Filmmaker Alma Har’el helped conceive Time’s 100 Women of the Year issue, designed to recognize the contributions of female leaders, innovators, activists, entertainers, athletes and artists who defined the century from 1920 through 2019. Along with original portraits, the magazine will release 100 covers reflecting the era of each year.

“I don’t think Time has ever done anything this big,” “Honey Boy” director Har’el says, speaking exclusively to Variety. “They usually do one of these covers a year. We’re doing 100 of them.”

“If I felt hungry to take solace in some of the histories of some of these women, I immersed myself in it in the most encompassing way I could,” she adds. The idea was born out of Ha’rel’s frustration and a need to “do something that takes me outside of myself.”

Har’el spent much of 2019 on the awards trail discussing “Honey Boy,” a drama written by and starring Shia LaBeouf. Many of her conversations, she said, revolved around “fellow female filmmakers and exclusion.” After the Oscars failed to nominate any women in the best director category, the question, Har’el says, became about “the five best director nominees being male and who would you take out?”

But that question, Har’el says, was the problem, glossing over the larger issue: “It’s about looking at how women are represented, remembered and how women are written out of history.”

Har’el notes that only five female directors have been nominated in the Academy’s 92-year history, with only one — Kathryn Bigelow — winning. “And how is it that Alice Guy-Blaché, who was the first woman to open up a film studio in New York before Hollywood existed, directed over 1000 films — she wrote the films, produced them and was one of the first filmmakers ever in the whole world to explore narratives and to cast intersectional casts — how is she not a household name?” Har’el asks. “How is she a name that most people don’t have a clue who she is?”

That question and that frustration forced Har’el to look not just at the limitations within Hollywood, but in history at large. She looked at everything from the suffragists in the 1920s to Greta Thunberg’s recent activism and spent three months working with the selection committee at Time in putting it all together.

“There is this narrative that women in most of history have been oppressed,” she explains. “The truth is that women have been warriors, artists and scientists and they haven’t been remembered in the same way that men have been.”

Har’el says that’s where Time became the ideal platform to launch the initiative, and that seeing women such as Jackie Kennedy, China Machado, Angela Davis, Jane Roe and Aung San Suu Kyi on the covers is striking.

While Har’el didn’t write any of the essays, women like Lena Waithe, MJ Rodriguez and Zazie Beetz did. “Each woman brought her perspective to this, broadening the way we looked at this list,” she says.

She didn’t want the essays to be about her perspective, but more importantly, the need to see these stories out in the world.
Har’el had suggestions — some she fought for never made it, and there were some ideas she didn’t agree with.

“Golda Meir was the president of Israel. Politically, I would have picked Education Minister Shulamit Aloni, who fought for Palestinian, but I didn’t get everything I want,” she says. “But Meir had a huge impact on U.S./Israel relationships and it shaped the Middle East.”

The process was a huge history lesson for Har’el and one she hopes will encourage others to be curious about these stories and visionaries.

Har’el recalls a time she was up watching a late-night TV show in Tel Aviv. The host brought out two men and two women to discuss several topics. “In one episode, this very famous musician got up and asked, ‘what is this discussion about women? Did you fight wars? What did you do?’ That was a turning point for me because of my education, I never really got that,” she explains.

“Lena (Waithe) said, ‘The more we tell our stories and the more we talk, the less they can erase us and I think that’s true.”

See the full list of Time’s 100 Women of the Year below.

1920 The Suffragists

1921 Emmy Noether

1922 Xiang Jingyu

1923 Bessie Smith

1924 Coco Chanel

1925 Margaret Sanger

1926 Aimee Semple McPherson

1927 Queen Soraya Tarzi

1928 Anna May Wong

1929 Virginia Woolf

1930 Martha Graham

1931 Maria Montessori

1932 Babe Didrikson

1933 Frances Perkins

1934 Mary McLeod Bethune

1935 Amelia Earhart

1936 Wallis Simpson

1937 Soong Mei-ling

1938 Frida Kahlo

1939 Billie Holiday

1940 Dorothea Lange

1941 Jane Fawcett and the Codebreakers

1942 The Resisters

1943 Virginia Hall

1944 Recy Taylor

1945 Chien-Shiung Wu

1946 Eva Perón

1947 Amrit Kaur

1948 Eleanor Roosevelt

1949 Simone de Beauvoir

1950 Margaret Chase Smith

1951 Lucille Ball

1952 Queen Elizabeth II

1953 Rosalind Franklin

1954 Marilyn Monroe

1955 The Bus Riders

1956 Golda Meir

1957 Irna Phillips

1958 China Machado

1959 Grace Hopper

1960 The Mirabal Sisters

1961 Rita Moreno

1962 Jacqueline Kennedy

1963 Rachel Carson

1964 Barbara Gittings

1965 Dolores Huerta

1966 Stephanie Kwolek

1967 Zenzile Miriam Makeba

1968 Aretha Franklin

1969 Marsha P. Johnson

1970 Gloria Steinem

1971 Angela Davis

1972 Patsy Takemoto Mink

1973 Jane Roe

1974 Lindy Boggs

1975 American Women

1976 Indira Gandhi

1977 Judith Heumann

1978 Lesley Brown

1979 Tu Youyou

1980 Anna Walentynowicz

1981 Nawal El Saadawi

1982 Margaret Thatcher

1983 Françoise Barré-Sinoussi

1984 bell hooks

1985 Wilma Mankiller

1986 Corazon Aquino

1987 Diana, Princess of Wales

1988 Florence Griffith Joyner

1989 Madonna

1990 Aung San Suu Kyi

1991 Anita Hill

1992 Sinead O’Connor

1993 Toni Morrison

1994 Joycelyn Elders

1995 Sadako Ogata

1996 Ruth Bader Ginsburg

1997 Ellen DeGeneres

1998 J.K. Rowling

1999 Madeleine Albright

2000 Sandra Day O’Connor

2001 Wangari Maathai

2002 The Whistleblowers

2003 Serena Williams

2004 Oprah Winfrey

2005 Melinda Gates

2006 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

2007 Lilly Ledbetter

2008 Michelle Obama

2009 Malala Yousafzai

2010 Nancy Pelosi

2011 Tawakkol Karman

2012 Pussy Riot

2013 Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi

2014 Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

2015 Angela Merkel

2016 Hillary Rodham Clinton

2017 The Silence Breakers

2018 Maria Ressa

2019 Greta Thunberg