5 female directors to watch at tribeca
Of the 124 directors showing feature-length films at the Tribeca Film Festival this year, 32 are women. That's just over a quarter, so still not a lot, but it's more than ever before in the festival's 14 year history. And in general it's a big year for women at New York's biggest film event. Hip-hop queen Mary J. Blige is taking the stage tomorrow night after a screening of Mary J. Blige — The London Sessions, a documentary about the recording of her 13th album. Ballerina Misty Copeland will be giving a talk after the premiere of A Ballerina's Tale, which follows her life as one of the American Ballet Theatre's first African-American female soloists. And Gloria Steinem is sitting on the jury panel.
Perhaps the real marker of change though is that the boy-girl ratio improves when you look at the list of first-time directors. A new wave of up-and-coming female filmmakers is pushing through. Here are the movies and directors to look out for when the festival opens tomorrow.
Natalia Leite, Bare
Sarah (Dianna Agron) lives in a one stoplight desert town. Pepper is "a sexy, spontaneous stranger," played by Paz de la Huerta, natch. They fall in love and embark on a drug-fueled stripping spree. Bare, the first feature film from New York-based director Natalia Leite — and BFF producer Alexandra Roxo — is a clear favorite in the festival's Viewpoints category this year. Not only does it have big-name leads but Leite and Roxo have already built a strong fanbase with their brilliant web series Be Here Now-ish, a ten-episode comedy about two sexually uninhibited New Yorkers who move to LA to live their new-age truth (there are cameos by Leite's friends Karley Sciortino and Ry Russo-Young). Set in Nevada, Bare promises beautiful sun-bleached landscapes, neon-lit pole dancing montages and Leite's signature blend of modern, slightly messed-up mysticism.
Crystal Moselle, The Wolfpack
You may already have heard about Crystal Moselle's film The Wolfpack as "that crazy documentary about six kids who are trapped in an apartment by their Hari Krishna dad and watch movies all day." It premiered at Sundance earlier this year, where it won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize, and generated equal amounts of hype about its 34-year-old director, Moselle. The film follows the six sons of the Angulo family whose father's puritanical beliefs leave them cooped up in a flat where their only escape is film. With odd home-school haircuts and the dedication of hardened stage actors, the brothers reenact their favorite scenes from movies like The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightmare on Elm Street and Pulp Fiction in intricate homemade sets. "I felt like I was discovering a long-lost tribe in the Amazon," Moselle said in an interview.
Hélène Zimmer, Being 14
Writer and actress Hélène Zimmer may not be 14, but at 25 she's one of the youngest filmmakers showing at Tribeca this year. Her film, Being 14 (A 14 ans) was released in France with a warning about its shocking content and language (rough translation of the film's first line: "Nasty ass virgin, I'll never f**k you!"). The press has already compared Zimmer's gritty depiction of angsty shit-kicking adolescents to Larry Clarke's Kids. The plot follows a group of three female friends in their first year of middle school in France and Zimmer's straight-up shooting style and no-holds-barred dialog single her out as one to watch.
Jeanie Finlay, Orion The Man Who Would Be King
Ten years ago, British director Jeanie Finlay found a record at a garage sale in Nottingham, covered by a sateen-clad singer who looked suspiciously like Elvis. "We took the record home, put it on and within seconds the mystery deepened," says Findlay. "Whoever this guy was, he sounded exactly ?-and I mean exactly ?-like Elvis." Her latest documentary, Orion The Man Who Would Be King, is the result of her deep excavation of the "Elvis is Alive" myth, a process that takes infinite strange turns, including a strange-but-true cameo from Kiss. Findlay is an experienced documentary filmmaker with a sixth sense for finding bizarre stories. So far her subjects have included vacationing Goths (GothCruise, 2008) and two Scottish students who managed to convince the UK music scene they were rap's next big thing (The Great Hip Hop Hoax, 2013). Orion is her first feature film to premiere at Tribeca, and represents the next stage of her U.S. takeover.
Melanie Shaw, Shut Up and Drive
LA-based director Melanie Shaw is part of The Collectin, an up-and-coming group of directors and actors (including Alden Ehrenreich and Zoë Worth) who began working together at NYU. Her first feature, Running Wild, which starred Ehrenreich and Worth, told the story of a dysfunctional road trip that never actually leaves LA. Shut Up and Drive, which premieres at Tribeca, is another intimate youth-driven road movie, this time starring childhood friends Jane and Laura — played by Sarah Sutherland and Worth.
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography courtesy Tribeca Film Festival