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Essential films by female directors
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Misan Sagay

Screenwriter

Misan Sagay, the writer behind Belle (2013), shares the movies made by female directors that most impacted her.

1

Sugar Cane Alley

1983

Gorgeous. This is one of the first films that I saw that not only had people of color, but was directed by a woman of color. It was amazing to see, and to see the acclaim that the film got. You look at that and you say, “Yes I can,” and I think that’s very important. And I love that film, absolutely love it.

WHERE TO WATCH
Sugar Cane Alley
1983
105 Mins | PG
Poor boy (Garry Cadenat) lovingly learns from grandmother (Darling Legitimus) in 1930s Martinique.


2

Mama, There's a Man in Your Bed

1989

This is another one of these films that I saw that absolutely blew me away. It’s a love story, with a wonderful French actress Firmine Richard, as an African woman living in Paris and her love affair. Through a series of things, her boss comes to live with her and they fall in love. It’s a play on Romeo and Juliet because they are an unlikely couple, but it’s an absolutely lovely film. Again, you see a film where there is such an unlikely hero. And if you look at the thread through all of these, it is these unlikely heroes. What was absolutely magical is the filmmaker, Coline Serreau, is one of my all-time favorite directors. She is a wonderful director who’s made so many films — she made the original "Three Men and a Baby." She’s made beautiful films in French and had a tremendous career, but she was not a member of the Academy. And I had the absolute privilege of being able to nominate her — my hero, heroine as it were — as a member last year. A woman whose film is one of my all-time favorites. I was so used to black women being portrayed in a certain way and this was warm and loving and real and lovely. And then the privilege of being able to propose her as a member last year was one of the highlights of my time in the Academy.

WHERE TO WATCH
Mama, There's a Man in Your Bed
1989
112 Mins | PG-13
Besieged French CEO (Daniel Auteuil) falls for cleaning lady (Firmine Richard).


3

The Piano

1993

WHERE TO WATCH

When you talk about film experiences, “The Piano” was, for me, transcendent. It’s a beautiful film. It’s an astonishing love story. I was overwhelmed by it and it remains one of my favorite films. I had the incredible privilege of meeting Jane Campion at an Academy event a year ago, and I literally had to say, “Maestro, I fall at your feet.”

WHERE TO WATCH
The Piano
1993
120 Mins | R
Settler's (Sam Neill) mute wife (Holly Hunter) takes a lover (Harvey Keitel) in New Zealand.


4

Something's Gotta Give

2003

WHERE TO WATCH

Another of my favorite, favorite directors, Nancy Meyers — absolutely wonderful. What I love about her is I talk about expanding what a princess looks like. We must never forget that all women, in many ways, are expanding what a film looks like and what a heroine is. To be able to have a woman, the lead, being not just a 25-year-old. To have an older woman as a lead is as revolutionary an act as having a black princess.

WHERE TO WATCH
Something's Gotta Give
2003
125 Mins | PG-13
A man (Jack Nicholson) falls for the mother (Diane Keaton) of his young girlfriend.


5

Kung Fu Panda 2

2011

WHERE TO WATCH

One of the most beautifully written, moving films I’ve seen. It’s an absolutely beautiful script. Not only do I love it, but all of my family love it and we break it out on happy occasions and we’ll watch it. And we quote from it! It’s one of those films that has sort of entered not just our minds but our hearts. A much beloved film.

WHERE TO WATCH
Kung Fu Panda 2
2011
90 Mins | PG
A formidable villain's plan to conquer China threatens Po's (Jack Black) new life of awesomeness.


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