“The thing women still have to learn is that nobody gives you power. You just take it.” *
Updated: Jul 4
Does it surprise you to learn that the actors with the most nominations and the one who has been awarded the most Oscars are both women? Katherine Hepburn gained 4 awards and was nominated for 12 altogether, and Meryl Streep 3 awards and nominated for an amazing 21!
The National Film Award for Best Actress (officially known as the Rajat Kamal Award for the Best Actress) is an honour presented annually at the National Film Awards of India since 1968 to an actress for the best performance in a leading role within the Indian film industry. Shabana Amiz has won this award on 5 occasions.
Closer to home in 1944 Katina Paxinou won Best Supporting Actress award for her role in “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” a film based on Ernest Hemingway’s beloved novel.
Paxinou was not only the first Greek woman to hold an Oscar — she also became the first non-American to be honoured with an American Film Academy Award.
These are hard working women who are winning awards for their roles in film in a world that to this day is dominated by men. Unsurprisingly equality in pay has yet to be achieved and yet the characters they play are just as challenging and exciting as those played by men.
An ongoing study ‘It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World’, looks at the number of women protagonists with speaking roles. Since 2002 they have tracked the representation of girls and women on the top 100 grossing films in the US.
The study revealed that only 35 per cent of films included 10 or more female speaking roles, but a staggering 82 per cent of movies had at least 10 male characters with speaking roles. In 2021, male characters outnumbered females by almost 2 to 1.
But while the inclusion of female protagonists matters, it's interesting to look at major characters, who represent another indicator of the state of the industry as a whole. For the study's purposes, protagonists are defined as "the characters from whose perspective the story is told".
Major characters are those who "appear in more than one scene and are instrumental to the narrative of the story" – meaning those roles, too, translate to more exposure, more work, and more career highlights for the female artists who play them.
Women represented only 36 per cent of major characters in film in 2018 – a one per cent decline from the 37 per cent recorded in 2017.
If you wish to read the whole study just follow this link: https://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/2021-Its-a-Mans-Celluloid-World-Report.pdf
Meanwhile, in an article by Panayiotis Panagopoulos (Kathimerini 9.01.2002), it was noted that in that year the role of women in Greek cinema had altered. Female characters would no longer have a simply complementary function. They were not simply partners, lovers or objects of sexual desire for the male characters, as witnessed in an entire host of sexual comedies over the past few years. The camera now focused on the women themselves,
who either take their lives into their own hands or crumble in the effort to deal with the difficulties.
As the role of women in Greek cinema changed female actors and directors, such as Dora Masklavanou, director and writer of ‘Tomorrow is Another Day’ (…κι αύριο μέρα είναι), feel encouraged that the audience will respond positively to this new dynamic role, one that will challenge the audience and offer an alternative to the standard western US/UK female protagonist.
And one last thought to end, which shows us that for decades female actors have worked at the same level as their male counterparts!
* Quote by Rosanne Barr
Jack Mitchell 1977
MGM Studio publicity portrait circa 1941
Screenshot - 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' 1943