TCM highlights women directors with ‘Women Make Film’ project over three months

Penny Marshall will be one of many women directors highlights in the series "Women Make Film" debuting on TCM September 1, 2020. CR: AP

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Penny Marshall will be one of many women directors highlights in the series "Women Make Film" debuting on TCM September 1, 2020. CR: AP

The series begins its weekly journey Sept. 1 at 8 p.m.

Atlanta-based Turner Classic Movies is highlighting the work of female directors in an ambitious three-month project “Women Make Film” that took more than a year of planning.

The 14-hour docu-series, which debuts at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1, features dozens of women directors, from Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow to Tunisian Moufida Tlatli, the first Arab woman to direct a full-length feature.

Narrators include Tilda Swinton, Adjoa Andoh, Sharmila Tagore, Kerry Fox, Thandie Newton and Debra Winger. Ted Turner’s ex-wife Jane Fonda also took part.

It’s not a traditional documentary. As Swinton says to open the series: “What follows is not about the directors’ lives. It’s not a chronological history. It’s not an analysis of how women directors are different from men. And it’s not one of those lists of the best films ever made. No, it has cleaner lines than that. Our film is about the films, the scenes. It answers practical questions. What’s an engaging way to start a film? How do you set its tone? How do you make it believable?”

As David Bianculli of NPR notes, “The documentary is subdivided into 40 topics or chapters, starting with the way certain movies open and covering subjects as general as dreams and as specific as editing. The observations are very specific, and we return to certain movies time and again, watching them illustrate various points.”

The 14-week run will be supplemented by about 100 films directed by women from 44 countries, including movies from China, Kenya and India.

General Manager Pola Chagnon told IndieWire that this was “a great opportunity to introduce a swath of filmmakers that audiences don’t often get to see in any way, shape, or form, let alone on a network.”

While TCM, by its very nature, focuses on older films, Chagnon does not want the network to “look like we’re stuck in amber. We want to be able to reflect intelligently on the world as seen through movies.”

In Variety, she added: “Even though they’re not always well-represented in the film canon, women have been doing this for decades.”

The network is also partnering with re:Imagine/ATL, an Atlanta non-profit that trains and equips Generation Z (ages 11 to 24) to build careers in the creative and digital media industries. TCM will hold a contest for young female filmmakers ages 12 to 17.


“Women on Film,” debuts Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. on TCM and will air every Tuesday for the next 14 weeks