PIONEERS: FIRST WOMEN FILMMAKERS – Review by Cate Marquis

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Women filmmakers are getting a lot of attention now but many don’t know that women directors were among cinema’s first, and the best. Now we get a chance to explore that forgotten history, as Kino Lorber is offering Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers, a six-disc box set of some of the best films by women directors in cinema’s early decades.

Women directors dominated in the earliest days of film, when it was a wide-open industry just starting out, a time the coincided with women themselves stepping out into the workforce in the first wave of feminism. The first woman director (and, by some accounts, first narrative film director) was Alice Guy (later Alice Guy Blache). One of the earliest popular film directors in the U.S. was another woman, Lois Weber. Both these giants of the silent era of film are represented in Kino Lorber’s wonderful 6-disc box set Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers,.

The box set includes beautifully-restored rare silent films, with musical soundtracks as well as documentaries on Lois Weber, Alice Guy Blache, and more. Release is set for Nov. 20 but the box set is available for pre-order now from Kino Lorber. The box set is available as DVD or Blu-ray. The DVD set is 6 discs, with one disc each of films by Alice Guy Blache and Lois Weber, plus full-length films by other women directors, shorts clips, documentaries and other extras featuring other women directors of the silent era. The Blu-ray includes all that plus 11 additional films by women directors.

The films range from drama to comedy. Among the gems in this collection are Alice Guy Blache’s A Fool and his Money, a comedy with an African American cast. Another gem is Lois Weber’s Where Are My Children?, a searing social commentary on birth control and abortion starring Tyrone Power, Sr., father of the famous Hollywood star.

Other gems include the films of actress/director Mabel Normand, who starred with Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and directed some of the best and funniest Keystone Comedies. Included are Mabel’s Caught in a Cabaret with Chaplin and Mabel and Fatty’s Wash Day with Arbuckle.

There are also thrilling serials and ground-breaking social commentary films, tackling subjects from which men shied away, with documentary overviews.

This wonderful box set would make a perfect gift for anyone interested in women in film or in film history

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pioneers: Early Women Filmmakers is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for November 23, 2018.

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Cate Marquis

Cate Marquis

Cate Marquis is a film critic and historian based in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Marquis reviews film for the St. Louis Jewish Light weekly newspaper and Playback: stl website, as well as other publications. The daughter of artist Paul Marquis, she was introduced to classic and silent films by her father, as well as art and theater. Besides reviewing films, she lectures on film history, particularly the silent film era, has served on the board of the Meramec Classic Film Festival and is a long-time collaborator with the St. Louis International Film Festival, serving on various juries.