The ultimate female innovators in film

To celebrate our new Females First film strand we pick ten women who shaped cinema past and present

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In a bid to encourage young women to pick up the camera, Dazed Vision is launching Females First, a new collaborative film strand that champions wider diversity in storytellers and perspectives. The ongoing project will see industry figureheads like Jane Campion, Joanna Hogg, Sarah Solemani and Sienna Miller select their favourite emerging female filmmakers to create a specially-commissioned and funded short film for Dazed. Head here to find out more about Females First. 

Věra Chytilová was one of the most vibrantly playful, radically subversive female filmmakers cinema has seen. In tribute to the Czech New Wave director, who died in March, we're screening her '60s masterpiece Daisies – about two girls who embark on a trail of mayhem after deciding the world's gone bad – on Sunday with Hackney Picturehouse and the Czech Centre London (ticket details below). With Chytilová gone, it's far from all bad news. The screening also celebrates the spirit of our new Females First strand on Dazed Digital, a showcase for female filmmaking talent that launches this week. In the meantime, here's our pick of some great films by female innovators present and past.

JOANNA HOGG: EXHIBITION (2013)

Unsettling, idiosyncratic and darkly witty, Brit director Joanna Hogg's latest film Exhibition is set in a stark modernist house and stars Viv Albertine of punk band The Slits and conceptual artist Liam Gillick as a couple in relationship crisis who are selling their home. The building is filmed as a haunting presence in this playful experiment that links spatial architecture with urban psychological horror. Out in the UK on 25 April.

GILLIAN ROBESPIERRE: OBVIOUS CHILD (2013)

A foul-mouthed stand-up comedian (Jenny Slate) who doesn't hesitate to use her intimate life problems as on-stage material finds herself knocked up from a one-night stand in this Sundance hit from director Gillian Robespierre. Quirky dilemma-ridden young women, and accidental pregnancy, are nothing new for US indie territory – but the film's frank, pro-choice take push this into daring terrain. Playing at Sundance London on 25, 26, 27 April.

JANE POLLARD: 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH (2014)

Made with her collaborator Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard's portrait of musician Nick Cave wowed everyone with its groundbreaking take on the rock documentary when it showed at Berlin this year. The directors place the charismatic star in conversation with a real Freudian analyst about his early memories and the transformation he experiences when on stage, and in car chats with past collaborators from Kylie to Blixa Bargeld. Set for UK release this year.

MAYA DEREN: MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON (1943)

This surreal, trancelike film of looping time and mysterious symbols laced with paranoia was shot by Ukraine-born Mayan Deren, a major figure in the American avant-garde, and her hubby Alexander Hammid. It inspired Kenneth Anger and David Lynch. Deren, who was also a dancer and went to Haiti to film voodoo rituals, appears in the film as a woman following a hooded figure through a house in the midst of a dream. “I make my pictures for what Hollywood spends on lipstick,” Deren once said, a fierce defender of personal, independent cinema.

CHANTAL AKERMAN: JEANNE DIELMAN (1975)

Brilliantly stark, groundbreaking film Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is a portrait of female repression and the tyranny of time. It follows a single mother through her rigorously regimented household tasks - including prostituting herself to earn subsistence money – as her routine unravels toward an explosive finale. The masterpiece cemented the rep of Belgian director and film school dropout Chantal Akerman as a radical visionary.

MARGARETHE VON TROTTA: HANNAH ARENDT (2012)

One of the most technically gifted directors of all-time, but with her propaganda epic Triumph of the Will in service to the Nazis, Leni Riefenstahl's "images over ideas" take on art cancels her out as a great female director. An elegantly shot, humane antidote to Riefenstahl's nihilistic spectacle is this portrait of daringly original German-Jewish thinker Hannah Arendt by Margarethe von Trotta, a leading director of the New German Cinema movement. It focuses on Arendt's hugely controversial coverage of the 1961 trial of SS war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Seeing him not as a monster but a bland bureaucrat crucially unable to think for himself, she hatched her influential concept of the Banality of Evil. 

LUCRECIA MARTEL: THE HEADLESS WOMAN (2008)

Mixing noir-style mystery, female trauma and sardonic wit with elegant sublety, Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel depicts a female dentist in a disconnected, sleepwalker-like state of mind, having run something over on the road and driven off without checking if it's a dog or a child. An atmosphere of creeping dread infuses her domestic bourgeois life, in a biting social comment on a nation with a cavernous class divide that saw Martel – who says nightmares in which she'd killed someone inspired the film – recognised as one of Latin America's top filmmaking talents.

FOROUGH FARROKHZAD: THE HOUSE IS BLACK (1962)

Blending haunting poetry about creation's beauty into her depiction of a leper colony in Iran, Forough Farrokhzad's humane, landmark documentary short helped pave the way for the Iranian New Wave, and marked the controversial modernist poet and divorcee as a filmmaker of radical daring, before she died in a car crash at age 32. The film begins with the words: "There is no shortage of ugliness in the world. If man closed his eyes to it, there would be even more."

CATHERINE BREILLAT: ROMANCE (1999)

Known for her provocative dissections of power in sexual relationships, French director Catherine Breillat's explicit, coolly clinical tale sees a woman (played by Caroline Ducey) seek erotic encounters elsewhere after her boyfriend claims to have lost interest in her. Featuring Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi as one of her hook-ups, it linked her with a New French Extremity wave of filmmakers who revelled in breaking taboos, and inspired a global arthouse trend for unsimulated on-screen sex. At any rate, the film managed the tough job of shocking France. 

JANE CAMPION: THE PIANO (1993)

A mute, defiantly stubborn Victorian-era pianist arrives with her daughter to an arranged marriage and the muddy and rainswept New Zealand landscape in this haunting and expressionistic, darkly intense gothic romance from Kiwi director Jane Campion, for which she became the first woman to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes and second to ever be nominated for a Best Director Oscar. Ada's desire for the tattooed forester who, moved by her passion for playing, agrees to sell her piano back to her a key at a time sees her fly in the face of looming threat.

We are screening Daisies in association with Hackney Picturehouse in London and the Czech Centre on Sunday 13 April at 6pm. Tickets here.

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