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Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz in "Disobedience"
Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz in "Disobedience" | © Bleecker Street
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32 Reasons Why Women Rule the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

Picture of Graham Fuller
Film Editor
Updated: 1 May 2018
Movies about women dominate this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs April 18-29. That a record 46 per cent of the titles were directed by women owes greatly to the efforts of festival co-founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal and Tribeca Enterprises EVP Paula Weinstein, who were inspired by the Time’s Up movement. Here are the highlights.

Woman Walks Ahead

Swiss artist Catherine Weldon (Jessica Chastain) heads from Brooklyn to North Dakota to paint the Sioux chief Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes) but is hindered by soldiers. Her experiences prompt her to become a Lakota activist. Directed by Susanna White (Our Kind of Traitor), this factually based feminist Western co-stars Ciåran Hinds, Sam Rockwell, and Bill Camp.

Michael Greyeyes and Jessica Chastain in Woman Walks Ahead
Michael Greyeyes and Jessica Chastain in Woman Walks Ahead | © A24

Love, Gilda

Lisa D’Apolito has mosaicked together a compelling documentary about the life and struggles of the revered Saturday Night Live performer Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. Friends, colleagues, and admirers who pay homage to the pioneering comic talent include Chevy Chase, Laraine Newman, Lorne Michaels, Cecily Strong, Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and Bill Hader. Gene Wilder, Radner’s widower, appears in archive footage.

A photo of Gilda Radner in Love, Gilda
A photo of Gilda Radner in Love, Gilda | © 3 Faces Films

The Party’s Just Beginning

In her auspicious directorial feature debut, Scottish actress-filmmaker Karen Gillan plays a coarse, dissolute young woman who starts to rethink her life when she begins an affair with a newcomer to her Highlands town and encounters an old man whose days are numbered.

Karen Gillan in The Party’s Just Beginning
Karen Gillan in The Party’s Just Beginning | © Mt. Hollywood Films

All About Nina

In what could be a career-transforming turn, Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a scabrous, hard-drinking stand-up comic who starts to make it big in L.A. and gets her love life together (Common plays her kindhearted new guy). But does Nina really want stability—or is she addicted to failure, abuse, and upheaval? Eva Vives, co-writer of Raising Victor Vargas, makes her directorial debut with this no-holds-barred portrait of a troubled modern woman.

Diane

New York Film festival director Kent Jones, who previously helmed the documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut, makes his fiction movie debut with this study of an altruistic woman in her seventies who is forced to examine her life and purpose. Expect a great performance from Mary Kay Place, whose fellow cast members include Jake Lacy, Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin, and Deirdrie O’Connell.

Mary Kay Place in Diane
Mary Kay Place in Diane | © AgX

Duck Butter

Two women (Alia Shawkat, Laia Costa) down on their past lovers embark on a 24-hour tryst based on total candor and on-the-hour sex. But, of course, the path of a true hook-up doesn’t run smooth. The latest from Miguel Arteta—director of Star Maps, Chuck and Buck, and The Good Girl—is a trenchant look at modern love.

Laia Costa and Alia Shawkat in Duck Butter
Laia Costa and Alia Shawkat in Duck Butter | © Duplass Brothers Productions

Little Woods

New York filmmaker Nia Da Costa makes her feature debut with this Sundance-birthed thriller rooted in the economic struggles of estranged working-class sisters, Ollie (Tess Thompson), a former trafficker of prescription pills, and unhappily pregnant Deb (Lily James). The setting is a small North Dakota community being destroyed by fracking and the opioid crisis.

State Like Sleep

Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice) stars in this noirish thriller about an American photographer investigating the death of her husband a year previously in Brussels; Michael Shannon co-stars. That the widescreen cinematography is by Kelly Reichardt’s cameraman Christopher Blauvelt augurs well for the narrative directorial debut of artist-documentarist Meredith Danluck.

Katherine Waterston in State Like Sleep
Katherine Waterston in State Like Sleep | © Sight Unseen Pictures

Blowin’ Up

A compassionate court run by women in Queens, New York, mandates counselling for women brought in on prostitution and sex-trafficking charges, its goal being to free them to make positive choices rather than to criminalize them. Stephanie Wang-Breal’s documentary intimately surveys the workings of the court and the ups and downs of those who pass though its system.

Island of the Hungry Ghosts

Gabrielle Brady’s debut documentary follows Poh Lin, a trauma therapist who works with asylum-seeking detainees in an Australian high-security facility on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Unveiling the island’s violent past, Brady also juxtaposes the inmates quests for freedom with the overland migration of 40 million crabs to the sea.

Christmas Island in Island of the Hungry Ghosts
Christmas Island in Island of the Hungry Ghosts | © Chromosom Film

Call Her Ganda

In October 2014, transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude, 26, was found dead in an Olongapo hotel room in the Philippines. Nineteen-year-old US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, whose defence cited “trans panic,” was subsequently convicted of homicide and given a 6-to-12 year prison sentence. Director PJ Raval’s documentary about the case explores the history of transphobia in the Philippines and probes the post-colonial tensions between the country and the US. The key voices in the film are those of investigative journalist Meredith Talusan, attorney Virgie Suarez, and Laude’s mother, Julita.

A photo of Jennifer Laude in Call Her Ganda
A photo of Jennifer Laude in Call Her Ganda | © Fork Films

The Rachel Divide

Documentarist Laura Brownson tells the discomfiting story of the Civil Rights activist and educator Rachel Dolezai, who in 2015 resigned the presidency of her local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when it was disclosed she had lied about being black. Brownson got exclusive interviews with Dolezai, her two sons, and her adoptive sister, Esther.

Dry Martina

Italian-born actress Antonella Costa has the plum role of an Argentine pop star who, having lost her career and her sex drive, finds herself pursuing a fan’s boyfriend all the way to Chile. What is it Martina really wants? This comic road movie by Chilean writer-director Che Sandoval is a story of an entitled woman’s self-rediscovery.

Antonella Costa in Dry Martina
Antonella Costa in Dry Martina | © Forastero

Mary Shelley

Timed to the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, this biopic traces its author’s dissatisfaction with her sybaritic husband and, of course, the birthing of her anti-Promethean novel on the most famous spooky night in English Romantic literature history. Elle Fanning plays Mary, Douglas Booth is Percy Bysshe Shelley, Tom Sturridge (who starred opposite Elle’s Sister Dakota in Effie) is Lord Byron, and Bel Powley is Claire Clairemont. Here’s betting Saudi director Haifaa al-Manour’s film is nothing like Ken Russell’s phantasmagorical Gothic.

Elle Fanning in Mary Shelley
Elle Fanning in Mary Shelley | © IFC Films

Roll Red Roll

Nancy Schwartzman’s documentary probes the public rape of a 16-year-old high-school girl at a pre-season football party in Steubenville, Ohio, in 2012. Footage and accounts of the assaults on the victim, who was incapacitated by alcohol, was disseminated by the perpetrators on You Tube and social media. The case, which made national headlines, involved a local coverup and an attempt to suppress crime-blogger Alex Goddard. Roll Red Roll is clearly one of Tribeca’s timeliest entries this year.

Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland

On July 13, 2015, 28-year-old Black Lives Matter activist Sandra Bland was found hanged in a Texas police cell three days after being arrested during a traffic stop. Bland’s online video series “Sandy Speaks” had protested police brutality against African Americans. Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s documentary seeks to answer unresolved questions about the controversial case, which gets to the heart of racial injustice in the United States.

Sandra Bland as seen in Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland
Sandra Bland as seen in Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland | © HBO

Time for Ilhan

Director Norah Shapiro went on the campaign trail with Ilhan Omar, who in 2016 was elected a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party member of the Minnesota House of Representatives—becoming the first Somali-American Muslim person to hold legislative office in the US. The story of the immigrant Omar’s remarkable journey is a light in the darkness of current American politics.

Ilhan Omar in Time for Ilhan
Ilhan Omar in Time for Ilhan | © Time for Ilhan LLC.

Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie

Arriving just before Barbie turns 60, Andrea Nevins’s documentary explores the history of Mattel’s doll, long regarded by critics as a dangerously slender and sexist stereotype of femininity. Now that the company is transforming Barbie’s figure to reflect greater diversity in body types, can she shrug off her negative press and become a “real woman”? Nevins’s interviewees include Gloria Steinem, Peggy Orenstein, and Roxane Gay.

Barbie in Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie
Barbie in Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie | © Rare Bird Films

Blue Night

Wandering the streets of New York City brings comfort to a famous jazz singer (Sarah Jessica Parker) who has been given a terrifying medical diagnosis. Documentarist Fabien Constant directed this Laura Eason-scripted drama, which draws on its Sex and the City star’s iconic identification with Manhattan. The cast includes Simon Baker, Jacqueline Bisset, Common, and Renee Zellweger.

Daughter of Mine

Past Tribeca prizewinner Laura Bispuri (Sworn Virgin) returns to the festival with a drama about a 10-year-old girl (Sara Casu) who find herself torn between the overprotective woman who is raising her (Valeria Golina) and her hard-partying birth mother (Alba Rohrwacher). Set on a wild Sicilian coast during summertime, Daughter of Mine investigates the complexities of maternal and filial love.

Sara Casu, Alba Rohrwacher, and Valeria Golino in Daughter of Mine
Sara Casu, Alba Rohrwacher, and Valeria Golino in Daughter of Mine | © The Match Factory

Disobedience

Having returned to North London to attend the Orthodox Jewish funeral of her estranged father, New York photographer Ronit (Rachel Weisz) rekindles her friendship with Esti (Rachel McAdams) and her husband Dovid (Alessandro Nivola)—in fact, Ronit and Esti rekindle their romance. As he did in his Oscar-winning A Fantastic Woman, Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio addresses issues surrounding “taboo” love within a repressive society.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Quel horreur! Discovered in flagrante delicto with another girl on prom night, Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) must pay the price by undergoing gay conversion therapy at a far-flung clinic called God’s Promise; Jennifer Ehle and John Gallagher Jr. play the doctor and reverend responsible for the treatment. Not to worry, Cameron and fellow teen patients Jane Fonda (American Honey‘s Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck) have a ruse to buck the system. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, this teen drama was directed by Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behavior, Slope).

Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, and Forrest Goodluck in The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, and Forrest Goodluck in The Miseducation of Cameron Post | © Beachside Films

Slut in a Good Way

Like a certain Lady Bird, teenage Charlotte (Marguerite Bouchard) discovers that her boyfriend is gay. Unlike Lady Bird, she reacts by having sex with various willing males—co-workers at the toy store where Charlotte and her best friends Megan and Aube hire on. Inevitable slut-shaming threatens to curb her new-found freedom. In their raunchy coming-of-age comedy, Quebecois filmmaker Sophie Lorain and writer Catherine Léger take a laser to hypocrisy in the teen sex wars.

Braid

Director Mitzi Peirone makes her stylish feature debut with a psychological horror drama about two New York drug dealers (Imogen Waterhouse, Sarah Hay) on the lam who take refuge in the mansion of a mad young Miss Havisham-type (Madeline Brewer).

Nico, 1988

One of rock’s legendary iconoclasts is the subject of Susanna Nicchiarelli’s biopic. In 1988, the German ex-Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico was a 49-year-old heroin addict desperate to regain custody of her son, Ari, who had been raised by the parents of his father, the actor Alain Delon. Her manager (Gregory Girl‘s John Gordon Sinclair) meanwhile gets her back on the road with an arduous European tour. The Danish actress-singer Trine Dyrholm plays the mercurial star in a film that might well have been titled Nico Agonistes.

Trine Dyrholm in Nico, 1988
Trine Dyrholm in Nico, 1988 | © Magnolia Pictures

Dead Women Walking

Israeli director Hagar Ban-Asher follows her films The Slut (which she wrote and starred in) and The Burglar with an anti-capital punishment drama about nine women on Death Row facing imminent execution. The cast includes Dale Dickey, Colleen Camp, June Carryl, Joy Nash, Dot-Marie Jones, and Moonlight‘s Ashton Sanders as one doomed woman’s son.

Jellyfish

James Gardner’s feature directorial debut is set in the kind of dreary English seaside down that Morrissey sings about in “Every Day Is Like Sunday.” While coping with school bullies, 15-year-old Sarah (fierce newcomer Liv Hill), her family’s sole breadwinners, does whatever she can to care for her younger twin sibs and their manic-depressive mother. Though standup comedy becomes an outlet for her, it may not be enough to keep her afloat. Jellyfish sounds like it was parented by Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen and Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank.

M

In this French-language drama, a soulful woman student with muteness issues becomes involved with a drag racer-cum-baker who is barely literate. Writer-director Sara Forestier uses actual impediments as a metaphor for the communication problems that frequently bedevil and sink romantic relationships. She co-stars in the film with Redouanne Harjane and French New Wave eminence Jean-Pierre Léaud.

Redouanne Harjane and Sara Forestier in M
Redouanne Harjane and Sara Forestier in M | © MK2 Films

When She Runs

The determination of a woman athlete to reach the Olympic Games is the subject of this narrative film directed by Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck, the team behind God Bless the Child. Kristin (Kristin Anderson) undergoes a rigorous fitness routine and puts everything—including her young family—aside to achieve her goal. The overarching question is: What makes Kristin run?

Netizens

In her latest documentary, Cynthia Lowen (Bully) focuses on three women as she turns her attention to one of the internet’s most pernicious and ubiquitous diseases: stalking and unchecked misogynistic abuse via social media. The subjects are lawyer Carrie Goldberg, media critic Anita Sarkeesian, and a businesswoman called Tina whose career was jeopardized by harassment.

Rx: Early Detection A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee

Cathy Chermol Schrijver’s HBO documentary traces chef Sandra Lee’s battle with breast cancer following her diagnosis after a routine mammogram in 2015.

Radium Girls

Based on real events, Ginny Mohler and Lydia Pilcher’s drama exposes the exploitation of women employees who contracted radiation poisoning from painting glow-in-the-dark watch dials at the American Radium Factory in Orange, New Jersey in the late 1910s and early 1920s. When Josephine (Abby Quinn) falls ill, her sister Bessie (Joey King) takes on the corporation as she fights for the rights of all her sick and endangered co-workers.

Radium Girls
Radium Girls | © Cine Mosaic

Find full details about the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival here.