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At the 2020 New York Film Festival, directors Dea Kulumbegashvili (Beginning) and Allison Chhorn (The Plastic House) streamed their Q & A’s online.

Women-Directed and Women-Crewed Films and Talks at the 2nd Week of 2020 New York Film Festival

By Nora Lee Mandel

Amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic that hit New York City hard, the 58th Annual New York Film Festival of Films at Lincoln Center (FLC) streamed online September 17 through October 11, 2020. I was able to see most of the films available the second week, from September 29, to primarily view women-directed and women-crewed films, and their related talks. (I’ll add in coverage when I can catch up on ones I missed.) This year, the festival’s offerings were streamlined into “Main Slate”, “Currents” of more experimental work, a grab-bag “Spotlight”, and restored “Revivals”, plus “Talks”, where participants “zoomed” in from all over the world, facilitated by excellent translators, like at the post-screenings Q and A’s.

For the first time, this “Virtual Cinema” was available throughout the U.S. Films with commercial distributors had limited accessibility and maximum allotment. (Sony Pictures Classics, for example, only permitted their three films to be viewed for 24 hours, and others, such as Spike Lee’s David Byrne’s American Utopia, charged extra, but is now available on HBO.) FLC did offer free promotional codes to newsletter subscribers, for example, to the new, socially-distanced “drive-in screenings” at the Bronx Zoo, the Brooklyn Army Terminal and at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, at $45.00 per vehicle, to appreciate audio via the car’s FM stereo. For some filmmakers, this would be their only opportunity during the pandemic to see their films on a big screen. Several of the films are or will be broadly available on Amazon Prime Video, Apple+, or HBO (sponsor of the documentaries).

How did women filmmakers fare this year?
In the prestigious Main Slate: 7 new feature films out of 25
In Spotlight: 2 features out of 6
In Currents: 3 features out of 14, and 22 shorts out of 46
In Revivals: 2 out of 12, and,
In Talks, including thematic “Roundtables”, “Deep Focus Dialogues”, and “Crosscuts” with pairings of filmmakers across sections: 6 included women directors, out of 27 participating directors.


Main Slate:

Beginning (Dasatskisi) (Georgia) - directed by Dea Kulumbegashvili
Kulumbegashvili’s Q & A and participation in ”Rethinking World Cinema” are archived on FLC’s video channel.

The Calming (China) – Director Song Fang

I Carry You With Me (Te llevo conmigo) (USA/Mexico) – Director/Co-Writer Heidi Ewing; Editor – Enat Sidi (Sony Pictures Classics will release on January 8, 2021)

Nomadland (USA) (Centerpiece) Director/Editor Chloé Zhao (Searchlight Pictures will release on February 19, 2021)

Time (USA) – Director Garrett Bradley (Amazon Studios release in theaters October 6, on Amazon Prime Video October 23)
Bradley’s conversation with Ephraim Asili, director of The Inheritance, may be archived on FLC’s video channel.

Tragic Jungle (Selva Trágica) (Mexico) – Director/Co-Writer/Co-Editor Yulene Olaizola; cinematographer Sofia Oggioni


All In: The Fight for Democracy (USA) – Director Lisa Cortés and Liz Garbus; Editor Nancy Novack; Additional Music by Meshell Ndegeocello (Amazon Studios release, available on Amazon Prime Video September 18)

On The Rocks (USA) – Director Sofia Coppola; Editor Sarah Flack (Apple/A24 release on October 23, then streaming on Apple+)


Her Name Was Europa (Germany) – Directors Anja Dornieden and Juan David González Monroy

My Mexican Bretzel (Spain) – Director Nuria Giménez

The Plastic House (Australia) Director Allison Chhorn

The Tango of the Widower and Its Distorting Mirror (El Tango del Viudo y Su Espejo Deformante) (Chile) Directors Raúl Ruiz & Valeria Sarmiento
Sarmiento’s talk on completing Ruiz’s work is archived on FLC’s video channel.

Autoficción (Spain/USA/New Zealand) Director Laida Lertxundi

Program 3: Letters From Home
Notes, Imprints (On Love): Part I (USA/Ecuador) Director Alexandra Cuesta
Glimpses from a Visit to Orkney in Summer 1995 (Germany) Director Ute Aurand
Correspondence (Correspondencia) (Spain/Chile) Directors Carla Simón & Dominga Sotomayor
Claudette's Star (UK) Director Ayo Akingbade
Episodes - Spring 2018 (France) Director Mathilde Girard

Program 4: There Are Other Worlds They Have Not Told You Of
Labor of Love (Germany) Director Sylvia Schedelbauer
Figure Minus Fact (USA) Director Mary Helena Clark

Program 6: Here and Elsewhere
Extractions (Canada) Director Thirza Cuthand
Here and There (Aquí y allá) (Argentina/France) Director Melisa Liebenthal
Why (Apiyemiyekî?) (Brazil/France/Portugal/Netherlands) Director Ana Vaz

Program 7: Code Unknown
Humongous! (Japan) Director Aya Kawazoe
The End of Suffering (a proposal) (Greece) Director Jacqueline Lentzou
Point and Line to Plane (Canada) Director Jacqueline Lentzou

Program 1: Remains to Be Seen
A Revolt Without Images (Spain) Director Pilar Monsell
Untitled Sequence Of Gaps (Germany) Director Vika Kirchenbauer

Program 2: Free Radicals
King of Sanwi (USA/Ghana) Director Akosua Adoma Owusu
-force- (Hong Kong) Director Simon Liu & Jennie MaryTai Liu

Program 8: New York Stories
Drills (USA) Director Sarah Friedland
In Sudden Darkness (USA) Director Tayler Montague
This program’s directors’ participation in a roundtable will be archived on FLC’s video channel.


Simone Barbes or Virtue (Simone Barbès ou la vertu) (France, 1980) Director Marie-Claude Treilhou
Treilhou’s talk with Serge Bozon will be archived on FLC’s video channel.

Smooth Talk (USA, 1985) Director Joyce Chopra
Chopra’s conversation with star Laura Dern and short story writer Joyce Carol Oates is archived on FLC’s video channel.


Main Slate:

Lovers Rock (Opening Night)/Mangrove/Red, White and Blue - in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology (UK) Composer Mica Levi (Amazon Studios releases November 27/November 20/December 18)

French Exit (USA/UK) Editor Hilda Rasula (Closing Night) (seen courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics - national release April 2, 2021
Some old time fans of the NY Film Festival gripe that recent selections don’t feel like their movies used to. They should love director Azazel Jacobs’ cinematic interpretation of Patrick deWitt’s adaptation of his novel (that I haven’t yet read). Fans of the heyday of “screwball comedies” will appreciate this contemporary update of the genre, with eccentric characters whose lives seem to have been in the movies, and who even have fans watching their lives. The editing helps keep co-stars Michelle Pfeiffer, as a non-maternal mother, and Lucas Hedges, as her uneasy son, within a strong ensemble who sets up unpredictably humorous situations.

Isabella (Argentina) Co-Composer Gabriela Saidon (Cinema Guild will release in 2021.)

MLK/FBI (USA) Editor/Co-Writer Laura Tomaselli
Seen at 2020 Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival)

Night of the Kings (La nuit des rois) (France/Ivory Coast/Canada/Senegal) Editor Aube Foglia (Neon releases one-week award qualifying virtual run in NYC December 25th and in U.S. 2021)

The Truffle Hunters (Italy/U.S./Greece) Editor Charlotte Munch Bengtsen (Sony Picture Classics releases December 25.)

Undine (Germany/France) Editor Bettina Böhler (IFC Films releases in 2021.)


Fauna (Mexico/Canada) Cinematographer Mariel Baqueiro; Songs by Teresita Sánchez

There Are Not Thirty-Six Ways of Showing a Man Getting on a Horse (No existen treinta y seis maneras de mostrar cómo un hombre se sube a un caballo (Argentina) Co-Writer Malena Solarz



The Disciple (India) Director Chaitanya Tamhane (Netflix in 2021

Her Socialist Smile (USA) (Seen courtesy of Director John Gianvito and Grasshopper Film)
Here’s Gianvito’s informative NYFF Q & A and his ”Talk” with MLK/FBI director Sam Pollard.
Though not mentioned in this unusually dispassionate yet politically passionate and revelatory documentary, Helen Keller was Forest Hills’ most prominent Socialist, when she lived at what was then 93 Seminole Ave, renumbered to 71-11 112th St, from 1917 – 1938. (Her residences before and after are referenced.) I put insights from the film into the context of neighborhood history in a March 2021 presentation.

Hopper/Welles (USA) Director Orson Welles

Notturno (Italy/France/Germany) Director Gianfranco Rosi
Italy’s submission for Foreign Language Oscar. (Super LTD/Neon will release.)

Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue (Yi zhi you dao hai shui bian lan) (China) Director Jia Zhangke (Cinema Guild will release May 28, 2021.)

The Year of the Discovery (El año del descubrimiento) (Spain) Director Luis López Carrasco


August 22, This Year (Canada) Director Andrew Norman Wilson

In the Air Tonight (USA) Director Graham Foy

Look Then Below (UK) Director Ben Rivers

Sanfield (USA) Director Kevin Jerome Everson

See You in My Dreams (Japan) Director Shun Ikezoe

Stump The Guesser (Canada) Directors Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson

Flashbacks: My recent New York Film Festival coverage of films by women:

At 2019.

At 2018: Highlights and Complete Guide.

At 2017: fiction features, accessible documentaries and unusual documentaries.

At 2016: Complete Guides to Women-Directed Films at NYFF: the 11 Feature Films and the 18 Short Films.

updated 10/8/2021

Nora Lee Mandel is a member of New York Film Critics Online. Her reviews are counted in the Rotten Tomatoes TomatoMeter:

Complete Index to Nora Lee Mandel's Movie Reviews

My reviews have appeared on: Film-Forward; FF2 Media; Lilith, FilmFestivalTraveler; and, Alliance of Women Film Journalists and for Jewish film festivals. Shorter versions of my older reviews are at IMDb's comments, where non-English-language films are listed by their native titles.

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