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

Screenwriter/producer/director/editor Logan Kibens (right) with actor Martin Starr (middle) and others on the set of Operator, 2015/2016.

Here are nineteen new movies due to be released (either in theaters or via other platforms) in November 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.

NOVEMBER 2: Don’t Call Me Son (dir. Anna Muylaert) (DP: Barbara Alvarez)Film Forum synopsis: “Tall, dark, androgynously handsome, Pierre wears eyeliner and a black lace g-string, while having sex with both boys and girls. The confusion only goes deeper when the teenager’s single, working-class mom is arrested for having stolen him (and his ‘sister’) at birth. Thanks to the wonders of DNA, he’s returned to his biological parents: bourgeois, straight-laced and thrilled to have him back — at least until he shows up in a zebra-print mini dress. The turmoil of adolescence is plumbed with wit and compassion by writer/director Anna Muylaert, whose previous film, The Second Mother, also dealt with familial loyalty and class tensions. Actress Dani Nefussi gives completely believable knock-out performances as both mothers, and newcomer Naomi Nero defies expectations as a broodingly intense, potentially volcanic six-footer in stiletto heels.”

NOVEMBER 4 (NYC), NOVEMBER 11 (Pasadena, CA): Beauty Bites Beast (dir. Ellen Snortland) (DP: Maria Elena Chavez)From a KOAM TV article: “Ellen Snortland, filmmaker and author of a groundbreaking book on women’s self-defense of the same title, has just finished a new documentary: Beauty Bites Beast. Her film reveals the missing conversations about ending violence against women through teaching them how to defend themselves and that they are powerful and capable enough to do so.

“Women and girls have a right to set boundaries–emotionally, verbally, and, if push comes to shove, physically. Ellen calls it the ultimate manifestation of the premise, ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’: ‘Females of all species know how to protect themselves and it’s a birthright for human females, too. There’s nothing more local than one’s own body.’

“Gloria Steinem had this to say about the film: ‘Female elephants, lions — all are just as fierce in self-defense as males. Only our species is taught to be “feminine” and defenseless. Beauty Bites Beast shows how women around the world are taking back our strengths and lives.'”

NOVEMBER 4: The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (dir. Brett Story) (DP: Maya Bankovic)From the film’s official website: “More people are imprisoned in the United States at this moment than in any other time or place in history, yet the prison itself has never felt further away or more out of sight. The Prison in Twelve Landscapes is a film about the prison in which we never see a penitentiary. Instead, the film unfolds as a cinematic journey through a series of landscapes across the USA where prisons do work and affect lives, from a California mountainside where female prisoners fight raging wildfires, to a Bronx warehouse full of goods destined for the state correctional system, to an Appalachian coal town betting its future on the promise of prison jobs.”

NOVEMBER 4: What Happened Last Night (dir. Candice T. Cain)From the film’s Indiegogo fundraising page: “A guy and a girl wake up in bed next to one another and don’t know who each other is, where they are, how they got there, where their clothes are or… What Happened Last Night.  This feature-length romantic comedy is set on a college campus and tells a story of heartbreak, friends, rebounds, Greek life, college parties and the fog some of us have experienced the morning after.

What Happened Last Night was originally a successful play produced by C2 Productions in Washington, DC back in 1996. It has since been updated and transformed into a hysterical screenplay.

“This film is going to give some up and coming talent the opportunity to work with some talent that has already been established in the entertainment industry, and that is all contingent on YOU! It has been a long time since we’ve had a great romantic comedy with a college setting… What Happened Last Night is exactly that.”

NOVEMBER 8 (on iTunes and on demand): Operator (dir. Logan Kibens)From the film’s Facebook page: “Joe (Martin Starr) loves data. He tracks his diet and exercise, his mood and sex life – turning the information into beautiful charts that help him control his often overwhelming anxiety. At work Joe designs personalities for digital customer service voices, but his latest robo-agent for a client is a disaster. In a moment of inspiration, he enlists his wife Emily (Mae Whitman) to serve as the template for the redesigned voice. The project goes well until Joe’s obsession with replicating his wife’s empathy threatens their marriage.

NOVEMBER 11: The Love Witch (dir. Anna Biller)From the film’s official website: “Elaine, a beautiful young witch, is determined to find a man to love her. In her gothic Victorian apartment she makes spells and potions, and then picks up men and seduces them. However her spells work too well, and she ends up with a string of hapless victims. When she finally meets the man of her dreams, her desperation to be loved will drive her to the brink of insanity and murder. With a visual style that pays tribute to Technicolor thrillers of the ‘60s, The Love Witch explores female fantasy and the repercussions of pathological narcissism.”

NOVEMBER 11: The Monster (dir. Bryan Bertino) (DP: Julie Kirkwood)A24 synopsis: “Acclaimed horror filmmaker Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) directs this suspenseful and scary new film, in which a divorced mother (Zoe Kazan) and her headstrong daughter must make an emergency late night road trip to see the girl’s father.  As they drive through deserted country roads on a stormy night, they suddenly have a startling collision that leaves them shaken but not seriously hurt.  Their car, however, is dead, and as they try in vain to get help, they come to realize they are not alone on these desolate backroads—a terrifying evil is lurking in the surrounding woods, intent on never letting them leave…

“A chilling and tension-filled experience, The Monster pits two ferociously strong women against one of the scariest and most shocking monsters you’ll ever see. It will be a battle no one will forget.”

NOVEMBER 11 (NYC), NOVEMBER 18 (LA): National Bird (dir. Sonia Kennebeck)From the film’s official website:National Bird follows the dramatic journey of three whistleblowers who are determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial current affairs issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war. At the center of the film are three U.S. military veterans. Plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, they decide to speak out publicly, despite the possible consequences.

“Their stories take dramatic turns, leading one of the protagonists to Afghanistan where she learns about a horrendous incident. But her journey also gives hope for peace and redemption. National Bird gives rare insight into the U.S. drone program through the eyes of veterans and survivors, connecting their stories as never seen before in a documentary. Its images haunt the audience and bring a faraway issue close to home.”

NOVEMBER 13: Black Women in Medicine (dir. Crystal Emery)Cinema Village synopsis:Black Women in Medicine is the first documentary to explore the history, contemporary issues, and future possibilities of African American women physicians by featuring the diverse voices of young medical students, practicing physicians, and elder trailblazers all of whom share intimate stories of what it means to be a Black Woman Doctor in America. This groundbreaking  film includes rarely seen documentation of Black women practicing medicine during critical operations, emergency room urgent care, and community wellness sessions as well as in depth original interviews and compelling archival images. In telling the stories of women who have persevered in medical fields in part by overcoming barriers linked to race and gender, Black Women in Medicine provides audiences with a vivid and stunning experience of the triumph of the human spirit.”

NOVEMBER 18: Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (dir. Lonny Price) (DPs: Elaine Epstein and Matthew Howe)Film Society of Lincoln Center synopsis: “In 1981, Stephen Sondheim, Harold Prince, and George Furth embarked on Merrily We Roll Along, a musical based on the 1934 George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart comedy told in reverse: the characters, played by a cast of teenage unknowns, begin as disillusioned adults and end as starry-eyed adolescents. Though the original, much-ballyhooed production was panned by the critics and closed after just 16 performances, Merrily We Roll Along would go on to attain musical theater legend status. This alternately heartbreaking and euphoric film by original cast member Lonny Price features never-before seen footage of Prince and Sondheim at work on the show and revisits many of Price’s fellow actors, all of them united by this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

NOVEMBER 18: Blood on the Mountain (dirs. Mari-Lynn C. Evans and Jordan Freeman)From the film’s official website:Blood on the Mountain is a searing investigation into the economic and environmental injustices that have resulted from industrial control in West Virginia. This new feature documentary details the struggles of a hard-working, misunderstood people, who have historically faced limited choices and have never benefited fairly from the rich, natural resources of their land. Blood on the Mountain delivers a striking portrait of a fractured population, exploited and besieged by corporate interests, and abandoned by the powers elected to represent them.”

NOVEMBER 18: Divines (dir. Houda (or Uda) Benyamina)Toronto International Film Festival synopsis/review:Girlhood meets Scarface. Houda Benyamina’s debut is a suspenseful and kinetic film about a pair of young women determined to make their own way in a world that seems set against them.

“In the banlieues of Paris, teenager Dounia (Oulaya Amamra) dreams of having it all: money, power, and a man. Unsatisfied with their socially prescribed career prospects, she and her friend Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena) start dealing drugs as a way to make some quick cash. They are soon embroiled in a world of crime, which drives a wedge between Dounia and the object of her amorous interest: a sultry security guard who moonlights as a dancer (Kévin Mischel). The beautiful and cunning Dounia is ordered by her dealer to seduce and scam a local kingpin, but the plan spirals out of control, and Dounia is left fighting to save not just her dreams but her best friend.

Divines won the Camera d’Or at Cannes (the first time a film by an Arab director has garnered this honour), and it’s easy to see why: shot with a ferocious intensity, it careens from scene to scene, capturing the vitality and wildness of its young stars. Amamra matches its energy with a commanding, chameleonic performance. Her Dounia — by turns a posturing teen, a shy girl, and a tough gangster — is a force to be reckoned with.

“Benyamina doesn’t shy away from critiquing contemporary French racial and religious dynamics. Set in a predominantly black and Muslim housing block, Divines highlights the discrimination entrenched in French society and policing. This rough and raw coming-of-age story has as much fight in it as do the two unforgettable women at its centre.”

NOVEMBER 18: The Edge of Seventeen (dir. Kelly Fremon Craig)From a Variety review: “In the best teen films, from Sixteen Candles to Clueless to Superbad to the greatest high school movie of the last ten years, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the main characters have a way of occupying the moral high ground. Even when they’re outcasts or ‘losers,’ their cleverness and wit — the sheer humanity of their alienation — puts us right on their side. But that’s not quite the case with Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), the radiantly troubled heroine of The Edge of Seventeen.

“She’s a creature of intense magnetism who, in theory at least, has all the qualities that an audience could want. She’s poised and beautiful, with a wardrobe — colorful wedgy sneakers, parochial-school skirt worn as ironic fashion statement — catchy enough to be just this side of fatally hip. She speaks in drop-dead verbal volleys, which she stretches out into entertainingly long and winding sentences, and she surveys the world with an awareness that links her to several generations of precocious movie rebels. When she interrupts one of her teachers, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), during his lunch hour, all so she can deliver a big speech about how she wants to commit suicide, it’s clear that she’s drama-queening whatever’s going on with her. We sit back and chuckle at her over-the-top audacity. It all seems a bit broad, and maybe a bit too familiar.

“But Nadine, it turns out, isn’t just an outrageous charmer. She’s a pill, a narcissist who speaks in forked tongue — a girl who uses her God-given brains and humor by turning them against everyone around her. The Edge of Seventeen was written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig (it’s her first feature), with James L. Brooks serving as its lead producer, and it’s a teen movie that starts off funny ha-ha but turns into something more like a light-fingered psychological thriller. The drama is all in Nadine’s personality, in how far she’ll go to act out her distress.

“…It takes a certain high-wire daring to make a teen comedy in which the heroine acts like a holy terror, and The Edge of Seventeen all but invites you to gaze at Nadine and think of her as, you know, the B-word. Except for one important qualifier: Deep down, she’s not really out to wound people — she’s trying, almost compulsively, to push them away. Ever since her big-screen debut in 2010, playing Mattie Ross in True Grit, Hailee Steinfeld has gathered confidence as a performer, and The Edge of Seventeen is her breakthrough. She’s a fantastic actress, with a sharpness and verve that belies the catlike softness of her features. She’s like the young Elizabeth Taylor, with playful flexing eyebrows that italicize her every thought. Even when she’s just tossing off lines, Steinfeld makes Nadine a hellion you can’t tear yourself away from. She isn’t just the star of The Edge of Seventeen — she’s its center of gravity.”

NOVEMBER 18 (in theaters), NOVEMBER 21 (HBO premiere): Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing (dirs. Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg)Cinema Village synopsis:Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing recounts the dramatic story of the April 2013 terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon through the experiences of individuals whose lives were affected. Ranging from the events of the day to the death-penalty sentencing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the film features surveillance footage, news clips, home movies and exclusive interviews with survivors and their families, as well as first responders, investigators, government officials and reporters from the Boston Globe, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the bombing. In the wake of terrorism, a newlywed couple, a mother and daughter, and two brothers — all gravely injured by the blast — face the challenges of physical and emotional recovery as they and their families strive to reclaim their lives and communities.”

NOVEMBER 25, DECEMBER 2 (depending on the city, I think): Always Shine (dir. Sophia Takal)Roxie Theatre synopsis: “Two women, both actresses with differing degrees of success, travel north from Los Angeles to Big Sur for a weekend vacation in Always Shine, Sophia Takal’s twisty, psychological thriller. Both see the trip as an opportunity to reconnect after years of competition and jealousy has driven a wedge between them, but upon arrival to their isolated, forest retreat, the pair discovers that their once intimate friendship has deteriorated into forced conversations, betrayals both real and imagined, petty jealousies, and deep seated resentment. As the women allow their feelings to fester, each begins to lose their bearings not only on the true nature of their relationship, but on their own identities. Mackenzie Davis (“Halt and Catch Fire”) and Caitlin FitzGerald (“Masters of Sex”) give brave and raw performances as Beth and Anna, two women whose ideas of success are dictated as much by external cultural criterion as their own sense of self-worth. Beautifully photographed and assuredly directed by Takal, Always Shine wraps itself in an evocative shroud of dread and paranoia that lingers long after the final frame.”

NOVEMBER 25: Apparition Hill (dir. Sean Bloomfield) (DP: Cimela Kidonakis)AMC Theatres synopsis: “From the acclaimed director of The Triumph comes a powerful new film that chronicles the incredible journey of 7 strangers who embark across the globe to investigate one of the greatest mysteries of the modern era. Apparition Hill is an emotionally charged ‘cinematic pilgrimage’ to the little-known village of Medjugorje nestled along the Croatian-Bosnia-Herzegovina borders. Discover the shared miracle as two atheists, a skeptic, two terminally ill patients, a widower, and a recovering addict learn about life … and what comes after it.”

NOVEMBER 25: Behind “The Cove” (dir./DP: Keiko Yagi)From the film’s official website: “The Japan-bashing, anti-whaling documentary The Cove won an Academy Award in 2010. But was it entirely truthful?

“This is Japan’s first on-film response to The Cove. And more.

“Negative media coverage on the never-ending whaling issue prompted first-time documentary filmmaker Keiko Yagi to find out more about the topic. With no budget, limited experience in filmmaking, no fluency in English, but armed with a video camera and a strong desire to find out about the truth of the matter on whaling, Yagi started her research.

“What started out as a personal investigation triggered by childhood memories of whale dishes inevitably led her to the town of Taiji, the center of the whaling debate and the stage of The Cove. What she found through her experiences there and elsewhere was a much bigger story than she had initially imagined.

Behind ‘The Cove’ is director Keiko Yagi’s attempt to present a comprehensive picture of the dolphin and whale hunting issues in Japan, which includes interviews of people on both sides of the whaling dispute, its sinister political side, what The Cove could not offer, and a unique take on the topic.”

NOVEMBER 25: The C Word (dir. Meghan O’Hara)DOC NYC synopsis:From filmmaker and cancer survivor Meghan O’Hara (producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine and Sicko), comes a daring and intimate film that seeks to change the way we think about cancer.  O’Hara investigates the connection between the current cancer epidemic and our western lifestyle, including medical professionals’ tendency to treat only the symptoms and not the underlying causes of what ails us. Backed by personal experiences and the scientific validation of Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, O’Hara asks us to reconsider the way we currently treat cancer, advocates for society-wide lifestyle changes, and tackles the institutions that stand in the way of those important changes. Narrated by Academy Award® winner Morgan Freeman, The C Word challenges us to step up and take control of our health.”

NOVEMBER 25: Evolution (dir. Lucile Hadzihalilovic)IFC Films synopsis: “This eerily seductive mind-bender is a dark, dreamlike descent into the depths of the unknown. Ten-year-old Nicolas (Max Brebant) lives in a remote seaside village populated only by boys his age and adult women. But when he makes a disturbing discovery beneath the ocean waves—a dead boy with a red starfish on his stomach—Nicolas begins to question everything about his existence. What are the half-remembered images he recalls, as if from another life? If the woman he lives with is not his mother, then who is she? And what awaits the boys when they are all suddenly confined to a hospital? The long-awaited new film from the acclaimed director of Innocence is awash in the haunting, otherworldly images of a nightmare.”

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