Women-Directed/Photographed Films Coming to Theaters: June 2016

Cinematographer Natasha Braier with director Nicolas Winding Refn on the set of The Neon Demon, 2015.

Here are many, if not all, of the films either directed by or photographed by women which will be playing in theaters in June. A number of women-directed films are also playing in theaters already: Chevalier (dir. Athina Rachel Tsangari), Eva Hesse (dir. Marcie Begleiter), Maggie’s Plan (dir. Rebecca Miller), The Meddler (dir. Lorene Scafaria), Money Monster (dir. Jodie Foster), Unlocking the Cage (dirs. Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker) and Weiner (dirs. Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg).

JUNE 3: The Fits (dir. Anna Rose Holmer)Official movie website: “THE FITS is a psychological portrait of 11-year-old Toni (Royalty Hightower)—a tomboy assimilating to a tight-knit dance team in Cincinnati’s West End. Enamored by the power and confidence of this strong community of girls, Toni eagerly absorbs routines, masters drills, and even pierces her own ears to fit in. When a mysterious outbreak of fainting spells plagues the team, Toni’s desire for acceptance is twisted.”

JUNE 3: The God Cells (dir. Eric Merola) (DPs: David Barrett, Eric Merola, Kate Merola and Dave Newton)From FAQ section of the official movie website: “Eric Merola is passionate about promising scientific innovations and discoveries that have the potential to help others. Sometimes a scientific discovery enters society that is both controversial and directly conflicts with both the currently held scientific beliefs and the profit structure of that system within the medical industry (and in the case of fetal stem cells, they conflict with widely held religious beliefs as well). Eric finds this aspect to be an important one, as the natural signal of both the economic threat coupled with a dedicated set of indoctrinated beliefs is often drowned out with confusing noise created by the system itself, as an act of self defense to preserve itself. Eric feels an obligation, through his investigative journalistic work, as well as his artistic expression as a filmmaker, to help the general public learn about these issues to help them make their own informed decisions.”

JUNE 3: Gurukulam (dirs. Neil Dalal and Jillian Elizabeth)From Village Voice review: “In their equanimous portrait of an Indian religious community, Jillian Elizabeth and Neil Dalal contemplate enlightenment through an earthly source. They capture the quiet activity of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, an ashram in the lush hills of Tamil Nadu, with an observational documentary style that trades dispassionate distance for sympathetic immersion. With subtle shifts of perspective, the co-directors present the rural Hindu retreat as a calm, unrelenting workplace for staff members who begin work before dawn or a spiritual preparatory school–cum–summer camp for the eager, diverse disciples of Swami Dayananda Saraswati.”

JUNE 3: Me Before You (dir. Thea Sharrock)TV Over Mind review by Chris King: “Amidst the barrage of superhero sequels and big-budget action movies that are released week after week from May through August, Me Before You is a both a pleasant surprise this summer movie season. The romantic drama, based on the best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes and helmed by first-time feature director Thea Sharrock, serves not only as a nice distraction from the constant influx of Hollywood blockbusters that fill the summer months, but it also stands on its own as thoughtful, charming, and, ultimately, uplifting tale of love and life, featuring two terrific lead performances that help make up for any of the movie’s shortcomings.

The two actors delivering those fantastic performances are Game of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke, who plays the kind and compassionate Louisa Clark, and Sam Claflin (most well-known for his role as Finnick in The Hunger Games series), who stars as the sarcastic and wistful Will Traynor. If you’ve seen a trailer for Me Before You, you know the film’s basic premise: Claflin’s Will is a quadriplegic, and Clarke’s Lou takes on the job of being his caretaker. While the pair don’t get along at first, it’s not too long before they begin to grow closer, falling in love and learning more about life from each other than they have from anyone else before.

… Are some of the story beats familiar? Yes. Is everything that happens throughout the film totally realistic? Not necessarily. However, originality and reality aren’t nearly as important when you have emotional authenticity. So very few romance films nowadays care about whether their characters are believable, but at the end of Me Before You, Lou and Will felt like two real people that I got watch fall in love, whose relationship, as cheesy as it sounds, actually inspired me to ‘live boldly.’ I’d say feeling like that, even if it’s only for two hours, is worth the price of a ticket.”

JUNE 3: Time to Choose (dir. Charles Ferguson) (DPs: Lula Cerri, Yuanchen Liu, Kalyanee Mam, Heloísa Passos, Lucian Read and Jerry Risius)From official movie website: “Academy Award®-Winning documentary filmmaker Charles Ferguson (Inside Job, No End in Sight) turns his lens to address worldwide climate change challenges and solutions in his new film TIME TO CHOOSE.

Featuring narration by award-winning actor Oscar Isaac, TIME TO CHOOSE leaves audiences understanding not only what is wrong, but what can to be done to fix this global threat.

Ferguson explores the comprehensive scope of the climate change crisis and examines the power of solutions already available. Through interviews with world-renowned entrepreneurs, innovators, thought leaders and brave individuals living on the front lines of climate change, Ferguson takes an In-depth look at the remarkable people working to save our planet.”

JUNE 3: The Witness (dir. James D. Solomon) (DP: Trish Govoni)Reel Life with Jane review: “In 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered on the street in Queens, New York by a random assailant with a knife. A newspaper story, which later led to a book by famed editor A. M. Rosenthal, contended that at least 38 of the residents in the area ignored Kitty’s screams and did not contact the police.

Since that time, this story has inspired novels and has been the subject of numerous sociology lectures. The phenomenon has been considered an example of how modern society has become callous to the suffering of others. It has even been dubbed the ‘bystander effect’ and ‘Genovese syndrome.’ But is it true?

A more recent article that questioned the accuracy of the original story caused Kitty’s brother, William Genovese, to want to investigate the circumstances surrounding his sister’s death. Understandably, after Kitty’s murder, his family largely turned their backs on it and didn’t want to talk about it, so he had many questions. This led to the making of the documentary, The Witness.

… This multi-layered story is fascinating, heartbreaking, and filled with surprising elements. William is only able to come to a few conclusions during his investigation. One thing appears clear: Some people did indeed call the police the night of his sister’s murder, and the journalist who originally reported the story manipulated it for his own gain. It even appears that the reporter did so with the blessing of Rosenthal. This is a scathing indictment of Rosenthal’s journalistic integrity.

We watch as William seeks people who lived in the area the night his sister died, and he interviews them about what they recall. In the process, he finds out some things he never knew about his older sister – that she was a lesbian, for example. He meets with her lover, a woman who was devastated by the loss but never had a chance to meet anyone in Kitty’s family until the making of the documentary.

The Witness is a haunting documentary that has stayed with me for a number of reasons – the love of a brother for his sister, the desire of a writer to make a story even more interesting than it really was, the ways we turn away from pain, the ways we decide not to get involved in the pain of others, and the lies we tell ourselves.”

JUNE 10: Call Her Applebroog (dir. and DP: Beth B)Synopsis on Zeitgeist Films website: “This deeply personal portrait of acclaimed New York–based artist Ida Applebroog was shot with mischievous reverence by her filmmaker daughter, Beth B (Exposed). Born in the Bronx to Orthodox Jewish émigrés from Poland, Applebroog, now in her 80s, looks back at how she expressed herself through decades of drawings and paintings, as well as her private journals. With her daughter’s encouragement, she investigates the stranger that is her former self, a woman who found psychological and sexual liberation through art. As Beth B finds a deeper understanding of her mother as a human being, Applebroog shares a newfound appreciation for her own provocative work.”

JUNE 10: Careful What You Wish For (dir. Elizabeth Allen)Cinema Village synopsis: “A guy (Nick Jonas) gets more than he bargained for after entering into an affair with the wife of an investment banker. Soon, a suspicious death and substantial life insurance policy embroil him in a scandal.”

JUNE 10: Germans & Jews (dir. Janina Quint)Cinema Village synopsis: “Today, Europe’s fastest growing Jewish population is in Berlin. Germany is considered one of the most democratic societies in the world, assuming the position of moral leader of Europe as they embrace hundreds of thousands of refugees. This development couldn’t have been imagined in 1945. Through personal stories Germans & Jews explores Germany’s transformation as a society, from silence about the Holocaust to facing it head on.”

JUNE 17: Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) (dir. Eva Husson)FrenchCulture.org synopsis: “George, a pretty teen girl, falls in love with Alex. To get his attention, she initiates a game with their friends, discovering, testing and pushing the limits of their sexuality. When the nature of their activities is revealed, each of them deals with the scandal in radically different ways. Faced with the implosion of their value systems, they move on by reassessing their priorities, finding love and their real desires.”

JUNE 22: Nuts! (dir. Penny Lane) (DPs: Hallie Kohler, Penny Lane, Joseph Victorine, Angela Walley and Mark Walley)Film Forum synopsis: “In 1917, J.R. Brinkley, a country doctor practicing in Milford, Kansas, begins treating his male patients for impotence by surgically implanting them with goat glands, a treatment that is so successful that Brinkley starts raising his own goats to meet an increasing demand. Over the years he builds the country’s 4th most powerful radio station (the better to sell his medical miracle), runs for governor of Kansas, and amasses a fortune with which he lives in sumptuous splendor. Filmmaker Penny Lane writes: ‘Like my previous feature-length film OUR NIXON, NUTS! is structured as classical tragedy with a complicated and deeply hubristic protagonist, rendered with equal parts comedy and pathos.’ NUTS! draws upon a fascinating trove of archival materials and integrates charming animated sequences that, together, bring to life a man who saw himself as more Albert Schweitzer than P.T. Barnum, but who ultimately turns out to be an unholy mix of Bernie Madoff and Donald Trump.”

JUNE 24: From This Day Forward (dir. and DP: Sharon Shattuck)IFC Center synopsis: “With her own wedding just around the corner, filmmaker Sharon Shattuck returns home to examine the mystery at the heart of her upbringing: How her transgender father Trisha and her straight-identified mother Marcia stayed together against all odds. FROM THIS DAY FORWARD is a moving portrayal of an American family coping with the most intimate of transformations.”

JUNE 24: The Neon Demon (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn) (DP: Natasha Braier)From ScreenRant article: “Nicholas Winding Refn has carved out a unique career niche for himself with eccentric, often brutally-violent and sexually-explicit fare that straddles the line between lurid exploitation and glossy arthouse fare. Best known for the slow-burn deconstructionist drama/thriller Drive (featuring Ryan Gosling as a stoic, unbalanced car expert/beatdown-specialist), he followed it up with the ultra-divisive Thailand-set crime thriller Only God Forgives (also starring Gosling).

Neon Demon‘s plot has been partly kept under wraps, but it’s known to star Elle Fanning as a young woman who comes to Los Angeles to pursue a career in modeling. A previously-released plot synopsis described Fanning’s character, Jesse, as having her “youth and vitality” in danger of being ‘devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.’ However, the ominously-scored trailer for the film would seem to imply that Jesse poses a danger of her own, too.”

JUNE 24: Yarn (dirs. Þórdur Bragi Jónsson, Una Lorenzen and Heather Millard) (DP: Iga Mikler)IFC Center synopsis: “Meet the artists who are redefining the tradition of knit and crochet, bringing yarn out of the house and into the world. Reinventing our relationship with this colorful tradition, YARN weaves together wool graffiti artists, circus performers, and structural designers into a visually-striking look at the women who are making a creative stance while building one of modern art’s hottest trends.”

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