This year’s Toronto Film Festival featured a special tribute to the female filmmakers of history: Mark Cousins’ 14-hour documentary series, Women Make Film, traced the trajectory of cinema as seen exclusively through the work of women directors. Torn between a thousand options in my four days in Toronto, I couldn’t quite eke out time for Cousins’ omnibus (or judge, for myself, the irony of a male director helming a series about women’s auteurship), but I caught several titles at the festival that I imagine will find a place in the series’ future installments: bracing, inspired films by up-and-coming women directors from all over the world.
Many of these were screened in the festival’s Discovery and Contemporary World Cinema (CWC) sections, which boasted commendably high percentages of women directors: 54 percent in the former case and about 40 percent in the latter. (For the complete TIFF lineup, the number came out to 36 percent.) But numbers, PR-friendly as they are, only tell part of the story—they need to be backed up by the qualitative, hard-to-measure effort of seeking and supporting genuine talent and giving women the critical consideration that they, too, deserve as artists. This is where TIFF seems to have gotten it right. As with any large lineups, both Discovery and CWC featured films of varying strengths, but they spotlit enough robust work by nearly unknown female directors to offer a rebuttal to anyone who worries that gender parity requires a concession of quality, or that there just aren’t enough women making good movies.