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The major European film festivals articulate aesthetic value with gender in distinctive ways. Historically, very few women directors gained entry to this elite world, despite the impact of second-wave feminism. But in the first decade of the twenty-first century, younger women filmmakers, many from outside Europe, began to receive prizes at A-list festivals. Opening with Jane Campion, the sole woman to have won the top prize at Cannes, this chapter asks what it takes for a woman to gain the prestige of a “cineaste.” Through case studies of Lucrecia Martel and Samira Makhmalbaf, it argues that the women who have risen to the top ranks of auteurs have negotiated discourses of female exceptionality both in their personae and in their films, which engage questions of national identity and historical accountability through the situation of their female protagonists.

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