Director Barbara Kopple, right, responds to a question from Claudia Puig, CASCADIA’s program director, during her interview at the 2023 festival.

You’ll need to read pretty far down the list of titles by Stephanie Zacharek, TIME Magazine’s film critic, of the 100 best movies in the past 10 decades to find one directed by a woman. Zacharek’s list, released last week, is great collection of some of the finest films from the 21st century but only 7 were directed by women. In fact, the first film on the list directed by a woman doesn’t come up until the 1970s and that is Chantal Ackerman’s “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” made in 1975. The second is “Harlan County, U.S.A.” directed by Barbara Kopple and release in 1976.

As Zacharek writes: “The unfortunate truth is that through most of the 20th century, the world of filmmaking belonged to white men, at least behind the camera…There were certainly women filmmakers working in the early part of the century—Alice Guy-Blaché, Dorothy Arzner, Ida Lupino—but until the 1960s and 1970s, at least, the barriers to entry were high.”

Kopple, who is the only woman director to have received two Academy Awards for Best Director. Her first was for her landmark documentary, “Harlan County U.S.A.” and the second came in 1991 for “American Dream,” also a documentary.

Kopple’s Classic Film Screened at CASCADIA

Kopple is herself legendary in the film industry, one reason CASCADIA chose her to be its Honored Guest at the 2023 Festival earlier this spring. The celebrated director was gracious and generous sharing stories with our audiences at both the screening of her classic film, “Harlan County U.S.A.” and that of her most recent film, “Gumbo Coalition.” She also participated in a lively panel discussion about documentary film making and networked with the other directors in attendance at the festival to exchange experiences and insights.

That her film, “Harlan County U.S.A.” was selected by Zacharek for her list probably came as little surprise to Kopple as the documentary has long been regarded as a major work studied and admired by other filmmakers, documentarians, critics and film scholars. That she accepted CASCADIA’s invitation to come this year to the festival as our Honored Guest was a thrill for our board and the audience who attended her films and event.

If you missed this, you can now watch the recorded 30-minute interview with Kopple by CASCADIA’s Program Director, Claudia Puig, herself a respected film critic and current President of the Los Angeles Film Cirtics Association. The interview is now available to everyone on CASCADIA’s website.

Kopple Joins Documentary Panel for Candid Discussion 

Kopple, far right, talks with (from left) moderator Claudia Puig, directors Ursula Burton, Jennifer Burton and Leslie Shampaine.

The panel discussion about the art of documentary film making on which Kopple appeared along with directors Jennifer Burton, Ursula Burton and Leslie Shampaine will also be posted soon to our website for you to watch. The group’s discussion about the challenges, the process and rewards of making a documentary film was candid, educational and honest. It’s considered to be one of the best discussions CASCADIA has presented since the festival began.

We record these events so that those of you who were unable to attend the festival in person this year can see what you missed and so that those of you who were present can hear them again. We invite you to take advantage of this opportunity.