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Female Filmmakers in Focus (Online)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

Learn more about remarkable and ground-breaking women behind the camera. Over 10 weeks we will examine the works of five acclaimed female directors, discuss their careers, formal styles and thematic concerns.  

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

Students will need to be able to confidently use videoconferencing software and be comfortable with using websites.

No prior knowledge required, just an appreciation of lively discussions about cinema.

Special Information

In order to participate in this course, you will need access to a computer with a speaker and an internet connection.

Content of Course

The course will introduce the career of each filmmaker in turn by looking at her biography set against a wider political and cultural background. We will then look at her landmark films in broadly chronological order, pointing to their shared stylistic concerns, repeated motifs and signature themes. We will discuss favoured genres and the formal innovations introduced by the director.

The analysis of film language will be a key strand throughout the course. We will introduce basic cinematic concepts (cinematography, point of view, editing, mise-en-scène, etc.) which can be immediately applied to the studied films. We will draw attention to such elements as colour, music, narrative structures and genre conventions.

1. Lynne Ramsay is a Scottish film director, writer, producer and cinematographer. Her gritty and realistic films favour visual and sound elements over traditional narrative structures and pay particular attention to minute on-screen details. We will discuss such films as Ratcatcher (1999), Morvern Callar (2002), We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011) and You Were Never Really Here (2017).

2. Chloé Zhao is the second woman to win an Oscar for Best Director as well as the prestigious Directors Guild of America Award. Zhao attracted critical acclaim for her independent productions blurring the line between fiction and documentary.  We will look at such films as Songs that my Brothers Taught me (2015), The Rider (2017) and Nomadland n (2020).

2. Jane Campion is a New Zealand-born writer-director and the first female filmmaker in history to receive the Palme d’Or. Her intense, feminist dramas are renowned for celebrating a variety of complex female protagonists. We will analyse clips from The Piano (1993), The Portrait of a Lady (1996), Holy Smoke! (1999), Bright Star (2009) and Top of the Lake (2013-2017).

4. Věra Chytilová, often called the first lady of Czech cinema, established herself as one of the cinema’s most influential figures of European New Waves. Her surreal, experimental and darkly humorous films experiment with generic conventions and offer subversive commentaries, typically from a feminist perspective. We will look at such films as Something Different (1963), Daisies (1966), The Fruit of Paradise (1969), The Very Late Afternoon of the Faun (1983) and Traps (1998).

5. Céline Sciamma is one of French cinema’s most distinctive auteurs. Richly sensual and quietly observational, her features often contemplate the themes of sexuality, gender fluidity and female gaze. We will examine a variety of works including Water Lilies (2007), Tomboy (2011), Girlhood (2014), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) and Petite maman (2011).

Teaching method(s)

A mixture of screenings with introductions, interactive, richly illustrated lectures and critical analysis of excerpts from her films, along with discussions will give students an opportunity to broaden their knowledge of the director, and general cinema history and theory. There was also be class discussion and analysis of scenes, themes and film language. Students will be offered a variety of background reading materials: film reviews, biographies of directors, relevant articles and extracts from books. This course will be delivered via live online sessions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students should be able to:

  • Develop an understanding of formal and narrative techniques employed in the works of these filmmakers;

  • Recognise the place and meaning of these directors in the history of cinema;

  • Gain confidence in discussing films along with a broader understanding of the various approaches to studying film.

  • Develop an understanding of formal and narrative techniques employed in the works of these filmmakers; 

  • Recognise the place and meaning of these directors in the history of cinema; 

  • Gain confidence in discussing films along with a broader understanding of the various approaches to studying film. 


Core Readings


  • Beugnet, Martine, 2004. Claire Denis. Manchester: Manchester University Press

  • Lane, Christina, 2013. Kathryn Bigelow. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Web Sources

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film

British Film Institute. 2018. “Women on Film”. Sight & Sound. BFI. Accessed at: magazine/women-on-film

Birds’ Eye View organisation that centres the female perspective in film

Class Handouts

Handouts and other suggested readings will be provided in class. 


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.