Maven's Nest

Reel Life: Flick Pix





Recommended Films at the Mandel Maven's Nest Reel Life: Flick Pix



- Sheila Nevins, Producer Emeritus of HBO Documentaries, and Documentarian Laura Poitras, Citizenfour and co-creator of the visual journalism project Field of Vision, interviewed each other in Tribeca Talks: Directors at School of Visual Arts, 4/28

The Most Complete Annotated Overview of Women Filmmakers at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

By Nora Lee Mandel

Tribeca Film Festival announced that the 46% of the feature films were directed by women, the highest percentage in the Festival’s history. Films now extend beyond the theatrical screen to varying lengths and intended distribution, including streaming platforms, television (pilots, “episodic” or “short form”), and interactive virtual reality. The Festival presented 99 features, 55 short films, 35 immersive storytelling projects, 20 television projects, and 12 N.O.W. (New Online Work) projects from 46 countries. Many were World, International, U.S., or New York premieres, with their makers attending at Manhattan theaters from April 18 – 29, 2018 for the 17th annual showcase.

For me, the anticipated centerpiece of the Festival each year is the Nora Ephron Award, going to “One narrative film directed by or written by a woman making its World or International Premiere will receive the Nora Ephron Award, which recognizes a woman who embodies the spirit and vision of the legendary filmmaker and writer Nora Ephron.” As in previous years, the Festival Press Office would not commit to identifying the award-eligible films in advance. I presumed eight, possibly nine, women-directed films showing in competitions could be eligible, or maybe 13 from other non-competition categories as well. I also continue to be the only film critic to check in on previous Ephron Award winners.
My commentary on the Ephron Award, 2018 and past, is posted at FF2 Media.


As what I call “Women Crew-Ed Films” (just don’t say it out-loud), I also spotlight work with women collaborators in the Festival’s feature and short films and television offerings – writers, cinematographers, editors, and composers. Some of these artists may be future directors, but all are in the pool for future films.

Including my commentary, or at least listing, of N.O.W. (New Online Work) shorts for online platforms (where I see exciting new talent), “immersive” virtual reality projects, and TFI Sloan Works-In-Progress, this report is, therefore, the most complete overview with commentary of all the work by women credited at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. (Even I couldn’t get to see all of them, including weeks of follow-up trying, and I give up on V.R. and games.) Many of the films not already picked up for commercial theatrical or network distribution continue on the festival circuit around the U.S. and world, particularly the shorts. So you will still have opportunities to see these women filmmakers’ work, and I do recommend a lot of them.

TRIBECA FILM INSTITUTE/ALFRED P. SLOAN FOUNDATION FILMMAKER FUND:
This year’s winning projects for $150,000 in awards were chosen by a jury that included Wren Arthur (Olive Productions), Darcy Heusel (Neon) and Anjali Tripathi (astrophysicist):
The New Miracle - written by Gillian Weeks, which centers on the creation of the first test-tube baby
The Spark - directed by Eva Weber and written by Ruth Greenberg, which is set in India and follows the only woman trainee at the local energy company confronted by her past as an electricity thief.


THE AT&T PRESENTS: UNTOLD STORIES PROGRAM:
To win $1 million for their dream production, five filmmakers pitched to a panel of judges that included Fiona Carter (AT&T Chief Brand Officer), Lisa Cortés (director/producer), Ilana Glazer (actor/writer/producer) and Alfre Woodard (actor).
Finalist projects included: Emmett directed by Bridget Stokes and written by Vicky Wight; Lucky Grandma directed/co-written by Sasie Sealy and written by Angela Cheng; and You and Me Both written and directed by Jennifer Suhr, produced by Carolyn Mao.
The grant winner was Lucky Grandma, which will premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, and will run across AT&T's video platform and will be assisted with awards submissions, qualifying screenings, advertisements, and promotion. AT&T will also provide a $10,000 grant to the other participating filmmakers to help achieve their film goals.
Synopsis & Pitch


NORA EPHRON AWARD-ELIGIBLE: FEATURE FILMS BY WOMEN WRITER/DIRECTORS IN COMPETITION AT 2018 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: presumed
All About Nina
Lemonade (Luna de Miere)
Little Woods
Mapplethorpe
O.G.
The Party's Just Beginning
State Like Sleep
Virgins (Vierges/Ein Betulot Bakrayot)


OTHER FEATURE NARRATIVE FILMS DIRECTED BY WOMEN
In SPOTLIGHT NARRATIVE
All These Small Moments
Daughter of Mine (Figlia mia)
Egg
Mary Shelley
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Nico, 1988
Untogether
In VIEWPOINTS - NARRATIVES
Dead Women Walking
The Elephant and the Butterfly (Drôle de Père)
M
Slut in a Good Way (Charlotte A Du Fun)

In MIDNIGHT
Braid
Cargo
In INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE COMPETITION
Amateurs (Amatörer)
In SPECIAL SCREENINGS
Radium Girls
Woman Walks Ahead

TRIBECA TV
Picnic At Hanging Rock
Sweetbitter
Westworld

TRIBECA TV: INDIE PILOT SEASON
Fabled
Nice
On The Spectrum
Oversharing
Tantalum

N.O.W. (NEW ONLINE WORK) SHOWCASES: EPISODIC
Cleaner Daze
Dinette
Driver Ed
The History of White People in America
Home
Snugglr


DOCUMENTARY FEATURES DIRECTED BY WOMEN
In SPECIAL SCREENINGS
The Fourth Estate Closing Night
Love, Gilda Opening Night
Bathtubs Over Broadway
Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes
The Gospel According to André
It's a Hard Truth Ain't It
Netizens
In DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Blowin' Up
Island of the Hungry Ghosts
The Rachel Divide
United Skates
Yellow is Forbidden

In SPOTLIGHT DOCUMENTARY
General Magic
Roll Red Roll
Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland
Time for Ilhan
Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie

In VIEWPOINTS DOCUMENTARY
Charm City
The Feeling of Being Watched
The Proposal

In TRIBECA TV
Bobby Kennedy For President
Mr. Soul!
Phenoms
Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story


SHORTS DIRECTED BY WOMEN
DOCUMENTARY SHORTS
9 at 38
The Girl And The Picture
Homeless: The Soundtrack
Hula Girl
Into My Life
Locked In
A Mountain To Climb
New York Times Op-Docs
Notes from Dunblane: Lessons from a School Shootings
The River of the Kukamas (The El Rio de los Kukamas)
RX: Early Detection A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee
Salam
Wendy’s Shabbat

N.O.W. (NEW ONLINE WORK) SHOWCASES: SHORT FORM DOCUMENTARY
The 99 Names of God
Under Her Skin


NARRATIVE SHORTS
Bao
Five Minutes
Knuckles
Laboratory Conditions
The Last Romantic (El Último Romántico)
Late Afternoon
The Life of Esteban (Het Leven van Estaban)
The Love Letter (Michtav Ahava Lam ‘em Sheli)
Mirette
Paper Roof
So You Like the Neighborhood
Welcome Home
We Were Three (Vi var tre)


WOMEN CREW-ED FILMS: WITH WOMEN WRITERS, CINEMATOGRAPHERS, EDITORS AND COMPOSERS
Features
The American Meme
Back Roads
Blue Night
Call Her Ganda
Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable
The Bleeding Edge
The Dark
Disobedience
Duck Butter
Every Act of Life
House Two
Jellyfish
Maine
McQueen
The Night Eats The World (La Nuit A Dévoré Le Monde)
No Greater Law
Obey
Ryuichi Sakamato: Coda
Studio 54
The Seagull
Sunday’s Illness (La Enfermedad Del Domingo
Tanzania Transit
To Dust
Tully
We the Animals
When Lambs Become Lions
When She Runs

Shorts
Blind Audition
Cosmic Debris
Hey Ronnie Reagan
How Tommy Lemenchick Became A Grade 7 Legend
The Motion of Stars (Die Bewegung der Sterne)
Sidelined
Souls of Totality
UI – Soon We Will All Be One
The Velvet Underground Played At My High School


TRIBECA IMMERSIVE WITH WOMEN PROJECT DIRECTORS: VIRTUAL REALITY
1000 Cut Journey
An Obituary (boogo)
Chalkroom
Dinner Party
The Hidden
Meeting A Monster
Queerskins: a love story
Spheres: Pale Blue Dot


NORA EPHRON AWARD-ELIGIBLE FILMS IN COMPETITION BY WOMEN DIRECTORS AT 2018 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

All About Nina
Synopsis & Trailer
Writer/Director Eva Vives; Editors Saira Haider and Susan Littenberg (USA) (World Premiere)
The Orchard releases in theaters in September.
The raw performance by Mary Louise Winstead as “Nina” dominates the film, and papers over other characters that make less sense. I thought it had a shot at the Nora Ephron Award for its parallels with her This Is My Life (1992).
So, nu: My commentary on the Jewish women.


Lemonade (Luna de Miere)
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Co-writer Ioana Uricaru; Co-Writer Tatiana Ionascu (Romania/Canada/Germany/Sweden) (International Premiere)
With lacerating relevance, this is a devastating Romanian verité-style debut that imagines what a young mother/nurse can go through to legally get a green card in the United States, heightened by Mălina Manovici’s heartbreaking performance as the desperate “Mara”.


Little Woods
Synopsis & Trailer
Q & A at Premiere
Director and Writer Nia Dacosta; Editor Catrin Hedstrom (USA) (World Premiere)
Winner of the Nora Ephron Award, the jury declared: “"For its sure-footed storytelling featuring an unconventional heroine who pushes past expectations of what is bravery in a woman’s life or in cinema. In watching this portrait of a woman at a crossroads in small-town America, we found ourselves wanting to see more stories from this filmmaker and more of her vision of a woman in the world.”
NEON has acquired the North American rights for theatrical release.

Mapplethorpe
Synopsis & Trailer
Q & A at Premiere
Director, Co-writer, and Co-Editor Ondi Timoner; cinematographer Nancy Schreiber (USA) (World Premiere)
Runner-up, Audience Award for Narrative Film
Samuel Goldwyn Films will distribute to North American theaters in the Fall.
Screening just down the block from Robert Mapplethorpe’s and Patti Smith’s residence in the Chelsea Hotel, the honesty of showing the artist’s manipulations, selfishness, ambition, and insensitivity (such as obliviousness to the historical context behind his images of naked African-American men) is striking, as well as his talent and the class issues in his milieu.


O.G.
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Madeleine Sackler (USA) (World Premiere)
The fiction complement to her documentary also showing at the Festival.
Jeffrey Wright was awarded Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film, with the jury touting: “This year’s best actor has been transforming himself on stage, film, and television for many years. His performance in this year’s competition entry testifies to his talent, sensitivity, and craft. With masterful restraint, the inner life of his character seethes out of his pores. He has crafted a performance that solidifies his standing as one of the greatest actors working today.”
My vote for the best fiction film in this year’s festival! While anchored by Wright, the verisimilitude of filming entirely at the Pendleton Correctional Facility, Pendleton, Indiana, and including many first-time actors who are bound there, in speaking and background roles, adds tremendously to the extraordinary realism and tensions of a gripping and eloquent story with great depth. The relevance to the national crime of mass incarceration is vivid.


The Party's Just Beginning
Synopsis & Trailer
Gillan at Premiere
Director/Writer/Star Karen Gillan (Scotland) (International Premiere)
The Orchard will release in North American theaters in the Fall.
A frank, yet mordantly amusing, portrait of life in Gillan’s hometown of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands for twenty-somethings who feel “different”, where their options seem distressingly limited around sex and death.


State Like Sleep
Synopsis & Trailer
Writer/Director Meredith Danluck (USA) (World Premiere)
While she was inspired by personal experiences, what a disappointment that a woman director would allow noir clichés, including a castrating mother and a young woman (played by Katherine Waterston) falling into bed with an older man (Michael Shannon) again and again.


Virgins (Vierges/Ein Betulot Bakrayot)
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Co-Writer Keren Ben Rafael; Co-Writer Elise Benroubi; Co-Editor Danielle Avizur (France/Israel/Belgium) (World Premiere)
Awarded Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature Film – Joy Rieger in Virgins, per the jury: “all of the characters portrayed were fleshed out individuals, but none more than the 16 year old girl who had to navigate a sexual awakening among a life filled with hardship and yearning. The actress portraying this character brought to life a sassy, sexually naïve teenager that is universally identifiable. “
This feature is a well-acted, charming blend of magic realism with cynicism.
So, nu: My commentary on the Israeli-Russian Jewish women.


OTHER FEATURE FILMS DIRECTED BY WOMEN

All These Small Moments
Synopsis & Trailer
- Miller and her young co-stars Meyer and McCarthy
Director/Writer Melissa Miller Costanzo (USA) (World Premiere)
Touching and amusing, this is a well-balanced story of a NYC mother (Molly Ringwald), father (Brian d’Arcy), teenage son (Brendan Meyer – who attracted young fans of his Netflix The OA series to the public screening I attended) and pre-adolescent brother (Sam McCarthy whose many NYC high school friends were in the audience) coming-of-age and to terms with themselves and other (three-dimensional) women in their neighborhood (Jemima Kirke as a troubled “older” woman and Harley Quinn as one of the poignantly strongest teenage girls seen on film in years).


Amateurs (Amatörer)
Synopsis & Trailer
- Pichler showed the audience where Sweden is “Up north!”, and took questions along with many in her cast who traveled west to NYC.
Director/Co-Writer/Co-Editor Gabriela Pichler (Sweden) (North American Premiere)
Delightfully, the diverse, mostly non-professional, first-time acting cast was marvelous at poking amusing holes into stodgy Swedish small-town stereotypes. (Not clear if this was Ephron-eligible)


Braid
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Mitzi Peirone (USA) (World Premiere)
Not yet seen


Cargo
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Director/Writer Yolanda Ramke; Co-Editor Dany Cooper (Australia) (International Premiere)
Available on Netflix as of May 18, 2018
Expanded from Ramke’s 2013 short, this gripping, unpredictable feature version puts the human and inhuman threats of The Walking Dead into the Australian outback. Aided by indigenous advisors for respect and authenticity, and production designer Josephine “Jo” Ford’s experience in the region, the new elements of aborigine persecution and mythology (including a cameo by the legendary David Gulpilil) add a unique and hopeful element to the genre.


Daughter of Mine (Figlia mia)
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Co-Writer Laura Bispuri; Co-Writers Francesca Manieri; Editor Carlotta Cristiani (Italy/Germany/Switzerland) (North American Premiere)
Strand Releasing brings this Italian-language film to U.S. theaters later this year.
Bispuri is a past recipient of the Nora Ephron Award for Sworn Virgin (2015).
Slow revelations about a girl with ties to two very different women in a small Sardinian town are heightened by emotional performances from the competing mothers, played by Valeria Golino and Alba Rohrwacher, and their daughter, played by Sara Casu.


Dead Woman Walking
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Hagar Ben-Asher (USA) (World Premiere)
Originally planned as nine webisodes for the Black Pills platform, the chapters now compose a deeply impactful docu-drama that thrusts us onto Death Row with women facing the countdown to their executions and many of the people they impact. Even with a few recognizable actors (such as Lynn Collins and Dot-Marie Jones), most are not, adding to the feeling of verisimilitude, as each chapter is a revelation of emotional depth that challenges clichés, especially in drawing out each woman’s painful experience with abuse. For every nasty guard, there’s an empathetic one or one who finds a personal connection with the prisoner’s past. Their need for social human contact is a powerful force up to the end, whether with an adjacent cell neighbor, a son born in prison, a lawyer, spiritual advisor, or witnesses to their final moments. Feeling more theatrical than documentary, clarification would be helpful if each is a fictional composite, based on research, or the impassioned imagination of an artist who is a fervid anti-capital punishment proponent.


Egg
Synopsis & Trailer
Red Carpet Interview with Director
Director Marianna Palka; Writer Risa Mickenberg; Cinematographer Zelmira Gainza; Editor Sophie Corra (USA) (World Premiere)
The tired two-couples-at-dinner-with-an-unwanted-guest format attempts relevance by making the subject argumentative conceptions of feminism, masculinity and parenting (primarily motherhood), only relieved by a few bon mots.


The Elephant and the Butterfly (Drôle de Père)
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Co-Writer/Mother of the Star Amélie van Elmbt (Belgium/France) (North American Premiere – not in competition)
Blue Fox release in Summer 2018.
With the benefit of Martin Scorsese executive produced/Dardenne Brothers’ produced film (another Dardenne was in the crew), the auteur combines her experience of five years of single mothering with more of being a filmmaker by casting her daughter Lina (her child with filmmaker Jacques Doillon) as the lead. Her Elsa is irresistibly charming in introducing the papa she’s never met before (and his extended family) to the joys and frustrations of parenting.


M
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer/Star Sara Forestier; Co-Editors Pauline Casalis, Isabelle Devinck, Forestier, and Joëlle Hache (France) (North American Premiere)
A gritty fairy tale, this is a surprisingly convincing and touching romance between two disparate, damaged yet cinematically charismatic three-dimensional people, with tremendous onscreen chemistry. They become linked by the potential power of words – hers not spoken (Forestier as severely stuttering Lila) and his not read (humorist/musician of Algerian heritage Redouanne Harjane as illiterate pastry chef/drag racer “Mo”/Mohammed).


Mary Shelley
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Haifaa al-Mansour, and additional writing; Writer Emma Jensen; Editor Alex Mackie; Composer Amelia Warner (Ireland/UK/Luxembourg/USA) (US Premiere)
IFC Films release in theaters May 25and available on demand June 1.
This contemporary spin on passionately rebellious 19th century literary figures who challenged conventional society is fresh and realistic, with age-appropriate actresses Elle Fanning as Mary and Bel Powley as her half-sister Claire.


The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Synopsis & Trailer
Q & A at Premiere
Director/Writer Desiree Akhavan; Co-Writer Cecilia Frugiuele; Cinematographer Ashley O’Connor; Editor Sara Shaw (USA) (NY Premiere)
Based on the “Young Adult” book by Emily M. Danforth (that I haven’t read yet)
FilmRise release in theaters August 10.
This is a broadly drawn condemnation of homosexual conversion therapy that depends heavily on the audience appeal of wholesome young star Chloë Grace Moretz growing up on screen.


Nico, 1988
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Susanna Nicchiarelli; Cinematographer Crystel Fournier (Italy/Belgium) (North American Premiere)
Magnolia release in theaters July 4.
In this colorful German/Czech/English language bio pic, Trina Dryholm’s charismatic performance (punk singing and acting) as Christa Päffgen (a.k.a Nico) lifts a familiar tale of rock ‘n’ roll excess and the attempt to move beyond a wild youth (with Andy Warhol) more usually enacted about famous men, since Mark Rydell’s fictional The Rose (1979), maturing with music and motherhood. Bonus points for using Jonas Mekas footage as flashbacks.

Radium Girls
Synopsis & Trailer
Directors Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler; Writers Ginny Mohler and Brittany Shaw; Composer Lillie McDonough (USA) (World Premiere)
Screened in Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Talks
Developed around the same time as Kate Moore’s The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women, the Sloan Foundation-supported script focuses on the young women workers at a New Jersey watch dial factory in the 1920’s whose plight first brought medical, legal, and public attention to the painful, fatal dangers of working with the new miracle element radium. The lesser-known cast captures their loss of small town naivété to find out their company-mandated lip licking brushes to paint on luminous numbers was horribly killing them.
Admirably proving that a lovely looking period film can be made as a low-budget indie, frequent archival footage and photographs (or clever black & white recreations) well establishes the social history context. The progressive National Consumers League was of key assistance to the girls (and in founding the NAACP), but their composite representative seems an exaggerated matronly contrast to the workers’ girlish femininity as they pluck up the courage to challenge the company’s lies and manipulations. Fictional African-American political activists/documentary filmmakers stretch the story to cover too many issues heavy-handedly in order to show how the disgraceful treatment of these ill girls wasn’t an isolated anomaly, but a suppressive trend. Though the closing scroll indicates the company cheated these girls of their benefits, not mentioned is that their case was forgotten during the Great Depression until another set of brave, damaged dial painters in Ottawa, Illinois fought a decade later for a lasting precedent against the dangers of radioactivity.


Slut in a Good Way (Charlotte A Du Fun)
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Sophie Lorain; Writer Catherine Léger; Cinematographer Alexis Durand Brault (Canada) (International Premiere)
Diverse teenagers at work (hormones and all) in a retail toy store during the Christmas shopping season is a refreshing setting for flirtation and competition. This delightful comedy is a feminist alternative to Hollywood adolescent rom-coms, with strong honest portrayals of sexually active high-school girls taking on boys’ misogynist attitudes and double standard rumormongering with smart, yet age-appropriate dialogue by age-appropriate actresses. With the black-and-white cinematography making them seem preternaturally elegant (let alone sharing a gay ex-boyfriend’s Maria Callas obsession), could it attract a young audience that makes them look like a Québécois version of the French New Wave?


Tully
Synopsis & Trailer
Writer Diablo Cody (USA) (NY Premiere) (Tamara Jenkins at Tribeca Talks: Directors with Jason Reitman)
Focus Features release in theaters as of May 4.
Beyond seeing Charlize Theron adding on the pounds to try and look like The Rest of Us before and after giving birth to a third child, Cody’s script also gives her funny and angry quips at pregnancy, birth, marriage, and motherhood appreciable by all, though the feminist sisterhood may frown at the woman-vs.-woman competition with an old friend and sister-in-law. Mackenzie Davis is adorable as a seemingly-too-good-to-be-true Night Nanny.


Untogether
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Emma Forrest; Cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw; Editor Sophie Carra (USA) (World Premiere)
Drawing on her own experiences and feelings across several characters, debut director (novelist and memoir writer that I haven’t read yet) Forrest warmly debuts The Kirke Sisters (Jemima and Lola) playing sisters on screen (a femme take on Walter Hill’s The Long Riders). Each has an intriguing back story of growing up with their father at his very different stages of maturity, and therefore have different daddy issues in their psyches that attracts them to very different damaged men. The elder “Andrea” has a possible sex addiction replacing her paternal-inherited chemical dependency (with Jamie Dornan willing to go for a twist on his “Christian Grey” Hollywood image). “Tara”, the younger, replaces their paterfamilias with older men, including Forrest’s ex Ben Mendelsohn, and even less credibly Billy Crystal. Forrest’s earlier career as a pop music critic resonates in the use of the title Belly song by Tanya Donnelly.
So, nu: my commentary on the Jewish women


Woman Walks Ahead
Synopsis & Trailer
Red Carpet Interview with White
Director Susanna White; Co-Editor Lucia Zucchetti; (USA) (US Premiere) Special Screenings
A24 release in theaters June 29.
Beautiful looking, stirring, well-acted historical epic that makes real people (Jessica Chastain as Catherine Weidon and Michael Greyeyes as Sitting Bull) a feminist and a genocide protester who history rolls over.
Though not based on Eileen Pollack’s personal Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull (with its essential 2018 epilogue research update), there’s enough facts there to regret the film’s historical inaccuracies. While “Catherine Weldon” created a persona (let alone that inaccurate reporting got even that name wrong) to get to the Standing Rock Reservation, there’s no indication here of her fictionalized name and biographical claims, that probably fudged her unconventional birth and marriage status, nor that she actually went twice, the second time with her young son. The first time she engaged in the political activities portrayed; the second time she intended to stay as a friend and aide of Sitting Bull and his tribe, but was dismayed by the growing Ghost Dance movement (poorly explained in the film, despite the press notes claims of careful research and tribal cooperation), and had to leave just before the very well portrayed massacre, to her great regret. Ironically, the Indian Agent refused to let her teach embroidery-making to the women – though that was the only way she could support herself when she returned to Brooklyn bereft of everything, including her son who died horribly on the way out of the Dakotas.

DOCUMENTARIES

Bathtubs Over Broadway
Synopsis & Trailer
Musical Number at Premiere
Director/Co-Writer/Co-Producer/Editor Dava Whisenant; Co-Cinematographer Nathalie Kingston (USA) (World Premiere) Special Screenings
Whisenant received the Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director. The jury cited: “The story, the specific subject, the journey into a world we never knew existed. This film also has an element every great film, doc, and story needs...heart.”
In Don Hahn’s informative bio-doc Howard, earlier seen at this year’s Tribeca, young Ashman is heard bemoaning that he’s doomed to only do “industrials” in order to continue writing musical theater, but so be it. So it’s a surprise there’s a long prologue for the central person here, Steve Young as writer at Late Night with Letterman, to uncover what keeps being called “the secret world” of original big corporation-commissioned music theater productions that entertained and revved up sales teams in the orgy of post-war consumerism.
After spending way too much time showing Young with other collectors (famous, such as Jello Biafra, and not) of private recordings, he finally goes from treating the songs as joke for his day job to a serious offshoot of unique American culture that subsidized Broadway talent for decades. Then this finally becomes a wonderful, well-researched visual and musical introduction to the creators and performers of 1950’s – 1980’s “industrial” shows. Though there are too few interviews with the writers, directors, and performers (famous, like Susan Stroman and Chita Rivera, and not, some just in time before they pass) about their experiences, Young surprisingly organizes a wonderful series of tribute concerts with the unknowns to showcase their work, documents them in a book, and co-writes new tunes rousingly featured. Left unsaid, one can only hope he is also helping with further research, preservation, and archival efforts for the memorabilia he tracked down from theater professionals thrilled to finally be discovered.


Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer/Co-Producer Sophie Huber (Switzerland/USA) (World Premiere) Special Screenings
Going further back in more detail, on label founders German Jewish refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, and their lesser-known initial blues recordings, then further forward than previous documentaries that also used Wolff’s extraordinary photographic archives of sessions, Huber smoothly updates the nostalgic history and productions of the famed jazz label with interviews across generations to its current incarnation with younger artists influenced by hip hop.


Blowin’ Up
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Stephanie Wang-Breal (with producing partner Carrie Weprin) (USA) (World Premiere)
Sensitive and empathetic, the mostly cinema verité profile of the ten-year-old, women-run alternative-sentencing Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court (in Kew Gardens, near my home, though interstitial images are confusingly of Manhattan) for women in the sex trade, focusing on the collaborative work of the judge, lawyers (prosecutors and defense), social service agencies, including GEMS, and victims/choice-makers who are trying to change their lives/choices.
Funded in part by ITVS, the documentary presumably will be shown on PBS at some point.


Bobby Kennedy For President
Synopsis & Trailer
Showrunner Laura Michalchyshyn; Director Dawn Porter (USA) (World Premiere)
All four episodes of the docu-series available on Netflix as of April 27.
Less sycophantic than I expected, the usual Kennedy stalwarts are balanced by an impressive selection and smooth editing of rare archival footage and current interviews (including with Sirhan Sirhan’s family). Even just the first episode screened here did include the honest opinions of people who (like myself) weren’t strong fans of RFK before he entered the 1968 presidential primaries.


Charm City
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Marilyn Ness (USA) (World Premiere)
PBS will release in theaters this fall, then broadcast on Independent Lens spring 2019.
Going deeper and beyond #BlackLivesMatter deaths and protests, this is one of the few positive verité documentaries to show African-American community activists, councilman, and police officers (different DPs and camera crews were a necessity to get such intimate footage) working hard over three years to directly prevent violence in neighborhoods, here block by block in Baltimore at a time of rising homicides. (Let alone community/police tensions around the death of Freddie Gray and the consequent officers’ trial as seen in Sonja Sohn’s Baltimore Uprising.) Sometimes charismatic individuals with relevant personal experience are temporarily successful in tamping down what the earnest politician calls “a public health problem”. The heartbreaking difficulty of hard-sought victories is striking, and even more so that these dedicated individuals and their protégés keep trying. Though lack of jobs and too many drugs are still confounding problems, The Wire is not referenced on screen, just in the Press Notes.


The Feeling of Being Watched
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Assia Boundaoul; Cinematographer Shuling Yong; Editor Rabab Hai Yahya; Composer Angélica Negrόn (USA) (World Premiere)
Boundaoul’s curiosity about how her own Muslim community outside Chicago has been treated by the FBI, even before 9/11, turns in escalating outrage from a case study (applicable to my Queens neighborhoods, too) into a full-fledged investigation, family involvement, community organizing, and Federal law suit. (It’s almost out of a fiction as she freezes when she realizes the FBI Agent she’s targeted as the chief racial profiler and nemesis of her neighborhood calls her with fake bonhomie trying to both assuage her and get information out of her.) By the open-end of the documentary, she crosses over into an overwhelming obsession she takes so very personally that journalistic objectivity is understandably dropped.


The Fourth Estate
Synopsis & Trailer
Showrunner/Producer/Director Liz Garbus and Director/Producer Jenny Carchman (USA) (World Premiere) Closing Night
Four episode docu-series on Showtime as of May 27.
Observation-style, mixed with on-camera interviews, Garbus leads a team that follows New York Times reporters and editors in the NYC headquarters and Washington D.C. Bureau, under the close supervision of Elisabeth Bumille, from the inauguration of Donald Trump as President through the end of 2017 – or, as posted on screen, “Day 452”. They all feel this is the biggest story of their lives during an administration that follows none of the usual standards of truth-telling.
What the series insightfully shows about the newspaper: We witness the impact of the struggle with -- the switch to digitization’s instant publishing; the reverberation back of the #MeToo movement their reporting helped unleash; staff Twitter boundaries while taunted by presidential tweets; and the loss of print advertising revenue even as readers and subscriptions increase. Yet the Times maintains journalism standards against accusations of liberal bias and “fake news” by stressing professional interchange among reporters and overview by cautious editors questioning source reliability and specific word choices. (Executive Editor Dean Basquiat even has to set a standard for how often they can use the word “lie”, much to the consternation of social media.) Once “publish” is clicked, however, they do preen on the new “The Daily” podcast and at appearances on CNN and MSNBC about exclusives, which screen 24/7 in the newsrooms – though they don’t ever seem to check how Fox News is covering the same stories. Among visits to reporters’ breakfast routines and background bios, White House correspondent Maggie Haverman reveals that her time years ago covering Trump as a New York tabloid narcissist is most useful.
What the limitations of the series are: Amidst cliché skyline shots of D.C. and NYC, Basquiat repeatedly stresses the commitment to investigative journalism, but other than seeing reporters talking on phones in cubicles, day-to-day work is more visual when reporters go out to the heartland, where loyal Trump voters mock them, and conservative leaders are flattered by their presence, including a gay reporter going from his happy home with his partner to an interview with a homophobic campaign manager. (Not mentioned is that The Times staff shared the National Reporting Pulitzer with their much-watched competitor The Washington Post on “dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration.”) But as the documentary gets constantly caught up in the D.C.-based staff on the revelation of the day around the Mueller investigation, women reporters working on long-term stories, like those who uncovered Fox News’ pay-offs for O’Reilly’s sexual harassments and the Weinstein accusers, plus their Pulitzer Prize, are just introduced in passing.


General Magic
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Director/Co-Writer Sarah Kerruish; Editors Anna Meller and Claire Ferguson (US) (World Premiere)
Kerruish’s then and now footage and interviews (as a former “Magician” herself in 1992) intimately illuminate a forgotten, visionary “failure” in Silicon Valley.
So, nu: my commentary on the Jewish woman.


The Gospel According to André
Synopsis & Trailer
Q & A at Premiere
Director Kate Novack; Co-Composer Sofia Hultquist (USA) (NY Premiere)
Magnolia release in theaters May 25.
Not seen yet


Island of the Hungry Ghosts
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Gabrielle Brady; Editor Katharine Fiedler (Germany/UK/Australia) (World Premiere)
Winner of Best Documentary, the jury declared the award “goes to a film that demonstrates extraordinary mastery of the full symphonic range of cinematic tools: cinematography, editing, score, sound design, and, perhaps greatest of all, an exquisite use of metaphor…[A] film that moved us deeply, impressed us immensely, and made us feel we were witnessing nothing less than the emergence, fully formed, of a major new cinematic talent…”
This film visually and metaphorically blends artsy gazes at Australian government-protected crab migration from the jungle to the sea, with the anguish of dead and barely living contemporary refugees and asylum-seekers who came from the sea to a hopeless prison on Christmas Island, and the people who help both populations.


It's a Hard Truth Ain't It
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Director Madeline Sackler; Editor Leigh Johnson (USA) (World Premiere) Special Screenings
Sackler’s documentary is a companion to her narrative O.G. also premiering at the Festival, filmed at the same prison.
Sackler is “co-director” with 13 men incarcerated at the Pendleton Correctional Facility in Pendleton, Indiana. Over several years she conducted a documentary filmmaking workshop there, and some participants also acted in her O.G.. In “making of” format, she first introduces them to documentaries they could relate to, including Grizzly Man and Murderball, then guides them in how to analyze their styles and structure a film. When the men wanted to make a film about their experiences, she convinced the authorities it would be a warning to young people to learn from their bad examples.
How the men take the idea further by insisting that each participant be completely honest about their childhoods, the choices they made in their lives, and their crimes, even those who had never told anyone about all this before, is riveting. (One is taken off this project by the authorities.) Their one-on-one peer pressure, literally backing reluctant guys to the wall with their cameras, is powerful to elicit moving confessions of abuse, neglect, and the no-excuses lure of negative temptations that brought them to their final conviction. Five of their narrated bios are conveyed through colorful, graphic novel-like animation directed by Yoni Goodman (Waltz With Bashir (Valse im Bashir), especially fitting as some had little literacy skills before availing themselves of these educational opportunities in jail.
My commentary relating the film to The Wire.


Love, Gilda
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Lisa D’Apolito; Co-Editors Anne Alvergue and Kristen Nutile; Composer Miriam Cutler (USA) (World Premiere) Opening Night Gala
Magnolia release in theaters; CNN has broadcast rights.
Not seen yet


Mr. Soul!: Ellis Haizlip and the Birth of Black Power TV
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Director/Writer Melissa Haizlip; Co-Editor Annukka Lilja (USA) (World Premiere)
With support from ITVS, the documentary will presumably eventually be shown on PBS.
Not seen yet


Netizens
Synopsis & Trailer
- Lowen beamed as the victorious subjects of her documentary re-united, lawyer Carrie Goldberg and businesswoman Tina Reine
Director/Writer Cynthia Lowen; Cinematographers Caitlin Yatsko and Rachel Lears; Editor Emily Williams (USA) (World Premiere) Special Screenings
The female team began following three primary women hurt by cyber harassment and revenge (lawyer and her clients; media critic; and financial analyst) before #MeToo, and their continuing stories of the specific impacts on their lives, careers, and brave fights against perpetrators and the endurance of internet trolling are devastatingly emotional, absorbing, and inspiring. However, while the young critic’s feminism is surprisingly simplistic, other experts interviewed are so full of dense feminist jargon to be almost unintelligible, such that questioners at the public screening I attended couldn’t tell their queries were answered in the film.


Phenoms
Synopsis & Trailer
Directors include Sofia Geveyler, Jane Hicks (or is she Jane Preston?) and Lovinsa Kavuma
World Cup Soccer Docu-Series ”Kick-Off” on Fox May 25 through June 9 on Fox Sports - Episode 1: Attackers; Episode 2: Defenders; Episode 3: Goalkeepers (World Premiere at Tribeca); Episode 4: Playmakers; Episode 5: Creators
Amidst the dulling sameness of the pacing, indistinguishable game footage regardless of the playing position, and cliché hopes that are soccer’s version of the Bull Durham media playbook, Kavuma’s segments on the home life of aspiring champion footballers in England, Nigeria, and Senegal really shine. Geveyler’s segments on a Russian goalie are nicely intimate. But all efforts are dulled by the decision to use English-language voice-overs for almost all the interviewees around the world, so the appealing diversity is blanded out.


The Proposal
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Jill Magid; Editor Hannah Buck (Italy/Belgium) (North American Premiere)
Not seen yet.


The Rachel Divide
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Laura Brownstein (USA) (World Premiere)
While showing in limited theaters, the documentary is available on Netflix as of April 27.
Beyond the media scandal, revealed are her background of startling family dynamics of abuse and complex racial and religious background that extended into her life now, such that her family’s revenge initiated the press pressure that now reverberates to her children. I’ve heard from and seen on various social media, people who similarly “feel Jewish”, based on comparable motivations, and I have dismissed them much as here the African-American individuals unload on Rachel Dolezal. This documentary helped me see how complicated identity is.


Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Director Julia Willoughby Nason (USA) (World Premiere)
Paramount Network will show the documentary later this year.
Not seen yet


Roll Red Roll
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Co-Producer Nancy Schwartzman (USA) (World Premiere) (Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival)
Even if you followed all the national news from Steubenville, OH about the 8/2012 case of a young girl raped by high school football players, you never got close to the whole story, pieced together and revealed here in context, including the work of a woman journalist and social media analyst.


Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Editor Kate Davis (USA) (World Premiere)
HBO will show the documentary later in 2018.
Not yet seen


Time for Ilhan
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Producer Norah Shapiro; Co-Editor Jen Bradwell (USA) (World Premiere)
Intimate case study of how American politics is changing at the local level, by closely following the whole stretch of a state legislative campaign of a Muslim, Somali, immigrant mother in Minnesota.
So, nu: my commentary on the Jewish woman.


Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer/Co-Producer Andrea Nevins; Editor Azin Samari (USA) (World Premiere)
The documentary is streaming on Hulu as of April 27.
No wonder the Mattel staff were thrilled to see themselves in the film at the public screening I attended because too much did feel like a promotion for the company’s re-tuning of the iconic doll (by a mostly female corporate leadership). The film seems a year out-of-date with no sales data, just the immediate social media commentary. Let alone missing the International Women’s Day release of 17 “Inspiring Women” Barbies. Strongest is the archival footage, including vintage commercials, and interviews with the creator and critical feminist activists and scholars, some too full of stereotypical dense jargon. However, there was no mention of what bothered my girlself: that she couldn’t independently stand up on those feet; I realize I was oblivious, yet still resentful, that she was presumed to always wear high heels.
My commentary on the Jewish women.


United Skates
Synopsis & Trailer
Directors/Co-Cinematographers Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown; Editor Katharine Garrison (USA) (World Premiere)
Winner of the Audience Award for Documentary
Combines thrilling musical dance on skates with an incisive exposé of racism in roller rink management against African-American entertainment options, and intimate cinema verité close-ups of the impacts on families, local businesses, and regional and national communities.
Were the few African-Americans on the line for the film because there isn’t a rink like this left in NYC?


Yellow Is Forbidden
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Pietra Brettkelly; Co-Editor Margot Francis (NZ) (World Premiere)
Intimate portrait of Chinese woman fashion designer Guo Pei marketing herself and her elaborate clothes to the newly wealthy at home and the tradition-bound Chambre Syndicate de la Haute Couture in Paris. While I thought her Catholic Church inspired runway show tone-deaf about Western culture, I turned out to bse totally wrong, as the Metropolitan Museum’s 2018 Costume Institute Gala featured the same look in “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.”.


TRIBECA TV NARRATIVES DIRECTED/CREWED BY WOMEN

Picnic At Hanging Rock
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Showrunners include Jo Porter and Penny Winn; Directors include Larysa Kondracki and Amanda Brotchie; Writers include Alice Addison and Beatrix Christian; Editor Anne Carter (N. American Premiere)
Based on the novel by Joan Lindsay I haven’t read yet
Six-episode mini-series available on Amazon Prime Video as of May 25.
I initially thought this listing in Tribeca’s schedule was an anniversary screening of Peter Weir’s 1975 classic film with its unresolved ambiguity. But this is a new, ripe, feminist version that is more a gothic horror story spurred by the power of teenage female friendships. Even away in the colony of Australia where people could go in 1900 to reinvent themselves, girls and women are punished by society and even nature for rejecting strictures and restrictive propriety, controlling issues of race, class, “sapphism”, and ambition. Their rebellion doesn’t just impact the girls at Appleyard College finishing school; the missing tomboy “Miranda Reid” (Lily Sullivan) inspires the failing aristocrat “Michael Fitzhubert” (Harrison Gilbertson): “She was so free!” But as the fake widow “Mrs. Hester Appleyard” (Natalie Dormer) hisses over the end of the first episode, shown at Tribeca: “There is then retribution.”


Sweetbitter
Synopsis & Trailer
S1 Executive Producers include Dede Gardner and Sarah Esberg; Episode Directors include Cherien Dabis and Shira Piven; S1 Episode Writers include Azie Mira Dungey and Deborah Schoeneman (World Premiere)
Based on the novel I haven’t read yet by Stephanie Danler, Co-Executive Producer
First season of six episode series available on Starz as of May 6.
Conveniently set, as so many indie dramas are these days, pre-social media in 2006 (alerted by the main character “Tess” (played by Ella Purnell) using a public phone on the street in the first episode shown at Tribeca), this version of naif Sweet Young Thing from way Out Of Town because she didn’t fit in at home so just came to Big Bad New York City is set in a high class restaurant and drug-fueled after-hours bar. The cast is full of young Out-of-Towners annoying but attractive stereotypes, like an R-rated CW/Freeform show.


Westworld
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Showrunner Lisa Joy; S2 Executive Producers include Athena Wickham (4 episodes); S2 Episode Directors include Joy and Nicole Kassell; S2 Episode Writers include Gina Atwater, Joy, and Carly Wray (NY Premiere)
10 episode series second season available on HBO as of April 22.
While Season 1 was more obviously based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 movie (and I don’t know if S2 is inspired by Crichton’s 1980 Beyond Westworld TV series), S2 has even more depth, complexity, multi-verses teasing and shocking the audience. As powerfully evolving as were the central women in Season 1, portrayed by scarily convincing actresses (Evan Rachel Wood as “Dolores” and Thandie Newton as “Maeve”) – now they’re leading the AI Revolution.


TRIBECA TV: INDIE PILOT SEASON
Fabled
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Showrunner/Co-Writer/Star Zosia Mamet; Director Jennifer Morrison; Animation Sara Gunnarsdottir; Editor Joanna Naugle (World Premiere)
Refinery29 platform has not yet set a release date.
“Anodyne” is Episode 1 of a planned anthology series with, according to the press release, “each episode focus[ing] on a female protagonist finding the strength to become herself by discovering the depths of personal agency” using classic fairy tales’ “known and beloved characters to better understand the female experience”.
This pilot was less feminist than determinedly non-princessy, and was not all that left of the Disney tie-in “Storybrooke” of director Morrison’s feisty role on TV’s Once Upon A Time (as the “savior”, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming who, whew, returned for a Happy Ever After with Captain Hook in the series finale). Here, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz/The Wiz as Dee (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Alice from Alice in Wonderland as Allie (Mamet) are inspired by rebellious animated bird, flower, and animal refugees from Sleeping Beauty to together escape One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Though this first episode didn’t live up to the political rhetoric, it was enjoyable and has potential as a next-gen of the broadcast series.


Nice
Synopsis & Trailer
Showrunner/Executive Producer/Writer/Star Naomi Ko; Co-Executive Producer Carolyn Mao; Editor Angela Park (World Premiere)
Creator Naomi Ko mined the context for this series from her own experiences, and crafted the rich balance of comedy and drama from her Moth StorySLAM expertise. In this first episode, shambolic 23-year-old Teddy Park (an amusingly acerbic Ko) is having a pretty Bad Day. Her mammogram shows a recurrence of cancer, amidst pressures from her suburban Korean-American family. Her older sister Hana insists she fulfill her maid-of-honor responsibilities in a formal wedding, while her mother informs her she’s treating her father’s just-diagnosed diabetes holistically. One of her rainbow of drinking and football fan buddies finally admits he is interested in dating her. She handles all this stress in typical Minnesotan fashion: by being nice to everyone. Eschewing Fargo exaggeration to appeal to broad audiences, she suffers in self-effacing silence, though maybe she’ll add another post-it note for her novel-in-progress. Teddy is a real, complicated mess, so there’s plenty of glimpsed details, that just skirt stereotypes, and intriguing suspense about her life to be pursued in potential future episodes that should be welcomed by any platform seeking diversity in its programming.


On The Spectrum
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Showrunner Dana Idisis (Israel) (World Premiere)
Three young adults on the autism spectrum are settling into a group home, with supervision. Social workers (the voices of reason within some chaos) have been helping them with job-hunting skills, and in this series pilot (“Sheena leads, Sheila needs”), they go from role-playing interviews to real interviews, for jobs ranging from IT to retail. While they mostly seem pretty high-functioning, under stress they do get easily and credibly distracted. Rather than silly sitcom situations, however, the misunderstandings are more from their open-faced ingenuousness, let alone their limited motivation to leave a protective environment and face the world. The jokes are not mean, but grow out of the job-seeking, distinctive foibles and personalities as portrayed by Ron Eilon, Danna Stern, and Koby Gal Raday. Until The Good Doctor (ABC) this past season, autistic characters on U.S. TV were usually children, and were in dramas, such as Sundance Channel’s British import The A Word, or Netflix’s Atypical (the latter I haven’t yet watched). That this is a comedy is refreshing! Let alone that the humor carries over from Israel, with subtitles, and that it’s rare for Americans to see Israeli fiction with these minority citizens. While U.S. cable networks and other platforms are getting more open to foreign language series, the producers have been pitching to many U.S. networks, perhaps to sell the concept for an American version, as has happened with several Israeli television series.


Oversharing
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Showrunner/Writer Katie Flynn (World Premiere)
This had potential as a just-divorced woman’s point-of-view. But she and the L.A. people around her are so obnoxious that I stopped caring about her ridiculous entrepreneurial ideas and the Air B & B satire wore thin fast.


Tantalum
Synopsis & Trailer
Showrunner/Director/Writer Clara Aranovich; Co-Executive Producer Kate Grady (World Premiere)
Very cool looking, intriguing, mysterious (even if in a confusing way) sci fi conspiracy pilot, with an African-American lead actor (Marcus Henderson) atypical of the genre. I would watch this web series.


SHORTS DIRECTED BY WOMEN

9 at 38
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Catherine K. Lee; Co-Editor Sarah Kim (South Korea/USA) (NY Premiere)
Screened in Bold Moves collection
Streaming at The Atlantic as of April 29
Though this documents a Korean violinist who could now be called a premature pro-peacenik, Hyungjoon Won’s obsessed conviction that music, particularly Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the 38th Parallel, can unite his divided homeland, is very moving, even as the viewer (and the filmmaker) sympathizes with his frustrations to accomplish his dream.


Bao
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Domee Shi; Editor Katherine Ringgold (USA) (World Premiere)
Screened in Animated Shorts Curated by Whoopi G collection and in Tribeca Talks: Master Class - BAO Animation Workshop with Shi and producer Becky Neiman-Cobb
Disney/Pixar release of the short in theaters June 15, with Incredibles 2 -- the first directed by a woman.
This imaginative animated tale about a Chinese-Canadian empty nester mother and a dumpling is so magical that I thought it is based on a folk tale. That it’s an original story is demonstrated proof of the plus of the studio’s diversity effort, even with its shades of the Disney classic Pinocchio.


Five Minutes
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer/Co-Producer Justine Bateman (USA) (World Premiere)
Screened in Lighten Up! collection
Not seen yet


The Girl and The Picture
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Vanessa Roth (USA) (NY Premiere) Special Screening
Produced with The USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education
Memories of genocide are movingly passed on to another generation to never forget the Nanjing Massacre of 1937. Roth follows octogenarian Xia Shuqin telling her granddaughter and great-grandson how she hid when she was eight years old during the murder of her extended family (and over 300,000 others) by the invading Imperial Japanese Army. After not speaking about the atrocities for years, she’s seen in film clips and headlines challenging right-wing deniers by telling what crimes against humanity she saw. She is one of the 100 plus survivors whose video testimonies by The Shoah Foundation are now preserved with the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall.
Parallel to her story, the grandson of American missionary John Magee retraces his ancestor’s steps in China and into his archives, holding the family camera that provided the only photographic evidence of the civilian killing frenzy that was smuggled out to the world’s attention. Together, he and Xia Shuqin identify the photograph of her and her little sister, which she hadn’t realized documented her dazed presence amidst the horrors. But for her, it also shows the hopeful moment when an old woman reached out to take her in. Within the format of narrating letters to families, this short film well demonstrates the obligation to carry on the bravery of witnesses to atrocities by remembering.


Homeless: The Soundtrack
Synopsis & Trailer
Live at the Bitter End
Director/Co-Producer/Co-Editor/Co-Cinematographer Irene Taylor Brodsky; Co-Composer "Cami" Jenni Alpert (USA) (World Premiere)
Screened in Home Sweet Home collection
Documentary Short Jury awarded the film “Special Mention”.
Produced for ITVS, so will presumably be shown on PBS at some point.
In a heartening alternative to TLC’s schmaltzy Long Lost Family, the producers happened to meet adoptee Jenni Alpert just after a P.I. tracked down her long lost biological father Don – homeless, addicted, and on parole just 20 miles from her near Los Angeles. The director is right there after their initial meeting since Don last saw his daughter as a baby he named “Cameron” when he was 17. Alpert is followed along in a quick montage of her patient steps as she lovingly acclimatizes him to a relationship, let alone a settled life with regular medical care. Way beyond social working, daughter and father are sparked by the discovery that both are musicians, balanced by she’s a little bit folksy and he’s a bit more rock ‘n’ roll on the guitar. Through what she calls “sonic scenic storytelling”, “Cammi”s songs, solo and their increasingly frequent duets, sweetly reflect what’s going on in her life, recording Biological Reunion EP. In a post-script to the Festival screenings, he had a dream come true to play gigs in NYC, including at the iconic Bitter End, as seen above.
So, nu: my commentary on the Jewish women.


Hula Girl
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Director/Writer Amy Hill (USA) (World Premiere)
Screened in Bold Moves collection
Not seen yet


Into My Life
Synopsis & Trailer
Directors Ivana Hucíková, Sarah Keeling, and Grace Remington; Cinematographers Ivana Hucíková and Sarah Keeling; Editor Ivana Hucíková (USA) (World Premiere)
Screened in NY: Homemade collection
Screening in this summer’s “Come and Take It” shorts program by and about bold women of Rooftop Films.
Not seen yet


Knuckles
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Laura Groombridge (Australia) (World Premiere)
Screened in Make or Break collection
A worthy entry in the insightful trend of women directors taking on traditionally male subjects (here illegal bare-knuckle fighting) with the female gaze that looks for character, not blood lust, where the climax is not winning the fight, but an emotional reaction to family far outside the ring.


Laboratory Conditions
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Jocelyn Stamat (USA) (NY Premiere)
Screened in Into the Void collection
With an all-star cast, including Marisa Tomei and Minnie Driver as competing scientists, this narrative film is sophisticated, genuinely spooky sci fi in the tradition of Twilight Zone.
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The Last Romantic (El Último Romántico)
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Co-Writer/Co-Editor Natalia Garcia Agraz (Mexico) (International Premiere)
Screened in Lighten Up collection
Selected on the Shortlist for a Student BAFTA Award
Within a marvelous production design and cinematographic salute to old-fashioned movies and jazz, this is an unconventional romantic comedy from the lovelorn guy’s point-of-view.


Late Afternoon
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer/Co-Cinematographer Louise Bagnall; Co-Cinematographer Áine McGuinness (Ireland) (NY Premiere)
Screened in Animated Shorts Curated by Whoopi G collection
Best Animated Short Award: The jury declared: “This film portrays memory in an insightful and impactful way that opened our hearts. As the animation moves from colorful blobs into meaningful shapes and finally breaks through to her realizing the person she loves the most, we realize the experience of Alzheimer's with a poignancy that stayed with us all.”
Even amidst a terrific program of animated shorts, Bagnall’s stood out for its heart and warm technique, eliciting audience tears at the public screening I attended. This feels specifically as from a woman’s point-of-view, especially through the wonderful Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan voicing Emily back through her life and her long-term memory to the present. Empathy is made visual for two generations.


The Life of Esteban (Het Leven van Estaban)
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Inès Eshun; Editor Sarah Cœurnelle (Belgium) (International Premiere)
Screened in Make or Break collection
Student Visionary Award winner, per the jury: “With a rare lyric intensity this film opens a window to a young boy’s difficult navigation from early childhood to young adulthood in a single parent family. We watch the sublime intensity of Esteban’s journey through a world that has given him little, and yet paradoxically allows him to achieve much.”
It’s wonderful how a live-action short can communicate a life, hopes, and the search for identity of a European-African child in Belgium who finds fulfillment, against many odds, deep in the swimming pool, all through the point-of-view (and excellent casting) of a boy at 3, 5, 10 and 15 years old.


Locked In
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Alison Ellwood (USA) (World Premiere)
Screening in ESPN Sports collection and will be shown on ESPN
Not seen yet


The Love Letter (Michtav Ahava Lam ‘em Sheli)
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Atara Frisch (Israel) (World Premiere)
Screened in Make or Break collection
Special Mention by Student Visionary Award Jury
Produced as part of Heroine, a feature-length project with five shorts by five directors, co-coordinated by Maya Dreifuss at the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television, Tel Aviv University, Frisch based this live action narrative on her memories from the Israeli army. During her five years service, that she left almost a decade ago, she had experiences like Noa (Gili Beit Halachmi), the commanding officer of a troop of rookie women soldiers. Even as Noa tries to maintain a gruff demeanor on the base at all times, she is shook by a pink envelope in her mailbox. She is even more taken aback when she reads the first anonymous line: “A Love Letter to My Commander”. Yet she’s also touched and flattered. She feels pressed to handle this as a discipline problem, and confides in her sergeant Sapir (Shir Abramov) because she suspects the writer is the smart-aleck Shimrit (Ravit Dor). Though Frisch says she intends this to be amusing and sees its potential for a comic TV series, the sarcastic laughs aren’t the broad humor of Zero Motivation (Efes be-Yachasei Enosh), a 2014 Tribeca entry which is being developed into a U.S. series. Rather this more encapsulates the insecurity of a new woman manager in a fluid sexual situation flustered to hang on to her authority when challenged. At least she’ll always have that sensual letter.
My commentary on this image of Jewish women.


Mirette
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Helen O’Hanlon (UK) (NY Premiere)
Screened in Magic Act collection
Based on Mirette on the High Wire written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
An instant classic! While McCully was inspired by the daredevil George Blondin who first crossed Niagara Falls on a wire in 1859, O’Hanlon was obsessed by wire walking since Philippe Petit’s 1974 walk between The Twin Towers (whose destruction prompted the first Tribeca Film Festival). Both the writer and the high wire artiste were on the red carpet at this Tribeca premiere that wonderfully spotlights a girl on the wire.
A hundred years ago, the titular girl (up-and-coming star Dixie Egerickx) takes one look at Bellini (Jean-Marc Desmond) seeming to walk on air and she becomes obsessed with walking up there. He’s a sad new renter in the colorful French boarding house of Madame Gâteau (the celebrated Dickensian character actress Miriam Margolyes), now Mirette’s affectionate grandmother. Expanding on the Caldecott Award-winning book, the circus, music hall and theater players are distinctive guests here -- Pierrot, mime, clown, harlequin, ventriloquist, acrobat, knife thrower, strongman, showgirls, and a chanteuse (Shola Adewusi) leading their catchy theme song. (All the hummable music is by Art Lewy.) Mirette tries to walk on Bellini’s wire in the backyard on her own– and falls. And then walks a few steps before she falls again, but her determination and joy on the wire convinces Bellini to help develop her talent, warning her: “You’ll never be happy again on the ground.” (The actors trained for over eight months.)
Though structured to fit into a half-hour “TV special” format that O’Hanlon is now developing into a feature, this is a flamboyantly full-fledged production with marvelous set design and costumes. So when the famous agent Charlie Meyer (the delightfully theatrical Tom Conti) recognizes the wire walker as used-to-be internationally famous, he stages a grand comeback, filmed outdoors in the medieval southwestern French town of Périgueux (where McCully was a costumed extra). Mirette climactically helps her teacher: “I am a wire walker too!” I look forward to the opportunity to introduce this magically epic short to my grandson.


A Mountain to Climb
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Kristen Lappas (USA) (World Premiere)
Screening in ESPN Sports Shorts collection, and will be shown on ESPN.
Not seen yet


New York Times Op-Docs
Tribeca N.O.W. Special Screening:
Birth Control Your Own Adventure - Director Sindha Aghe
Now streaming - in Season 6
Humorous, stop animation with objects and techniques to demonstrate her life-long experiences with the side effects of every possible means of contraception, as her painful, mood-altering, hallucinatory, physically draining symptoms stumped her ob-gyns – with suitably sarcastic closer about lack of research.

The Blue Line - Director Samantha Knowles
Not seen yet


Notes from Dunblane: Lessons from a School Shootings
Synopsis & Trailer
Director Kim Snyder; Writers Kim Snyder and Maria Cuomo Cole; Editor Penelope Falk (USA) (World Premiere)
Screened in Aftermath collection;
Awarded Best Documentary Short, per the jury: "This transcendent film adds a revelatory dimension to a subject that is at the epicenter of public consciousness today. We found the wholly original approach of this film allowed us to feel again about subject matter that had shattered our collective souls and left us numb. An emotional paralysis was lifted as we watched this film that allowed us to engage once again with the brutal reality that is America today.”
Upcoming Screenings
Not seen yet


Paper Roof
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Judith Tong; Editor Shermaine Chan (Singapore) (World Premiere)
Screened in Loose Ends collection
Tong’s crowd-funded thesis film from Nanyang Technological University's School of Art, Design and Media in Singapore poignantly enters into the world of two young sisters. Playing pretend (as if they’re acting in a film within a film, so editing must have been a challenge), the girls use their imaginations to create their own fun and safe space of found materials when their own home is too full of stress. But even the protective bit bigger sister can’t prevent the inevitability of nature, and probably their troubled parents, from slowly intruding on their cardboard haven.


The River of the Kukamas (The El Rio de los Kukamas)
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer/Cinematographer/Editor Nika Belianina (Peru) (World Premiere)
Screened in Home Sweet Home collection
From an artists’ residency in Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, photographer/filmmaker Belianina took her camera an hour down the river to the village of Santo Tomás (population: 1,200). Eighty percent are indigenous Kukama, but only 12 still speak their native language, bemoans narrator and guide Pablo Pinedo. He emphasizes how Kukama culture is based on the flows and sustenance of the mother river that Belianina beautifully captures, sunrises to sunsets from a boat in the rain. More an activist than a National Geographic ethnographer, her camera sees boys and girls gleefully playing in the water, but Pinedo knows they will reject their customs in favor of technology, and therefore lose their identity.
“If I were in a village without a river, I’d feel I was suffocating or that something was missing,” says Pinedo just before he is revealed. So hopefully the Hudson River kept Pinedo comfortable when the director was able to conquer the bureaucracy to get him a visa and travel grant to the Tribeca red carpet, proudly wearing his native headdress.


RX: Early Detection A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer/Producer/Cinematographer Cathy Chermol Schrijver; Editor Paula Heredia (USA) (NY Premiere) Special Screenings
HBO will show the documentary later this year.
Not yet seen


So You Like the Neighborhood
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer/Co-Producer/Editor Jean Pesce; Composer Ariel Marx (USA) (World Premiere)
Screened in Lighten Up collection
Screening in this summer’s “This Is What We Mean By Short Films” program of Rooftop Films.
Selected on the Shortlist for a Student BAFTA Award
What a delight! Inspired by Pesce’s own experience and influenced by the tone of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, this wonderfully cast story pokes fun at stereotypes about gentrifying working class Brooklyn. When Wendy (Tony nominee Sarah Stiles, star of Epix’s Get Shorty) has a very bad day with a break-up and eviction, the local bar where she seeks solace turns out to be a hangout for guys who seem like extras from a Martin Scorsese movie, including Guido (Carmine Raspaolo, who was in Boardwalk Empire) and Vinny (Ernest Mingione, of several cop shows), and they may be ex-Goodfellas. Getting drunk, Wendy claims she’s part Italian for their approval, and suddenly finds herself following the mysterious instructions of Sal the Assassin. Hey, in New York City nobody minds if a landlord is offed.


Salam
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer Claire Fowler (USA/Wales) (World Premiere)
Screened in Loose Ends collection
Welsh transplant to NYC documentary filmmaker Fowler uses fiction to make touching, points about the stresses faced by Palestinians in the U.S. A warm, extended immigrant family in Brooklyn is going about its daily routine of trying to pool enough money to have decent housing without rodents, near schools without Islamophobic bullies. The diverse cast and crew focuses on the titular character, a hajib-wearing Lyft driver played by Lebanese-Palestinian actress Hana Chamoun. In a beautifully filmed night cityscape, her usual rude American passengers are interrupted by a worried call from her brother with news of more bombings that hit their relatives in their home neighborhood in Syria. A very upset blonde passenger (Leslie Bibb), with lots of romantic and family problems, improbably asks to be driven upstate. This extended diversion doesn’t really integrate into the story, except to show that Americans’ issues aren’t nearly as serious as Salam’s.


Welcome Home (Velkommen til oss)
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer/Producer/Editor Armita Keyani (Norway) (NY Premiere)
Screening in Lighten Up! collection
A comedy about refugees? The sardonic humor works because it’s from their perspective. Ashkan Ghorbani and Elnaz Asgari charmingly play a sexy, secular young Iranian couple settling into an apartment in Norway who decide they are not learning enough conversational colloquial Norwegian. But the locals are so used to seeing refugees or immigrants as charity cases they can’t see them as real people to just talk to. So the Iranians invite in a Jehovah Witnesses couple. Though their metaphorical preaching makes no sense to the Iranians, the evangelists keep coming back. With Farsi cross-comments, the Iranians tease the holy rollers with their sensual culinary and musical culture and increasing questions. No wonder the hosts finally shrug: “Do you think they’ll come back?” This could be the pilot for a web series!


Wendy’s Shabbat
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Writer/Co-Producer Rachel Myers; Cinematographer Jeanne Tyson; Editor Dana Turken (USA) (NY Premiere)
Screening in Home Sweet Home collection
Sun City Palm Desert, in southern California, was originally planned for active over-55’s 20 years ago. But as the residents have aged older or are now alone, alternative families now fill a real need, as documented in this touching short. For years before coming with a female film crew, Myers’ widowed, 88-year-old grandmother Roberta Mahler has told her about zipping over on her golf cart to her local Wendy’s Restaurant to meet up once a week to break bread with a regular group of more than two dozen.
Though screened at over a dozen Jewish film festivals before coming to Tribeca, the Friday evening ritual of welcoming the Sabbath, that several participants ascribe with a range of meanings, is nostalgia in the present tense. There is a retired officiant Isaiah Zeldin, who at 97 billed himself as the oldest practicing rabbi in the U.S. before he passed away after filming, to lead them to join in with the basic blessings over candles, bread, and juice -- wine not permitted in Wendy’s, where the manager kindly pushes together reserved tables with place settings for their (non-kosher) meal. While observant Jews would point out that this gathering of more than an egalitarian minyan of older elderly is casual about religious rules, this gives a new evidence for the rabbi’s standard pronouncement that “Sabbath is a unique transformation from the ordinary to the extraordinary.” This warmly shows they connect their memories of cultural tradition, as long ago as from childhood, with their community now.
My commentary on the Jewish women.


We Were Three (Vi var tre)
Synopsis & Trailer
Director/Co-Writer Caroline Ingvarsson; Editor Matilda Henningsson (Sweden/Norway) (International Premiere)
Screening in Loose Ends collection
Not yet seen


N.O.W. (NEW ONLINE WORK) SHOWCASE

The 99 Names of God
Synopsis & Trailer
Project Creator Yumna Al-Arashi (short) (UK) (World Premiere)
The four-minute version Nowness is presenting online is a poetic visual essay on women finding spiritual fulfillment in the beauty of Islam.


Cleaner Daze
Synopsis & Trailer
Project Creator Tess Sweet (web series) (USA) (NY Premiere)
Season 1 of five episodes is streaming as of April 25.
Terrific! All fresh and meaningful are: the setting in a teen drug rehab center; the combo of mordant humor and genuine poignancy; the hip hop soundtrack, with some sad songs performed on camera; the colorful mix of day and night Santa Cruz locations; casting of many nonprofessionals who can call on their own addiction histories for any improv (even as they are dealing with personal dramas that would keep them out of any second season). Unlike Hollywood portrayals, there is no pretense of 28 days and you’re fine.
Sweet (16 years clean) herself appears in a small role as an artist, and it’s her own experiences and as a volunteer at an alternative high school for teens struggling with addiction that helps ground the series in authenticity. All are anchored by two impressive performances: Abigail Reno as “Jasmine”, a newbie counselor trying to keep her sobriety despite these job frustrations and problems at home; and former stand-up comedienne Karin Babbitt (41 years into recovery) as “Aisha”, the seen-it-all boss who has to deal with government paperwork, staff turnover, and client crises. A channel/network/platform, especially wanting to skew younger, female, let alone relevance, should immediately snap this up.


Dinette
Synopsis & Trailer
Project Creator Shaina Feinberg (web series) (USA) (World Premiere)
BRIC-TV, a nonprofit Brookyn community TV channel and digital network, will show the series in the Fall.
Feinberg creates what I thought was impossible: a delightful visit with a clique of Brooklyn hipsters who you want to re-visit over the six episodes and would welcome more. Their amusing dialogue is good-natured teasing on PC-ness, like: Is addressing your group as “penguins” gender-neutral? This seems less improv than her enjoyable short film Shiva at last year’s Festival, by being structured around personal goals they are all trying to support: an Irish woman is prepping for her stand-up debut to bolster her visa renewal, while another woman is taking Oprah-style confidence-building to the hilt by marrying herself on her 33rd birthday. With a few guys from Feinberg’s Bankrukt comedy troupe, the large, mostly female, diverse yet individually distinctive, ensemble has terrific friendship chemistry, though it is a bit confusing to keep track of all their names and relationships.


Driver Ed
Synopsis & Trailer
Project Co-Creator/Director Amanda Cowper; Editor Kathryn Schubert (web series) (USA) (World Premiere)
First three episodes of planned six episode series are streaming now.
The premise of a 30something guy first getting a drivers license just to live up to lies he told his online girlfriend is promising. But, unfortunately, that’s undercut with way too broad acting (co-creator Jacob Ware channels Stan Laurel), emphasized by exaggerated slo-mo. By feeling too much like a SNL skit, the audience feels no investment to continue through more episodes, despite the short length online.


The History of White People in America
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Director Clementine Briand (USA) (World Premiere)
Screening in Animated Shorts Curated by Whoopi G collection
Developed by a collaborative of animators, musicians, and documentary filmmakers (with support from ITVS so will presumably be shown on PBS at some point), this was the pilot episode of the planned 15-episode “serial animated musical” exploring 150 years of the definition of race in the U.S. over three seasons. This first episode sings, in a Hamilton-inflected style by Pierce Freelon, about Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 when poor, indentured, and enslaved people, black and white together (all anti-Indian), protested against the rule by the landed gentry. Shown here as the precipitating reason for the first race defining Virginia Slave Codes of 1705, I did not learn about this at school when we studied Jamestown, Virginia.


Home
Synopsis & Trailer
Project Co-Creator/Star Keylee Sudduth (web series) (USA) (World Premiere)
Keylee Sudduth (and her husband/co-creator/co-star Micah) exude talent in this series. Unfortunately they’ve chosen a tired premise to try and update. Following their own route, they portray a Texas couple who have come to expensive L.A. to make it in obnoxious Hollywood, she as a writer, he as an actor. Over six pun-titled pilot episodes (Home -“Security”; “Sick”; “Façade”; “Improvement”; “Grown”; “On The Range”), they insert new diverse elements into the familiar formula. She’s wangled a demeaning assistant job to a demanding TV executive - who is a Latina producer of telenovelas. There’s amusing potential in the self-improvement cult next door that keeps tempting her. His temp job is doing IT assistance to old folks – for his brother’s basement business back home. He’s gotten auditions and interviews thanks to a new friend -- a gay black personal trainer. But their Texas roots provide the freshest dialogue, while avoiding most of the red/blue states socio-politico trends jokes. Yet they stoop to another stereotype when her mother visits -- she’s identical to Sheldon’s mom in the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Early on, the fictional Keylee bemoans their emigration, and considers returning to Texas and writing plays that will only be peformed by community theater. Now there’s an original premise for a series – and I do think these two could pull that off creatively.


Snugglr
Synopsis & Trailer
Project Creators Georgia Bernstein (Co-Writer and Director) and Cemre Paksoy (Co-Writer and Star) (USA) (World Premiere of Episodes 1 & 2 of web series)
Project Her is Conde Nast Entertainment’s joint incubator with Jon Avnet and Rodrigo Garcia’s Indigenous Media for women filmmakers. Working in very diverse genres, styles, and casts, each selected filmmaker was provided resources and a mentor to produce a short film, with streaming distribution, including on Facebook.
For the sixth film in the project, Bernstein and Paksoy developed a short version of their web series Snugglr, with mentor Kris Swanberg. Paksoy plays a young woman who responds to clients on an app – for a professional snuggler. Not that she’ll tell her worried mother in Turkey who keeps calling for reassurance that she’s OK. To an amusingly quirky range of clients, she tries to insist on upholding the app’s rules. One older guy treats their appointment as a formal date complete with bouquet, and a hipster wants a fake date to make his ex-girlfriend jealous at his party. She only loses her considerable cool when she confronts a past client who gave her a low rating, with distractions from the girl’s dotty dad. Key to the enjoyably bemused tone of the short, which may be further expanded into a feature, is her aplomb and confidence in handling challenges. Even when The Snugglr has to role-play in someone else’s fantasy, she is always her own person, so she would be enticing to follow on further urban adventures.

The other short films in Project Her this year are:
Episode 1 Beauty - Written, directed, and produced by Joyce Sherri, mentor Kasi Lemmons – A period piece with evocative costumes, make-up, and set, this is a racially conscious Twilight Zone episode.
Episode 2 Good Eggs - Written and directed by Maria Burton, mentor Rodrigo Garcia - – Theoretical issues of reproductive rights are played out as an intensely personal roundelay.
Episode 3 The Row - Written and directed by Philiane Phang, mentor Sarah Treem – The explicit, step-by-step last minutes to an execution haunt the prison warden, given tremendous gravitas by Vondie Curtis-Hall.
Episode 4 Black Night – Written and directed by Jordan Trippeer, mentor Lesli Linka Glatter – A futuristic sci fi set-up of the usual teenagers-with-special-abilities turns on the values of a familiar evil (woman) scientist.
Episode 5 Watch Party – Written and directed by Blythe Haaga Parker, mentor Betty Thomas – How funny you think this comedy effort is may depend on your tolerance for women lowering themselves.

Under Her Skin: Jane Rule Burdine
Synopsis & Trailer
Project Creators Rémy Bennett and Kelsey Bennett (web series) (USA) (World Premiere)
Screened in N.O.W. (New Online Work) Showcase
Under Her Skin is The Bennett Sisters’ stupendous six-part bio-doc shorts series. This series is as emotional as it is informative about lesser-known women artists, whose lives impact their art and vice versa. The series streams on The Front platform. Each episode consists of an extensive interview, sometimes directly to the camera, sometimes in voice-over as personal and contextual archival photographs and well-researched footage contextualizes the artists’ points and their work. Even with a wealth of images, their shorts made me want to see more of the art by each woman:
Episode 1- “The Girl Who Loves Roses” Panteha Abareshi on the teen-ager who transmutes her excruciating sickle cell pain into drawings;
Episode 2 – Native American Daughter and her Mother photographers Tafv Sampson and Nancy Rommelman on the dark side of the far American West;
Ep 3 – performance artist photographer Parker Day;
Episode 4 - Hein Koh who incorporates images of fertility and birth, mother and child, into her voluptuous fabric sculptures (that her twin daughters play around);
Episode 5- daughter of Holocaust survivors Linda Friedman-Schmidt who recycles discarded clothes (and her abusive childhood) into tapestry portraits. (So, nu: my commentary on her as a Jewish woman)
Jane Rule Burdine will be posted as Episode 6. The Bennetts establish her family history in Mississippi elite with the expected debutante coming-out and attending Ole Miss to get a Mrs. Degree. Burdine delights in recounting her stubborn rebellion through photography, by documenting the extreme poverty (black and white) in the back roads of the Delta (or even just blocks in from Main Streets), informed by getting a degree in sociology, and sometimes commissioned to beautifully illustrate statistical reports by research organizations that inserts humanity beyond numbers. Her photos exude love, family, and connections to the land that are as meaningful as Dorothea Lange’s 80 years ago. Now in her seventies, she’s still traveling the Delta, ambitiously hoping to find the children she sensitively photographed decades ago to see how they are now. I hope the sisters’ brilliant series continues!


WOMEN CREW-ED: FILMS BY WOMEN WRITERS, CINEMATOGRAPHERS EDITORS, AND COMPOSERS
Fiction Features

Back Roads
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Writer Tawni O’Dell, based on her Oprah Book Club selected novel (USA) (World Premiere)
Though most of the attention has been on Alex Pettyfer as director/star, O’Dell tightened her book to focus on how childhood sexual abuse reverberates throughout a family for years, including a statistical scroll at the end.


Blue Night
Synopsis & Trailer
Writer Laura Eason; Composer Amie Doherty (USA) (World Premiere) (Sarah Jessica Parker participated in Tribeca Talks: The Journey)
Playwright Eason’s debut screenplay is widely seen as a tribute to Agnes Varda’s classic Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962), but in these key 24-hours-in-Manhattan I saw Sarah Jessica Parker’s vexed “Vivienne” as the kind of restless character usually played by a man – a talented chanteuse (her climactic song “Unfollow the Rules” is new by Rufus Wainwright and his daughter Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen) who had a screwed up family (her mother “Jeanne” is played by Jacqueline Bisset), screws up her own family (her angry ex/custodian parent of their teen daughter is played by Simon Baker), screwed up her friendships (her ex-BFF is played by Renée Zellweger), and can’t resist screwing around with her much younger back-up musician (her sexy drummer is played by Taylor Kinney) to feel alive when she’s facing an imminent health crisis.


The Dark
Synopsis & Trailer
Editor Julia Drack (Austria) (World Premiere)
MPI’s genre distribution arm Dark Sky Films Fall release in the U.S.
The editing keeps the focus on the teenage “survivors” of physical and psychological abuse over blood and gore, so this has more appeal to those more interested in characters.


Disobedience
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz, based on the novel by Naomi Alderman (UK) (US Premiere)
Bleecker Street release in U.S. theaters April 27.
By keeping the focus on the sensual emotions and particular situation of three individuals – producer Rachel Weisz as Prodigal Daughter “Ronit”, the protégé of her esteemed father The Rav “Dovid” (played by Alessandro Nivola), and his wife “Esti” (Rachel McAdams), all best friends growing up – the setting in a Haredi enclave in London becomes more about the two women’s passionate (beautifully realized) lesbian feelings for each other (past and revived) than the usual critical screed of the exotica of Ultra-Orthodox strictures in general, but as a community that cannot assimilate homosexuality.
My commentary on the Jewish women.


Duck Butter
Synopsis & Trailer
Q & A at Premiere
Co-writer/star Alia Shawkat; Cinematographer Hillary Spera (USA) (World Premiere)
The Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film jury noted: “a strikingly raw, connected, and honest performance about a character struggling to be raw, connected, and honest. This woman also co-wrote, co-produced and helped conceive this film…so it goes without saying that without Alia Shawkat there would be no Duck Butter.” The U.S. Narrative Feature Jury also awarded the film “Special Mention”.
The Orchard release in NY/LA on April 27, and available on digital platforms nationwide on May 1.
Just as I thought this 24-hour sexy romance was going to bog down in millennial immaturity, as did several others in the Festival, Shawkat’s “Naima” demonstrates surprising self-awareness and strength.
I spotted her co-star Laia Costa along the Rush Ticket line helping to sell fundraising tickets for the documentary The Bleeding Edge.


Jellyfish
Synopsis & Trailer
Editor/Co-Producer Sian Clarke (UK) (World Premiere)
The editing keeps the focus on the extraordinary performance by young Liv Hill!
This females-centered drama, with touches of cynical comedy, has been acquired by Bankside Films.


Maine
Synopsis & Trailer
Editor Sofi Marshall (USA) (World Premiere)
Beautiful scenery.


The Night Eats The World (La Nuit A Dévoré Le Monde)
Synopsis & Trailer
Editor Isabelle Manquillet (France) (North American Premiere)
Blue Fox Entertainment will release in theaters and on VOD July 13.
As a Parisian episode of The Walking Dead (albeit based on a French novel), this is more urban yet more isolated imagining, so editing is key to the visual variety of the focus on who could be the sole survivor.


Obey
Synopsis & Trailer
Editors Agnieska Liggett and Emma Gaffney (UK) (World Premiere)
Recognized for Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature Film, the jury explained: "For its original, daring image-making that, along with bold direction, invites the viewer inside the tense circumstances of its characters lives, we have chosen Albert Salas as best cinematographer for his moving work on the film Obey.”
With the challenge of a cast that was a mix of drama students and professional actors captured by multiple cameras (and a director who considered this his personal passion project), the editing greatly builds up the tension.


The Seagull
Synopsis & Trailer
- Director Michael Mayer described how filming around the buildings and grounds of an old Russian farm on a lake in upstate NY helped make this version so cinematically fresh.
Editor Annette Davey (USA) (World Premiere)
Sony Classics release in theaters May 11.
Adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s classic play and cast around Annette Bening as Irina, the expressive close-ups and movements through spaces replace a lot of dialogue, so the editing is key to tying the characters together, revealing the relationships, and carrying through the plot.


Sunday’s Illness (La Enfermedad Del Domingo
Synopsis & Trailer
Editor Teresa Font (Spain) (North American Premiere)
Available on Netflix as of June 15.
The elegant editing helps turn a melodrama into an elegy and heightens the charismatic performance of Susi Sánchez. Kudos to Production Designer Jane Musky for finding the extraordinarily appropriate set of the former “Russian Farm” and manor house on Arrow Lake in Monroe, New York, originally owned by a Russian collective, and now the Arrow Park Lake and Lodge, such that scenes were written for specific locales.


To Dust
Synopsis & Trailer
Q & A at Premiere
Editor Allyson Johnson; Composer Ariel Marx (USA) (World Premiere)
Screened in Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Talks
A few lost threads and possible inaccuracies aside, I laughed, I cried, I was completely charmed! As funny as is Matthew Broderick’s slow burns, kudos to Géza Röhrig (Son of Saul) as a Hassid learning about the intersection of science and grief.
My commentary on the Jewish women.


We the Animals
Synopsis & Trailer
Editor Keiko Deguchi (USA) (NY Premiere)
The Orchard release in U.S. theaters begins August 17.
Based on the novel by Justin Torres that I haven’t read yet
The editing is an important visual key in how this is different from the usual sensitive-guy-coming-of-age flick, with dreams, time-shifts, flashbacks, and thought associations of a young, confused boy in a volatile household.


When She Runs
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Writer/Star Kristin Anderson (USA) (World Premiere) (Tribeca ESPN Sports Film Festival)
This quietly intense film is a sobering antidote to those relentlessly upbeat noisy Olympic athlete profiles, let alone all those inspiring stories shown in 12 years of the Tribeca ESPN Sports Festival. Anderson not only demonstrates the internal fortitude needed to withstand the dreariness of preparation for an Olympics running event through early mornings and late nights of daily training, practice runs, and stringent diet controls. Looking like she’s in a verité docu-drama, this working class mom has had to fit all that in with managing an ice cream stand to support an awkward living situation within a strained marriage while trying to provide a stable routine for her toddler son. On this last day before her qualifying trial, the race seems comparatively anti-climactic, in a busy gym with few interested spectators. It’s up to the film audience to cheer her on if she’ll win the opportunity to keep going even harder with a renowned coach.


Documentary Features

The American Meme
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Editor Monique Zavistovski (USA) (World Premiere)
Not seen yet


Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable
Synopsis & Trailer
- Director Aaron Lieber, with Holt Hamilton and his film crew, and Martori on editing the extraordinary footage.
Co-Writer/Editor Carol Martori (USA) (World Premiere) (Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival)
As an experienced action sports editor, Martori was well-deservedly credited as co-writer by director Aaron Lieber for shaping 80 terabytes of archival and new four years of footage of “Soul Surfer” Hamilton into this fresh feminist story of new wave and motherhood challenges. (I can’t get out of my head the overhead image of her gracefully and athletically riding the big break “Jaws” in her native Hawaii.) While several in the audience at the public screening I attended still asked her father about how she and her family coped with the shark accident that took her left arm when she was 13, Hamilton on film flourishes as the most womanly surfer I’ve ever seen on screen, in a field that usually relate to females only as girls. She is the most powerfully, womanly surfer I have ever seen on screen!


The Bleeding Edge
Synopsis & Trailer
- Ziering and directing partner Kirby Dick. Many of the activists and expert interviewees attended for the Q & A, including this concerned obstetrician-gynecologist.
Filmmaking Partner/Co-Writers Amy Ziering (USA) (World Premiere)
In theaters and streaming on Netflix as of July 27.
Though I don’t include the undefined “Producer” role in “Women Crew-ed”, director Kirby Dick at the public screening described Ziering as his “partner” in the development, research, interviews, and production of this investigative exposé of the medical device industry, primarily of inadequately tested gadgets targeted to women.
Doubtless not a coincidence that Johnson & Johnson withdrew from the U.S. market one of the products targeted in the film a week before release.


Call Her Ganda
Synopsis & Trailer
Editor/Co-Writer Victoria Chalk (USA/Philippines) (World Premiere)
- Filipino-American director PJ Raval introducing the Filipina activists whose work he documented.
The tragic case of the murder of a transgender woman in the Philippines is intimately followed and deftly put within the cultural traditions and family life of the city and country, in contrast to the historical and current context of U.S. colonial attitudes and legal framework that protects the accused American soldier. Several of the participating Filipina LGBTQ and nationalist activists joined the filmmakers at the screening I attended, and updated the audience on the good and bad news.


Every Act of Life
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Cinematographer Autumn Eakin (USA) (World Premiere)
Not seen yet


House Two
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Editor R.A. Fedde (USA) (World Premiere)
The edit of ten years of hundreds of hours of footage is key to building up empathy for the Marines’ scapegoat as amnesia gives way to revelations and cover-up.


McQueen
Synopsis & Trailer
Editor Cinzia Baldessari (USA) (World Premiere)
Bleecker Street release in theaters July 20.
The editing is key in making this more an emotional story of a troubled, East London guy’s rise to the top and tragic collapse than yet another paean to a gay male fashion designer. Intense close-ups of interviews with family, close friends, colleagues and collaborators are intercut with archival footage and photographs of Lee Alexander McQueen, his voice, media interviews, his own re-discovered videos, and, in chapters marked by thematically decorated skulls, his most startling runway shows. But who edited out any suggestion that he should have gotten therapy/counseling/help? (Not that rehab helped Amy.)


No Greater Law
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Editor Mags Arnold (UK/USA) (North American Premiere)
Presented at the Festival by A & E Indies, so presumably will be shown on A & E Network.
Not yet seen


Ryuichi Sakamato: Coda
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Editor Misayo Kushida (USA/Japan) (North American Premiere)
MUBI release in U.S. theaters beginning July 6, followed by premiere on its streaming platform.
The visual and sound editing ties together the long time frame of influences on the musician/composer, particularly after facing cancer and the aftermath of Fukushima he changes his focus to environmentalism.
My note on 9/11 reference.


Studio 54
Synopsis & Trailer
Editor/Co-Producer Andrea Lewis (USA) (NY Premiere)
Zeitgeist Films with Kino Lorber release October 5. Producer A & E will show the documentary at some point.
The editing helps tie together the current, frank interviews with quick montages of much public and private archival photographs and footage.


Tanzania Transit
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-writer/production manager Esther Eenstroom (Netherlands) (World Premiere)
Awarded Best Cinematography in a Documentary Film: the jury commented beyond the look of the film “To witness the care taken in the framing of each shot of this remarkable film conveys pleasure in and of itself. That the aesthetic rigor of each of these images also opens the space for us to contemplate the challenges of being human with such gentleness is transfixing. This is a movie that dares to have no beginning and no end. We honor Niels van Koevorden with the Cinematography Award for Tanzania Transit because it gives us the deep slow shiver of seeing anew!”
Available in most countries on most international streaming platforms as of June 13.
This trip travels into the canon of great railroad documentaries! Though we see many passengers over three days across the country, the story focuses on a traditional Masai grandfather and grandson, a commercial preacher selling his get healthy and rich powers, and a woman entrepreneur gradually revealing to other women and mothers how she is determined to rise above the terrible hard knocks she’s experienced.


When Lambs Become Lions
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-Editor Caitlyn Greene (USA) (World Premiere)
From the jury: “The award for Best Editing goes to a film that unfolds with the urgency and tension one expects from the best Hollywood thrillers. From the opening frame to its startling climax, this film kept us on the edge of our seats. It’s also worth noting that one of the films three editors is also the film's brilliant cinematographer, producer, and director, Jon Kasbe, and the jury could have recognized him in either of those disciplines. But ultimately it was the film's incredible pacing that led us to present the award for Best Editing to the team from When Lambs Become Lions.”
This is such an intimate, up-close, and empathetic portrait of rangers protecting and poachers killing elephants in Kenya, that the main characters have the power of fiction.


Shorts

Blind Audition
Synopsis & Trailer
Writer Linda Kokkores (Germany) (NY Premiere)
Screened in Make or Break collection
Not yet seen


Cosmic Debris
Synopsis & Trailer
Cinematographers Genéa Gaudet and Teodora Totoiu; Editor Chelsi Johnston (USA) (World Premiere)
Screened in Bold Moves collection
The editing is as key as the extended interview with Hungarian-born master graphic designer/animator/filmmaker Gabor Csupo. While the fast-paced selection of personal, archival, historical and animated illustrations are a marvel, Csupo is a wonderful raconteur in how he ties his life, work and immigrant experience together with Frank Zappa. A must for fans of his work!


Hey Ronnie Reagan

Synopsis & Trailer
Editor Cara Holmes (Ireland) (International Premiere)
Screened in Home Sweet Home collection
Back in 1984, U.S. presidents could still be proud of their immigrant roots, and Ronald Reagan accepted the formal invitation to visit his ancestral home in Tipperary, to the village of Ballyporeen. This entertaining editing combines a range of well-researched archival images and interviews with those who were part of the excitement. Named after Christy Moore’s protest song that plays through the film (sample lyric: “Since the Irish dimension has won your attention/I ask myself just what’s your game”), the villagers show off their memorabilia and colorfully reflect pride, irony, apathy, jaundiced memories of the brief media onslaught, and bemused comparisons to today’s economic situation.


How Tommy Lemenchick Became A Grade 7 Legend
Synopsis & Trailer
Editor Veronique Barbe (Canada) (US Premiere)
Screened in Magic Act collection
Not yet seen


The Motion of Stars (Die Bewegung der Sterne)
Synopsis & Trailer
Editor Barbara Sidler (Austria) (North American Premiere)
Screened in Loose Ends collection
Not yet seen


Sidelined
Synopsis & Trailer
Co-cinematographer Hillary Spera (USA) (World Premiere)
Screening in NY Homemade collection
This short documentary will air on Lifetime later this year.
Not yet seen


Souls of Totality
Co-Writer Kate Trefry (USA) (NY Premiere)
Synopsis & Trailer
Screened in Loose Ends collection
Not yet seen


UI – Soon We Will All Be One
Synopsis & Trailer
Cinematographer Petra Korner (Austria) (World Premiere)
Screened in Into The Void collection
Not yet seen


The Velvet Underground Played At My High School
Synopsis & Trailer
Writer Marina Donahue (USA) (NY Premiere)
Screened in Animated Shorts Curated by Whoopi G collection
Donahue entertainingly scripted her friend co-director Tony Jannelli’s memory of what he really witnessed on 12/12/1965 in suburban Summit, NJ high school into this eight minute animated documentary. Pre-Nico, pre-Mo Tucker, pre-Warhol, the Velvet Underground’s first gig was as the opening act for The Myddle Class. Their 20 minutes of three songs (“There She Goes”, “Venus in Furs”, and “Heroin”) were met by “a mighty howl of outrage and bewilderment”, according to the band 20 years later, a massive walk-out – and one life-long fan.
With no photographs or footage of that historic event, the evocative animation combines 2D computer animation techniques with hand-drawn graphics and graffiti/zine-like style of the period, through rotoscope re-enactments of the band and the audience, as seen in this animated GIF of each shot.


TRIBECA IMMERSIVE WITH WOMEN PROJECT DIRECTORS: VIRTUAL REALITY

1000 Cut Journey
Project Creators/Directors Courtney Cogburn and Elise Ogle; Writer Courtney Cogburn (USA) (World Premiere)
Synopsis & Trailer
Not yet seen


Chalkroom
Project Creator/Director Laurie Anderson (Taiwan) (NY Premiere)
Synopsis & Trailer
Not yet seen


Dinner Party
Project Co-Creators Charlotte Stoudt and Laura Wexler (Puerto Rico/USA) (NY Premiere)
Synopsis & Trailer
Not yet seen


Meeting A Monster
Project Creator Gabriela Arp (USA) (World Premiere)
Synopsis & Trailer
Not yet seen


An Obituary (boogo)
Project Creator/Director Jean Yoon (South Korea) (US Premiere)
Synopsis & Trailer
Not yet seen


Queerskins: a love story
Project Co-Creator Illya Szilak (USA) (World Premiere)
Synopsis & Trailer
Not yet seen


Spheres: Pale Blue Dot
Project Creator Eliza McNitt (USA) (World Premiere)
Synopsis & Trailer
Not yet seen




updated 7/22/2018




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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