Five awesome documentary films that explore female creatives and their processes By: Juan Camilo Sáez

Juan Camilo Sáez is fashion obsessed and living in Brooklyn, New York. Over the years he acquired a fairly extensive knowledge of film history. His favorites are classic Hollywood films with strong, complex, glamorous, female leads. He is devoted to Beyoncé.

 

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The Beaches of Agnès (2008, dir: Agnès Varda)

Easily the most aesthetically interesting and significant film on this list. The first lady of French New Wave cinema, Agnès Varda reminisces on her life, both personal and artistic, with whimsical and endlessly creative cinematic flourishes. Photos, re-creations, clips, and animation are interwoven like a quilt. We see her working out shots, and through the reimaging of her life, Varda reminds us how our experiences shape the way we choose to create. You will leave this film inspired.

 Beyoncé: Year of 4 (2011, dir: Ed Burke)

Believe the hype. Beyoncé is the ultimate pop/soul diva of our time. It isn’t just that she is so beautiful and so gifted, but also so tireless. The hardest working woman in show business and the most creatively daring in pop music. This doc (which clocks in at under half an hour and can be streamed on YouTube) shows the making of her grand, vocally soaring album 4, as well as the creation of the uber-empowering, high fashion, post-apocalyptic epic that is her “Run the World (Girls)” video. Favorite moment: When she admits to feeling nervous over her projects, that “What am I doing here?” feeling everyone will inevitably have in their creative process. But how cute is it to hear the most famous woman in the world admit to it?

Iris (2014, dir: Albert Maysles)

Iris Apfel is a New York style icon known for her signature over-sized, round frames and maximalist approach to fashion. She mixes prints, textures, colors, new, old, cheap and luxury with aplomb. Her life has been a dedication to the pursuit of material beauty in all its infinite variety. Legendary documentarian Maysles (of Grey Gardens fame) catches the elderly, but ever energetic and witty Apfel in all her madcap glamour and enthusiasm. Hours are spent styling outfits and sorting through oh so many glorious pieces and accessories. The film reminds us that feeling inspired by art and beauty, even if it’s just a t-shirt, feeds the soul. Best line: “It’s more important to be happy than well-dressed.”

 Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (2012, dir: Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre)

The grand dame of performance art mounts a retrospective at MoMA and stages her most ambitious, famous and debated piece to date. For hours on end she sits, perfectly still, while museum patrons take turns sitting across from her. Some of their reactions will truly surprise you. If nothing else it is an amazing exercise in concentration and control on Abramovic’s part. It reminds us that even when we plan our ideas out, our projects may take on a life of their own and take us to unexpected places.

Public Speaking (2010, dir: Martin Scorsese)

Noted writer and famed raconteur Fran Lebowitz might very well be the greatest wit since Dorothy Parker. In this doc you can hear her pointed observations on everything from pop culture, reading time, and New York, a city she has truly known and seen change. Writer’s block has tormented her for much of her career, but has given her many interesting insights into the writing process, though her views on the arts in general are equally engaging. This may be a Martin Scorsese production, but he was smart enough to keep it simple, let Fran be the star, and speak as only she can. Too many great lines to pick a favorite.

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