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

Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen on the set of The Girl on the Train, 2015/2016.

Here are eighteen new movies due to be released in October (either in theaters or on Netflix) 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.

OCTOBER 7: All in Time (dirs. Marina Donahue and Chris Fetchko)From the Keystone Rock Review: “Mainly set in and filmed in the state of Pennsylvania, the film All in Time is set to hit theatres this Fall. The plot follows a New York based banker who leaves his well-paying job to return to his hometown (Wilkes-Barre) to manage a rock band that was up and coming when he was younger but has fallen on some hard times. He then launches a unique concert idea which eventually leads to some success and a whole bunch of unexpected twists.

All in Time was written and directed by Chris Fetchko and Marina Donahue. The basic setting of the story is based on Fetchko’s own decision to leave his New York based career in 2002 and launch a music management firm to manage The Badlees along with several other artists. Music in the film is primarily provided by The Badlees (as the fictional band “The Damnsels”) and Laura Shay, another artist in Fetchko’s management group. Shay acts in the film along with two members of The Badlees (Pete Palladino and Ron Simasek) and a cast of professional actors including Sean Modica, Lynn Cohen, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Vanessa Ray and Josh Burrow.”

OCTOBER 7: The Girl on the Train (dir. Tate Taylor) (DP: Charlotte Bruus Christensen)From the film’s official website: “Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow and Laura Prepon star in DreamWorks Pictures’ The Girl on the Train, from director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up) and producer Marc Platt (Bridge of Spies, Into the Woods).

“In the thriller, Rachel (Blunt), who is devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds.

“Based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, The Girl on the Train is adapted for the screen by Erin Cressida Wilson.  The film’s executive producers are Jared LeBoff and Celia Costas, and it will be released by Universal Pictures.”

OCTOBER 7: The Lennon Report (dir. Jeremy Profe) (DP: Lisa Rinzler)From the film’s official website: “On December 8th, 1980, John Lennon was shot outside of the Dakota apartment building in New York City. The Lennon Report follows the untold, true story of those who were part of his attempted rescue and witnesses to the human cost of tragedy.

“When Emergency Department Nurses Barbara Kammerer (Stef Dawson) and Deatra Sato (Ashley Atkinson) paged Dr. David Halleran (Evan Jonigkeit) about a John Doe shooting victim, they had no idea he would turn out to be the world’s biggest rock star. Alan Weiss (Walter Vincent), an ambitious young news producer awaiting treatment following a motorcycle accident, finds himself in a position to break the biggest story of his life.

“Dr. Halleran, with the help of surgeon Dr. Marks (Tony Award winner Stephen Spinella), attempts to resuscitate John Lennon. This dramatic surgery is done under the watchful eye of the Emergency Department Director, Dr. Lynn (Richard Kind). Alan Weiss ignores the orders of his doctor (Adrienne C. Moore) and struggles with Security Officer Medina (David Zayas) to break the story and tell the world what’s happened.

The Lennon Report assembles a stellar cast to tell the story of the real men and women who tried in vain to save the life of the world’s most famous musician the night he was gunned down outside the Dakota in New York City on December 8, 1980. For some, this movie is the first telling of their story, 36 years later.  For others, it sets the record straight. For all, it reveals the emotional toll the loss of this icon had on these individuals.”

OCTOBER 7: Newtown (dir. Kim A. Snyder)From the film’s official website: “Filmed over the course of nearly three years, the filmmakers use unique access and never before heard testimonies to tell a story of the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history on December 14, 2012. Newtown documents a traumatized community fractured by grief and driven toward a sense of purpose. Joining the ranks of a growing club to which no one wants to belong, a cast of characters interconnect to weave an intimate story of community resilience.”

OCTOBER 7 (NYC), OCTOBER 14 (LA): The Red Pill (dir. Cassie Jaye)From the film’s official website: “When feminist filmmaker Cassie Jaye sets out to document the mysterious and polarizing world of the Men’s Rights Movement, she begins to question her own beliefs. Jaye had only heard about the Men’s Rights Movement as being a misogynist hate-group aiming to turn back the clock on women’s rights, but when she spends a year filming the leaders and followers within the movement, she learns the various ways men are disadvantaged and discriminated against. The Red Pill challenges the audience to pull back the veil, question societal norms, and expose themselves to an alternate perspective on gender equality, power and privilege.”

OCTOBER 7: 13th (dir. Ava DuVernay) (DPs: Hans Charles and Kira Kelly)From a New York Times review by Manohla Dargis: “Powerful, infuriating and at times overwhelming, Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th will get your blood boiling and tear ducts leaking. It shakes you up, but it also challenges your ideas about the intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States, subject matter that could not sound less cinematic. Yet Ms. DuVernay — best known for Selma, and a filmmaker whose art has become increasingly inseparable from her activism — has made a movie that’s as timely as the latest Black Lives Matter protest and the approaching presidential election.

“The movie hinges on the 13th Amendment, as the title indicates, in ways that may be surprising, though less so for those familiar with Michelle Alexander’s 2010 best seller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Ratified in 1865, the amendment states in full: ‘Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.’ As Ms. Alexander underscores, slavery was abolished for everyone except criminals.

“In her book, Ms. Alexander (the most charismatic of the movie’s interviewees) argues that mass incarceration exists on a continuum with slavery and Jim Crow. As one of ‘the three major racialized systems of control adopted in the United States to date,’ it ensures ‘the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race.’ Under the old Jim Crow, state laws instituted different rules for blacks and whites, segregating them under the doctrine of separate but equal. Now, with the United States having 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, a disproportionate number of whom are black, mass incarceration has become ‘metaphorically, the new Jim Crow.'”

“Written by Ms. DuVernay and Spencer Averick, 13th picks up Ms. Alexander’s baton and sprints through the history of American race and incarceration with seamless economy. (Mr. Averick also edited the movie.) In its first 30 minutes, the documentary touches on chattel slavery; D. W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation; Emmett Till; the civil rights movement; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Richard M. Nixon; and Ronald Reagan’s declaration of the war on drugs. By the time her movie ends, Ms. DuVernay has delivered a stirring treatise on the prison industrial complex through a nexus of racism, capitalism, policies and politics. It sounds exhausting, but it’s electrifying.

“…Ms. DuVernay isn’t the only American director to take on race and the prison industrial complex (Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In charts adjacent terrain), but hers is a powerful cinematic call to conscience, partly because of how she lays bare the soul of our country. Because, as she sifts through American history, you grasp the larger implications of her argument: The United States did not just criminalize a select group of black people. It criminalized black people as a whole, a process that, in addition to destroying untold lives, effectively transferred the guilt for slavery from the people who perpetuated it to the very people who suffered through it.”

OCTOBER 7: 37 (dir. Puk Grasten)LevelK ApS Film Sales synopsis:37 is inspired by a true story set in 1964, New York, where several neighbors witness the brutal murder and rape of Kitty Genovese and do not intervene. The New York Times published the article ’37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police.’ The Neighbors are depicted as monsters that used her 35 minute fight for survival as their own entertainment, but given the reality of that time period, it is much more multi-faceted and complex. 37 peeks into the lives of three disparate families, the lonely neighbor and the doorman. Kitty Genovese’s murder connects these disparate lives and simultaneously reveals a vast and startling disconnect between them. In 37 we connect with the neighbors and understand their decisions not to act by understanding their day-to-day struggles. Inside their apartments the neighbors are dealing with their personal lives and conflicts the same way as they deal with witnessing a murder; if we don’t see, hear or talk about it, then it didn’t happen. The adults, controlled by group mentality and fear of the unknown, teach the children throughout the film to look the other way. In consequence, it is the adults, and not the murder, which take the innocence away from the children. The children end up isolated and lonely, the harbingers of the modern society, while the adults hold on to the familiarity of the routine of the everyday life. The circle continues.”

OCTOBER 12: Tower (dir. Keith Maitland) (DPs: Keith Maitland and Sarah Wilson)Film Forum synopsis: “The morning of August 1, 1966, was bright and sunny at the University of Texas at Austin. Students chatted, strolled to class, and sipped coffee at the student union; a paperboy made his rounds on a bicycle with a pal on the handlebars. But then a sniper rode the elevator to the top of the UT Tower and opened fire. He held the campus hostage for 96 long, horrific minutes, and when the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll was 16 dead, three dozen wounded, and a nation traumatized by the first mass school shooting in history. Combining archival footage, hypnotic rotoscopic animation, and contemporary interviews with witnesses, Tower vividly recreates the terrifying event and reveals untold stories of unlikely heroes and victims. All too familiar today, this massacre was unthinkable in mid-1960s America. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2016 South by Southwest Festival.”

OCTOBER 14: Certain Women (dir. Kelly Reichardt)Toronto International Film Festival synopsis/review by Andréa Picard: “Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Night Moves) directs Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone in this tripartite portrait of striving, independent women whose lives intersect in suggestive and powerful ways.

“The latest film from Kelly Reichardt not only confirms the writer-director-editor as one of today’s leading filmmakers, but an extraordinary director of actors. Based on short stories from Maile Meloy’s collection Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, Certain Women is a tripartite portrait of striving, independent women whose lives intersect in suggestive and powerful ways. Gutsily eschewing narrative closure, Reichardt connects her characters less through plot than through place and various illustrations of one of the film’s main themes: deferred desire.

“Shot against the stunning backdrop of Montana’s mountains and pastoral, big-skied landscapes in ravishing 16mm, Reichardt’s film adopts an episodic structure as it abruptly drops us into the lives of four strong women, who are all living intensely yet evince a certain loneliness and longing as they endeavour to understand and shape the world around them. Laura (Laura Dern) is an overworked, no-nonsense lawyer battling office sexism who is thrust into a hostage situation by a disgruntled client who feels unjustly served by his worker’s compensation claim. Gina (Reichardt regular Michelle Williams) is an ambitious wife and mother building a new home with her husband, with whom tensions arise over their disparate approaches to the project. Newcomer Lily Gladstone is quietly wrenching as a small-town ranch hand who develops an endearing attachment to the harried lawyer (Kristen Stewart, fidgety and formidable) who teaches her biweekly adult education classes.

“Supremely elegant and fiercely intelligent, the deceptively small-scale vignettes in Certain Women combine to create a canvas of vast terrain and small yet meaningful gestures, of quiet yearning and subtle catharsis. With the help of her magnificent cast, Reichardt has created a masterful, profoundly empathetic film about the everyday disappointments and minor victories that make up one’s existence — a film that reveals these certain women as both painfully vulnerable and unfathomably resilient in the face of life’s many uncertainties.”

OCTOBER 14 (NYC), NOVEMBER 4 (LA): The David Dance (dir. Aprill Winney)From the film’s official website: “Away from the microphone, David is soft spoken, shy and unsure of himself. However, as his on-air alias, ‘Danger Dave’ – host of the local radio show ‘Gay Talk’ in Buffalo, New York – he’s poised, witty and every listener’s best friend. His sister, Kate, is a thrice divorced banker with a yen for classical music and cats. Though successful, the siblings suffer from a secret, yet vast sense of inadequacy. Kate decides to adopt an orphan in Brazil and asks David to be a father figure. Meanwhile, David grapples with his self-doubts while gawkily romancing his co-worker. Past and present intertwine in this bittersweet winter’s tale of a man learning to love and accept himself.”

OCTOBER 14: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (dirs. Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn-Whack)Human Rights Arts & Film Festival synopsis: “Dr. Maya Angelou’s legendary writings including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Phenomenal Woman and On the Pulse of Morning are merely a few examples of how words can truly change the world. Although she is most well noted for her poetry, Maya Angelou and Still I Rise celebrates her multiple talents including singing, dancing, filmmaking, academia and civil rights activism, how she inspired generations, pushed boundaries and never ceased in her long fight for freedom for all. Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn-Whack’s extraordinary film seamlessly weaves the key messages of her poetry into the narrative of her life with rare archival footage, interviews and of course, recitals of her original works. Powerful, proud and prolific, Angelou’s story is one of true courage and creativity of a woman who fought for her beliefs and lived life to the fullest.”

OCTOBER 14 (NYC) (it opened on SEPTEMBER 23 in LA): 100 Years (dir. Melinda Janko)From the film’s official website: “When Elouise Cobell, a petite Blackfeet warrior from Montana, started asking questions about missing money from government managed Indian Trust accounts, she never imagined that one day she would be taking on the world’s most powerful government. But what she discovered as the Treasurer of her tribe was a trail of fraud and corruption leading all the way from Montana to Washington DC. 100 Years is the story of her 30-year fight for justice for 300,000 Native Americans whose mineral rich lands were grossly mismanaged by the United States Government. In 1996, Cobell filed the largest class action lawsuit ever filed against the federal government. For fifteen long years, and through three Presidential administrations, Elouise Cobell’s unrelenting spirit never quit. This is the compelling true story of how she prevailed.”

OCTOBER 21: It Had to Be You (dir. Sasha Gordon)From the film’s official website: “Sonia (Cristin Milioti) is a neurotic jingle writer who’s always dreamt of a big and exciting life. Surprised by a sudden proposal and subsequent ultimatum from her easy-going boyfriend, Chris (Dan Soder), Sonia has to decide whether she’ll join the ranks of her married friends or take a leap and pursue her fantasies. A whimsical romantic comedy that’s raunchy and yet gentle, It Had to Be You explores the choices women face today while satirizing cultural expectations of gender and romance.”

OCTOBER 21: The Uncondemned (dirs. Michele Mitchell and Nick Louvel)Chicago Reader synopsis: “During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, an estimated 800,000 people—mostly Tutsis—were massacred in just 100 days by the Hutus (the majority ethnic group). Three years later a United Nations-backed international tribunal in Tanzania sought the first-ever conviction of genocide as a legally defined crime when it tried Jean-Paul Akayesu for atrocities he condoned or perpetrated while he was mayor of Taba, a Rwandan commune. In their eye-opening documentary, directors Nick Louvel and Michele Mitchell reveal how the young, idealistic prosecutors, already overextended, uncovered evidence of the systematic violation, torture, mutilation, and enslavement of women in Taba; they soon after amended their case to add rape to Akayesu’s list of crimes against humanity. Interviewees include three resolute female survivors of the ethnic cleansing, who testified at great risk.”

(Note: Co-director Nick Louvel passed away after a car accident last year.)

OCTOBER 21: The Whole Truth (dir. Courtney Hunt)FilmNation Entertainment synopsis: “Defending a client in a murder trial is already intense; but for lawyer Richard Ramsay (Keanu Reeves), the stakes are even higher. His client is young Mike Lassiter (Gabriel Basso), a 17-year old accused of murdering his father, Boone (Jim Belushi). Ramsay has been friendly with the Lassiter family for years, and has sworn to widow Loretta (Renée Zellweger) that he will keep Mike out of prison.

“The problem is that Mike hasn’t said a word since the murder, except to initially confess that he was the one who stabbed his father. Ramsay is a shrewd lawyer, but knows that until his client chooses to speak – even if just to Ramsay himself – he doesn’t have much of a chance.

“At Ramsey’s side is a new colleague, Janelle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who seems to have an unerring knack for seeing through a witness’ lies. As the lawyers play a delicate chess game and manage to get new revelations to come to light – including evidence about just the kind of man that Boone Lassiter was – Ramsay utilizes every scheme in the book to get his client acquitted, while Janelle begins to realize that the whole truth is something that perhaps no one but she will ever recognize.”

OCTOBER 26: Portrait of a Garden (dir./DP: Rosie Stapel)Film Forum synopsis: “The oldest and most beautiful ‘kitchen garden’ in the Netherlands belongs to an estate that dates backs to 1630. Today it is owned by Daan van der Have, who cares for it meticulously, with 85-year-old pruning master Jan Freriks. Rosie Stapel’s debut feature records their passionate oversight of the innumerable vegetables and flowering trees to which they are devoted. The two are marvelous company, whether shaping a black mulberry espalier (the rules for which date back to King Louis XIV), debating the proper care for bear’s garlic, fennel, spring green cabbage, beetroot or Japanese wine berry, or contemplating their 15-year wait for the pear trees on both sides of an arbor to grow into a perfect semi-circle. They console themselves that ‘banking will diminish due to automation, but thinning our plums is here to stay.’ Their connoisseurship, depth of knowledge (extending back generations), and exacting care, bear beautiful fruit – and an elegant, meditative film.”

OCTOBER 28: By Sidney Lumet (dir. Nancy Buirski)From a Hollywood Reporter review by David Rooney: “How fitting that By Sidney Lumet, documentary maker Nancy Buirski’s engrossing career chronicle of the prolific director, begins with a clip from 12 Angry Men in which Henry Fonda’s reasonable doubt over the case being argued makes him the lone holdout of the dozen jurors. Built around an exhaustive video interview with Lumet recorded three years before his death in 2011, the film provides a detailed survey of his work. It also sheds light on the profoundly moral and inherently democratic sensibility that shaped his output, in which questions of justice and fairness provide a thematic bedrock, albeit one that Lumet claims was formed more by accident than design.

“Having the film’s subject be the sole commentator on his artistic achievements might yield a narrow perspective in most cases. But the honesty that characterized Lumet’s most enduring films also applies here to his candid assessment of himself and his screen legacy. Humility is perhaps the wrong word for someone fully aware of having produced a considerable volume of important work. But the absence of self-congratulation, and the detached objectivity of his analysis are refreshing.

“Whether it’s the early works that followed his emergence from live television; the celebrated titles that helped define the gritty social consciousness of so much American cinema of the 1970s, like Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico and Network; the critical and commercial failures like Daniel; or the underappreciated treasures like Running on Empty, the abundance of clips here are deftly chosen and play remarkably well out of context.”

OCTOBER 28: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (dir. Osgood “Oz” Perkins) (DP: Julie Kirkwood)From an LA Weekly review by April Wolfe: “Writer-director Osgood Perkins has been peeking at my Shirley Jackson book collection, and he’s already read through my favorites: The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. His sophomore feature, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, is a magical amalgam of these novels, something like the most atmospherically faithful adaptation ever of a Jackson book that never existed. No time is wasted getting fated hospice nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) into a specter-ridden old Massachusetts home, where she tells us in voice-over that she’s 28 years old and will not reach the age of 29. But if you’ve read any Jackson novels, you know that’s not really a giveaway — what is really frightening is the how, the slow, circular fall into quiet madness.

“The how of I Am the Pretty Thing… is so chilling, so purely artistic, that I found myself scribbling four full pages of notes to remember my thoughts in the darkened theater. This is not a movie of gore or plot. Instead, voice-over in lyrically written prose from the nurse guides viewers on a meditation through the haunted house, while we watch her fix the carpet that’s always somehow folding over (even though she’s the only one who’s walking around), or run her finger over a bubble under the whitewashed walls of the pristine colonial home of her new patient, elderly horror novelist Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss). The bubble begins to rot, infecting the panels with a bloom of black mold — the devil is in the details, here.

“…Cinematographer Julie Kirkwood oscillates between deep and shallow depth of field, in the case of the latter blanketing much of the frame in a hazy blur, never racking focus to find the subject. Descending the stairs, Lily glides at a snail’s pace into clarity — Kirkwood lets the actress come to her. Odd low angles also prove effective. The camera does not move up or down; it’s either peering upward or downward while stationary, or panning molasses-slow from left to right, which takes enormous skill and patience for a cam operator and leaves the impression that every scene is a smeared memory.

“All the action takes place inside this house, like a sealed coffin. The windows are closed, but not tight enough to lock out the overwhelming chirping of insects, like a thrumming pulse that only grows louder, harsher, as time wears on, pattering rain replacing the crickets. The house and costumes are all tones of white and goldenrod, clean and bright contrasting with the black spore infection. There are no heavy shadows, mostly just light and dark, so when Lily peers from the lighted hallway to a gauzy-black room beyond, it’s difficult to tell if she’s actually seeing a ghost or conjuring her from her imagination. And in this film, the framing is such that there is nearly always a darkened room just beyond the lighted one.

“There’s an atmosphere of moisture, of never feeling dry or right or uncomfortable, even when everything on the screen is seemingly beautiful. It’s no coincidence that Perkins’ father is Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame (and so many other less commercially successful but art-house–worshiped movies), because there are easily shades of his father’s subtly chilling yet undeniably endearing performances in this film. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is the very best of Gothic horror, that which needles at your insecure core and whispers in your ear what you already suspected: You will never be all right.”

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