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

Director Mira Nair and actress Lupita Nyong’o on the set of Queen of Katwe, 2015.

Here are twenty-two new movies due to be released in September which have been directed and/or photographed by women. These titles are sure to intrigue cinephiles and also provoke meaningful discussions on the film world, as well as the world in general.

SEPTEMBER 2: Equal Means Equal (dir. Kamala Lopez) (DP: Jendra Jarnagin)From the film’s official website:Equal Means Equal offers an unflinching look at how women are treated in the United States today. Examining both real-life stories and precedent-setting legal cases, director Kamala Lopez uncovers how outdated and discriminatory attitudes inform and influence seemingly disparate issues, from workplace harassment to domestic violence, rape and sexual assault to the foster care system, and the healthcare conglomerate to the judicial system. Along the way, she reveals the inadequacy of present laws that claim to protect women, ultimately presenting a compelling and persuasive argument for the urgency of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment.”

SEPTEMBER 9: As I Open My Eyes (dir. Leyla Bouzid)Tribeca Film Festival synopsis: “Tradition butts up against progress in Leyla Bouzid’s debut feature As I Open My Eyes, a musically-charged French-Tunisian film that follows a young woman in a band as she navigates familial, cultural, and social ideals in contemporary Tunis. Her band—assembled of several friends and one more-than-a-friend—plays a blend of original music and covers at local bars, including men’s-only joints. For Farah (Baya Medhaffar), the young woman at the heart of the film, music transcends cultures and languages, and the lengthy musical interludes demonstrate a kind of escapism. But music too is wrapped up in the politics. As I Open My Eyes situates itself at the dawn of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, and Farah’s music addresses politics and issues in her home country.”

SEPTEMBER 9: Cameraperson (dir./DP: Kirsten Johnson)IFC Center synopsis: “What does it mean to film someone? How does it affect the subject—and what does it do to the filmer? Johnson, the cinematographer behind such essential documentaries as Citizenfour, Fahrenheit 9/11, The Invisible War and dozens more, draws on the remarkable footage she’s shot throughout her career to craft an extraordinary, impressionistic, deeply poetic self-portrait. Revisiting and recontextualizing her life’s work, her film becomes a meditation on film’s uncanny ability to connect us to each other.”

SEPTEMBER 9: Ithaca (dir. Meg Ryan)From an Entertainment Weekly interview: “There’s a scene toward the beginning of Ithaca, Meg Ryan’s 1940s-set directorial debut, which sees a teenage boy returning home from his new job as a mail carrier. Having delivered a military telegram notifying a local woman of her son’s death, the boy, Homer (newcomer Alex Neustaedter), reassures his own mother (Ryan) of the goodness that still exists within him.

“‘Everything’s all right, mom… ‘ he begins, pacing as she knits in the corner. She echoes the sentiment from the sidelines, allowing her son to come of age in the space before her. ‘Everything’s all right, Homer,’ she repeats. ‘It’s only that you’re becoming aware of a world in which you’ve been a child.’

Ithaca is a labor of love that came from Ryan’s protective instincts as a mother of two, one that symbolizes the trajectory of her career, in a way; just as Homer grows under the watchful eye of his maker, the film is the product of maturation, nurtured by Ryan’s days acting in major Hollywood romances like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail and her feelings as a parent in the lead up to the Iraq War.

“An adaptation of William Saroyan’s 1943 novel The Human Comedy, Ithaca, which premiered at the Middleburg Film Festival in 2015, also stars Ryan’s son, Jack Quaid, and features an epic cameo by her long-time costar, Tom Hanks. The film, the actress tells EW, is about Homer’s emotional journey as he awaits his older brother’s return from the frontlines of WWII, and has an important relevance to today’s world – especially given the contentious climate surrounding international conflicts in the Middle East.

“‘There was a day I thought, “Oh, man. I can’t protect my kid from everything.” It’s a difficult moment,’ the 54-year old says, recalling the run-up to the Iraq War as inspiration for directing the project. ‘I think it speaks to the complicated things happening [in the world], in the sense of community and cultivation of an individual’s integrity – what Saroyan believes are important antidotes. Hopefully Ithaca is about how fierce and frail life really is.'”

SEPTEMBER 16: Bridget Jones’s Baby (dir. Sharon Maguire)From the film’s official website: “Oscar® winners Renée Zellweger and Colin Firth are joined by Patrick Dempsey for the next chapter of the world’s favorite singleton in Bridget Jones’s Baby. Directed by Sharon Maguire (Bridget Jones’s Diary), the new film in the beloved comedy series based on creator Helen Fielding’s heroine finds Bridget unexpectedly expecting.

“After breaking up with Mark Darcy (Firth), Bridget Jones’s (Zellweger) “happily ever after” hasn’t quite gone according to plan. Fortysomething and single again, she decides to focus on her job as top news producer and surround herself with old friends and new. For once, Bridget has everything completely under control. What could possibly go wrong?

“Then her love life takes a turn and Bridget meets a dashing American named Jack (Dempsey), the suitor who is everything Mr. Darcy is not. In an unlikely twist she finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch…she can only be fifty percent sure of the identity of her baby’s father.”

SEPTEMBER 16: Miss Stevens (dir. Julia Hart)From a Consequence of Sound review:Miss Stevens, the debut feature from writer/director Julia Hart, is perhaps most notable for what it’s not, and that’s another ennui-soaked tale of a high school teacher’s taboo affair with a student. Sure, ennui is everywhere in this handsome, well-acted feature, but what’s weirdly revolutionary about Miss Stevens is how it doesn’t assume a teacher’s depression stems from a longing for the freedoms of youth. As played by Lily Rabe, the film’s namesake character is struggling with something much more complicated, namely the psychological toll that comes with caring for your students as people rather than, well, students. That she’s still figuring out how to be an adult isn’t helping her any, either.

“So when she volunteers to take three students on a weekend trip to a high school drama competition, Rachel Stevens is forced to navigate the nebulous shift in dynamic that occurs when a teacher and her students meet in the real world. Margot (Lili Reinhart), for example, relies on Rachel for emotional support when she screws up her big audition. The boy-crazy Sam (Anthony Quintal) wants relationship advice. And then there’s Billy (Timothée Chalamet), a moody delinquent with a passion for drama and an interest in Rachel that’s, at best, spectacularly unhealthy.

“Rachel is also only 29, just a little more than a decade removed from the students she’s paid to educate. As such, she sees no problem drinking in front of the kids, dancing at their social, or hooking up with a married teacher (Rob Huebel) she meets on the dance floor. Fear not: this isn’t Bad Teacher territory; Rachel’s behavior is absolutely normal for her age, but is it appropriate here? And how does it change her students’ perception of her, not to mention her impact as an educator?

“Rabe’s performance here is nothing short of stunning. The sharp, lived-in tics and details of her character work are instantly endearing, an open window into her vulnerabilities and passions. What’s especially wonderful is watching her navigate the subtle shifts, the moments when she realizes a conversation with a student is veering into uncomfortable territory. Out-of-classroom conversations between teacher and student, after all, can be something of a minefield. Hart also culls strong supporting performances from the ever-charming Huebel–effectively dialed down from the absurd characters he often plays in comedies–as well as Chalamet, a talented young actor who can oscillate nimbly between charming and unhinged.”

SEPTEMBER 16: Silicon Cowboys (dir. Jason Cohen) (DP: Svetlana Cvetko)From the film’s official website: “Launched in 1981 by three friends in a Houston diner, Compaq Computer set out to build a portable PC to take on IBM, the world’s most powerful tech company. Many companies had tried cloning the industry leader’s code, only to be trounced by IBM and its high-priced lawyers. Silicon Cowboys explores the remarkable David vs. Goliath story, and eventual demise, of Compaq, an unlikely upstart who altered the future of computing and helped shape the world as we know it today.

“Directed by Academy Award®-nominated director Jason Cohen and produced by Ross M. Dinerstein (Jiro Dreams of Sushi) and Glen Zipper (Academy Award®-winning Undefeated), the film offers an insider’s look into the explosive rise of the 1980’s PC industry and is a refreshing alternative to the familiar narratives of Jobs, Gates, and Zuckerberg. Silicon Cowboys features interviews with Compaq founders Rod Canion, Jim Harris, and Bill Murto as well as Alec Berg, Executive Producer of HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley,’ and Chris Cantwell, co-creator of AMC’s ‘Halt and Catch Fire.'”

SEPTEMBER 16: Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (dir./DP: Deborah S. Esquenazi)From the film’s official website:Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four excavates the nightmarish persecution of Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez — four Latina lesbians wrongfully convicted of gang-raping two little girls in San Antonio, Texas. The film begins its journey inside a Texas prison, after these women have spent nearly a decade behind bars. They were 19 and 20 years at the time that allegations surfaced.

“Using the women’s home video footage from 21 years ago combined with recent vérité footage and interviews, the film explores their personal narratives and their search for exculpatory evidence to help their losing criminal trials. 15 years into their journey, director Deborah S. Esquenazi captures an on-camera recantation by one of the initial outcry victims, now 25 years old although 7 at the time of the investigation. This brings the filmmaker into the role of investigator along with attorneys at the Innocence Project, who are just beginning their quest for truth in this case.

“Together with attorneys, the film culminates with the women being released from prison to await their searing new exoneration hearings in San Antonio. Helming new legislation, this is the first case in U.S. history that allows wrongfully convicted innocents to challenge convictions based on ‘Junk Science’, or debunked forensics. As lesbian low income women of color, these women hold intersecting identities that make them the most vulnerable to incarceration and juror bias. This under-reported injustice is actually widespread: Latina women represent one of the growing populations heading into prison. In addition, most reported exonerations and wrongful convictions focus solely on men and cases involving women, let alone lesbian women of color are largely under reported. The film unravels the interplay of mythology, homophobia, and prosecutorial fervor that led to their indictment.”

SEPTEMBER 23: Audrie & Daisy (dirs. Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk)From the film’s official website:Audrie & Daisy is an urgent real-life drama that examines the ripple effects on families, friends, schools and communities when two underage young women find that sexual assault crimes against them have been caught on camera. From acclaimed filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (The Island President, The Rape of Europa), Audrie & Daisy – which made its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival – takes a hard look at American’s teenagers who are coming of age in this new world of social media bullying, spun wildly out of control.”

SEPTEMBER 23: Chicken People (dir. Nicole Lucas Haimes) (DP: Martina Radwan)City Cinemas synopsis: “A funny and uplifting look at the world of show chickens and the people who love them. Starting at the largest national poultry competition, likened to the Westminster Dog Show for chickens, Chicken People follows  three top competitors over the course of a year as they grapple with life’s challenges while vying to win the next year’s crown. Both humorous and heartfelt, Chicken People is an unforgettable celebration of the human spirit.”

SEPTEMBER 23: The Dressmaker (dir. Jocelyn Moorhouse)From the film’s official website: “Based on the best-selling novel by Rosalie Ham, The Dressmaker is a bittersweet comedy-drama set in early 1950s Australia. Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet), a beautiful and talented misfit, after many years working as a dressmaker in exclusive Parisian fashion houses, returns home to the tiny middle-of-nowhere town of Dungatar to right the wrongs of the past. Not only does she reconcile with her ailing, eccentric mother Molly (Judy Davis) and unexpectedly falls in love with the pure-hearted Teddy (Liam Hemsworth), but armed with her sewing machine and incredible sense of style, she transforms the women of the town and in doing so gets sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.”

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SEPTEMBER 23: The Free World (dir. Jason Lew) (DP: Bérénice Eveno)IFC Center synopsis: “How hard would you fight to be free? After spending two decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Mo (Boyd Holbrook) struggles to put his past behind him as he readjusts to a new life working in an animal shelter. Doris (Elisabeth Moss) is trapped in another sort of prison: an abusive marriage. A dramatic encounter brings these two troubled souls together, and a possible murder connects them. Soon, Mo finds himself risking everything – including being locked up once again for someone else’s crime – to protect the fragile Doris. Driven by explosive performances from Elisabeth Moss and rising star Boyd Holbrook, the feature debut from director Jason Lew is a gripping, mood-drenched exploration of guilt, redemption, and what it means to be free. Academy Award(R) winner Octavia Spencer and Sung Kang costar.”

SEPTEMBER 23: Generation Startup (dirs. Cheryl Miller Houser and Cynthia Wade)IFC Center synopsis: “This visit to the front lines of entrepreneurship in America captures the struggles and triumphs of six recent college graduates who put everything on the line to build startups in Detroit. Shot over 17 months, the film celebrates risk-taking, urban revitalization, and diversity while delivering a vital call-to-action—with entrepreneurship at a record low, America’s economic future is at stake.”

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SEPTEMBER 23: The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith (dir. Sara Fishko)WNYC synopsis: “Between 1957 and 1965 in New York, dozens of jazz musicians jam night after night in a dilapidated Sixth Avenue loft, not realizing that much of what they play and say to each other is being captured on audio tape and in still pictures by the gentle and unstable genius, former LIFE Magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith, who lives in the loft space next door.

“Meanwhile, Thelonious Monk stops by for three weeks of rehearsals; drummer Ronnie Free gets hooked on hard drugs, having been turned on by a drummer who was his boyhood idol years before; loft-resident Hall Overton, Juilliard instructor and classical composer, becomes a jazz guru; the 50s give way to the 60s; Smith begins to record his own phone calls and visits from the local police; the world changes—and Smith gets evicted.”

SEPTEMBER 23: My Blind Brother (dir. Sophie Goodhart)Tribeca Film Festival synopsis: “Robbie (Adam Scott) is a champion blind athlete and local sports hero doted on by the community and seemingly incapable of wrongdoing. His unassuming brother Bill (Nick Kroll) knows the real Robbie to be petulant and arrogant, but still runs every marathon by his side and never makes a peep when he doesn’t receives the same accolades. When Bill gets lucky with a charming lady (Jenny Slate), he thinks his karma might finally be coming due, until his brother introduces him to his own new paramour (the very same Jenny Slate). Now Bill must decide if he will put himself second again or finally stand up to his blind brother.

“With its original take on the love triangle and sibling rivalry stories, brimming with farcical humor and chemistry between its trio of leads, Sophie Goodhart has crafted a sharp and utterly delightful romantic comedy.”

SEPTEMBER 23: Queen of Katwe (dir. Mira Nair)Walt Disney Pictures synopsis:Queen of Katwe is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion. Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) from a screenplay by William Wheeler (The Hoax) based on the book by Tim Crothers, Queen of Katwe is produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher (The Darjeeling Limited) and John Carls (Where the Wild Things Are) with Will Weiske and Troy Buder serving as executive producers. The film stars Golden Globe® nominee David Oyelowo (Selma), Oscar® winner and Tony Award® nominee Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.

“For 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga) and her family, life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle. Her mother, Harriet (Nyong’o), is fiercely determined to take care of her family and works tirelessly selling vegetables in the market to make sure her children are fed and have a roof over their heads. When Phiona meets Robert Katende (Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is captivated. Chess requires a good deal of concentration, strategic thinking and risk taking, all skills which are applicable in everyday life, and Katende hopes to empower youth with the game. Phiona is impressed by the intelligence and wit the game requires and immediately shows potential. Recognizing Phiona’s natural aptitude for chess and the fighting spirit she’s inherited from her mother, Katende begins to mentor her, but Harriet is reluctant to provide any encouragement, not wanting to see her daughter disappointed. As Phiona begins to succeed in local chess competitions, Katende teaches her to read and write in order to pursue schooling. She quickly advances through the ranks in tournaments, but breaks away from her family to focus on her own life. Her mother eventually realizes that Phiona has a chance to excel and teams up with Katende to help her fulfill her extraordinary potential, escape a life of poverty and save her family.”

SEPTEMBER 28: Sand Storm (dir. Elite Zexer) – Seattle International Film Festival synopsis: “Two Bedouin women, a teenager and her mother, dare to defy polygamist marital traditions in southern Israel. Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

“Deep in the Negev desert, Bedouin villager Suliman has given his eldest child, Layla, many of the trappings of modern life—a cell phone, driving lessons, an education—instilling in her a sense of independence. But in other ways he is firmly rooted in the patriarchal past, with all the power and privilege it confers. When he takes a second wife, Layla is enlisted to help fix up the fancy new home he’s built next door to his existing family’s humbler accommodations. Meanwhile, his first wife, Jalila, grits her teeth and joins in the preparations, but is eventually escorted away by the local religious leader to make way for her replacement. But when Suliman decides, for his own murky reasons, to marry Layla off to a middle-aged man she barely knows, mother and daughter both decide to take a stand—with unexpected outcomes. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival, Elite Zexer’s first feature is a psychologically astute exploration of the complex relationships among women in male-dominated societies, and their revolutionary potential for change.”

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SEPTEMBER 29 ONLY: The Hurt Business (dir. Vlad Yudin) (DPs: Eliana Álvarez Martínez, Kevin Israel Castro and Kristin Mendez)From the film’s official website: “From the producers of Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Generation Iron, The Hurt Business details the lives of various martial arts superstars, including Ronda Rousey and Jon Jones, competing in one of the fastest growing sports in the world and the struggles and triumphs that accompany all careers in cage fighting. Besides featuring legends, such as Georges St-Pierre, and up-and-comers in the sport the film covers the history of mixed martial arts fighting, from the coliseums of ancient Greece to modern day venues such as the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, all expertly narrated by Kevin Costner. Themes of injury both mental and physical are explored and the question is raised; is it worth it to sacrifice one’s mind and body for sport?

SEPTEMBER 30: American Honey (dir. Andrea Arnold)From a Paste review: “Utterly absorbing and intensely moving, writer-director Andrea Arnold’s American Honey is one of those big, bold, swing-for-the-fences societal portraits that few filmmakers dare attempt. There’s good reason: Try for a definitive snapshot of a country or a generation, and you risk overreaching or succumbing to pretension. Running nearly three hours, American Honey doesn’t let those concerns get in its way, and the result is the sort of electric audacity that paves over the movie’s occasional wobbles. With Red Road and Fish Tank, Arnold has looked closely at poverty, youth and desperation in her native England. With American Honey, she turns her attention to the United States, and what she finds is a vibrant, troubled, mesmerizing land.

“The film stars newcomer Sasha Lane as Star, who is caring for two young children (her boyfriend’s, not hers), somewhere in the South. Dumpster diving, Star radiates the sort of scrappy, raw energy that marks her as someone who’s never had much money and always had to fight for everything she’s gotten. So, it’s fairly obvious why she takes a liking to Jake (Shia LaBeouf), who drives by in a van with a group of young kids. Catching her eye, Jake is a fellow charming survivor, explaining that he’s part of a group that travels cross-country selling magazines door-to-door. Star can’t believe such an operation exists in the 21st century, but Jake swears there’s decent money to be made. Impulsively, she abandons her makeshift family—her boyfriend seems like a redneck cretin, anyway—and runs off to join another.

“…Arnold has often focused on outcasts and those living on the margins, but with American Honey she seems positively entranced by the United States’ kinetic strangeness. Despite the occasional presence of a Confederate flag or other fraught American symbols, the movie actually isn’t that judgmental about the people Star comes across. There is a clear attempt on the filmmaker’s part to provide some sort of exhaustive overview, a time-capsule snapshot, of the nation. What she discovers may be a bit overstated, but it’s unquestionably accurate in its overflowing energy.”

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SEPTEMBER 30: Among the Believers (dirs. Mohammed Naqvi and Hemal Trivedi)Cinema Village synopsis: “Firebrand cleric Abdul Aziz Ghazi, an ISIS supporter and Taliban ally, is waging jihad against the Pakistani government with the aim of imposing Shariah law. His primary weapon is his expanding network of Islamic seminaries for children as young as four. Among the Believers follows Aziz’s personal quest, and charts the lives of two of his teenage students who are pawns in his ideological war.”

SEPTEMBER 30: The Blackcoat’s Daughter (dir. Osgood “Oz” Perkins) (DP: Julie Kirkwood) [release date moved back from July 2016]From a Pop Matters review: “A female-only boarding school is the setting of The Blackcoat’s Daughter. Covered, positively blanketed in snow, it’s isolated, the nights an unrelenting pitch black. Inside are two girls, Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton), both left behind during a February break, waiting for their parents. They wander through empty hallways, but the subtle noises—screeching creaks and low groans—betray the assumption that they’re alone here.

“At the same time, Joan (Emma Roberts), a girl with a cloudy past, wanders through a cold, snowy landscape, eventually hitching a ride with an unnamed couple whose strained dynamic hints at trouble unspoken. They share uncomfortable car rides to a town a few miles away, the husband assuming a strangely paternal role for Joan.

“Formerly titled February, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a slow, moody, and thoroughly unnerving walk through an almost overwhelmingly oppressive atmosphere. Osgood Perkins, son of Psycho actor Anthony Perkins, demonstrates great skill in developing the film’s occult atmosphere. His jagged camera angles and the dark, discordant music combine with subdued performances—naturalistic with a small degree of slowly simmering insanity underneath them—to create a creeping mood that seems perfectly tailored to the film’s narrative.”

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SEPTEMBER 30: Girl Asleep (dir. Rosemary Myers)From the film’s official website: “The world is closing in on Greta Driscoll. On the cusp of turning fifteen she can’t bear to leave her childhood, it contains all the things that give her comfort in this incomprehensible new world. She floats in a bubble of loserdom with her only friend Elliott, until her parents throw her a surprise 15th birthday party and she’s flung into a parallel place; a world that’s weirdly erotic, a little bit violent and thoroughly ludicrous – only there can she find herself.

“Based on the critically acclaimed production by [Australia’s] Windmill Theatre, Girl Asleep is a journey into the absurd, scary and beautiful heart of the teenage mind.”

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