Erika Balsom at Film Quarterly:
The claim to appreciate a film exclusively on pure merit has always been spurious, for it disavows how thoroughly the very notions of achievement and relevance are shaped by power, generally to the detriment of those who have historically been excluded from the practices and institutions that build canons and criteria. There are only five films by women out of some 150 titles in the BFI Classics book series, but not because women have made no great films. Echoing filmmaker Lis Rhodes, who asked “Whose history?” it is now vital to query, “Whose classics?” Born in Flames (Lizzie Borden, 1983), Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror, 1972), Jeanne Dielman (Chantal Akerman, 1975), Variety (Bette Gordon, 1983), Daisies (Věra Chytilová, 1966), The Ascent (Larisa Shepitko, 1977), Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999), Incident at Restigouche (Alanis Obomsawin, 1984), Dance, Girl, Dance (Dorothy Arzner, 1940), Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991): where are they? To appreciate a film’s “quality” with minimal regard for social factors, with minimal awareness of the biases inherent in such a stance – an attitude widely held, even by critics who would never speak of PC pedants – is to blithely inhabit the privilege of a false universalism. The growing prominence of writing on cinema by women and people of color heralds a reckoning with that falsity.