Women-Directed Films Coming to Theaters in 2016 (Part 3)

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Filmmaker Meera Menon.

In recent months I have written posts about upcoming theatrical releases of feature films directed by women (here and here). Here are seventeen more titles to add to the list, some of which are already playing in theaters right now.

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Opened April 1 (no longer playing): Catching the Sun (dir. Shalini Kantayya). This documentary follows the expanding “clean energy” movement and three people in particular who are looking to lead the way in new, 21st-century ways of thinking regarding environmental awareness. Director Shalini Kantayya wrote the film and also worked as a producer and co-editor (with Michael Culyba and Tyler H. Walk), in addition to collaborating with producer Aarti Tandon and co-producer Sabine Hoffman (best known as a highly-regarded film editor).

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Opened April 1: Standing Tall (dir. Emmanuelle Bercot) – The opening night selection at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, Bercot’s drama won three César Awards (French Oscars) earlier this year for three of its performances: Best Actress (Catherine Deneuve), Best Supporting Actor (Benoît Magimel) and Most Promising Actor (then-teenage Rod Paradot). Paradot plays a juvenile delinquent who is given chances for redemption because of caring judge Deneuve. Director Bercot co-wrote the screenplay with Marcia Romano, while the costumes were designed by Pascaline Chavanne.

Standing Tall is playing at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

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April 8: The Invitation (dir. Karyn Kusama) – Originally slated to open on March 25 but pushed forward. Karyn Kusama, a Japanese-American director born in Brooklyn, raised in St. Louis and now residing in Los Angeles, has worked in several film genres. Her first feature, Girlfight (2000), which she also wrote, stars Michelle Rodriguez as a boxer from Brooklyn; Æon Flux (2005) is a big-budget sci-fi/action movie starring Charlize Theron as the title character, along with co-stars Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo, Frances McDormand and Pete Postlethwaite; Jennifer’s Body (2009) is a horror-comedy hybrid written by Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult, Ricki and the Flash) and starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried; Kusama has also directed episodes of the TV shows “The L Word,” “Chicago Fire,” “Halt and Catch Fire” and “The Man in the High Castle.” Kusama’s new film, The Invitation, is a horror-thriller about a dinner party that goes terribly awry. The film stars Michel Huisman, Logan Marshall-Green, John Carroll Lynch, Tammy Blanchard, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Mike Doyle and Michelle Krusiec. Other women who worked on The Invitation: producer and post-production supervisor Martha Griffin, co-producer Lindsay Lanzillotta, executive producers Julie Parker Benello, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Wendy Ettinger and Mynette Louie, editor Plummy Tucker, assistant editors Emma Marie DuPell and Oona Flaherty, production designer Almitra Corey and costume designer Alysia Raycraft.

The Invitation is playing at the IFC Center.

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April 8: Look at Us Now, Mother! (dir. Gayle Kirschenbaum) – Released just one week after Chantal Akerman’s documentary about her relationship to her mother, No Home Movie, Kirschenbaum’s film is a touching, comic tribute that won awards at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and the Woods Hole Film Festival (Massachusetts). Kirschenbaum also wrote, produced and co-edited the film (with Alex Keipper); other women involved in the making of the film include story consultant and co-producer Melissa Jo Peltier, associate producer Kirsten Larvick and assistant editor Loulwa Khoury.

Look at Us Now, Mother! is playing at the Village East Cinema.

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April 15: Echo Park (dir. Amanda Marsalis) – Marsalis’s debut film, written by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta (herself a director), stars Mamie Gummer, Anthony Okungbowa, Gale Harold and Helen Slater as a group of Angelenos who find common ground despite differences in racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Some of the women who also worked on Echo Park include executive producers Jacqueline Corbelli and Debi Shaw, associate producer Kelley Lee, editor Nina Lucia (who co-edited with Greg O’Bryant) and production designer Sonja Kroop.

Echo Park will be playing at the IFC Center.

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April 15: The Syndrome (dir. Meryl Goldsmith) – First-time director Goldsmith co-wrote and co-produced this documentary with her sister, Susan Goldsmith, to tackle the controversial subject of shaken baby syndrome. Meryl Goldsmith edited the film and was the music supervisor, working alongside more family members, Daniel Goldsmith (executive producer) and Lindsey Goldsmith (associate producer).

The Syndrome will be playing at Cinema Village.

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April 22: The Meddler (dir. Lorene Scafaria) – Perhaps revisiting the themes from last year’s dramedy about widowhood, I’ll See You in My Dreams, Scafaria’s The Meddler stars Susan Sarandon (also an executive producer on the film) as a woman looking to start a new chapter in her life after her husband passes away. The film co-stars Rose Byrne as Sarandon’s daughter, as well as including J.K. Simmons, Jerrod Carmichael, Michael McKean, Jason Ritter, Cecily Strong, Casey Wilson, Lucy Punch, Billy Magnussen, Randall Park, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Harry Hamlin, Shiri Appleby and Laura San Giacomo in the cast. The production side of the film involved producer Joy Gorman Wettels, co-producer Fiona Walsh, editor Kayla Emter, set decorator Karuna Karmarkar and costume designer Annie Bloom. Lorene Scafaria’s previous feature as a writer-director, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012), was an unusual and well-made combination of comedy, science fiction and romance, so I look forward to this next effort.

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April 22: Nina (dir. Cynthia Mort) – Although this biopic of Nina Simone has courted controversy for the usage of skin-darkening makeup and prosthetics on leading actress Zoe Saldana, it will be interesting to see how writer-director Mort’s film – which co-stars David Oyelowo, Mike Epps and Ronald Guttman – compares with Liz Garbus’s recent, Oscar-nominated documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?. Aigerim Jakisheva, Lauren Lloyd and Allison Sarofim executive-produced Nina, while Susan Littenberg co-edited the film (with Mark Helfrich and Josh Rifkin), Missy Stewart did the production design, Jan Pascale did set decoration and Magali Guidasci designed the costumes.

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May 25: Unlocking the Cage (dirs. Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker) – The husband-and-wife team of Hegedus and Pennebaker, who have been collaborating on documentaries since 1971, have now made a film concerned with animals’ rights. Hegedus photographed the film and was one of the two camera operators (her stepson, Jojo Pennebaker, was the other); other women who worked on it include producer Rosadel Varela, associate producer Julia McInnis and sound effects editor Andrea Bella.

Unlocking the Cage will be playing at the Film Forum.

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May 27: Chevalier (dir. Athina Rachel Tsangari) – Greek writer-director Athina Rachel Tsangari scored an indie hit with her previous feature, the drama Attenberg, which won two awards at the Venice Film Festival in 2010. Now she has returned with Chevalier, a comedy about six men who test the limits of their friendship and their masculinity on a yacht voyage. Tsangari co-wrote the film with Efthymis Filippou; other women involved in the film include Maria Hatzakou (producer), Anna Georgiadou (production design) and Vasileia Rozana (costume designer).

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June 22: Nuts! (dir. Penny Lane) – If it weren’t for the fact that the bizarre story of Dr. John Romulus Brinkley really did happen, you would assume it was dreamed up by some mad author. In the 1910s and 20s Brinkley claimed – in his guise as a physician, despite not having a medical degree – that he could cure male impotence with transplants from the glands of goat testicles. (Of course it didn’t work.) Brinkley’s strange tale is told in this new documentary, which was made with the help of producer-director Penny Lane (who also co-edited and co-photographed the film), producer Caitlin Mae Burke, co-producer Kara Janeczko, cinematographers Hallie Kohler and Angela Walley and sound designer Andrea Bella.

Nuts! will be playing at the Film Forum.

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July 13: Don’t Blink – Robert Frank (dir. Laura Israel) – Legendary photographer Robert Frank’s life is chronicled here in a documentary directed by Laura Israel, co-written and co-produced by Israel and Melinda Shopsin (also the post-production supervisor), photographed by Lisa Rinzler (with Edward Lachman) and edited by Alex Bingham (who was also in charge of art direction).

Don’t Blink – Robert Frank will be playing at the Film Forum.

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July 22: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (dir. Mandie Fletcher) – Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley hit the big screen in this extension of their long-running British sitcom of the same name, in which they play fame-obsessed friends Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone. A who’s who of well-known personalities appear: Emma Bunton, Gwendoline Christie, Chris Colfer, Joan Collins, Cara Delevingne, Dawn French, Mo Gaffney, Jerry Hall, Jane Horrocks, Celia Imrie, Kim Kardashian, Lulu, Joanna Lumley, Kate Moss, Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield, Rebel Wilson. Working from a screenplay by Jennifer Saunders, the film also features art direction by Margaret Spohrer and Nikki Startup, set decoration by Laura Richardson and costume design by Rebecca Hale.

EQUITY, Anna Gunn, 2016.

July 29: Equity (dir. Meera Menon) – Marketed as “the first female-driven Wall Street” film, Menon’s drama (written by Amy Fox) stars Anna Gunn as an investment banker caught up in a dangerous scandal. The cast also includes James Purefoy, Craig Bierko, Tracie Thoms, Carrie Preston, Margaret Colin, Nate Corddry, Samuel Roukin, Alysia Reiner (also a producer) and Sarah Megan Thomas (ditto). Other women who worked behind the scenes: Susan J. Bevan, Barbara Byrne, Suzanne Ordas Curry, Salima Habib, Cecilia Herbert, Audrey McNiff, Linda Zwack Munger, Linnea Roberts and Christine Toretti (co-producers), Candy Straight (executive producer), Maegan Hayward (executive producer of post-production sound), Diane Lederman (production design), Roxy Martinez (set decoration) and Teresa Binder (costume design). Menon’s first feature, Farah Goes Bang (2013), was the first ever winner of the Nora Ephron Prize, an honor given to films made by women.

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August 10: An Art That Nature Makes: The Work of Rosamond Purcell (dir. Molly Bernstein) – Photographer Rosamond Purcell is the subject of this documentary, so brand-new that it doesn’t have an IMDb page yet. (More info on the film can be found here.)

An Art That Nature Makes: The Work of Rosamond Purcell will be playing at the Film Forum.

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August 17: When Two Worlds Collide (dirs. Heidi Brandenburg Sierralta and Mathew Orzel) – Sierralta and Orzel capture the plight of environmental activists who struggle against the destruction of the Amazon rainforest due to the major corporations that have invaded the land. Collide, which was edited by Carla Gutierrez, won the Special Jury Prize (World Cinema – Documentary) at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was honored as the Best Debut Feature because, in the words of the voting body, “this film impresses us because of the tenacity of the filmmakers in staying with the story of many years. This film was beautiful, raw and had incredible tension.”

When Two Worlds Collide will be playing at the Film Forum.

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August 31: The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger (dirs. Bartek Dziadosz, Colin MacCabe, Christopher Roth and Tilda Swinton) – English artist, critic and novelist John Berger is observed by four directors in this documentary; Swinton filmed the final segment, “Harvest,” which discusses children and parenthood, featuring appearances by Berger’s son, Yves, and Swinton’s twin sons, Xavier and Honor.

The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger will be playing at the Film Forum.

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