Statistical and anecdotal evidence suggest that, in both the Hollywood and commercial independent film industries, female directors are not given the same support and opportunities as their male counterparts. As a result, there are a number of activist projects and organizations working to challenge and raise awareness about this inequity. This essay examines the role a new genre of documentary plays in this larger activist endeavor. Beginning in the 1990s, several documentaries emerged featuring women filmmakers of varying national, racial, and sexual identities who work in a range of film production practices. I argue that by privileging the voices and experiences of these diverse female directors—something our own feminist film scholarship tends not to do—these documentaries function as important activist texts in women's studies and media studies classrooms. Because most undergraduates are woefully ignorant about the films of female directors, let alone the avenues to and barriers against filmmaking that exist for women, these documentaries play a crucial activist role in raising awareness about the social and cultural forces shaping women directors and their films. Moreover, by modeling a spectrum of "do-it-yourself" possibilities, these documentaries encourage female students to imagine their own potential as filmmakers.


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pp. 59-88
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