Plaza Voices: International Women Filmmakers

In honor of International Women's Day and (belatedly) Oscar season, this week we highlight some of the wonderful films by female directors that you can find in our collection (and a few you might have to request from Interlibrary Loan).

The prolific and talented Mira Nair, originally from India, directed many titles familiar to American audiences: Mississippi Masala, The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair, and Amelia, to name a few. Her recent Queen of Katwe, based on the book of the same name, celebrates the accomplishments of young Ugandan chess champion Phiona Mutesi. Also check out Nair's influential early film, Salaam Bombay, which chronicles the lives of street children in India.

The 2012 film Wadjda, written and directed by Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour, tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who breaks from traditional gender roles in pursuit of her dream: to own a coveted green bicycle and beat the neighbor boy in a race. It was the first feature film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and the first feature-length film by a female Saudi director.

Dam Street (2005), by Chinese filmmaker Li Yu, follows Xiaoyun, a woman whose life is upended when she becomes pregnant as a teenager. The film earned a Golden Lotus from the Deauville Asian Film Festival and was also honored at the Venice International Film Festival.

Mexican director Mariana Chemillo's film Nora's Will (2008) explores the rekindling of Nora's relationship with her ex-husband -- after her death brings him and her family together at Passover.

Another film about relationships, And Then There Was You by Ghanaian director Leila Djansi, shows what happens when Natalie finds out her husband has led a double life.

And on a lighter note, the hilarious road trip movie Brand New Day, from Aboriginal filmmaker Rachel Perkins, follows a frustrated seminary student trying to make it home to his one true love in 1960s Australia.

Excited to learn more? Check out these articles on directoras from Mexico and China, groundbreaking African and Arab filmmakers, and the Raindance Festival's 25 Best list. We may not have every title you seek, but we can always make requests through Prospector and Interlibrary Loan.

Who are some of your favorite women filmmakers? Let us know in the comments below!

Plazas are an open community space where immigrants from all over the world connect with people, information, and resources, building Denver’s global community. Come to practice a language, prepare for citizenship, pursue your goals, and create your future. Whatever you’re doing, we can help! Please see our events calendar for more information.

Written by Amanda R. on March 3, 2017


Anonymous on March 10, 2017


Great list - thank you!

Carrol Reeves on March 10, 2017


Thanks for the culture.

Josh @ GVR on March 12, 2017


So many great films, so little time! Thanks for this excellent blog!!
By the way, Wadjda has also been adapted into a book called The Green Bicycle for middle grade audiences.

Debra on March 15, 2017


Having watched the movie Queen of Katwe recently, I can attest to the uniqueness and sheer joy of the movie. Now the Book is on my reading list because I know it will be wonderful!


Thank you, everyone, for following our blog! Your comments are always appreciated. 


Wadjda is fantastic! I also recommend Fill the Void and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Although not directed by a woman, Mother George is a brilliant film about a Nigerian woman trying to navigate between her culture's expectations and life in Brooklyn. For film buffs, the use of color is visually stunning. Thanks for sharing the blog!

Leave a comment