First of all, this series is not targeted at erudite cinephiles who know their film history. Any self-respecting TCM watcher is too sophisticated for this breezy look at “The Movies.” Clearly the producers are trying to draw younger audiences who might be vaguely familiar with some of the movies here, from Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” to Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull.” (Both directors are on hand to comment.) Snobby old Hollywood lovers sometimes forget that for today’s 18-year-old film fan devouring classic films made before they were born,
The annual Outfest Legacy Awards serve as the key fundraiser for Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, a preservation initiative in conjunction with UCLA Film & Television Archive. UCLA’s archive contains more than 40,000 Lgbtq pieces — from fiction to nonfiction films, home movies and news reports. Among the project’s restored films: “Different From the Others,” the earliest known movie with a gay protagonist.
The German silent feature from 1919 was nearly destroyed by the Nazis, who objected to the story about two male musicians whose love is threatened by blackmail. Within a year of its release, the movie was banned from public
[Read the whole post on screenanarchy.com...]
Women and Hollywood is honored to share the recipients of the Trailblazer Awards, which will be given out during our upcoming 10th Anniversary event in London November 27 at The May Fair Hotel.
The awardees are director Gurinder Chadha (“Viceroy’s House,” “Bend it Like Beckham”), producers Alison Owen (“Harlots,” “Suffragette”) and Elizabeth Karlsen (“Carol,” “Made in Dagenham”), Robert Fox Ltd theater producer Zelda Perkins, BFI London Film Fest director Clare Stewart, and Bechdel Test Fest’s Corrina Antrobus and Simran Hans.
“Women and Hollywood has been highlighting the need for gender equality since before the conversation became mainstream. We are thrilled to be honoring these incredible women, from accomplished producers Alison Owen and Elizabeth Karlsen, to groundbreaking director Gurinder Chadha, to Clare Stewart, the leader of the BFI London Film Festival, as well as next
The Criterion Collection 902
1985 / Color / 1:85 widescreen / 96 min. / available through The Criterion Collection / Street Date November 14, 2017 / 39.95
Starring: Helen Shaver, Patricia Charbonneau, Audra Lindley, Andra Akers, Gwen Welles, Dean Butler, James Staley, Katie La Bourdette, Alex McArthur, Tyler Tyhurst, Denise Crosby, Antony Ponzini, Brenda Beck, Jeffrey Tambor.
Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Film Editor: Robert Estrin
Production Design: Jeannine Oppewall
Written by Natalie Cooper from the novel by Jane Rule
Produced and Directed by Donna Deitch
Desert Hearts is a fine movie that’s also one of the first features ever about a lesbian romance,
To be clear, Soderbergh’s an outlier; his billion-dollar box office dwarfs every other indie filmmaker. However, looking at the performance of his contemporaries who got their start in that indie film movement, you may be surprised at who’s on the list. (Note: “Outside wide release” means less than 1,000 screens. Also, the list doesn’t include directors like Sam Raimi and Abel Ferrara, who have independent roots but were not discovered via the film festival/arthouse pathway, or Alan Rudolph, another significant ’80s figure; he started in horror films in the early ’70s.
As we recently explored, in the early ’80s, Deitch was a film school grad with only docs under her belt, eager to make a different kind of feature about lesbians in love, and “without the help of Kickstarter or industry backing, she launched an unorthodox grassroots campaign that eventually gained the support of Gloria Steinem, Lily Tomlin, and Stockard Channing. The result was a hit at Sundance in 1986 that went on to become
Guest Post by Rachel Feldman
If asked to imagine a film or TV director, most people conjure the image of a man. Sadly, this is true for those who work in the film and television industry as well. In fact, research from USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative confirms that zero percent of Hollywood executives have any women director’s names at the top of their minds. Of course, those in the know have lists that include Kathryn Bigelow, Patty Jenkins, or Ava DuVernay in features and Lesli Linka Glatter or Reed Morano in television — but there are also hundreds, if not thousands, of highly skilled women directors who have been invisible for way too long.
The statistics for women directing stagnates at four percent in feature films and at 17 percent in television, and although the 17 percent in TV may initially sound like forward momentum, when statistically analyzed it proves to be an illusory number because it doesn’t represent the number of women directing, only the number of episodes directed by women. In other words, it is often the same few women doing all the work. But the fact is that there are over 1,300 experienced women directors in the Directors Guild of America (DGA), many with decades of experience in high-quality broadcast and cable television. So why do only about 50 of these directors appear and re-appear on network hiring lists?
Last week NBC announced a new “Female Forward” program that will train 10 new women directors a year through a shadowing program. NBC President Jennifer Salke says that the pool of available directors is “too small” and she’s excited about the idea of having 30 new directors in three years. Of course it’s fantastic that NBC is going to create a program in support of women directors, but it would be a mistake not to correct an insidious false assumption that continues to undermine real progress.
Salke is by no means alone in her thinking: it is a predominate belief throughout the entire industry that one of the reasons why gender employment statistics are so low is because there just aren’t enough qualified women directors to fill the ranks. But this is patently untrue.
The fact is that NBC could have 100 highly skilled directors tomorrow. If our industry truly wants swift, equitable gender equity in the director ranks, the answer is not simply to train new directors and hope for the future. We need to find and hire the large pool of already trained, highly accomplished women directors who have been toiling in the trenches for decades. We need to make the change now.
The employment mechanism for hiring directors is, no doubt, complex. There are many levels of executives, all who need to vet a director. That’s why directors with hot credits and repped by top agents are easy to notice — and those who may not have a recent credit, or who are not represented by a high-profile agent or manager, become invisible.
Women’s careers also look different from their male counterparts’. Women often step away from thriving careers to raise children and care for family members. Add in the gender bias that makes each and every job a Sisyphean hurdle and it’s simple to see how women lose their reps and fall off rosters. But these women are indomitable. Many have thriving careers in allied fields as writers, producers, editors, ADs, or teachers. Some make independent features. All of them are eager to be making an honorable living, with goldstar health insurance, using the masterful skills they have taken a lifetime to hone.
In life, and certainly in the movie business, we are taught that we will be rewarded for tenacity and determination, but so far this has not proven true for an army of women directors.
Meryl Streep sponsors a program for mid-career women writers through New York Women in Film & Television, the Writers Guild of America has made enormous strides supporting the careers of their experienced female members with a variety of initiatives and programs, and The Ravenal Foundation and The Jerome Foundation have long supported mid-career female feature directors. But in the television director landscape the continued focus on new, untrained directors as the sole way to ameliorate a widespread problem is both an unimaginative solution and an enormous injustice to women who have already been injured by decades of gender exclusion.
DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey, and Ryan Murphy are trendsetting new formulas in hiring television directors. They understand that the status quo is not serving directors who are not white men and they are hiring both veteran directors who’ve fallen off hiring lists as well as promising talent. But a handful of progressive thinkers is not enough. The entire industry — networks, studios, producers, and agencies — must create avenues of opportunity for mid-career women directors. It may require a bit of work to discover this gold mine of talent but just below the surface are literally hundreds of brilliant women directors who deserve a break.
This past presidential election was a disgraceful example of how accomplished, highly experienced women can be disregarded. Hiding behind excuses of: “It’s our [pick one] first/second/third season,” or “We have [pick one] stunts/VFX/finicky actors/cross-boarding/a tricky tone…” is as misogynistic/patriarchal as men who think they can grab women wherever they want. We must continue to ask why men are regarded with great potential and women are seen as needing to have a continuing education. Mid-career women directors are trained to figure out what they need to tell a story and it’s high time for the film and TV machine to support and nurture this valuable resource.
Create your own programs and initiatives or search for us at The Director List and the DGA.
And here is a just-a-tip-of-the-iceberg list of experienced television directors — not intended to be exhaustive or comprehensive — to illustrate the bounty to be discovered. There are also hundreds more accomplished women in the independent world:
Victoria Hochberg, Gloria Muzio, Neema Barnette, Debbie Reinisch, Hanelle Culpepper, Martha Coolidge, Amy Heckerling, Tanya Hamilton, Tessa Blake, Kat Candler, Shannon McCormack Flynn, Ellen Pressman, Leslie Libman, Vicky Jenson, Stacy Title, Linda Feferman, Matia Karrell, Maggie Greenwald, Deborah Kampmeier, Debra Granik, Darnell Martin, Anna Foerster, Heather Cappiello, Nicole Rubio, Leslie Libman, Beth Spitalny, Daisy Von Scherler Mayer, Jan Eliasberg, Elodie Keene, Diana Valentine, Jessica Landaw, Julie Hebert, Julie Anne Robinson, Katherine Brooks, Martha Mitchell, Nicole Kassell, Nzingha Stewart, Rachel Talalay, Rose Troche, Stacey Black, Alexis Korycinski, Allison Anders, Ami Canaan Mann, Amy Redford, Anna Mastro, Anne Renton, Catherine Jelski, Claudia Weill, Dee Rees, Helen Hunt, Jessica Yu, Donna Deitch, Kasi Lemmons, Lily Mariye, So Yong Kim, Tina Mabry, Tanya Hamilton, Rachel Feldman…
Rachel Feldman has directed more than 60 hours of television and is in development to direct her award-winning screenplay “Fair Fight,” a political thriller based on the life of Fair Pay activist Lilly Ledbetter. She is a former chair of the DGA Women’s Steering Committee. Go to her website for more information. #WomenCallAction
Guest Post: Plenty of Qualified Women Directors Are Ready to Fill the Ranks was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Take, for example, Desert Hearts. From director Donna Deitch, Hearts tells the story of Vivian, a conservative, buttoned up English professor caught in the middle of late ‘50s Reno and a going-nowhere marriage. In the midst of a divorce Vivian meets Cay, a gorgeous and vibrant woman who helps not only open Vivian’s eyes to herself but to the world around her.
Read More‘Desert Hearts’ Trailer: Donna Deitch’s Groundbreaking Lesbian Classic Restored — Watch
Adapted by Natalie Cooper from the 1964 Jane Rule novel “Desert of the Heart,” Deitch’s 1985 film is a poignant romance set in 1959, when straitlaced Columbia professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) arrives at a ranch in Reno, Nev. to get a divorce (the only place one could at that time). She meets the rancher’s daughter, Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau), an open and self-assured lesbian,
The groundbreaking lesbian film “Desert Hearts” has been digitally remastered and is being released on the big screen and on Blu-ray. Originally released in 1986, the Natalie Cooper-written film was adapted from Jane Rule’s 1964 novel “Desert of the Heart.” It centers on the romance between uptight, closeted Vivian (Helen Shaver), who has traveled to Reno for a quick divorce, and the free-spirited, openly gay Cay (Patricia Charbonneau), a local casino worker. I recently spoke to director Donna Deitch about Gloria Steinem’s role in getting “Desert Hearts” made, the film’s legacy, and why things are getting better for women in TV.
“Desert Hearts” will screen at the IFC Center in New York City beginning July 19. Following the first screening, I will be moderating a discussion between Deitch, Shaver, and Charbonneau. Go to the IFC Center’s website for more screening information.
This interview has been edited. It was transcribed by Joseph Allen.
W&H: Tell us how “Desert Hearts” came to be.
Dd: Here’s what happened. This was in the early ‘80s, maybe 1980 itself. I had bought the book and then I had written a script and I had it in my mind that if I could only meet Gloria Steinem, if I could only meet Gloria Steinem, she would really understand this movie, and maybe she would help me.
I don’t know where that idea came from, so I proceeded to go all around asking everybody I knew if they knew Gloria, and someone introduced us, and neither Gloria nor I can remember who in the world that person was. But I went over there to the Ms. [the magazine Steinem co-founded] office and we chatted and she’d read my script by this time and she said, “Have you ever made a film before?”
I said, “Well, I’m a documentary filmmaker, I’ve never made a narrative feature before.” And she said, “Can you just show me something, can we look at something?” And I said, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll bring over my thesis from UCLA (where I was in graduate film school) and I’ll show you that.”
And the movie’s this 60-minute documentary and it’s called “Woman to Woman: A Story of Hookers, Housewives, and Other Mothers,” and I showed her that film.
W&H: Perfect for her.
Dd: Yeah, yeah. And then she said those famous words, that if you’re ever lucky enough to have bestowed upon you: “How can I help?” And that was the beginning because I had this idea to structure my investment approach, raising money on Broadway backer parties where you go and you hear and you hear about the project, you’re kind of selling your shares.
So Gloria agreed to let her name be on the invitation, along with a few others like Lily Tomlin and Stockard Channing. So I would go into a city, I started in New York, and I would just start asking everybody, “Who do you know who might be interested in investing?”
And then I would get these names and I would distill them down to people who expressed interest in the script, having read it, and once I had 20 people or so, they would get an invitation and it would say “Gloria Steinem, Lily Tomlin, Stockard Channing invite you to come to this party and hear about ‘Desert Hearts’ from Donna Deitch.” That’s how it all went for probably two and a half years in all the major cities in America.
W&H: So you were, like, crowdfunding before crowdfunding existed?
Dd: Kind of, yes.
W&H: That’s so impressive. The passion — these are common stories that I hear from filmmakers, particularly female filmmakers — of the several years that it takes to raise money, but I don’t think it’s gotten any easier for anybody since the 1980s.
Dd: I don’t think it’s gotten easier, but I think what has really changed is that women have become more supportive of women, and women are in greater positions of power. When “Desert Hearts” came out, Oprah Winfrey saw the movie, and Oprah hired me to direct a miniseries called “The Women of Brewster Place” [adapted from the novel by Gloria Naylor].
She became my first boss, and I mean obviously she thought I was right for the job, it wasn’t like she was doing a favor, but the conscious desire and commitment to hiring women, given the choice, by other women I think has really improved, and there are more women in a hiring position than there ever were, certainly in television.
W&H: It’s been 31 years since “Desert Hearts” has been released, correct?
Dd: It’s 31 years, yeah.
W&H: 30 years, 31 years. Why do you think this film has endured for that length of time?
Dd: Well, I don’t know for sure. That’s a question, it’s a really good question, but it’s a really hard question to really know the answer to. I think the fact that it was set in period to begin with helps it in the sense that the story itself is set in a historical time, the ‘50s, when you know Reno was the divorce capital of America, so the place in which it takes place is real, but set back in time, which is different from making a contemporary story, because it is already in period no matter what time you’re looking at it.
It doesn’t make it contemporary 30 years later, but it’s already set in period, and in a real place and time. So, I don’t know, I think that’s a part of it, but I try to say, because this is my third sale of the movie, because I’ve sold it on lease, my lawyer has sold it on lease every time, so this is my third sale, first was to Samuel Goldwyn, and then to Wolfe, and now to Criterion.
So we have a new ad campaign, and what I’m trying to really get people to understand that this is a movie about two people who have nothing in common except their gender. It’s funny and ironic.
W&H: The film has a legacy in the lesbian community, and I don’t know if it’s taught in film schools but it should be, it was one of the first if not the first movie that told a story about two women who fell in love where one of them didn’t die.
Dd: Right, and that was my intention, that was my entire intention in making the movie. I wanted to tell a story, a love story about two women that didn’t die, nor did they get into a bisexual triangle, because that’s how every movie before that ended or every movie before that became that, and that was my initial intention, was to tell a lesbian love story framed in a very accessible style that would appeal universally.
I believe if you make something that’s controversial, which it certainly was at its time, it has to be accessible or you’re going to be in a fringe situation. But I wanted to play on that universal love story approach, except that it’s two women.
W&H: Do people talk to you about what the film means to the lesbian community, do you hear that a lot in terms of where it fits and how everything kind of comes after it?
Dd: Well, what has happened more than anything else is women coming up to me and saying, this has been going on for years and I think I’ve found an answer to this, they’re always coming up and telling me their coming out stories based on seeing “Desert Hearts.”
I mean, just hundreds, so I decided what I really should do is start a collection of coming out stories based on “Desert Hearts.” So I’m asking people to tell their story in under three minutes and post it, so that there’s no cutting involved or anything like that, and then at a certain point I’d like to donate this to some archive.
Because I feel these stories should be shared, not just told to me.
W&H: Have other filmmakers that are making lesbian stories talked to you about what the film means to them as a tool for their filmmaking?
Dd: I don’t think so, no. It’s mostly the viewers, women. I don’t think anybody’s reached out in that way.
W&H: The conversation has clearly shifted about gender and Lgbtq issues, so I wanted to ask you, if you were going to make this movie today, would you hire straight actors to play the leads?
Dd: I would hire the best actors. I don’t really care. They’re actors, I don’t think it makes any difference if they’re committed, I think there are commitment issues for actors all over the place, and they often occur if there’s a love scene.
You have to remember that at that time, I don’t know if you know this, but nobody wanted to come in and audition. The clients and the agents felt that this was way too dangerous for any client to be in and I’m not talking about just the two lead characters, I’m talking about the other parts too. People didn’t want to have anything to do with this movie.
In a way, I think that ended up being very good for movie, because I feel like I did get the best people, and sometimes if you, I mean it is typical to go for the best, but also the most known, right?
If you cast movie stars, I mean of course it would be totally different today, if I wrote that I could get anybody I wanted, but you cannot audition movie stars, they don’t audition, they get offers. So I believe that at the heart of a love story, there’s one thing you have to have, and that’s chemistry. If you don’t audition, you can’t see it, and you don’t know if it’s going to be there or not because you’ve never seen these actors together in a casting office.
I saw that, clearly, as I auditioned Patricia Charbonneau, who I cast first, against some other actresses, and it was clearly there with Helen [Shaver]. I mean it was impossible not to see it. I think that, in a way, the fact that I got to go out there and look for people who were more or less unknown was an advantage, but it’s difficult if you have an independent film without known quantities in it, for the obvious reason.
W&H: So talk about the sequel.
Dd: Well the sequel, I just want to say that this is an unconventional sequel in the sense that this is not a traditional following of these two characters. That’s not to say that they’re not in it, but it doesn’t follow their story as much as it follows the world of “Desert Hearts,” and by that I mean a coming out story, which is what “Desert Hearts” was in part, and to a great degree it’s really about being authentic to yourself.
This is another film, it is set in actually a time and place that no narrative film has ever been made in, it’s set in the heart of the so-called second wave of the women’s movement in New York City, 1968–1970. This is a time, arguably the biggest revolution in America, and that’s what it was about — women coming out to who they really are authentically.
W&H: What does it mean to you to have the original restored and have it be there for a whole new generation to see on the big screen?
Dd: It’s very big for me, because, first of all the way it came about Sundance, Criterion, and Outfest shared the cost of it. Sundance invited me back to screen the new version, and to have that thing restored to its original. We did a panel discussion with Robert Elswit, the cinematographer, and Jeannine Oppewall, who was the production designer, and we were all just starting on our careers, but they have become the Academy Award-winning and nominated, I mean they’re like the best of the best.
So to watch the film restored to its original beauty with them and then talk about it was fantastic. It was as though they were my producers in a sense, because those two were the only people that I ever really talked to about what we’re doing now, what we’re doing next, how it’s all going to be and look. It was very interesting that that all kind of came to me just at that panel.
W&H: Is there anything you want people to know about the film?
Dd: Well, I would like people to go to my website and…
W&H: Why don’t you give us the name of the website?
Dd: Yeah, it’s called desertheartsmovie.com, and if they have a coming out story related to the movie, to tell it, and to go to Criterion and get the movie, because it’s going to have fantastic extras in it. It’s going to have almost all new extras, it’ll be a conversation between me and Robert and Jeannine, and then there’s going to be a conversation between me and somebody else who I don’t have confirmed yet, so I can’t say because I don’t want to give wrong information.
There’s going to be an interview with Helen, an interview with Patricia, the Anatomy of a Love Scene thing I did in my other DVD is going to be better and bigger, so it’s going to be really fantastic. It’s never been out on Blu-ray before, so it’s a restored version on Blu-ray. It’s going to be incredibly beautiful.
W&H: The movie does have an epic lesbian love scene in it.
Dd: Epic, yeah.
W&H: I think it set the bar really high.
Dd: Here’s the most amazing thing, because it’s been showing around now a bit, for the 30th [anniversary], it was at the BFI in London and that started the whole thing, then it was at MoMA for a week, Sundance, and a few other places, and so many people have come up to me at these screenings and said “God, I haven’t seen this movie for 29 years or 30 years, and it’s better now.”
“I’d forgotten how funny it was,” or “I’d forgotten how hot it was,” or that sort of thing.
W&H: Yeah, it is definitely all those things.
Dd: Yeah, and it’s so great because as you said a whole new generation of women and men are going to see this movie now, and it is hot, and it is sexy, and it is really funny. I mean, we used to go to the screenings and we’d count, even now, we count 29 laughs, 27 laughs.
W&H: That’s great.
W&H: The numbers of women directors is still abysmally low.
Dd: Yes, horrible.
W&H: You’ve been working 30 years as a director, TV and film. Talk about if you’ve felt like there’s been a sense of progress in the conversation but the numbers aren’t shifting. What do you talk about with your fellow female directors?
Dd: Well, I think that when I started I honestly just fell into this TV thing, I never thought much about it. Doing it wasn’t a desire of mine or any sort of plan at all, and then after Oprah, that was quite a launching pad and I honestly fell into 25 years of working non-stop in television, and there were very few women around, not just as directors.
I would constantly be in the van scouting, whatever I was doing, with very few women. Now that has, I think, started to shift, and in part because, as I said previously, there are fantastic, female showrunners, and then the kings and queens of television are writers, unlike the movies.
More and more fantastic and brilliant writers are in television, showrunners, and they believe in hiring women. I’m not saying all of them, but a lot of them, and a lot of the ones that really count. Whether it’s Shonda [Rhimes, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal”] or Lena [Dunham, “Girls”] or Jill [Soloway, “Transparent”] or any of them, and now Ava DuVernay [creator of “Queen Sugar”].
They’re intent upon hiring women, and I think that is the major shift.
“Desert Hearts” Director Donna Deitch Talks Love Scenes, Gloria Steinem, and the Sequel was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Donna Deitch’s pioneering Lgbtq film “Desert Hearts” is returning to the big screen. The 1986 movie, which recently received a digital restoration, will be screening at the IFC Center in New York beginning this Wednesday, July 19. Wednesday’s premiere will be followed by a Q&A with Deitch and the stars of “Desert Hearts,” Helen Shaver and Patricia Charbonneau. Women and Hollywood Founder and Publisher Melissa Silverstein will be moderating the discussion.
Based on Jane Rule’s 1964 novel “Desert of the Heart” and adapted by Natalie Cooper, “Desert Hearts” is the story of a love affair between two polar opposite women. “It’s 1959, and conservative English professor Vivian [Shaver] has come to Reno to get a divorce,” the film’s official synopsis details. “When she meets free-spirited Cay [Charbonneau], she discovers a side of herself she never knew existed.”
“Desert Hearts” took home a Special Jury Prize at the 1986 Sundance Film Festival. It is a classic of both queer and feminist cinema, and was one of the first films to positively focus on a lesbian relationship.
Deitch discussed making “Desert Hearts” in the right-leaning 1980s during a a 2015 interview. “First of all it was very, very difficult with regards to the casting,” the director recalled. “Because casting agents really advised clients not to come in and read for any of the parts. Not just for those two characters who became lovers, but for any of the parts in the film.” She explained, “It was hugely controversial and the word was that if you were even in this film, in any of the parts, it would just be destructive to your career.”
The Museum of Modern Art hosted 30th anniversary screenings of “Desert Hearts” in December 2016.
Go to the IFC Center’s website to buy tickets or find out more. You can check out the new trailer and poster for “Desert Hearts” below.
Donna Deitch’s Digitally Restored “Desert Hearts” to Screen at IFC, Receives New Trailer was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Adapted from a novel by Jane Rule, “Desert Hearts” chronicles straitlaced English professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) who arrives in Reno to finalize her divorce. Hoping for a little peace and quiet, her world is turned upside down by the firecracker Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau). Ten years younger and not afraid to go after what she wants, Cay’s blows the lid off of Vivian’s carefully cultivated world at full speed.
The period details
As “Wonder Woman” becomes the highest-grossing live action film directed by a woman, July promises to bring even more interesting, powerful women to the big screen — whether they are in front of camera or behind it. July starts with a fascinating documentary from director Lara Stolman. “Swim Team” follows swim athletes on the autism spectrum and explores how the team gives its young men a chance to feel included and in control, sometimes for the first time ever.
The second weekend in July brings a pair of noteworthy women-centric films. Netflix’s “To the Bone” is inspired by writer-director Marti Noxon’s own struggles with anorexia, and charts her unconventional road to recovery. And Shakespeare gets an update from writer Alice Birch in “Lady Macbeth,” whose titular character discovers her own power after engaging in a dangerous affair.
Things get a bit lighter on July 21, with a pair of comedies about the complex ties between women. In Gillian Robespierre’s “Landline” two sisters unexpectedly bond after discovering their father’s affair. “Girls Trip” sees four lifelong friends reconnecting at a rowdy, unforgettable weekend in New Orleans.
The month closes with a female-led action flick, and an urgent documentary sequel. Charlize Theron stars in “Atomic Blonde,” the story of an extremely talented MI6 agent who is sent to deliver a sensitive dossier to the destabilized city of Berlin. “An Inconvenient Sequel,” a follow-up to 2006’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” is a potent reminder of the imminent danger of climate change, greed, and the apathy of those in power. Co-director Bonni Cohen follows Al Gore as he makes climate change’s dangers known to the entire world — and the film is being updated to include the United States’ decision to retreat from the Paris Climate treaty.
Here are all of the women-centric, women-directed, and women-written films debuting in July. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise noted.
“7 From Etheria” (Anthology) — Written and Directed by Karen Lam, Heidi Lee Douglas, Arantxa Echevarria, Martha Goddard, Anna Elizabeth James, Barbara Stepansky, and Rebecca Thomson
Etheria is the world’s most respected showcase of the best new horror, comedy, science fiction, fantasy, action, and thriller films made by emerging women directors. Terrifying home invasions, unexpected carjackings, and hilarious jelly wrestling are just the start; before you’re through watching this anthology, you’ll visit a Tasmanian penal colony in 1829, prove Kurt Gödel’s time-travel theorem, be victimized by strange alien substances, and dare to venture out into a devastated nuclear wasteland. “7 From Etheria” is a wild ride, so please strap on your seat belt for your own safety.
“Swim Team” (Documentary) — Directed by Lara Stolman (Opens in NY; Opens in La July 21)
In New Jersey the parents of a boy on the autism spectrum take matters into their own hands. They form a competitive swim team, recruiting diverse teens on the spectrum and training them with high expectations and zero pity. What happens next alters the course of the boys’ lives. “Swim Team” chronicles the extraordinary rise of the Jersey Hammerheads, capturing a moving quest for inclusion, independence, and a life that feels winning.
“Austin Found” — Co-Written by Brenna Graziano (Also Available on VOD)
Leanne Miller (Linda Cardellini, “Freaks and Geeks”) is a 36-year-old wife and mother whose hunger for fame and fortune leads her down a dangerous path. A former beauty queen and prom queen, Leanne is fed up with her unglamorously average lifestyle and decides to take matters into her own hands by plotting a scheme to make her family instant celebrities. Teaming up with her ex-boyfriend, Billy (Skeet Ulrich, “Riverdale”), and his ex-con buddy, Jebidiah (Craig Robinson, “The Office”), Leanne conspires to have her 11-year-old daughter, Patty (Ursula Parker, “Louie”), kidnapped for just a month or two. All Leanne has to do is keep the local press (Kristen Schaal, “Bob’s Burgers”) and Sheriff (Patrick Warburton, “A Series of Unfortunate Events”) focused on the case at hand and off hers. What could go wrong?
“The Rehearsal” — Directed by Alison Maclean; Written by Alison Maclean and Emily Perkins
New York-based filmmaker Alison Maclean returns to her native New Zealand to tell this potent, emotionally textured coming-of-age story set among a group of budding acting students. Stanley (James Rolleston), a naïve first-year student, meets Isolde (Ella Edward) and begins a sweet, first love affair. Goaded by Hannah (Kerry Fox, “An Angel at My Table”), the charismatic, domineering Head of Acting, Stanley uncovers a talent and ambition he didn’t know he had. When his group hits on a sex scandal that involves Isolde’s tennis prodigy sister as fertile material for their end-of-year show, Stanley finds himself profoundly torn.
“500 Years” (Documentary) — Directed by Pamela Yates (Opens in NY)
“500 Years”: Daniel Hernández-Salazar
From a historic genocide trial to the overthrow of a president, “500 Years” tells a sweeping story of mounting resistance played out in Guatemala’s recent history, through the actions and perspectives of the majority indigenous Mayan population, who now stand poised to reimagine their society.
“Bronx Gothic” (Documentary) (Opens in NY; Opens in La July 28)
An electrifying portrait of writer and performer Okwui Okpokwasili and her acclaimed one-woman show, “Bronx Gothic.” Rooted in memories of her childhood, Okwui — who’s worked with conceptual artists like Ralph Lemon and Julie Taymor — fuses dance, song, drama, and comedy to create a mesmerizing space in which audiences can engage with a story about two 12-year-old black girls coming of age in the 1980s. With intimate vérité access to Okwui and her audiences off the stage, “Bronx Gothic” allows for unparalleled insight into her creative process as well as the complex social issues embodied in it.
“Julius Caesar” (Filmed Stage Production) — Directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Opens in the UK)
“Julius Caesar”: donmarwarehouse.com/Helen Maybanks
“Julius Caesar” depicts the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of his powers beyond the remit of the constitution. As Brutus (Harriet Walter) wrestles with his moral conscience over the assassination of Julius Caesar (Jackie Clune), Mark Antony (Jade Anouka) manipulates the crowd through his subtle and incendiary rhetoric.
“To the Bone” — Written and Directed by Marti Noxon (Available on Netflix)
“To the Bone”
Based on the real-life experiences of writer-director Marti Noxon, “To the Bone” shares the story of 20-year-old Ellen (Lily Collins) and her battle with anorexia. Ellen enters a group home run by an unconventional doctor (Keanu Reeves) where she and the other residents go on a sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing journey — navigating their addictions and finding the path to choosing life.
“Lady Macbeth” — Written by Alice Birch
Rural England, 1865. Katherine (Florence Pugh) is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man twice her age, whose family is cold and unforgiving. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a young worker on her husband’s estate, a force is unleashed inside her, so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
“Birthright: A War Story” (Documentary) — Directed by Civia Tamarkin; Written by Civia Tamarkin and Luchina Fisher (Opens in NY; Opens in La July 28)
“Birthright: A War Story”
“Birthright: A War Story” is a feature length documentary that examines how women are being jailed, physically violated, and even put at risk of dying as a radical movement tightens its grip across America. The film tells the story of women who have become collateral damage in the aggressive campaign to take control of reproductive health care and to allow states, courts, and religious doctrine to govern whether, when, and how women will bear children. This is the real-life “Handmaid’s Tale.”
“Wish Upon” — Written by Barbara Marshall
Twelve years after discovering her mother’s suicide, 17-year-old Clare Shannon (Joey King) is bullied in high school, embarrassed by her manic, hoarder father Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe), and ignored by her longtime crush. All that changes when her father comes home with an old music box whose inscription promises to grant its owner seven wishes. While Clare is initially skeptical of this magic box, she can’t help but be seduced by its dark powers, and is thrilled as her life radically improves with each wish. Clare finally has the life she’s always wanted and everything seems perfect — until the people closest to her begin dying in violent and elaborate ways after each wish. Clare realizes that she must get rid of the box, but finds herself unable and unwilling to part with her new-and-improved life — leading her down a dark and dangerous path.
“The Midwife” (Opens in NY)
Two of French cinema’s biggest stars shine in this bittersweet drama about the unlikely friendship that develops between Claire (Catherine Frot), a talented but tightly wound midwife, and Béatrice (Catherine Deneuve), the estranged, free-spirited mistress of Claire’s late father. Though polar opposites in almost every way, the two come to rely on each other as they cope with the unusual circumstance that brought them together in this sharp character study from director Martin Provost (“Séraphine”).
“Footnotes” is a whimsical and original musical comedy about Julie (Pauline Etienne), a young woman struggling to make ends meet in France’s radically changing economy. Living out of a backpack, Julie spends her days jumping from job to job until she’s finally offered a temporary stockroom position at a women’s luxury shoe factory. After making friends with the boss’s spunky receptionist Sophie (Julie Victor) and the ever-charming factory truck driver Samy (Olivier Chantreau), Julie thinks the hard times are behind her. But Julie’s dreams of stability collapse when management threatens to close down the factory.
“Chasing Coral” (Documentary)— Co-Written by Vickie Curtis (Available on Netflix)
Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers, and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.
“False Confessions” — Co-Directed by Marie-Louise Bischofberger (Opens in NY; Opens in La July 21)
Isabelle Huppert commands the screen as Araminte, the wealthy widow who unwittingly hires the smitten Dorante (Louis Garrel) as her accountant. Secrets and lies accumulate as Dorante and his accomplice, Araminte’s manservant Dubois (Yves Jacques), manipulate not only the good-hearted Araminte, but also her friend and confidante, Marton (Manon Combes). Dorante, by turns pitiable and proficient, but always deferential to his social better, walks a fine line in his quest to arouse an equal desire in the object of his affections.
“Blind” — Co-Written by Diane Fisher
A novelist blinded in the car crash (Alec Baldwin) that killed his wife rediscovers his passion for both life and writing when he embarks on an affair with the neglected wife (Demi Moore) of an indicted businessman (Dylan McDermott).
“Desert Hearts” (Theatrical Re-Release)— Directed Donna Deitch; Written by Natalie Cooper (Opens in NY)
Based on Jane Rule’s 1964 novel, Donna Deitch’s narrative feature debut centers on a burgeoning lesbian romance between libertine casino worker Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau) and repressed university professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) in Reno, Nevada in the late 1950s, a climate wherein being queer was… complicated. Landmark in its positive portrayal of sapphic romance and celebrated for its passionate, sensual bedroom scenes that nearly fog the camera’s lens, Deitch’s vision for Cay and Vivian’s nuanced onscreen relationship explores the tension inherent in a sheltered woman accepting her newfound sexual self.
“Landline” — Directed by Gillian Robespierre; Written by Gillian Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm
When two sisters suspect their father (John Turturro) may be having an affair, it sends them into a tailspin that reveals cracks in the family façade. For the first time, older sister Dana (Jenny Slate), recently engaged and struggling with her own fidelity, finds herself bonding with her wild teenage sister Ali (Abby Quinn). The two try to uncover the truth without tipping off their mother (Edie Falco) and discover the messy reality of love and sex in the process. Set in 1990s Manhattan, “Landline” is a warm, insightful, and comedic drama about a family united by secrets and lies.
“Girls Trip” — Co-Written by Tracy Oliver
When four lifelong friends — Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish — travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there’s enough dancing, drinking, brawling, and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.
“The Untamed” (Opens in NY)
Alejandra (Ruth Ramos) is a young mother and housewife who raises her children with her husband, Angel (Jesús Meza), in a small town. His brother Fabian (Eden Villavicencio) is a nurse at a local hospital. Their provincial lives are altered with the arrival of the mysterious Veronica (Simone Bucio). Sex and love are fragile in certain regions where family values exist and hypocrisy, homophobia, and sexism are strong. Veronica convinces them that in the nearby forest, in a secluded cabin, there is something that is not of this world but that is the answer to all their problems.
“Scales: Mermaids Are Real”
Siren Phillips (Emmy Perry) has lived her life thinking she’s an ordinary girl, in an ordinary town. On the eve of her birthday, however, she learns that she is far from ordinary. Destined to turn into a mermaid at the age of 12, Siren must struggle with her new reality, saying goodbye to her mother and friends, while she transitions into the water. To make matters worse, a group of hunters are after her. When Siren’s mother is taken, the town must rally behind her and help her make a peaceful transition into the water, before the hunters can find her.
“The Fencer” — Written by Anna Heinämaa
A young man, Endel Nelis (Märt Avandi), arrives in Haapsalu, Estonia, in the early 1950s. Having left Leningrad to escape the secret police, he finds work as a teacher and founds a sports club for his students. Endel becomes a father figure to his students and starts teaching them his great passion — fencing. Fencing becomes a form of self-expression for the children and Endel becomes a role model. The children want to participate in a national fencing tournament in Leningrad, and Endel must make a choice: risk everything to take the children to Leningrad or put his safety first and disappoint them.
“Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World” (Documentary) — Co-Written and Co-Directed by Catherine Bainbridge
“Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World”
“Rumble” tells the story of a profound, essential, and, until now, missing chapter in the history of American music: the Indigenous influence. Featuring music icons Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, and Randy Castillo, “Rumble” shows how these talented Native musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives.
Oscar-winner Charlize Theron explodes into summer in “Atomic Blonde,” a breakneck action-thriller that follows MI6’s most lethal assassin through a ticking time bomb of a city simmering with revolution and double-crossing hives of traitors. The crown jewel of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is equal parts spycraft, sensuality, and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission. Sent alone into Berlin to deliver a priceless dossier out of the destabilized city, she partners with embedded station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies.
“The Incredible Jessica James” (Available on Netflix)
“The Incredible Jessica James”
Jessica Williams (“The Daily Show”) stars as a young, aspiring playwright in New York City who is struggling to get over a recent breakup. She is forced to go on a date with the recently divorced Boone, played by Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”), and the unlikely duo discover how to make it through the tough times in a social media obsessed post-relationship universe. Lakeith Stanfield (“Atlanta”, “Get Out”) and Noël Wells (“Master of None”) co-star.
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” (Documentary)— Co-Directed by Bonni Cohen
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”: Paramount Pictures and Participant Media
A decade after “An Inconvenient Truth” brought climate change into the heart of popular culture comes the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight, traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy. Cameras follow him behind the scenes — in moments private and public, funny and poignant — as he pursues the empowering notion that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.
“Strange Weather” — Written and Directed by Katherine Dieckmann (Also Available on VOD)
Academy Award winner Holly Hunter gets behind the wheel in this engrossing story of a woman’s quest for rectitude in the wake of harrowing loss. Steeped in a strong sense of place and peopled by convention-defying characters, Katherine Dieckmann’s “Strange Weather” draws you into its sultry Southern milieu and takes you on a backroads trek you won’t soon forget.
“From the Land of the Moon” — Co-Written and Directed by Nicole Garcia
“From the Land of the Moon”
In 1950s France, Gabrielle (Marion Cottilard) is a passionate, free-spirited woman in a loveless marriage, and falls for another man when she is sent away to the Alps to treat her kidney stones. Gabrielle yearns to free herself and run away with André (Louis Garrel).
“It Stains the Sands Red”
“It Stains the Sands Red”
In the throes of a zombie apocalypse, Molly (Brittany Allen) — a troubled woman from Las Vegas with a dark past — finds herself stranded in the desert with a lone and ravenous zombie on her tail (Juan Riedinger). Easily able to outpace her un-dead pursuer at first, things quickly become a nightmare when it dawns on her that the zombie will never need to stop and rest. This is the epic story of one woman’s journey to outrun not only the immediate threat that follows her, but the demons who have chased her all her life.
July 2017 Film Preview was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
The 10h Annual QFest St. Louis, presented by Cinema St. Louis, runs March 29th – April 2nd at the .Zack (3224 Locust St., St. Louis, Mo 63103)
The St. Louis-based Lgbtq film festival, QFest will present an eclectic slate of films from filmmakers that represent a wide variety of voices in contemporary queer world cinema. The mission of the film festival is to use the art of contemporary gay cinema to illustrate the diversity of the Lgbtq community and to explore the complexities of living an alternative lifestyle.
All screenings at the .Zack (3224 Locust St., St. Louis, Mo 63103). Individual tickets are $13 for general admission, $10 for students and Cinema St. Louis members with valid and current photo IDs.
Advance tickets may be purchased at the Hi-Pointe Backlot box office or website. For more info, visit the Cinema St. Louis site Here
Sundance Institute has added two Documentary Premieres and two archive From The Film Collection movies to next year’s lineup. The two documentaries are “Bending the Arc” and “Long Strange Trip,” with the archive films being “Desert Hearts” and “Reservoir Dogs,” which premiered at Sundance in 1986 and 1992, respectively. The 25th anniversary screening of Quentin Tarantino’s classic will be followed by an extended Q&A with Tarantino and producer Lawrence Bender.
Read More: Sundance 2017: The Lineup So Far
The archive films are selections from the the Sundance Institute Collection at UCLA, a joint venture between UCLA Film & Television Archive and Sundance Institute, established in 1997. With these additions, the festival will present 118 feature-length films, which represent 32 countries and 37 first-time filmmakers. For
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