While it may seem like six years, it’s been barely six months since the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment story broke last October and women’s scandalous underrepresentation in the film industry came to the forefront.
Like most film festivals, Tribeca has over the years carefully dressed its window of opportunity for women directors, while at the same time falling woefully short of gender parity in the number of films by women that actually screened.
This year, however, the 12-day festival, April 18-29, has come very close, no doubt influenced by the #metoo and #timesup movements. Fully 46 per cent of Tribeca’s feature film line-up are by women directors with five each in the U.S. Narrative and Documentary competitions.
That includes the festival’s Opening and Closing Night films, both documentaries: Love Gilda, Lisa D’Apolito’s Gilda Radner biopic, and The Fourth Estate, Liz Garbus’ in-depth look at The New York Times.
“In a year that has reminded us more often of our divisions than our connections, this festival’s program embraces film’s unique power to overcome differences that connecting with stories not our own is the road into our deeply programmed human capacity for empathy and understanding,” said Cara Cusumano, the director of programming.
In honor of the 17th and decidedly distaff edition of Tribeca, here is our list of the 17 must-not-miss features, the majority by women directors but with a few token males added for good measure.
All About Nina
Narrative, directed and written by Eva Vives
With shades of TV’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the story revolves around a female comedian and her rising star in the comedy scene.
When a new professional opportunity coincides with a romantic one, she is forced to reckon with the intersection of her life and her art. With Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Common, Chace Crawford, Clea DuVall, Kate del Castillo, Beau Bridges.
All These Small Moments
Narrative, directed and written by Melissa Miller Constanzo
Young teen Howie Sheffield (Brendan Meyer) is at a turning point. As he watches his parents’ (Molly Ringwald and Brian d’Arcy James) marriage crumble, he becomes infatuated with Odessa (Jemima Kirke), a woman he sees each day on the bus ride to school. (The irony that the queen of coming-of-age movies, Ringwald, is now playing the mother role is not lost on those who remember the world before the Internet.)
Narrative, directed and written by Alex Pettyfer
After his mother (a gritty Juliette Lewis) goes to jail for shooting and killing his abusive father, Harley Altmyer (Alex Pettyfer) is left to care for his three younger sisters in a rural Pennsylvania town.
The uneducated Harley works two dead-end jobs to preserve what’s left of his family, including the rebellious, sexual 16-year-old Amber (Nicola Peltz). Angered and traumatized by his painful past, Harley finally begins to feel hope when he connects with an older, married woman (Jennifer Morrison), and they embark on an affair.
Narrative, directed by Fabien Constant, written by Laura Eason
Sarah Jessica Parker returns once again center stage to the streets of New York as an accomplished singer reeling from a devastating diagnosis (medical, not critical) in this French New Wave-inspired drama.
With an all-star cast that also includes, Simon Baker, Jacqueline Bisset, Common and Renée Zellweger.
Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes
Documentary, directed by Sohie Huber
When the German Jewish refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff started Blue Note in 1939 in New York, the two jazz fans gave the artists complete freedom and encouraged them to compose new music.
Their visionary and uncompromising approach led to releases that not only revolutionized jazz, but that left an indelible imprint on art and music, including hip hop.
Dead Women Walking
Narrative directed and written by Hagar Ben-Asher
Nine vignettes depict the stages leading to execution for women on death row in this emotional account of the human toll of the death penalty — on both the inmates and those they encounter in their final hours. With Dale Dickey, Dot Marie Jones, Lynn Collins, Colleen Camp, June Carryl, and Ashton Sanders.
Narrative, directed by Marianna Palka, written by Risa Mickenberg
In this sharp and unflinching satire, two couples and a surrogate lay bare the complications, contradictions, heartbreak and absurdities implicit in how we think about motherhood. With Christina Hendricks, Anna Camp, Alysia Reiner, David Alan Basche, Gbenga Akinnagbe.
Horses: Patti Smith and Her Band
Documentary, directed by Steven Sebring
This is the ultimate, intimate backstage look at the Poet of Punk during the last concerts of the 40th anniversary of her seminal album Horses. Includes exclusive footage of Smith and her band, Lenny Kaye, Jay Dee Daugherty, Tony Shanahan, and Jack Petruzzelli, joined by guitarist Jackson Smith and Flea.
Narrative, directed and written by Nia DaCosta
A Winter’s Bone meets Hillary and Jackie in this dramatic thriller set in a fracking boomtown where two estranged sisters are driven to extremes when their mother dies, leaving them with one week to pay back her mortgage.
With Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby, James Badge Dale, Lance Reddick.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Narrative, directed by Desiree Akhavan, written by Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele
After Cameron is caught having sex with another girl on prom night, her conservative guardians send her to gay conversion therapy.
There, she forges an unlikely community with her fellow teens in this Sundance-winning coming of age story. With Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha lane, Forrest Goodluck, John Gallagher Jr., Jennifer Ehle.
Documentary, directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist
In the late ’80s, surfing was still in the early stages of its ascent to broad popularity and entrenched professionalization. On the north shore of O’ahu, a ragtag group of teenage surfers – locals and recent arrivals from Florida and California – congregated in a small house with easy access to the infamous surfing spot known as the Pipeline.
This third wave of surfers, called the Momentum Generation, would go on to become the most influential contingent of athletes the sport had seen.
Documentary directed by Melissa Haizlip and Samuel Pollard
From 1968 to 1973, the New York public-television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of black literature, poetry, music, and politics — voices that had few other options for national exposure, and, as a result, found the program an improbable place to call home.
With participants’ recollections and a bevy of great archival clips, the documentary captures a critical moment in culture whose impact continues to resonate.
Documentary, directed and written by Cynthia Lowen
In the midst of a watershed moment for gender equality, three very different women whose lives were torn apart by online harassment devote themselves to fighting back against the internet’s Wild West of unpoliced misogyny, cyberstalking, and nonconsensual pornography.
With Carrie Goldberg, Anita Sarkeesian, Tina Reine, Soraya Chemaly, Jamia Wilson, Mary Anne Franks.
Roll Red Roll
Documentary, directed by Nancy Schwartzman
At a 2012 pre-season high-school football party in Steubenville, Ohio, a young woman was sexually assaulted. The aftermath exposed an entire culture of complicity — and Roll Red Roll maps out the roles that peer pressure, denial, sports machismo, and social media each played in the tragedy.
Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland
Documentary, directed by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner
Sandra Bland was a bright, energetic activist whose life was cut short when a traffic stop resulted in a mysterious jail cell death just three days later. The film follows the two-year battle to uncover the truth
Time for Ilhan
Documentary, directed by Norah Shapiro
In November 2016, Ilhan Omar made history as the first Somali-American Muslim woman to be elected for state office in America. Time for Ilhan offers an inspiring look at her campaign and the changing face of American politics.
Narrative, directed by Jason Reitman, written by Diablo Cody
Director Jason Reitman, screenwriter Diablo Cody, and actor Charlize Theron — the team behind the 2011 comedy Young Adult — join forces once again for Tully, a new dramedy that confronts the many taboos of motherhood.
A bittersweet spin on the classic fairy godmother tale, the film stars Theron as Marlo, a mother of three battling stress and resentment. When she hires the titular Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a younger nanny, her new employee’s free-spirited ways ignite her previously dormant inner spark.