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Dynamic Women Directors At The 2016 Tribeca Film Festival

Picture of Rachel Parsons
Updated: 3 January 2017
Who runs the world? Girls! Well, not quite yet, but the women filmmakers at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in New York are taking on issues that will help move us in the right direction. Here are some names to look out for.

Janicza Bravo, winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Short Film Jury Prize in 2013 for Gregory Go Boom, is back with a new short in a very new format. Hard World for Small Things is part of Tribeca’s Visual Arcade — the festival’s first ever collection of virtual reality films. What begins as a seemingly average ride to a neighborhood deli in the back seat of a car becomes an unflinching look at police brutality in Los Angeles. If you haven’t been following the media coverage on this issue, then you haven’t been paying attention. However, Ms. Bravo thinks these stories have been insufficient.

She has said that she wanted to make a film about more than a victim’s death: “I wanted to make a short piece that was emotionally longer than a paragraph, and that you got a slice of his life before he died. So when he died, it’s not about the event and what he did to have died; it becomes about who he was, his humor, his laugh, these things.’

Tribeca film festival 2009 | © Clementine Gallot/Flickr

Tribeca film festival 2009 | © Clementine Gallot/Flickr

Meera Menon, whose 2013 submission Farrah Goes Bang won the inaugural Nora Ephron Prize, returns to Tribeca as the director of the feature EquityA financial thriller about the seldom-discussed women of Wall Street, it looks at the personal and political choices the protagonist, Naomi Bishop, has to make around her gender and sexuality.

In an interview with Women and Hollywood, Menon discusses what she wants people to reflect on after watching the film: “I’d like them to leave thinking about the challenges women face in the workforce, but more importantly to really feel the emotional highs and lows of those challenges — to have really experienced that unsettling place where ambition crosses over into something else entirely.”

Award-winning filmmaker Leyla Bouzid makes her feature debut with As I Open My Eyes. Bouzid is a member of the new wave of Tunisian filmmakers challenging stereotypes of the Arab world. Set in Tunis in 2010, just before the events that sparked the Jasmine Revolution, it’s about a young woman navigating politics and family traditions as she pursues a career as a singer — and a portrait of a country on the eve of transformation.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Bouzid said she believes cinema is a way to create a deeper understanding of events: ‘For instance, in the case of my film, people will understand much more about the revolution, not just the aspects of it but from the inside out. The intimacy of the situation. Through cinema you can communicate the human aspects in a more profound way than in any other way of communicating.”

Leyla Bouzid | © Festival de Cine Africano - FCAT/Flickr

Leyla Bouzid | © Festival de Cine Africano – FCAT/Flickr

Tracy Droz Tragos takes on a hot-button issue in her documentary Abortion: Stories Women Tell. Set in her home state of Missouri, it features interviews with patients, doctors, protesters, and others who have been touched by abortion in a quest to give women a platform to tell their stories.

In an interview with Elle magazine, Tragos talks about speaking to women with different experiences, humanizing what is often reduced to a bunch of ugly political battles: “There’s a real desire here with this film to maybe have people shift a little bit and enter a different kind of conversation than we’ve been having. That’s the heart of it, and I think we really did stay true to that.” Tragos is no stranger to taking on social issues in films. Her past work includes Rich Hill, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and Be Good, Smile Pretty, which earned the 2004 Emmy for Best Documentary.

This is only a tiny slice of the many thought-provoking films by women directors at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Catch these and many more at venues throughout Manhattan from April 13th through the 24th.