Maven's Nest

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---Writer/Director Rachel Tunnard/cinematographer Bet Rourich’s Adult Life Skills; Co-Director Leonor Caraballo/Editor Élia Gasull Balada’s Icaros: A Vision and Detour edited by Kristina Hetherington, screening at TFF 2016

Women Filmmakers at 2016 Tribeca Film Festival

By Nora Lee Mandel

One-third of all the 130 films at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival were directed by women, and an additional ten or so written by women. Many filmmakers were in attendance in lower Manhattan from April 13 - 24 for the 15th annual showcase of international narrative and documentary shorts and features. I am also spotlighting other women collaborators in films – writers, cinematographers, editors, and composers. Capsule reviews forthcoming of my count that I saw:
16 fiction features directed by women
18 feature documentaries directed by women (some also as writers)
11 fiction shorts directed by women (some also as writers)
2 documentary shorts directed by women
5 additional fiction features written by women
2 additional fiction shorts written by women
4 features with women cinematographers or editors

Though I estimate I missed four women-directed documentary features, a woman-written feature, a woman-edited fiction feature, and two women-directed shorts, I also attended a “Tribeca Talks” on 4/17/2016 with director Ira Sachs querying Brit director Andrea Arnold, before the Cannes premiere of her latest film American Honey: “I’m a woman and I make films based on my experiences. . .I don’t rehearse. . .I have an image in my head. . .I don’t storyboard. I like to feel the day.” Her most fun “street casting” non-actors, as she frequently does: on a Panama beach during Spring Break (though she also responsibly drove drunk girls back to their lodgings).


Best of Fest: Recommended Features
Adult Life Skills
Always Shine
All We Had
Almost Paris
As I Open My Eyes (À peine j'ouvre les yeux)
Elvis and Nixon
Icaros: A Vision
The Meddler
Mother (Ema)
Women Who Kill

After Spring
All This Panic
Bad Rap
The Last Laugh
Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back
National Bird
Prison Dogs
The Return
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four
Strike A Pose
Tickling Giants

Recommended Shorts
Everybody Knows…Elizabeth Murray
Father’s Day
Free like the Birds
Girl Band
Hold On (Houvast)
Homeland (Hemland)
Nkosi Coiffure
Reality +
You Can Go


Best of Fest: Recommended Features
Perfect Strangers (Perfetti sconosciuti)
The Ticket

Best of Fest: Recommended Shorts
The Orchestra
Ping Pong Coach (乒乓)


Best of Fest: Recommended Fiction Features
Live Cargo


- Rachel Tunnard
Adult Life Skills - Directed & Written & Edited by Rachel Tunnard/cinematographer Bet Rourich (U.K.) (World Premiere)
Nora Ephron Award Winner – my review and coverage is posted at FF2 Media.
Kudos to lovely quirkiness and female friendship!
Bravo to going on to win at the British Independent Film Awards for Debut Screenwriter Rachel Tunnard and Supporting Actor Brett Goldstein
Updates on director Rachel Tunnard: 2018 and 2019.

All We Had - Directed by Katie Holmes/co-written by Jill Killington, adapted from Annie Weatherwax's 2014 novel that I haven’t yet read (U.S) (World Premiere)
Finally - in Theaters and On Demand January 18, 2019 via Screen Media
Kudos to portrayal of financial and relationship struggles of a single mother (Katie Holmes) and a growing-up fast teen daughter (Stefania Owen).

Almost Paris - Directed by Domenica Cameron-Scorsese (U.S) (World Premiere “special screening” out of competition)
Kudos to a surprise sleeper charmer, rom com with contemporary relevance and strong, credible, hometown women who speak their minds.
Film Rise is opening in theaters January 9,2018.

Mackenzie Davis as Anna in Always SHINE (photo by Mark Schwartzbard)
Always Shine - Directed by Sophia Takal (U.S.) (World Premiere) (Oscilloscope Laboratories release)
Kudos to taking female competition to a spooky extreme.
Mackenzie Davis was awarded “Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature” - Jury Comment: “For the unapologetic, fierce, brave, compelling, and vulnerable portrayal.”

As I Open My Eyes (À peine j'ouvre les yeux) - Directed by Leyla Bouzid, written by Leyla Bouzid and Marie-Sophie Chambon (France/Tunisia) (U.S. Premiere)
Kudos to tying together personal, musical, societal and political liberation for a Tunisian daughter and mother. (Kino Lorber release)

Breeda Wool and Lola Kirke in AWOL (photo by Asya Danilova)
AWOL - Directed by Deb Shoval, written by Deb Shoval and Karolina Waclawiak, based on Shoval’s short (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to frank look at two women with limited options struggling to support themselves while falling in love amidst family pressures.

Califórnia - Directed & Co-Written by Marina Person (Brazil) (North American Premiere)
Kudos to nerdy girl.
Playing August 26 in O Brasil: Contemporary Brazilian Cinema at Museum of the Moving Image

Director Priscilla Anany (photo by Genevieve Evans) Essuman (Actress Rukiyat Masud) carrying her onscreen disabled child Nuku (Jessica Dablo) and walking into the Volta Lake in CHILDREN OF THE MOUNTAIN (photo by Selasie Djameh)
Children of the Mountain - Directed, written, and produced by Priscilla Anany, and edited by Elizabeth Lee (Ghana/U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to spotlighting traditional treatment of special needs children in Ghana.
Awarded “Best New Narrative Director” – Jury Comments: "So many of the films we had the pleasure of viewing were expertly directed and worthy of recognition. The winning director presents a fearless and heart wrenching tale of an embattled mother's high stakes journey to heal her sick child and ultimately herself. The film delicately and powerfully directs us through an emotionally resonant story that is dark for truthful reasons and simultaneously hopeful.”

Photo of the director, courtesy of Liza Johson
Elvis and Nixon - Directed by Liza Johnson (U.S.) (World Premiere - Amazon Studios/Bleecker Street release)
Kudos to charm combining reality with pointed whimsy.

EQUITY director Meera Menon, writer Amy Fox, the anchoring Anna Gunn, Broad St. producers/co-stars Sarah Megan Thomas & Alysia Reiner, at 4/19/2016 screening Q & A Menon also spoke on a panel with directors Mary Harron and Jennifer Westfeldt, discussing their experiences in the industry.
Equity - Directed by Meera Menon and Written by Amy Fox (U.S.) (shown as a “special screening” out of competition) (Sony Pictures Classics release)
Kudos to the most, varied and complex female Wall Streeters in film.

Icaros: A Vision - Co-Directed by Leonor Caraballo and Edited by Élia Gasull Balada (Peru/U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to Amazon scenery and shamanistic visual and sound design.
Will open theatrically in NYC at the Metrograph on May 19, 2017, followed by a national theatrical rollout in Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and more. Factory 25 will also release the film digitally in early summer via iTunes, Amazon, cable VOD and many other digital outlets.

The Meddler - Directed and written by Lorene Scafaria/Editor Kayla M. Emter (U.S.) (U.S. Premiere)
Kudos to portrayal of widowed empty nester re-learning to be useful, self-reliant, and self-fulfilled.

Mother (Ema) - Directed by Kadri Kousaar and Co-Written by Leana Jalukse (Estonia) (International Premiere)
Kudos to deftly turning non-femme-fatale women-driven noir into comedy.

Jenny Slate with Adam Scott and Nick Kroll
My Blind Brother - Directed and Written by Sophie Goodhart, based on her short film/Edited by Jennifer Lee (U.S.) (Starz release)
Kudos to the ever ironically adorable Jenny Slate.

Ingrid Jungermann and her crew at post-screening Q & A, 4/29/2016
Women Who Kill - Written and Directed by Ingrid Jungermann (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to updating Woody Allenish murder mystery to podcasting Brooklyn lesbians.
Awarded “Best Screenplay in a U.S. Narrative Feature” - Jury Comment: “As Miles Davis said, ‘The hardest thing is to be original.’ This unique and deftly hilarious tale told in Brooklyn is from a fresh voice and a true original.”
The non-profit Film Collaborative will release theatrically beginning July 2017; FilmRise has acquired worldwide VOD and digital rights.


After Spring - Directed by Ellen Martinez and Steph Ching (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to intimately and sensitively following the changing experiences of two Syrian families and U.N. aid workers, including a local Jordanian woman and a Korean Taekwondo instructor, over more than a year in the large and growing Zaatari Refugee Camp.
Premiers on Starz February 12, 2017 – a week later on VOD platforms

All This Panic - Directed by Jenny Gage (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to getting into media-conscious teen girls’ heads.

Artist Sophia Chang (a.k.a @esymai on Instagram) illustrates the lead characters of Bad Rap as if they're members [of] Death Row posing for the cover of VIBE magazine.
Bad Rap - Directed/co-Produced by Salima Koroma (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to 360̊ cultural exploration of Asian-Americans in hip hop, including female rapper awkwafina of Queens (unlike “Best International Narrative Feature Award” winner Junction ‘48 which uncritically celebrated Palestinians’ and Israelis’ exaggerated appropriation of African-American stylings).

Enlighten Us: The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray - Directed by Jenny Carchman (U.S.) (World Premiere) (CNN release)
Too bad it doesn’t get to the heart of the real scandal of profit-making self-help industry or his superficial pop-psychology and cultural appropriation of such techniques as a Native American ceremony.

haveababy - Directed/Produced/Shot/Edited by Amanda Micheli/Co-edited by Lisa Fruchtman (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to revealing ethical issues in promoting the commercial fertility clinic industry as it capitalizes on women desperate to have children.
As Vegas Baby, Tugg released the film nationally, and FilmRise distributed on all major digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu, with national public television broadcast premiere on “America Reframed” on June 27th 2017. In July 2017, it will be released worldwide on a subscriber video-on-demand platform

Director Ferne Pearlstein (Photographer: Anne Etheridge)
The Last Laugh - Directed by Ferne Pearlstein (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to range of interviewees’ opinions and clips.
Begins rolling out in theaters March 3, 2017 via The Film Collaborative
Commentary on the Jewish women

LoveTrue - Directed/Produced/Edited/Cinematography by Alma Har'el In conversation with Michael Cera in “Tribeca Talks” at Samsung 837 on 4/16/2016
(U.S.) World Premiere
Kudos to pscho-drama memory reenactments like home movies for families without cameras.

Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back - Directed/Written/Produced by Maura Axelrod/Animation by Katy Davis (U.S.) (World Premiere as a “special screening” out of competition)
Kudos to drawing out the women in the artist’s personal and professional lives.
Note on 9/11 irony
Showing at the Quad Cinema April 2017.

Memories Of A Penitent Heart - Directed by Cecilia Aldarondo/Edited by Hannah Buck/Score by Angélica Negrón (U.S./Puerto Rico) (World Premiere - PBS’s POV)
Kudos to turning family history research into a profound exploration of how people live both within the connections to blood relatives, who reject the real person with extreme bias, and a chosen circle of love, which had particular resonance for homosexuals and Latino Catholics during the AIDS crisis.

National Bird - Directed by Sonia Kennebeck, edited by Maxine Goedicke, and score composed by Ina Rudolph (U.S.) (Film Rise/PBS’s Independent Lens)
Kudos to highlighting the gendered issues in drone policy.

Obit - Directed by Vanessa Gould (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to the inside look into what is my daily must-read - but full disclosure: The New York Times did publish the obit of my father Dr. Irwin D. Mandel.
Showing at Film Forum in Manhattan April 2017

Prison Dogs - Directed by Perri Peltz and Geeta Gandbhir (U.S.) (World Premiere “special screening” out of competition)
Kudos to an engrossing, inside look over two years at the challenging work of all those involved in Puppies Behind Bars program at Fishkill State Correctional Facility in New York – the inmate trainers, the tough, no-slacking director Gloria Gilbert Stoga, the canines, and military veterans with PTSD before, during, and after being matched with service dogs. (My cousin volunteered for many years with a similar inmate puppy-raising program run by Fidos for Freedom at a federal penitentiary in western Maryland, and now I really appreciate her efforts and the multiple beneficiaries.)

The Return - Directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway (U.S.) (World Premiere - PBS’s POV May 23, 2016)
Kudos to spotlighting prison lifers’ release and adjustment

- “D” Pod at the supermax Red Onion State Prison, in Wise County,VA. (Photo courtesy of HBO)
Solitary - Directed by Kristi Jacobson (U.S.) (World Premiere –HBO Documentaries – February 2017)
Kudos to an extraordinary year with the confidences of the inmates, guards, supervisors and counselors about dealing with solitary confinement, how they got there and if they have hopes for getting out or changing.
Reviewed for Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2016 at Film Society of Lincoln Center and at IFC Center

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four - Directed by cinematographer Deborah S. Esquenazi, edited by Leah Marino and Liz Perlman (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to exposing lesbian-phobia in a sexual assault of children case.
Theatrical run in NYC begins on 9/16/2016, and in L.A. on 9/30/2016. U.S. Broadcast Premiere on 10/15/2016 on Investigation Discovery.

- STRIKE A POSE: top row: SalimGauwloos, Oliver Crumes III, Carlton Wilborn, Kevin Stea bottom row: Luis Camacho, Jose Gutierez (photo by Linda Posnick)
Strike A Pose - Co-Directed by Ester Gould and Edited by Dorith Vinken (Netherlands/Belgium) (North American Premiere)
Kudos to sensitively drawing out the truths behind Alek Keshishian’s Madonna: Truth or Dare documentary and her “Blond Ambition Tour”, aka “Express Yourself” Tour - my fave song and video of 1989; aka “Vogue Tour” for her 1990 song and video with the trendy dance moves originally choreographed by two of the seven “fierce” male dancers whose surprising told-for-the-first-time, non-expressed themselves lives portray “the Queen of Pop” as a blowhard hypocrite about gay and HIV issues during the AIDS crisis.

This Magic Moment - Co-Directed by Erin Leyden (U.S.) (World Premiere at the 10th annual Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival Gala screening – televised in ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series)
Kudos to making the personalities and basketball context comprehensible and entertaining to me who knew zilch about the Orlando Magic in the md-1990’s.

- Director Sara Taksler at post-screening Q & A 4/21/2016
Tickling Giants - Directed and Written by Sara Taksler (U.S.) (World Premiere) (Theatrical U.S. release begins March 15, 2017)
Kudos to going beyond the story of Bassem Youssef challenging TPTB in Egypt that her boss Jon Stewart at The Daily Show could show us to follow her counterpart women producers of his political satire show - in the writers' room, on the streets, and withstanding scary threats.



(top) Sienna Miller as Charlotte Melville; (ctr) Elisabeth Moss as Helen Wilder and Tom Hiddleston as Robert Laing; (bot) Sienna Guillory as Jane Sheridan - in HIGH RISE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photos courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photos credit: Aidan Monaghan
High-Rise - co-Written and co-Edited by Amy Jump, adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel I haven’t yet read (U.K.) (New York Premiere) (Magnolia Pictures release – which is only promoting the film with images of bare-chested Hiddleston)
Kudos to satirical sci fi vision. Though rich women are really nastily skewered, there’s a nod to how badly some women could fare in a dystopian apocalypse, that finally brings out some female solidarity.

A Kind of Murder - Written by Susan Boyd, adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1954 novel Blunderer I haven’t yet read, and Edited by Jane Rizzo and Elisabet Ronalda (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Only kudos to Costume Designer Sarah Mae Burton that is key to setting the 1950’s milieu.

- director Paolo Genovese, during Q & A after 4/15/2016 screening described how the five-member writing team worked together.
Perfect Strangers (Perfetti sconosciuti) - co-Written by Paola Mammini (Italy) (International Premiere)
Kudos to balanced sexual revelations among long-time friends over dinner.
Awarded “Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature” – Jury comments - “This award goes to a well-crafted, entertaining scenario, with deep character development. It’s an original story about private lives and hidden secrets.”

The Ticket - co-Written by Sharon Mashihi (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to thoughtful “What if?” where women re-interpret happily ever after in very contemporary home and office relationships.
Shout! Factory release in 2017.


The Orchestra - co-Written by Jennifer Smith (Australia)
Kudos to a charming portrayal of senior citizens accompanied by their favorite tunes in one of the few animated films in the fest, let alone hand-drawn.

Tsi-An and her best friend, Yi-Rui buying drinks, played by Yen-Chen Lin and Chen-Yi Liao. From PING PONG COACH (photo by Crystal Pan)
Ping Pong Coach (乒乓) - Written by Chieh Yang (Taiwan/U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to sensitive portrayal of abuse of a teen-age girl’s trust.
”Student Visionary Award” - Jury Comments: “For its naturalistic tone and compelling performances, this film impacted us in a real way.”


Live Cargo - cinematographer Daniella Nowitz (U.S./Bahamas) (World Premiere)
Kudos to noir realism in the Caribbean.
Theatrical distribution begins 3/31/2017 via Gunpowder & Sky Distribution
Note to Wire fans

Detour - editor Kristina Hetherington (U.K.) (World Premiere) (Magnolia Pictures release)
Kudos to the changing and simultaneous POVs.

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea - editor Tara Timpone (U.S.) (World Premiere) (Electric Entertainment release)
No kudos.

Shadow World - Director of Photography Nicole Mackinlay Hahn (U.S./Belgium/Denmark) (World Premiere - ITVS funding so presumably will be broadcast on PBS)
Kudos to adding visual poetry to archival and talking heads re-plays of a long litany of mostly familiar investigations of arms deals corruption.


Father’s Day - Directed by Kiki Lambden/Written by Elizabeth Canavan , based on her short story (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to naturalistic adult children dealing with elderly parents, including a mother with Alzheimer’s, where the Metuchen, NJ railroad station symbolizes different memories for each.

Girl Band - Directed/written/produced by Kerry Furrh, Cailin Lowry and Olivia Mitchell/Music by Mitchell/Edited by Furrh (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to a lively, diverse, as individualized as they are mutually supportive, female buddy quartet of creative risk-takers, helping each other resist importuning family and lovers. Created as a pitch for a TV pilot, this is the feminist alternative to Entourage we’ve been waiting for years. I’m ready for the next episode – will they make it to -- and in-- L.A.?

Charlie Chan Dagelet (photo by Lennart Verstegen)
Hold On (Houvast) - Directed by Charlotte Scott-Wilson (Netherlands) (World Premiere)
Kudos for making a successful woman’s insecurities so frighteningly visual and audible.
Awarded “Best Narrative Short” - “The jury was moved by one particular film because it is simultaneously about the price of performance, and the entirely unique idea that the protagonist’s musical performance itself succeeds on the back of her own self-doubt, torture, and anxiety. We were also blown away by the remarkable performance of the lead actress in both her emotional depth combined with her musical proficiency.”

Homeland (Hemland) - Directed/written/edited/produced by Sara Broos (Sweden) (North American Premiere)
Kudos for not only humanizing a hijab-wearing Syrian woman refugee for Westerners, but connecting her to fond memories of youthful Western pop music in peacetime.

Madly - international auteur collection on “modern love” includes disappointing short films directed by women with conventional imagery of nervous new bride and new mother. (Others may be co-written by women) (World Premiere):

Afterbirth - Directed by Mia Wasikowska (Australia) - She discusses self-love: video

- Actress Tamsin Topolski (as NORA) from the film I DO by Natasha Khan. Still by: Chloe Thomson
I Do - Directed by Natasha Khan (UK)

Nkosi Coiffure - Directed by Frederike Migom (Belgium) (U.S. Premiere)
Kudos for women’s witty cross-cultural connection in a Brussels beauty salon.

One Good Pitch - Directed and co-written by Parker Hill (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Well-meaning, but by unfortunate coincidence the feature The Phenom in the fest was a longer version of almost the same story as an intense character study.

Reality + - Directed and Written by Coralie Fargeat/Edited by Fargeat and Charlotte Rembauville (France) (New York Premiere)
Kudos for a romance that delightfully comes out of the Twilight Zone.

Semele - Directed/Written and Edited by Myrsini Aristidou (Cyprus) (New York Premiere)
Kudos to an engrossing focus on a young girl initiating her own “bring your daughter to work day” on her estranged, carpenter father, with minimal dialogue.

You Can Go - Directed by Christine Turner (U.S.) (World Premiere)
Kudos to S. Epatha Merkerson channeling her Law & Order image into a gutsy school counselor empathetically facing down a student with a gun, very relevant, unfortunately, for too many headlines.


Everybody Knows…Elizabeth Murray - Directed by Kristi Zea (U.S.) (World Premiere - “special screening” at the Whitney Museum of American Art out of competition)
Kudos to fitting into an hour how a woman juggled art, ambition, and family, with Meryl Streep voicing her journals.

one of our heroes, Sophie Cruz – who is fighting to keep her family together”
Free Like the Birds - Directed by Paola Mendoza (U.S.) (World Premiere kicked-off a panel discussion on the future of immigrants in the U.S.)
Kudos to a warm and moving telling the background story behind the 5-year-old California girl media sensation along the Washington, D.C. papal motorcade who asked Pope Francis to bless immigration reform. While her trip and the film were supported by Fight For Families, neither come across as agit-prop, but as an effective lesson in advocacy education.

updated 9/27/2019

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

Complete Index to Nora Lee Mandel's Movie Reviews

Since August 2006, edited versions of most of my reviews of documentaries/indie/foreign films are at Film-Forward; since 2012, festival overviews at FilmFestivalTraveler; and, since 2016, coverage of women-made films at FF2 Media. 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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