Women-Directed/Photographed Films Coming to Theaters: March 2017

Actress/executive producer Jessica Chastain (left) and director Niki Caro (right) on the set of The Zookeeper’s Wife, 2015.

Here are nineteen new movies due to be released in theaters or via other viewing platforms this March, all of 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.

MARCH 3: Before I Fall (dir. Ry Russo-Young)Synopsis from the film’s official website: “What if you had only one day to change absolutely everything? Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) has everything: the perfect friends, the perfect guy, and a seemingly perfect future. Then, everything changes. After one fateful night, Sam wakes up with no future at all. Trapped reliving the same day over and over, she begins to question just how perfect her life really was. As she begins to untangle the mystery of a life suddenly derailed, she must also unwind the secrets of the people closest to her, and discover the power of a single day to make a difference, not just in her own life, but in the lives of those around her–before she runs out of time for good.”

MARCH 3: Catfight (dir. Onur Tukel) (DP: Zoe White)Excerpt from a Vanity Fair’s Toronto International Film Festival review by Jordan Freeman: “What might be the most refreshing film of the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival feels like it could be the result of a drunken dare. Imagine a movie in which Anne Heche and Sandra Oh beat the ever-loving snot out of each other in drawn-out, bareknuckle brawls so ridiculously over-the-top they can shock an audience out of any desensitized-to-violence stupor. All that, plus a recurring character called the Fart Machine.

“Like Jules Dassin’s wrestling sequence in Night and the City or the ‘put on these glasses!’ battle in John Carpenter’s They Live, the absurdist use of fisticuffs in Onur Tukel’s extremely independent Catfight is unnerving, strangely hilarious—and, whether you accept it or not, meaningful. Catfight, which begins like any other urbane New York satire, quickly unravels into a surrealist nightmare, leaning into its low budget so hard that even a hastily decorated hospital-room set evokes a feverish symbolism. Catfight doesn’t take place in our world, which is how it ends up being more insightful about larger social issues than most movies you’ll see this year.

“Oh’s Veronica is a wine-loving, wealthy mom with a live-in housekeeper and a husband (Damian Young) who’s giddy that the president has announced a ‘new war.’ His company (debris disposal) has signed a Pentagon contract, so a new battlefront means a major infusion of cash. Then they attend a Manhattan party that just so happens to be catered by Lisa (Alicia Silverstone), whose girlfriend Ashley (Heche) is a brilliant but defiantly uncommercial painter. And as it turns out, Veronica and Ashley were pals in college before life choices (and Veronica’s homophobia?) tore them apart.

“What could have been a minor social hiccup at seeing someone who has fallen a few rungs on the social ladder quickly goes nuclear, and that’s when the pair have their first of many blow-out, bruising fights.”

MARCH 3 (theatrical release in Los Angeles), MARCH 7 (available on DVD and Video on Demand): Fair Haven (dir. Kerstin Karlhuber)Synopsis from the film’s official website:Fair Haven is an upcoming feature film from Silent Giant Productions and Trick Candle Productions.  It stars Tom Wopat (“Dukes of Hazzard,” Django Unchained) Michael Grant (“Secret Life of the American Teenager”) Josh Green (Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip, in theaters now!) Gregory Harrison (“Reckless,” “Trapper John MD”) and Jennifer Taylor (“Two and a Half Men”). Fair Haven is directed by Kerstin Karlhuber, produced by Tom Malloy, and written by Jack Bryant.

“Synopsis: a young man returns to his family farm, after a long stay in ex-gay conversion therapy, and is torn between the expectations of his emotionally distant father, and the memories of a past, loving relationship he has tried to bury.”

MARCH 3: The Institute (dirs. James Franco and Pamela Romanowsky)Excerpts from IndieWire post by Liz Calvario: “The ever-busy James Franco has taken on a darker role in his latest film, The Institute. Co-directed by Franco and Pamela Romanowsky, the movie is a period psychological thriller set in 19th century Baltimore.

“…The Institute centers on Isabel Porter, a young woman (Allie Gallerani) who, after the untimely death of her parents, checks herself into the mental hospital Rosewood Institute. While there, she encounters Dr. Cairnes (Franco) who subjects her to unconventional bizarre, pseudo-scientific experiments in brainwashing and mind control.

“…The Institute also co-stars Josh Duhamel, Pamela Anderson, Topher Grace, Joe Pease, Scott Haze, Lori Singer and Tim Blake Nelson. Hailing from Rabbit Bandini Productions, the thriller is produced by Franco, Vince Jolivette, Jay Davis, Christa Campbell, Lati Grobman and Scott Reed.

“Romanowsky and Franco have previously worked together on The Adderall Diaries and the short film Tar.

MARCH 3: Kings, Queens & In-Betweens (dir. Gabrielle Burton)Cinema Village synopsis: “Through the compelling stories of 8 performers in the thriving drag scene of Columbus, Ohio, Kings, Queens & In-Betweens dives into the next frontier — the often misunderstood topic of ‘gender’ itself. With humor and pathos, KQIB makes a complex subject approachable for mainstream audiences — inviting viewers into a conversation about the distinct differences between gender, sex, and sexuality that has not been represented in film before. Notably, KQIB is the first film to include the entire gender performance range: drag kings, queens, trans performers, and in-betweeners. KQIB draws the viewer in to a crucial discussion in current events about human rights, experience — and ultimately about identity itself.”

MARCH 3: The Last Laugh (dir. Ferne Pearlstein) (DPs: Anne Etheridge and Ferne Pearlstein)The Film Collaborative synopsis: “Are we allowed to make jokes about the Holocaust? In this outrageously funny and thought-provoking film, director Ferne Pearlstein puts the question about comedy’s ultimate taboo to legends including Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Sarah Silverman, Gilbert Gottfried, Alan Zweibel, Harry Shearer, Jeff Ross, Judy Gold, Susie Essman, Larry Charles, Jake Ehrenreich, and many other critical thinkers, as well as Holocaust survivors themselves.

“These interviews are woven together with a vast array of material ranging from ‘The Producers’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ to clips of comics such as Louis CK, Joan Rivers, and Chris Rock, to newly discovered footage of Jerry Lewis’ never-released film Holocaust comedy The Day the Clown Cried, to rare footage of cabarets inside the concentration camps themselves. In so doing, The Last Laugh offers fresh insights into the Holocaust, our own psyches, and what else—9/11, AIDS, racism—is or isn’t off-limits in a society that prizes freedom of speech.

The Last Laugh also disproves the idea that there is nothing left to say about the Holocaust and opens a fresh avenue for approaching this epochal tragedy. Star-studded, provocative and thoroughly entertaining, The Last Laugh dares to ask uncomfortable questions about just how free speech can really be, with unexpected and hilarious results that will leave you both laughing and appreciating the importance of humor even in the face of events that make you want to cry.”

MARCH 3: Nakom (dirs. Kelly Daniela Norris and T.W. Pittman)Cinema Village synopsis:Set in present day Ghana, Nakom follows Iddrisu, a talented medical student who is summoned home by his sister after their father’s sudden death. Iddrisu reluctantly returns home to the village of Nakom, buries his father and temporarily assumes the head of the impoverished household and farm, inheriting not only the delicate task of planting a successful crop but also a debt left by the deceased patriarch that could destroy the family. Attempting to maintain part of his studies from the confines of a small hut, Iddrisu becomes increasingly frustrated with the incessant physical and emotional needs of those around him, the demanding toil of the land and lack of rain. A contentious relationship with his uncle Napolean, to whom the sizeable debt is owed, is further complicated by the unplanned pregnancy of Napolean’s granddaughter who was sent to live with Iddrisu’s family.

“As the new patriarch grapples with tradition and familial duty, he is met with varying shades of contempt by both family and villagers who compare him with his father expecting a resemblance. Iddrisu’s patience and wisdom are tempered by the strange paradox created by his faith in God and desire for control, the latter of which he cannot have so long as he stays in Nakom. As circumstances swell, Iddrisu suddenly begins to realize that no future for him exists in the place where he is needed the most, even despite an offer by the village Chieftain to remain in Nakom to become an elder and marry his daughter.

“A selection of the Museum of Modern Art and Film Society of Lincoln Center’s prestigious New Directors/New Films series, Nakom is a highly relatable story about traversing the line between family and self-preservation.”

MARCH 10: Badrinath Ki Dulhania (dir. Shashank Khaitan) (DP: Neha Parti Matiyani)IMDb synopsis: “Badrinath Bansal from Jhansi and Vaidehi Trivedi from Kota belong to small towns but have diametrically opposite opinions on everything.This leads to a clash of ideologies, despite both of them recognizing the goodness in each other.”

MARCH 10: Raw (dir. Julia Ducournau)Excerpt from The Guardian’s Toronto International Film Festival review by Peter Bradshaw: “Julia Ducournau is a 33-year-old first-time feature director who makes her worryingly brilliant debut with this saturnalia of arthouse horror. At the Toronto film festival, it had audiences dry-heaving and indeed wet-heaving in the aisles and the cinema lavatories. This is the sort of film which pundits are often keen to label ‘black comedy’ as a way of re-establishing their own sang-froid. In the same tongue-in-cheek spirit, it has been called coming-of-age drama. There is a grain of truth in both of these labels. It is a film about cannibalism, and has clearly been influenced by Jorge Michel Grau’s We Are What We Are, John Fawcett’s Ginger Snaps, and perhaps especially Marina de Van’s body shocker In My Skin – which incidentally featured a young Laurent Lucas, a veteran of extreme French cinema who also turns up here.

“While it isn’t exactly true to say that cannibalism is just a metaphor for something else, eating human flesh is appropriate for a drama about sexuality, identity, body image and conformity. It’s a film in which the lead character is briefly aware of becoming more attractive by losing weight – not so long after she had participated in a jokey student conversation about monkeys being sexually assaulted and then getting anorexia and having to see a therapist. And in a society where eating is somehow criminalised, cannibalism is an appropriate fantasy.

“Justine (Garance Marillier) is a teenager heading off to college to study veterinary science: her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is already there, doing the same course a year ahead, and it becomes clear that her doting, protective parents (played by Laurent Lucas and Joana Preiss) took their own degrees there many years before. Justine is a virgin, an idealistic person, a believer in animal rights and above all a vegetarian. So she is horrified by a student initiation ritual in which she has to eat a rabbit kidney. Yet meekly aware of the need to fit in, she does it; she suffers a reaction for which the doctor suggests fasting and all this somehow triggers a whole new yearning.

“What is very impressive about Raw is that absolutely everything about it is disquieting, not just the obvious moments of revulsion: there is no let up in the ambient background buzz of fear. The scenes showing the frat-type ‘hazing’ are extraordinary and very convincing – as if studying to be a vet is like joining the Foreign Legion. Students are brutally woken in the middle of the night: humiliated, bullied, assured that not to submit would be to wimp out and let everyone down. Going to university was an experience which Justine had probably thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to find herself, to express herself, to find her individuality and personality. Instead, college and adulthood seems more like a fascistic world of submission and staying in line – or even like some post-apocalyptic society in which these freaky cult rituals have grown up as part of survival.”

MARCH 15: Tickling Giants (dir. Sara Taksler)IFC Center synopsis: “In the midst of the Egyptian Arab Spring, Bassem Youssef makes a decision that’s every mother’s worst nightmare… He leaves his job as a heart surgeon to become a full-time comedian.

“Dubbed ‘The Egyptian Jon Stewart,’ Bassem creates the most viewed television program in the Middle East. He has 30 million viewers per episode compared to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’s 2 million viewers. In a country where free speech is not settled law, Bassem comes up with creative ways to non-violently challenge abuses of power. He endures physical threats, protests, and legal action, all because of jokes.

“No unicorns or falafel were harmed in the making of this film.”

MARCH 17 (streaming on Netflix): Deidra & Laney Rob a Train (dir. Sydney Freeland) (DP: Quyen Tran)Salt Lake Tribune’s Sundance Film Festival review by Sean P. Means: “Sisters become a modern-day Butch and Sundance in Deidra & Laney Rob a Train, a smart comedy propelled by two winning young actors. Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) and her younger sister Laney (Rachel Crow) both have the same dream: To get out of the backwater Idaho town where they live, near the railroad tracks. Deidra’s way is to be valedictorian and get a scholarship to college. Laney’s is to sign up for the Miss Teen Idaho pageant — something she only did to keep her pageant-obsessed friend Claire (Brooke Markham) company. (Though the movie is set in Idaho, it was filmed in Utah — primarily around Ogden and at the Heber Valley Railroad.)

“Then their mother, Goldie (Danielle Nicolet) goes berserk in a home-electronics store and gets sent to jail. The girls have to figure out a way to earn money, keep the kitchen stocked and have some adult supervision around their little brother Jet (Lance Gray) so the child-welfare officer doesn’t split the kids apart. After watching a news report about cargo being stolen from a train, Deidra sees a solution. She devises a plan to hop on the train cars down the track, crack open a container box, throw a few loading boxes into their backyard, and sell the goods. Deidra pulls a reluctant Laney into the plan with her.

“Director Sydney Freeland (Drunktown’s Finest, SFF ’14) and first-time screenwriter Shelby Farrell find humor in the sisters’ dilemma, and even more laughs in the behavior of the ostensible grown-ups around them. (The cast includes Tim Blake Nelson as an overzealous railroad cop and ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ Sasheer Zamata as the school’s counselor.) It’s young Murray and Crow who give Deidra & Laney Rob a Train its spunk and its quicksilver emotional shifts, as the girls veer from criminal masterminds to argumentative siblings in no time flat.”

MARCH 21 (available on DVD and Video on Demand): Split (dir. Deborah Kampmeier) (DP: Alison Kelly)Excerpts from On Video post:Split tells the story of Inanna (Amy Ferguson, The Master, Inherent Vice, Garden State), a young actress working as a stripper, who becomes obsessed with a mask maker (Morgan Spector, The Drop, The Last Airbender, ‘Boardwalk Empire’) and sacrifices parts of herself, piece by piece, in order to win his love.  At the same time, the film depicts a mythic journey that blurs theater performance, dreams and real life, as Inanna connects with other women’s experiences of trauma and repressed sexuality. This provocative and powerful confrontation frees Inanna, and she’s able to claim her rage and rise to her own independence.

“Daring in its raw portrayal of female sexuality and traumas, Split, which captured ‘Best of Show’ and the 2016 Female Eye Film Festival, includes a significant amount of female (and male) nudity, masturbation and on-screen portrayal of mastectomy and genital mutilation scars. Split also features an intergenerational, multiracial cast with diverse body types – including several non-actors sharing personal stories – and is daring in its depiction of an older woman as the principal example of uninhibited rage and sexuality.

“Kampmeier considers Split as the last part of a trilogy, which include the controversial Sundance Grand Jury-nominated Hounddog (2007), in which a 12-year-old girl, played by Dakota Fanning, is raped; and the acclaimed and award-winning Virgin (2003), about a 17-year-old, played by Elisabeth Moss, struggling with spirituality and sexuality.  The filmmaker goes further with Split, which Indie Outlook called, ‘an arrestingly raw howl of fury at the global stigmatization of female sexuality…complete with startling imagery evocative of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.‘”

MARCH 22: A Woman, a Part (dir. Elisabeth Subrin)IFC Center synopsis: “Can you rewrite a life? Burnt out on her career, successful LA actress Anna (Maggie Siff of ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Billions’), abruptly walks off her mind-numbing, sexist network show. She runs away to New York, hoping to reconnect with two old friends, former theater collaborators she’d abandoned for Hollywood who now find themselves struggling to survive in the rapidly gentrifying city. As Anna’s arrival tears open old wounds, all three are forced to reckon with their pasts and their uncertain futures (with Cara Seymour, John Ortiz & Khandi Alexander).”

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MARCH 24: Prevenge (dir. Alice Lowe)IFC Center synopsis: “A pitch black, wryly British comedy from the mind of Alice Lowe (SightseersHot Fuzz, Paddington), Prevenge follows Ruth, a pregnant woman on a killing spree that’s as funny as it is vicious. It’s her misanthropic unborn baby dictating Ruth’s actions, holding society responsible for the absence of a father. The child speaks to Ruth from the womb, coaching her to lure and ultimately kill her unsuspecting victims. Struggling with her conscience, loneliness, and a strange strain of prepartum madness, Ruth must ultimately choose between redemption and destruction at the moment of motherhood.

Prevenge the directorial debut from Lowe, who is a true triple threat, writing, directing, and acting in the film during her own real-life pregnancy.”

MARCH 29: Karl Marx City (dirs. Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker)Film Forum synopsis: “Unsurprisingly, East Germany (aka the GDR/German Democratic Republic) boasts people who are experts in suicide notes. The Soviet satellite came to an ignoble end when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, leaving behind a lot of unanswered questions, among them Petra Epperlein’s suspicion that her father (a suicide) spied for the Stasi, the state police.  Now a New Yorker, Epperlein, and co-filmmaker Michael Tucker (Gunner Palace) return to her childhood home and, with wonderful graphic panache, investigate her family’s past as well as the life of a nation in which one out of three citizens spied on the other two. Making smart use of ‘jaw-dropping period material which includes some wildly creepy Stasi surveillance imagery’ (Manohla Dargis, The New York Times), it’s a Cold War mystery tale and a psycho-political look at how the larger world impacts our individual understanding of love, trust, and betrayal.”

MARCH 31 (in theaters and on Video on Demand; also available now on DirecTV): The Blackcoat’s Daughter (dir. Osgood “Oz” Perkins) (DP: Julie Kirkwood) [release date moved back from September 2016]Excerpt from Pop Matters’ Independent Film Festival Boston review by Valeriy Kolyadych: “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.”

MARCH 31 (theatrical release), APRIL 4 (Internet release): Carrie Pilby (dir. Susan Johnson)Toronto International Film Festival synopsis by Jane Schoettle: “Awkward, isolated and disapproving of most of the people around her, a precocious 19-year-old genius is challenged to put her convictions to the test by venturing out on to the NYC dating scene, in this adaptation of Caren Lissner’s best-selling 2003 novel.

“Depending on your point of view, Carrie Pilby (Bel Powley) either has a problem or she is a problem. This very clever girl graduated Harvard at the age of 19 and lives in a small NYC apartment paid for by her London-based father. World on a string, right? On the contrary — Carrie has no job, no purpose, and no friends, because she actively dislikes just about everyone (rating them ‘morally and intellectually unacceptable’) as only a teenager can. Her one regular contact is her dad’s therapist friend, Dr. Petrov (Nathan Lane), who after a fruitless series of weekly visits finally sets Carrie some homework: a five-point plan to get her life together.

“Carrie grudgingly agrees to go through the list, but her execution leaves something to be desired. Item #3 (‘Go on a date — with someone you like!’) backfires particularly badly when her Craigslist mate search leads to a connection with Matt (Jason Ritter), a man who is engaged but ‘unsure.’ The results of that endeavour call for an emergency visit to Dr. Petrov. And when her father’s circumstances undergo a drastic change, Carrie begins to understand that reconciling with the past is the only way to tick those items off the to-do list.

“Adapted from Caren Lissner’s bestselling novel, Carrie Pilby is a winning comedy about the metropolitan life of privileged youth, but it’s also much more than that. As the source of Carrie’s misanthropy is gradually revealed, our empathy for her grows, even if we want to pull our hair out in frustration at her lack of life skills. You might just end up loving her, even if she hates you.”

MARCH 31: David Lynch: The Art Life (dir. Jon Nguyen with co-dirs. Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm)DOC NYC synopsis: “While known for his distinctive, dreamlike films like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, David Lynch began his creative explorations through art, originally training as a painter in Philadelphia. David Lynch: The Art Life grants viewers unparalleled, intimate access to the enigmatic auteur while he works in his painting studio. Early memories and reflections on his formative years through the triumph of Eraserhead reveal eerie connections to his body of work, making this portrait an indispensable look at an artist and his process.”

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MARCH 31: The Zookeeper’s Wife (dir. Niki Caro)Focus Features synopsis: “The real-life story of one working wife and mother who became a hero to hundreds during World War II. In 1939 Poland, Antonina Żabińska (portrayed by two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh, a European Film Award nominee for the Academy Award-nominated The Broken Circle Breakdown), have the Warsaw Zoo flourishing under his stewardship and her care. When their country is invaded by the Germans, Jan and Antonina are stunned and forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Golden Globe Award nominee Daniel Brühl of Captain America: Civil War). To fight back on their own terms, the Żabińskis covertly begin working with the Resistance and put into action plans to save lives out of what has become the Warsaw Ghetto, with Antonina putting herself and even her children at great risk.”

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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.”

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

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Writer/director Sian Heder (center) with actresses Allison Janney (seated left) and Ellen Page (seated right) on the set of Tallulah, 2015.

Here is July’s list of fifteen new and upcoming theatrical releases for films directed/photographed by female directors and cinematographers. These works span many genres: a post-WWII period piece about nuns, a British spy thriller, documentaries about an American television pioneer and North Korean schoolchildren, a horror flick set in an all-girls boarding school, a dystopian sci-fi drama and more.

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JULY 1: The Innocents (dir. Anne Fontaine) (DP: Caroline Champetier)Music Box Films synopsis: “Warsaw, December 1945: the second World War is finally over and French Red Cross doctor Mathilde (Lou de Laâge) is treating the last of the French survivors of the German camps. When a panicked Benedictine nun appears at the clinic begging Mathilde to follow her back to the convent, what she finds there is shocking: a holy sister about to give birth and several more in advanced stages of pregnancy. A non-believer, Mathilde enters the sisters’ fiercely private world, dictated by the rituals of their order and the strict Rev. Mother (Agata Kulesza, Ida). Fearing the shame of exposure, the hostility of the occupying Soviet troops and local Polish communists and while facing an unprecedented crisis of faith, the nuns increasingly turn to Mathilde as their beliefs and traditions clash with harsh realities.”

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JULY 1: Our Kind of Traitor (dir. Susanna White)Brooklyn Academy of Music synopsis: “While on holiday in Marrakech, an ordinary English couple, Perry (Ewan McGregor) and Gail (Naomie Harris), befriend a flamboyant and charismatic Russian, Dima (Stellan Skarsgård), who unbeknownst to them is a kingpin money launderer for the Russian mafia. When Dima asks for their help to deliver classified information to the British Secret Services, Perry and Gail get caught in a dangerous world of dirty politics. This taut espionage thriller, adapted from a novel by John le Carré, follows this couple as they are propelled on a perilous journey through Paris and Bern, a safe house in the French Alps, to the murky corners of the City of London and an alliance with the British Government via a ruthless and determined MI6 agent.”

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JULY 6: Under the Sun (dir. Vitaly Mansky) (DP: Alexandra Ivanova)Icarus Films synopsis: “‘My father says that Korea is the most beautiful country… Korea is the land of the rising sun,’ says eight-year-old schoolgirl Zin-mi. Despite continuous interference by government handlers, director Vitaly Mansky still managed to document life in Pyongyang, North Korea in this fascinating portrait of one girl and her parents in the year as she prepares to join the Korean Children’s Union on the ‘Day of the Shining Star’ (Kim Jong-Il’s birthday). As the family receives instruction on how to be the ideal patriots, Mansky’s watchful camera capture details from comrades struggling to stay awake during an official event to Zin-mi’s tears at a particularly grueling dance lesson.”

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JULY 8: Indian Point (dir. Ivy Meeropol)Synopsis from the film’s official website: “Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant looms just 35 miles from Times Square. With over 50 million people living in close proximity to the aging facility, its continued operation has the support of the plant’s operators and the NRC — Nuclear Regulatory Commission — yet has stoked a great deal of controversy in the surrounding community, including a vocal anti-nuclear contingent concerned that what happened at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant could happen here. In the brewing fight for clean energy and the catastrophic possibilities of government complacency, director Ivy Meeropol presents a balanced argument about the issues surrounding nuclear energy and offers a startling reality check for our uncertain nuclear future.”

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JULY 8: Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You (dirs. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady) (DPs: Ronan Killeen, Sam Levy and Jenna Rosher)IFC Center synopsis: “Arguably the most influential creator, writer, and producer in the history of television, Norman Lear brought primetime into step with the times. Using comedy and indelible characters, his legendary 1970s shows such as All In the Family, Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons, boldly cracked open dialogue and shifted the national consciousness, injecting enlightened humanism into sociopolitical debates on race, class, creed, and feminism.

Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You is the definitive chronicle of Mr. Lear’s life, work, and achievements, but it is so much more than an arm’s-length, past-tense biopic; at 93, Mr. Lear is as vital and engaged as he ever was. Top-notch cinéma vérité documentarians Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp, 12th & Delaware, DETROPIA) seize the opportunity to fashion a dynamic portrait that matches the spirit of their subject. Breaking down the fourth wall to create an evocative collage where past and present intermingle, they reveal a psychologically rich man whose extraordinary contributions emerge from both his personal story and a dialogue with the world.”

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JULY 13: Don’t Blink – Robert Frank (dir. Laura Israel) (DPs: Edward Lachman and Lisa Rinzler)Excerpt from a Slant Magazine film review: “What Robert Frank’s The Americans did for the nation, presenting the post-war United States with an X-ray of its soul, the free-form, intensely personal films he started making a few years later did for New York City. Watching a charismatic character in one of those movies in Don’t Blink: Robert Frank, the photographer-filmmaker says, ‘I don’t know people like them anymore.’ Maybe not, but he seems to have known just about every artist who passed through mid-century New York, and he distilled the rebelliously ragged genius of people like a young Allen Ginsberg and a skeletal William Burroughs in films like Pull My Daisy and One Hour. As a result, Laura Israel’s documentary is a portrait not just of the Swiss-born artist, but of his adopted city, especially during the Beat era that was his heyday.

In his recent profile of Frank for the New York Times Magazine, Nicholas Dawidoff described a ‘tough’ man with a lifelong habit of cultivating people, then deciding they aren’t so special after all and cutting them off. The Frank of Israel’s documentary can indeed be prickly, as when he critiques a question he considers obtuse during an interview instead of answering it. But Israel, who’s edited Frank’s films since the 1980s, has a privileged insider’s perspective that informs and warms her film. Openhearted and surprisingly funny, her friend Frank is delightful company, as emotionally transparent and offhandedly insightful in person as he is as his art.

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JULY 15: The Blackcoat’s Daughter (dir. Osgood “Oz” Perkins) (DP: Julie Kirkwood)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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JULY 15: Lucha Mexico (dirs. and DPs: Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz)Excerpt from the synopsis on the film’s official website: “In Mexico, the fight between good and evil has been waged every week for decades, thrilling generations of fans with the spectacle of Lucha Libre. Real-life superheroes and villains, these masked wrestlers put their lives on the line night after night to entertain the legions of fans. Gaining remarkable access to all the major Lucha promotions, Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz offer an entertaining, no holds barred look at some of the sport’s top performers, featuring the ‘1000% Guapo’ Shocker, Luchador heir Blue Demon Jr, the tragic hardcore wrestler El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo, and extreme American bodybuilder Jon ‘Strongman’ Andersen. Lucha Mexico goes behind the mask, on a journey into the heart of Mexico.”

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JULY 22: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (dir. Mandie Fletcher)Synopsis from the film’s official Facebook page: “Appropriate for their big screen debut, Edina and Patsy (Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley) are still oozing glitz and glamour, living the high life they are accustomed to; shopping, drinking and clubbing their way around London’s trendiest hotspots. Blamed for a major incident at an uber fashionable launch party, they become entangled in a media storm and are relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi. Fleeing penniless to the glamorous playground of the super-rich, the French Riviera, they hatch a plan to make their escape permanent and live the high life forever more!”

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JULY 22: Hooligan Sparrow (dir. and DP: Nanfu Wang)Indiewire synopsis: “The danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment. Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers’ rights, continues to champion girls’ and women’s rights and arms herself with the power and reach of social media.”

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JULY 22: Summertime (dir. Catherine Corsini) (DP: Jeanne Lapoirie)IFC Center synopsis: “In 1971, Delphine (Izïa Higelin) leaves her parents and their rural farm for Paris and a new, independent life. There, she meets Carole (Cécile de France), a sophisticated woman deeply involved in the heady, early days of the feminist movement. Despite Carole’s boyfriend, the women find themselves more and more attracted to each other, and they begin an affair that turns their lives upside down.”

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JULY 29: Equity (dir. Meera Menon)Excerpt from a Hollywood Reporter film review: “Making industry headlines before it even screened at the ongoing Sundance Film Festival when Sony Pictures Classics acquired it for distribution, Equity is a smart thriller set in the corporate world that disguises its modest budget with an intelligent script and good set of hooks. Promoting itself as ‘the first female-driven Wall Street movie,’ the film’s plot revolves mostly around female characters, while it’s also been directed (by Meera Menon), written (by Amy Fox) and produced (by co-stars Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas) by women. And yet, perhaps the most winning thing about Equity it that it’s not some kind of worthy empowerment drama about sisters doing if for themselves. Instead, although sexism in the workplace is definitely addressed, it plays more like an old-school noir with the sexes casually reversed, featuring a deeply flawed protagonist (Breaking Bad‘s Anna Gunn), a seductive but duplicitous homme fatale (James Purefoy) and others navigating their way through a miasma of an ethically shady urban world.”

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JULY 29: Into the Forest (dir. Patricia Rozema)Synopsis from the film’s official website: “Set in the near future, this riveting and suspenseful apocalyptic drama follows two sisters, Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) who live in the Pacific Northwest with their kindly father, Robert. Nell is focused on her studies and Eva is training to be a dancer, but their peaceful lives are disrupted one day by what turns out to be a continent-wide blackout. Whereas at first the family bond together and try to make the most of their difficult circumstances, as time goes on, the challenges become more serious. In the wake of a shocking and violent confrontation that Robert has with a menacing passerby, the sisters must work together in order to survive in their increasingly treacherous new world.”

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JULY 29: Miss Sharon Jones! (dir. Barbara Kopple)IFC Center synopsis: “Two-time Academy Award-winner Barbara Kopple (Harlan County USA, Shut Up and Sing) follows Grammy-nominated R&B dynamo Sharon Jones during the most courageous year of her life.  Often compared to the legendary James Brown because of her powerful and energetic performances, Sharon Jones is no stranger to challenge. For years her music career struggled as she was kept in the wings by a music industry that branded her ‘too short, too black, too fat.’ After decades of working odd jobs, from a corrections officer to a wedding singer, Sharon had a middle-aged breakthrough after joining forces with Brooklyn R&B outfit The Dap Kings. In 2013, on the eve of the release of the much-anticipated album Give The People What They Want, Sharon was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Miss Sharon Jones! is a triumphant crowd-pleaser that captures an irrepressible human spirit as she battles back to where she belongs; center stage.”

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JULY 29: Tallulah (dir. Sian Heder) (DP: Paula Huidobro)From a Los Angeles Times article: “The story of Tallulah found its inspiration in a time in her career when [Sian] Heder worked as a nanny for hire, often at upscale L.A. hotels to look after the children of wealthy guests for a few hours. When one woman struck her as a particularly unfit and disinterested mother she wondered what would happen if she kept the baby for herself. Tallulah explores that possibility.

“The film has three powerful and nuanced performances at its core, weaving a delicate blend of comedy and drama, weight and whimsy. Ellen Page plays the title character, a vagabond scamp who rambles into New York City. She gets work as a temp nanny and after an encounter with wasted trophy wife Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard), Tallulah impulsively takes her baby.

“Unsure of what to do next, she goes to her erstwhile boyfriend’s mother, Margo (Allison Janney), whom she has never met, and passes the baby off as her own. These most unusual of circumstances push all three women toward unexpected junctures.”