In appreciation for 5 great female DPs working today

I’d been wanting to do this post for a while, but somehow haven’t got around to it. Well, thanks to last week’s Thursday Movie Picks on favorite cinematography, which I had actually missed, I thought I should make up for it this week.

The awesome topic came from Brittani who went with films highlighting female cinematographers on her post, so for this list I’m picking five female DPs whose work I admire, and it’s safe to say they’re some of the best DPs working today.

Before I get to that, I must say that perhaps more so than other key players in filmmaking like directors/writers/producers, DPs are still very much a man’s world. Based on WomenAndHollywood.com, of the top 300 films from 2016 to 2018, 97% were male and 3% were female were credited as the director of photography (DP) across the top live action films, which translates into 33 male lensers for every 1 female lenser. Well, let’s hope this grim stats will continue to improve, I mean, there’s only one way but up!

So let’s get to the list, shall we? Here they are in random order:

1. Charlotte Bruus Christensen

Though the Danish cinematographer had been working since 2004 in a bunch of short films, I first noticed her work in Thomas Vinterberg’s 2012 Danish thriller The Hunt. It’s such a beautiful, atmospheric film, shot in her native Denmark.

A few years later she collaborated again with Vinterberg in Far from the Madding Crowd. I distinctly remember being in awe of the lush visuals of that movie, shot mostly in the UK. The forest scene is simply breathtaking. Behold:

She also did impressive work in the underrated music-themed drama Hunky Dory, The Girl on the Train, and A Quiet Place.

2. Rachel Morrison

You can’t have a list of female DPs and not mention Rachel Morrison. Though her most famous work is no doubt The Black Panther, she actually earned an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography for Mudbound, the film she shot before the huge Marvel film. She had the distinction of being the first woman ever recognized by the Academy in the cinematography category.

I actually still need to see MUDBOUND, which also made history for DeeRees for being the first Black woman nominated for an Oscar in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.

Black Panther is one of the most stunning films I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to pick which scene is the most beautiful, but I LOVE the visuals of the night car chase scene in Busan. It’s probably one of the most beautifully-shot car chases ever!

3. Maryse Alberti

The French-born DP has quite a career spanning 3+ decades, starting in the mid 80s with shorts, TV work and documentaries. Some of her films I remember well are Velvet Goldmine in the late 90s set in the world of 1970s glam-rock, The Wrestler, and Creed. The last two consist of plenty intense action scenes, given the nature of such contact sport, which I’d imagine are tough to shoot.

I love the realism in Alberti’s visual style… the scenes are dramatic and beautiful to look at, but not glamorized. There’s a realness and grit to it that also helps you as the audience to really get in on the action and also relate more to the characters.

4. Mandy Walker

The Victoria, Australia native had her start as a DP in Australian movies. The first movie I saw that she shot was Shattered Glass, about American journalist Stephen Glass. But the one movie that made me take notice of her work was in Baz Luhrmann’s AUSTRALIA, which of course was shot on location. The movie is practically a promo video for Australia, and for one of its hunkiest export Hugh Jackman in one of his most glorious form.

She also shot the stunning Chanel No. 5 perfume advert, collaborating again with Luhrmann and Nicole Kidman. She also worked on Hollywood films Red Riding Hood, Tracks, Truth and one of my favorites, Hidden Figures. I have yet to see MULAN yet, but she’s also the DP for that Disney live-action movie, so I hope to see that during the holidays!

5. Ellen Kuras

The New Jersey is known not just for her cinematography work, but also for directing documentaries. In fact, she nominated for an Oscar for her first directorial debut documentary The Betrayal in 2009. She continues to juggle both narratives and documentaries as a DP, such as JANE about Jane Goodall, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, and David Byrne’s American Utopia directed by Spike Lee.

One of her most well-known narrative work includes Blow, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Ballad of Jack and Rose and the period drama A Little Chaos which was all shot in the UK despite being set at Versailles, France. I quite enjoyed the romantic period drama, starring some of my all time favorite actors, especially Kate Winslet + Alan Rickman (reunited after Sense & Sensibility!) and there are plenty of beautiful shots to admire in it.


Surely there are more female DPs working today who do excellent work, so this is by no means a comprehensive list. So, with that in mind, 

Who are some of your favorite female DPs? Feel free to include links to photos or videos.

FlixChatter Review: Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

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I have to admit the first time I heard about this novel was a few years ago when Richard Armitage’s character in the Christmas edition of Vicars of Dibley mentioned this Thomas Hardy’s novel as his favorite. Well, I remember reaching about what that novel was about and was immediately hooked. So a headstrong woman in Victorian England attracts three very different suitors, I definitely like the sound of that.

In stories like this, casting is crucial and that’s why I approach this review more from that angle. Let me start with the heroine, Bathsheba Everdene.

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I love the fact that Bathsheba is played by Carey Mulligan who’s appropriately free spirited and convincing as an independent young woman. A woman living in 19th-century England would not straddle her horse like she does when she rides, and she works the farm just as hard as any man.

When she first encountered Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer, he’s immediately smitten and it’s easy to see why. Matthias Schoenaerts, who somehow reminds me of Viggo Mortensen in this role, portrays Gabriel with deep vulnerability. He’s all doe-eyed with a hint of smolder… not the steamy kind of smolder, but one infused with such sincerity that makes it easy to root for him.

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Their two lives somehow turned out drastically different — Bathsheba became wealthy when she suddenly inherited her uncle’s estate, whilst Gabriel came to a misfortune in one tragic night. The interesting dynamic of their circumstances only adds to the intrigue of their relationship, especially given how a female boss was quite a rare occurrence back in the day. I like how the film shows how Bathsheba tried to defy convention the best way she could, to make in a man’s world and be taken seriously as a farm owner.

The next suitor is more of Bathsheba’s equal in terms of economic status though he’s considerably older in age. Michael Sheen gives a dignified presence to William Boldwood, but also the appropriate sensitivity of someone who’s financially successful but one who’s been unlucky in love. The relationships between Bathsheba and these two men are especially engaging, it’s made a bit trickier by the fact that Boldwood likes Gabriel and appreciate his fervent loyalty.

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I’ve mentioned in this post that the casting of the third suitor is disappointing. Sergeant Frank Troy is described as a handsome, irresponsible and impulsive young man… so I imagine an actor with devilish charisma and undeniable sex appeal for the role. Well, no offense Tom Sturridge but you ain’t that person and you certainly did NOT convince me as someone Bathsheba would risk everything for. Thus, her abrupt decision seems so out of character and doesn’t feel true.

Yes, the much-talked-about swordsmanship scene in the woods was beautifully-filmed but that’s more of a testament of Thomas Vinterberg‘s directing and his ability to create such an ethereal ambiance. I wanted to THAT scene to take my breath away, to be rendered speechless and all tingly from the sheer passion of the two characters, but it just wasn’t to be. The love scene that follows also lacks any kind of eroticism, which made the entire relationship lackluster. It also didn’t help that Sturridge just doesn’t look like a soldier or someone with a hint of danger that could tame or intimidate a woman like Bathsheba. I believe that charisma, especially of a sexual nature, is not something an actor can train for.

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The way the story unfolds is rather predictable. Yes it’s based on a novel so people who’ve read it would’ve known how things turns out, but for those who haven’t, Vinterberg didn’t create any suspense that’d make us guess who Bathsheba will end up with. But Vinterberg’s strength behind the camera is creating a lush and atmospheric look that serves the story well, thanks largely to his frequent collaborator Charlotte Bruus Christensen who also did the cinematography for The Hunt.

There’s a certain melancholy in the film to be expected but it doesn’t feel corny or contrived. Mulligan and Schoenaerts who share the most screen time have a lovely chemistry… the way they steal glances every chance they get is the kind of stuff romantic dramas are made of. Apart from that, I was kind of expecting something a bit more unconventional from Vinterberg. I was so impressed by The Hunt and this one seems like a lesser film by comparison, though it’s not exactly an apples and oranges kind of comparison, but in general sense. This feels more Hollywood, safer and less edgy, but thankfully there are still things I like about it.

I have to say that the fact that sound went out for about 3-4 minutes during the final scene between Bathsheba and Gabriel! It was excruciating because it’s supposed to be a key emotional scene. The sound came back 2 minutes before the ending but still, that was awful that it happened. I’m not going to fault this film for that snafu of course, but the miscasting of Sgt. Troy is a big one for me. It did not derail the film but it prevents the film from being a truly compelling and fiery romantic drama that I had expected.

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Have you seen this film? Well, what did YOU think?