From the outside, Hollywood and the American movie industry can seem and often is like a boys club, but it would be ignorant to think that the most vital films being written, directed, produced, and created today are coming the bros alone. Enter Kathryn Bigelow who, for the last three decades, has made it her mission to show the boys up. While her filmography may seem brief on paper, her influence extends across the field, from such cult classic genre flicks as “Near Dark” (1987), “Blue Steel” (1989) and “Point Break” (1991) to her more recent successes such as “The Hurt Locker” (2009), which earned Bigelow the Oscar for Best Director – making her the first female filmmaker to win the award, as well as beating out ex-husband James Cameron for his film “Avatar” – and the critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated “Zero Dark Thirty,” which netted lead actress Jessica Chastain an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Though critics have often been divided over the presence and depictions of violence in many of her movies, Bigelow has never seen her movies as glorifications or exploitative, but rather a necessary way of showcasing and facilitating the telling of stories that go much deeper. When “Zero Dark Thirty” came under fire for its vivid torture scene, Bigelow had simply this to say in a concise and clear response penned for the Los Angeles Times: “Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement. If it was, no artist would be able to paint inhumane practices, no author could write about them, and no filmmaker could delve into the thorny subjects of our time.” Astute and uncompromising, Bigelow’s work and insight are now formative for any young filmmaker, male or female, looking for inspiration. Check out this brief and interesting overview of Bigelow’s career and style, presented by Substream:
Fun Fact: Bigelow was trained as a painter at the San Francisco Art Institute obtaining her BFA in 1972, earning her a scholarship to the prestigious Whitney of American Art’s Independent Study program. Moving to New York, she continued her career in the fine arts, but as a way to make ends meet, she started an apartment renovation business with none other than acclaimed minimalist composer Philip Glass and influential writer and academic Susan Sontag. The trio, facilitated by Glass’ and Sontag’s financial buoyancy, snatched up lofts all around SoHo and TriBeCa, renovating them and reselling them as they went. Bigelow has stated that she worked on many of the apartments herself, often sanding floors and assisting with demolition. Perhaps that’s where her industry-famous work ethic comes from, no less her penchant for explosions!