features cross-dressed fairies kissing!

French Film Director: 1873 –1968

Lesbian filmmakers: Mercedes de Acosta

Mercedes de Acosta

Though Acosta's writings did not receive great acclaim, she was hugely successful as a key member of "The Sewing Circle" - a discreet women's "club" for Hollywood's underground lesbians.

Her tell-all autobiography reveals her love affairs with Alla Nazimova, Greta Garbow, Isadora Duncan, Marlene Dietrich, Eva Le Gallienne...

American Screenwriter: 1892 – 1968

Lesbian filmmakers: Dorothy Emma Arzner

Dorothy Emma Arzner

During the "Golden Age" of Hollywood, Dorothy Arzner was the only woman director. She made 3 silent movies and 14 "talkies" and became the first woman to direct a talky, Manhattan Cocktail (1928). Moreover, Arzner was one of the first directors to create a boom microphone, in 1929.

Her long-time "companion" (of 40 years, bravo) was Marion Morgan, a choreographer.

American Film Director: 1897 – 1979

Lesbian filmmakers: Tazuko Sakane

Tazuko Sakane

Directing New Clothing, Tazuko Sakane became the first and only woman director in Japan, between 1936 - 1953. She directed 15 films including Brides on the Frontier a propaganda film to encourage Japanese young woman to become the wives of Japanese emigrants.

In the closet? She left no personal belongings that substantiate her being gay but her look and style was quite masculine and was interested in worldwide lesbianism.

Award Wins ? & Nominations ?

Japanese Film Director: 1904 - 1975

Sapphic Film Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff

Irene Sharaff

Stage and screen costume designer Irene Sharaff won five Academy Awards and a Tony Award. She created dazzling costumes for 60 shows and more than 40 films including An American in Paris, Cleopatra, Funny Girl, The King and I, West Side Story...

From the mid-1930s until her death Chinese-American painter and writer Mai-Mai Sze was in a devoted relationship with Sharaff.

Oscars 5, Other Award Wins 2 & Nominations 12

American Costume Designer: 1910 – 1993

Lesbian filmmakers: Esther Eng

Esther Eng

Esther Eng was the first female director to direct Chinese-language films in America. She made five films in Hong Kong and four films in America, including National Heroine (1937) about a Chinese female pilot who fights for her country and It's A Women's World (1939) which featured a cast of 36 females.

Eng bodly wore men's attire and haircuts and was open about her lesbian relationships.

Award Wins ? & Nominations ?

Cantonese–American Film Director: 1914 – 1970

Lesbian filmmakers: Barbara Hammer

Barbara Hammer

As a pioneering avant-garde, lesbian-feminist filmmaker, Barbara Hammer's career spanned over 50 years and 90 moving image works. She received numerous awards including Teddy and Leo Awards. In 2017, she established the annual Barbara Hammer Lesbian Experimental Filmmaking Grant.

Hammer was married to human rights advocate Florrie Burke.

Award Wins 6 & Nominations 5

American Film Director: 1939 – 2019

Lesbian filmmakers: Chantal Akerman

Chantal Akerman

Akerman made more than 30 features, documentaries and shorts, most of which had strong feminist themes. In 2012, Sight & Sound magazine's Top 100 Greatest Films of All Time poll, Akerman was only one of two women who made the top 100, whith her film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975).

She was married to Sonia Wieder-Atherton a Franco-American classical cellist.

Award Wins 10 & Nominations 16

Belgian Film Director: 1950 – 2015

Lesbian filmmakers: Jennie Livingston

Jennie Livingston

Jennie Livingston directed the awesome 1990 documentary film Paris Is Burning which chronicles the mid-to-late 1980s New York's African-American and Latino LGBTQ voguing / drag ball scene. The documentary won numerous awards and in 2016 it was added to the National Film Registry. Livingston was consulting producer on the 2018-19 TV adaptation Pose.

She was an activist with ACT UP - an AIDS activist group working to end the AIDS pandemic.

Award Wins +12 & Nominations +1

American Film Director: 1962

Lesbian filmmakers: Lisa Cholodenko

Lisa Cholodenko

Film credits include High Art (1998) which won a Sundance Film Festival, Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and The Kids Are All Right (2010) was nominated for 83rd Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor respectively.

Oscar 1 Nom, Award Wins +17 & Nominations +47

American Film & TV Director: 1964

Lesbian filmmakers: Rose Troche

Rose Troche

Go Fish (1994) was Rose Troche's wowzer directorial debut which was a groundbreaking indie lesbian love story starring Guinevere Turner (co-writer and co-producer). It was shot in black and white and made on a shoestring budget. Troche's television work includes The L Word.

Awkward - Turner and Troche broke up during the middle of filming Go Fish. I hope they are friends again.

Award Wins +6 & Nominations +7

American Film & TV Director: 1964

Lesbian filmmakers: Cheryl Dunye

Cheryl Dunye

Cheryl Dunye made cinematic history in 1995 with her debut film The Watermelon Woman (1996) being the first feature-length narrative film written and directed by an out black lesbian, about black lesbians and featuring a black lesbian lead.

Dunye is a professor at San Francisco State University School of Cinema

Award Wins +10 & Nominations +7

Liberian-American Film & TV Director: 1966

Lesbian filmmakers: Jamie Babbit

Jamie Babbit

Jamie Babbit's feature films include the satirical and campy comedy But, I'm a Cheerleader and Itty Bitty Titty Committee. TV credits include: The L Word, Gilmore Girls, Ugly Betty.

But, I'm a Cheerleader was partly inspired by an article that Babbit read about a man who had been sent to a reparative therapy camp to cure him of his gayness.

Award Wins +11 & Nominations +5

American Film & TV Director: 1970

Lesbian filmmakers: Céline Sciamma

Céline Sciamma

My fav sapphic director = Céline Sciamma. Her astounding filmography: Water Lilies, Tomboy, Girlhood, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire. She wrote the script for Water Lilies as part of her final evaluation at La Fémis, the première French film school, and later wrote the screenplay of My Life as a Courgette, a heartful stop-motion animation.

Tres chic, Tres cool Sciamma, please make a movie La Maupin's swashbuckling shenanigans.

Award Wins +38 & Nominations +63

French Film Director & Screenwriter: 1978

Sapphic Cinematographer: Rachel Morrison

Rachel Morrison

Rachel Morrison is the first woman ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography and to collect an American Society of Cinematographers Award for her cinematography on Mudbound (2017).

She is also the first woman to have ever shot a Marvel superhero movie, Black Panther (2018).

Oscar 1 Nom, Award Wins +5 & Nominations +27

American Cinematographer: 1978