Cinematographer/director Reed Morano (left) on the set of Meadowland last year. Photograph by Jess Weiss.
Four months ago I wrote a post detailing some new movies that had been shot by women cinematographers, of whom there are more than you might realize working in both the big-budget and independent sectors of the film industry. Now that we are closing in on awards season, here are a dozen more trailers for films that will soon be released, all showcasing the work of female cinematographers. One day I hope that there will be so many women working behind the camera that it will no longer be necessary for me or other advocates of women in film to highlight their accomplishments as separate from those of men (since women are the minority sex in the fields of direction and cinematography), but for the time being it is essential to recognize the talented women doing work that deserves to be appreciated both by moviegoers and by the Academy.
Meet the Patels (dirs. Geeta Patel and Ravi Patel) – DP: Geeta Patel (in theaters now). Advertised as a “laugh-out-loud, real-life romantic comedy,” Geeta Patel photographed and co-directed this documentary about her brother, Ravi, who is pressured by their Indian-American family to find a suitable wife.
Wildlike (dir. Frank Hall Green) – DP: Hillary Spera (in theaters September 25). This indie feature, which debuted at the Hamptons International Film Festival last October, stars young London-born actress Ella Purnell as a troublesome American teen who is sent to live with an uncle in Juneau, Alaska. The cast also includes more established actors Bruce Greenwood, Ann Dowd and Brian Geraghty.
Brand: A Second Coming (dir. Ondi Timoner) – DP: Svetlana Cvetko (in theaters October 2). Russell Brand is a controversial, polarizing figure in comedy and pop culture, but perhaps Timoner’s documentary will shed new light on him. Cinematographer Svetlana Cvetko has worked on many other nonfiction films in the last few years, including Academy Award winner Inside Job (2010), Red Army (2014) and She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014).
Freeheld (dir. Peter Sollett) – DP: Maryse Alberti (in theaters October 2). A combination romance-drama-biopic, Freeheld tells the true story of Laurel Hester (played here by Julianne Moore), a New Jersey police lieutenant who was diagnosed with breast cancer and afterwards fought for the rights to pension benefits on behalf of her partner, Stacie Andree (played by Ellen Page). Cinematographer Maryse Alberti is probably this year’s MVP among women in her field, having also shot M. Night Shyamalan’s horror-comedy The Visit (currently playing in theaters) and the newest entry in the Rocky boxing-picture franchise, Creed (more on that later in this post).
Gravy (dir. James Roday) – DP: Amanda Treyz (in theaters October 2). Despite some lengthy delays, this zombie comedy written and directed by the former star of the USA TV show “Psych” assembles a large cast of well-known actors: Michael Weston, Sarah Silverman, Gabourey Sidibe, Sutton Foster, Dulé Hill (Roday’s co-star from “Psych”), Paul Rodriguez, Jimmi Simpson, Lily Cole, Lothaire Bluteau and Roday himself. Amanda Treyz has a long history of photographing horror films and thrillers; some of the titles on her résumé include Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011), All Superheroes Must Die (2011), Holy Ghost People (2013), Zoe Gone (2014) and Anguish (2015).
Meadowland (dir. Reed Morano) – DP: Reed Morano (in theaters October 16). For the past decade Reed Morano has been one of the most sought-after cinematographers in American film, photographing independent films including Frozen River (2008), Little Birds (2011), Kill Your Darlings (2013) and The Skeleton Twins (2014), as well as working twice with Rob Reiner on the films The Magic of Belle Isle (2012) and And So It Goes (2014). Now Morano has taken on the additional mantle of directing, making her feature debut with a drama, Meadowland. The film stars Olivia Wilde, who gives a reportedly fantastic performance, as well as Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, Elisabeth Moss, John Leguizamo, Mark Feuerstein, Juno Temple, Kevin Corrigan, Merritt Wever, Scott Mescudi, Ty Simpkins, Skipp Sudduth, Yolonda Ross and Ned Eisenberg. (More about Meadowland can be read in this Indiewire interview with Reed Morano and Olivia Wilde from the Tribeca Film Festival back in April.)
Tab Hunter Confidential (dir. Jeffrey Schwarz) – DP: Nancy Schreiber (in theaters October 16). The life of popular 1950s matinee idol Tab Hunter, who had to hide his sexuality at the time (although he came out publicly in 2006), is profiled in this new documentary. Interviewees in the film include such notable Hollywood colleagues as Clint Eastwood, Debbie Reynolds, George Takei, John Waters, Robert Wagner, Don Murray, Connie Stevens, Darryl Hickman, Dolores Hart, Terry Moore, Lainie Kazan, Portia de Rossi, Noah Wyle, TCM host (and former actor) Robert Osborne, writer/actor Rex Reed and writer Eddie Muller.
Truth (dir. James Vanderbilt) – DP: Mandy Walker (in theaters October 16). Robert Redford may have another opportunity to be nominated for the Best Actor Oscar with this dramatic biopic in which he portrays news anchor Dan Rather. Truth also stars such heavy hitters as Cate Blanchett (playing Mary Mapes, whose book provides the basis for this film), Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach and John Benjamin Hickey. The film also benefits from the keen eye of Australian cinematographer Mandy Walker, who has shot many award-winning films including Shirley Barrett’s Love Serenade (1996) and Walk the Talk (2000), Samantha Lang’s The Well (1997), Ray Lawrence’s Lantana (2001), Billy Ray’s Shattered Glass (2003), Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008), John Curran’s Tracks (2013) and also the upcoming Gavin O’Connor film Jane Got a Gun.
Difret (dir. Zeresenay Berhane Mehari) – DP: Monika Lenczewska (in theaters October 23). Executive-produced by global superstar Angelina Jolie and winner of the Audience Award (in the “World Cinema – Dramatic” category) at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, this Ethiopian story told in the Amharic language focuses on fourteen-year-old Hirut (played by Tizita Hagere), who is kidnapped and shoots her captor in self-defense. Hirut’s case is defended by lawyer Meaza Ashenafi (Meron Getnet), a woman who has also struggled against the oppressive men and laws of her country. The film is based on real events that happened in 1996.
The Wonders (dir. Alice Rohrwacher) – DP: Hélène Louvart (in theaters October 30). A tale of girls and women growing up in rural Italy, Rohrwacher’s independent drama (which she also wrote) stars her older sister, Alba Rohrwacher, teenager Maria Alexandra Lungu in her film debut and also internationally-renowned Italian actress Monica Bellucci, who will be seen as “Bond woman” Lucia Sciarra in Spectre this November. The cinematography is by Hélène Louvart, who has had a long history of working with women directors, including Dominique Cabrera, Bénédicte Liénard, Danielle Arbid, Claire Denis, Catherine Corsini, Agnès Varda, Héléna Klotz, Virginie Despentes, Annemarie Jacir and Mati Diop. The Wonders was nominated for the Palme d’Or and won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
Creed (dir. Ryan Coogler) – DP: Maryse Alberti (in theaters November 25). This is one film that is guaranteed to draw a huge audience, continuing the legacy of champion boxer and ultimate underdog Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) by putting him in the position of mentor to Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), who is the son of Rocky’s former foe, Apollo Creed. Jordan and director Coogler previously worked together on Coogler’s debut, Fruitvale Station (2013), so it will be interesting to see what they and cinematographer Maryse Alberti (Todd Haynes’ Poison (1991) and Velvet Goldmine (1998), Todd Solondz’s Happiness (1998), Richard Linklater’s Tape (2001), Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler (2008)) bring to this new addition to Warner Brothers’ Rocky franchise.
Life (dir. Anton Corbijn) – DP: Charlotte Bruus Christensen (in theaters December 4). Ten years ago Mick LaSalle wrote an essay for the San Francisco Chronicle in which, on the fiftieth anniversary of James Dean’s death, he wrote that Dean is “the only actor I know who’s impossible to watch without knowing he’s dead… with Dean, his being dead seems part of the point. To watch him is to simultaneously grieve him. There he is, so emotional, and he’s dead; so young and beautiful, and he’s dead. For most classic actors, death is just a passing phase, a speed bump that the public consciousness encounters and processes, on the way to seeing the actor as alive again, if only in art. But Dean’s is the death that keeps on giving.” It seems strange, therefore, to watch a fictionalized version of Dean (in this case, Dane DeHaan) on our screens, but here it is, presented as a story seen through the eyes of photojournalist Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson), who followed Dean around for a Life magazine profile. Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen might have a chance at an Oscar nomination, either for this film or for her work in Thomas Vinterberg’s Far from the Madding Crowd earlier this year.