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Whoopi Goldberg

Spotlight on Women Directors at Tribeca Film Festival

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Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg, director of “I Got Somethin’ To Tell You”

As I was reading through a description of the movies in the Tribeca Film Festival Guide, which takes at least two hours since it is 208 pages,  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many of the films were directed by women.

I looked at the Tribeca Film Festival fact sheet and learned that of the 114 feature directors, 26 are women.

For first-time feature-length directors, 27 are men and 11 are women. As for the ten returning directors to the festival in the feature film category, only two are women.

Women directors do better in short films, where there are 43 men and 20 women. In that group, all 12 of the returning short-film directors are male.

So women directors at Tribeca are nowhere near having parity with men, but it still beats Cannes, where of the 22 films in contention for the prestigious Palme d’Or last year, not one was directed by a woman.

Here are a few of the features and documentaries directed by women that look particularly promising:

DOCUMENTARIES

“Big Men,” directed and written by Rachel Boynton (USA).

An industrial exposé by Boynton (“Our Brand Is Crisis”), who gained unprecedented access to Africa’s oil companies, which enabled her to investigate the personal tolls levied when American corporate interests pursue oil in places like Ghana and the Niger River Delta.  Steven Shainberg and Brad Pitt are executive producers.

 “Bridegroom,” directed and written by Linda Bloodworth Thomason (USA).

The film focuses on Shane and Tom, who have been together six years, despite challenges from both family and society. A tragic accident tears apart their dreams. The movie gives a personal edge to the ongoing debate over legal rights of homosexual couples.

“Dancing in Jaffa,” directed by Hilla Medalia (Israel, USA).

The Israeli director offers a unique perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by way of ballroom dancing. Pierre Dulaine, a renowned ballroom dancer, stars in this documentary about an ethnically mixed group of children who train for a citywide dance competition. In Arabic, English, Hebrew with subtitles.

“The Director,” directed by Christina Voros.

Frida Giannini, the creative director of The House of Gucci, one of the world’s most celebrated fashion brands, is the subject of director/cinematographer Voros’s documentary, which offers a candid look at how the Florentine fashionista is reimagining the brand for a modern age.

“Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” directed by Chiemi Karasawa (USA).

The 88-year-old performer, Elaine Stritch, is a Broadway legend, who has just concluded an engagement, possibly her last, at the Café Carlyle, where she has lived for the past three decades. The documentary offers archival footage and interviews with Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, Hal Prince and performer pals.

“I Got Somethin’ to Tell You,” directed by Whoopi Goldberg (USA).

Academy-Award winning actress Whoopi Goldberg delves into the legacy of the late Moms Mabley, an icon in the comedy world. She looks into the historical significance and profound influence of the late comic who was ahead of her time.

“Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic,” directed by Marina Zenovich (USA).

A portrait of the artist from the time he was a troubled youth in Peoria, Illinois, to his rise as one of the iconic comic actors of the century. The documentary includes interviews with Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Mel Brooks and Lily Tomlin. The director’s last documentary was about Roman Polanski, another complicated artist with the same initials.

FEATURES

“Bottled Up,” written and directed by Enid Zentlis (USA).

Oscar-winner Melissa Leo plays a mother who is in denial about her daughter Sylvie’s (Marin Ireland) addiction to painkillers after a car accident. Enter Becket (Josh Hamilton) who may offer a promising solution in a drama where relationships and loyalty are tested.

“The Moment,” directed by Jane Weinstock (USA).

Jennifer Jason Leigh portrays an international photojournalist who lands in the hospital to recuperate after her lover, John (Martin Henderson), a writer, mysteriously vanishes. She strikes up a friendship with a fellow patient, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her missing lover.  The pair try to unravel the truth behind John’s disappearance.

“The Pretty One,” directed and written by Jenee LaMarque (USA)

Audrey is confident, stylish and independent, qualities her twin sister Laurel wishes she possessed. When Audrey is involved in an accident, Laurel sees a chance to reinvent herself. This is a quirky tale of identity and the bond between sisters, starring Zoe Kazan.

“Sunlight Jr.,” directed and written by Laurie Collyer (USA).

The eagerly awaited film by the director of  “Sherrybaby” stars Naomi Watts as Melissa, a low-paid salesclerk who supports her boyfriend Richie (Matt Dillon) in their ramshackle but happy lives. Their situation deteriorates after Melissa discovers she is pregnant and then loses her job. The romantic drama sounds grim, as was “Sherrybaby,” but Collyer is a director whose movies have emotional and political weight.

“Wadjda,” directed and written by Haifaa Al-Mansour (Saudia Arabia, Germany).

This movie is groundbreaking: it is the first feature film shot in Saudi Arabia and the first by a female Saudi filmmaker. It’s about an unconventional 10-year-old girl determined to scrounge enough money to buy a bicycle, despite restrictions on females riding bikes.

SHORTS

“Atlantic Avenue,” directed and written by Laure de Clermont (France).

Seventeen-year-old Celeste is in the middle of a crosswalk when her scarf tangles in her wheelchair. She blocks traffic, and Jeremiah, a young male prostitute who waits under a bridge for customers, stops to help her. Celeste becomes infatuated and decides she wants to pay him to be her first love.

“The Cup Reader” (Qariat il Finjan), directed and written by Suha Araj (Palestinian territory).

Warde is renowned in Palestine for her mystical seeing and matching. She lives with her older sister and reads the fortunes of her clients, who must make a choice between love and marriage.

“The Last Time,” directed and written by Candy Kugel (USA).

Vincent Cafarelli and Candy Kugel worked together for 38 years on animated films. One night after work, Vincent went home, went to sleep, and never woke up. The film is a tribute by Kugel to her long-time collaborator and recognition of her massive loss.

“Reporting on the Times: The New York Times and The Holocaust,” directed by Emily Harrold (USA).

The New York Times barely reported on the Holocaust, and when it did, it was small stories usually buried inside the pages. Harrold investigates this glaring omission by the Jewish-owned newspaper through interviews with historians, journalists and a Holocaust survivor.

Paula Schwartz

Paula Schwartz is a veteran journalist based in New York who is passionate about the movies. Her idea of heaven is watching three movies in a row. She’s written for various outlets, including the New York Times, Showbiz411.com, More.com and MovieMaker Magazine. For five seasons, she contributed to the New York Times seasonal movie blog, Carpetbaggers, where she covered major awards events and interviewed stars like Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman and Helen Mirren.

Paula Schwartz has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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