HALF THE PICTURE is a documentary about the dismal number of women directors working in Hollywood, using the current EEOC investigation into discriminatory hiring practices as a framework to talk to successful women directors about their career paths, struggles, inspiration and hopes for the future.
Half the Picture was well-received in its regional premiere (after screening at Sundance) at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. Anyone who has followed film will have noticed the phenomenon of how few films are directed by women. Whereas 20% of Congress is now women, there have only been a mere 5 women nominated for an Oscar for Best Director. The question is "Why?" The film is mostly a talking head film in which female directors, sometimes eloquently, sometimes humorously, tell their stories about trying to make it in the ultimate "old boy's club."
It is a personal and inspiring film, but seems to lack a clear explanation and direction of why sexism has held on so long to the Director's Chair in supposedly liberal Hollywood. It touches on some interesting questions without clearly exploring them. It touches on the idea of how this affects the nature of the final films but doesn't really explain it in detail. It touches on an explanation rooted less in outright sexism and more in an institutional sexism that prevents women directors from accessing financing but doesn't really dig into the issue. It touches on the history of women in cinema without fully exploring the roots of sexism in Hollywood and in the studio system as a whole
Rather than just speaking to female directors, the film could have benefited by speaking to more film historians, academics, and legal who study the financing of the industry. That sort of approach could have given it more grounded scholarly focus. Oddly, the film suffers in that in trying to give women directors a voice that it never interviews a single man who might have offered supportive insight or a broader context for the deeper institutional issues. Half the Picture is inspiring, charming, and entertaining and yet it lacks depth and its scattershot approach itself only tells half the story that it could have.
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