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Female-Directed Films to Stream on Kanopy


Female-Directed Films to Stream on Kanopy

In honor of Women’s History Month, here are some extraordinary films directed by women that you can stream for free on Kanopy with your Livingston Library card. Note: all descriptions are taken from Kanopy.

cleo from 5 to 7

Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962) – directed by Agnes Varda

Agnes Varda eloquently captures Paris in the sixties with this real-time portrait of a singer (Corinne Marchand) set adrift in the city as she awaits test results of a biopsy. A chronicle of the minutes of one woman’s life, Cleo From 5 to 7 is a spirited mix of vivid vérité and melodrama, featuring a score by Michel Legrand (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.

seven beauties

Seven Beauties (1975) – directed by Lina Wertmüller

Nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Director (making Lina Wertmüller the first woman to be bestowed the honor), Seven Beauties stars Giancarlo Giannini (Swept Away) as Pasqualino Frafuso, known in Naples as “Pasqualino Seven Beauties.” A petty thief who lives off of the profits of his seven sisters while claiming to protect their honor at any cost, Pasqualino is arrested for murder and later sent to fight in the army after committing sexual assault. The Germans capture him and he gets sent to a concentration camp where he plots to make his escape by seducing a German officer.

lady bird

Lady Bird (2017) – directed by Greta Gerwig

Nominated for five Oscars, Lady Bird is a warm, affecting comedy about a high schooler (Saoirse Ronan) who must navigate a loving but turbulent relationship with her strong-willed mother (Laurie Metcalf) over the course of her eventful and poignant senior year of high school. Golden Globe winner for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy); also the Film Independent Spirit Award winner for Best Screenplay.


The Farewell (2019) – directed by Lulu Wang

In this funny, heartfelt story, Billi’s (Awkwafina) family returns to China under the guise of a fake wedding to stealthily say goodbye to their beloved matriarch—the only person that doesn’t know she only has a few weeks to live. Golden Globe winner for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), and an official Selection at the Sundance Film Festival.

girl walks home alone

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) – directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

The first Iranian Vampire Western, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night basks in the sheer pleasure of pulp. A joyful mash-up of genre, archetype and iconography, its prolific influences span spaghetti westerns, graphic novels, horror films, and the Iranian New Wave. Amped by a mix of Iranian rock, techno and Morricone-inspired riffs, its airy, anamorphic, black-and-white aesthetic and artfully drawn-out scenes combine the simmering tension of Sergio Leone with the surrealism of David Lynch. Nominated for Best First Feature at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and nominated for Best of Next! at the Sundance Film Festival.

watermelon woman

The Watermelon Woman (1996) – directed by Cheryl Dunye

Cheryl Dunye plays a version of herself in this witty, nimble landmark of New Queer Cinema. A video store clerk and fledgling filmmaker, Cheryl becomes obsessed with the “most beautiful mammy,” a character she sees in a 1930s movie. Determined to find out who the actress she knows only as the “Watermelon Woman” was and make her the subject of a documentary, she starts researching and is bowled over to discover that not only was Fae Richards (Lisa Marie Bronson) a fellow Philadelphian but also a lesbian. The project is not without drama as Cheryl’s singular focus causes friction between her and her friend Tamara (Valarie Walker) and as she begins to see parallels between Fae’s problematic relationship with a white director and her own budding romance with white Diana (fellow filmmaker Guinevere Turner). Winner of Best Feature Film at the Berlin International Film Festival.

portrait of a lady on fire

Portrait of a Lady On Fire (2019) – directed by Celine Sciamma

Marianne is hired to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse. As the women orbit each other, intimacy and attraction grow as they share Héloïse’s first moments of freedom. Nominated for Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language at the Golden Globes, and winner of Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival.

tortilla soup

Tortilla Soup (2001) – directed by Maria Ripoll

Three grown sisters, Maribel, Leticia and Carmen try to cope and live with the fact that their father Martin, a veteran chef, is slowly losing his sense of taste. Martin has one simple rule: be at home for Sunday dinner and attendance is both mandatory and non-negotiable. A rift in the family develops when the sisters develop relationships and an obnoxious woman sets her sights on Martin’s affections. Winner of Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Elizabeth Pena) and nominated for Outstanding Motion Picture and Outstanding Director in a Motion Picture at the ALMA Awards. Winner of Best Theatrical Feature Film at the Imagen Foundation Awards.


Illusions (1983) directed by Julie Dash

This critically acclaimed drama from filmmaker Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust) takes place in 1942 at a fictitious Hollywood motion picture studio. Mignon Duprée, a Black woman studio executive who appears to be white, and Ester Jeeter, an African American woman who is the singing voice for a white Hollywood star, are forced to come to grips with a society that perpetuates false images as status quo. The film follows Mignon’s dilemma, Ester’s struggle, and the use of cinema in wartime Hollywood: three illusions in conflict with reality.

suitable girl

A Suitable Girl: Matchmaking & Marriage in India (2017) – directed by Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra

A Suitable Girl follows three young Indian women struggling to maintain their identities and follow their dreams amid intense pressure to get married. Documenting the arranged marriage and matchmaking process in vérité for over four years, the film examines the women’s complex relationship with marriage, family, and society. Winner of the Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award and nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival.

capri awayfromher posterb

Away From Her (2006) – directed by Sarah Polley

Married for almost 50 years, Grant and Fiona’s serenity is interrupted by Fiona’s increasingly frequent memory lapses. When it is no longer possible for either of them to ignore the fact that she is being consumed by Alzheimer’s disease, the limits of love and loyalty are wrenchingly redefined.

100 years

100 Years (2016) – directed by Melinda Janko

Over 100 years ago, the United States Government broke up numerous Indian reservations and allotted millions of acres to 300,000 individual Indians. They promised to manage their land and send lease payments for oil, gas, timber, and grazing to the Indian Trust Fund, but instead the Department of the Interior grossly mismanaged the money owed them. As the Treasurer of the Blackfeet tribe, Elouise Cobell noticed issues with the trust account and raised questions about the missing money which lead her into a 30-year fight that resulted in the largest class action suit ever filed against the federal government.


Winter’s Bone (2010) – directed by Debra Granik

An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact. Nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence)

brave miss world

Brave Miss World (2013) – directed by Cecilia Peck

In October 1998, eighteen-year-old Linor Abargil was stabbed and raped while working as a model in Milan. Weeks later she was crowned Israel’s first Miss World. Over the course of five years, director Cecilia Peck follows Abargil on a mission to confront the trauma of her past, including a hunt for other victims of the man who raped her, preventing his parole. Nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking.

losing ground

Losing Ground (1982) – directed by Kathleen Collins

The inimitable Kathleen Collins’s second film tells the story of two remarkable people, married and hurtling toward a crossroads in their lives: Sara Rogers, a Black professor of philosophy, is embarking on an intellectual quest just as her painter husband, Victor, sets off on an exploration of joy. Victor decides to rent a country house away from the city, but the couple’s summer idyll becomes complicated by his involvement with a younger model. One of the very first fictional features by an African-American woman, Losing Ground remains a stunning and powerful work of art for being a funny, brilliant, and personal member of indie cinema canon.

To browse Kanopy’s full collection of films directed by women, click here.

Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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