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Director Nia Vardalos' new film I Hate Valentine's Day was made on a tiny budget — so tiny, Vardalos jokes, that "we couldn't afford a real director."
Of all the films you saw last year, it's statistically likely that fewer than 10 percent were directed by women. According to the president of the not-for profit group Women in Film, 9 percent of the 250 top-grossing domestic films were directed by women in 2008. And that was a good year, with women helming such cinematic juggernauts as Twilight and Mamma Mia!
It's worth mentioning that no woman has ever won an Oscar for directing. A grand total of three have been nominated during the award's eight decades of history.
All that said, an unusually high number of films made by women are in distribution in theaters around the country right now — which is to say, there are seven.
They include the summer's biggest romantic comedy, The Proposal, and a critically acclaimed super-macho movie about U.S. soldiers in Iraq, called The Hurt Locker. The latter film has one thing in common with another movie that opened July 10 — a modest independent endeavor by newcomer Lynn Shelton. "They both are looking at the male psyche, but from completely different angles," Shelton says.
Contrary to most expectations, Humpday is hardly a broad "bromance." It captivated reviewers, who've described it as delicate, subversive, even sweet. Shelton made Humpday with friends on a minuscule budget, and she was as shocked as anyone when a bidding war broke out for her little movie at the Sundance Film Festival.
When women direct, they're in control. And major Hollywood studios cannot exactly bask in their legacies of female empowerment: Historically, female directors tend to work outside the traditional studio system.
Bigelow's new war film, The Hurt Locker, is one of the best-reviewed movies out in theaters right now. It's gorgeous, pretty much perfectly acted and almost unbearably suspenseful. Bigelow says that, despite what some might assume, being a woman filming a nearly all-male movie in the Middle Eastern country of Jordan was simply not a big deal. She says you don't think about being a lady while you work. "You've got a four-story-high explosion taking place along an avenue, on which on any given day there are 250,000 cars, so ... " she pauses, "that begins to take precedence."
Vardalos directed and stars in a new romantic comedy called I Hate Valentine's Day. But you probably remember her for creating and starring in one of the biggest ever independent-film successes. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which was directed by a man) was filmed for only around $5 million, and earned well over $200 million worldwide.
"I'll describe it to you this way," she says. "It's like jumping into an orgy while you're still shaving your legs."