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Half the Picture is a documentary about women directors—or, more accurately, the lack thereof. Featuring interviews with Ava DuVernay, Miranda July, Penelope Spheeris, Catherine Hardwicke, and more, the doc includes most of the women who have directed feature films over the last two decades, who are easy to fit into 94 minutes because there aren’t that many of them.

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It's at first eye-opening, then infuriating: Women behind the camera have faced obstacles at every level of their professional development, from assumptions that their puny lady arms aren’t strong enough to lift reels to concerns that they’ll be too preoccupied with childcare to top-shelf actors demanding to work with certain male directors. (Those interviewed in Half the Picture are very careful to not name names, which is very womanly of them, but don’t you want to know who those nasty actors are?!)

I was most shocked—like, mind totally blown—that freaking Wayne’s World was directed by a woman, which I never knew, even though it’s been one of my favorite movies forever. Then I thought, "Am I part of the problem?" And immediately I answered myself: "Yes, you are." Even though I write about movies, I default to the assumption that most movies, and especially fun, popcorn movies, are made by men. In my particular film-reviewing beat, which can generally be categorized as “lady stuff,” I’ve always been pleased to watch the work of many women directors. But then I ran through the list of the 21 movies I reviewed in 2018, and found that only eight were directed by women. Eight! That's 38 percent—on the lady beat!

Hollywood isn’t a mirror of our culture until it actually mirrors our culture, which it’s not doing when mostly men—and mostly white men—are the the people literally calling the shots. Half the Picture won’t balance the scales, but it’s a great starting point.

Half the Picture screens Fri Dec 14 at the NW Film Center, with a post-film panel discussion with director Amy Adrion and Portland filmmakers.


Read more of the Mercury’s award-winning* movies and TV coverage! For movie times, click here.

*Not actually award-winning