Lake Bell, director of In a World

Women Filmmakers Rule at Sundance: Lake Bell, Lynn Shelton and Many Others

Lake Bell, director of In a World
Lake Bell, director of In a World

I always love seeing the trends that come out of Sundance. Because the festival takes place in January, it’s an interesting peek into what’s in store for the rest of the year, not only at other festivals, but also within the film industry.

One of the cool things coming out of Sundance this year is the strong representation of women directors at the festival. For the first time, Sundance has an equal number of women as men directors with dramatic competition entries — eight — with more than a dozen other women directors in other sections of the festival.

So while there are several films chronicling the midlife crises of men, including Drake Doremus’ “Breathe In” and John Krokidas’ “Kill Your Darlings,” there are also several films about women with midlife crises, too, as well as life-changing problems told from a female perspective.

“I think it’s only a matter of time that women achieve parity,” Stacie Passon, director of “Concussion,” told “Because of technology, we’re starting to see new distribution platforms and a low barrier to making movies. I never saw a reason to do a film, I thought it would never get made. Before, the chances (for financing) were lottery-esque.”

Tying in is this news item from The nonprofit organization Women in Film, Los Angeles has granted $30,000 in cash and in-kind grants to filmmakers Jordana Spiro, Martha Shane and Lana Wilson.

And this from IndieWire: Independent film industry veterans Amy Hobby and Anne Hubbell today launched their female-driven production company, Tangerine Entertainment. The company is branded to character-based features directed by women.

We’re standing beside you all the way, sisters, and hope you can buck the non-female trends coming out of the big commercial studios.

Last year, a story in the New York Times noted that women directed nine percent of the top 250 movies at the domestic box office. That’s up from five percent in 2011. Seems like small movement, doesn’t it?

And when you throw in the fact that half of the competition films at Sundance are directed by women, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the big commercial studios are behind the times. Way behind.

“Between 2002 and 2012, nearly a quarter of the directors at Sundance were women, compared with 4.4 percent for the top 100 box office films in the same period,” the New York Times wrote of a USC Annenberg School for Communication study, commissioned by Women in Film and the Sundance Institute.

In short, the commercial studios need to step it up. Let’s take a look at some of the women directors with films at Sundance this year — and hope that the big studios are paying attention.

Lynn Shelton, director of Touchy Feely
Lynn Shelton, director of Touchy Feely

“Touchy Feely”: Lynn Shelton’s film is about a massage therapist (Rosemarie DeWitt) who can’t figure out why she suddenly can’t touch her clients without disgust.

“Concussion”: Stacie Passon’s first feature film follows a woman who adopts a secret life as a lesbian prostitute.

“2 Mothers”: Anne Fontaine’s film follows two best friends — played by Naomi Watts and Robin Wright — who have long-term affairs with each other’s sons.

“Afternoon Delight”: Writer-director Jill Soloway follows one bored L.A. housewife who tries to rescue a stripper by hiring her as her nanny.

“After Tiller”: Martha Shane’s documentary explores the work of the four remaining doctors in America who perform late-term abortions, following the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas in 2009.

“Anita”: Freida Lee Mock’s film looks at the life of Anita Hill and her explosive accusations against Clarence Thomas. For the first time on film, Hill speaks about her experience in the Senate Hearings, her impact on issues of sexual harassment, workplace rights for women and men, social justice and equality.

“kink”: Christina Voros’ documentary, produced by James Franco, delves into the online sex industry.

“The Lifeguard”: Liz Garcia’s film follows a former valedictorian who quits her reporter job in New York and returns to the place she last felt happy: her childhood home in Connecticut. She gets work as a lifeguard and starts a dangerous relationship with a troubled teenager.

“In a World”: Lake Bell’s comedy follows an underachieving vocal coach who’s motivated by her father, the king of movie-trailer voiceovers, to pursue her aspirations of becoming a voiceover star. Amidst pride, sexism and family dysfunction, she sets out to change the voice of a generation.

“Running From Crazy”:  Barbara Kopple’s newest film centers on Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of the legendary writer Ernest, as she explores her family’s disturbing history of mental illness and suicide.

“A River Changes Course”: In her feature directorial debut, Kalyanee Mam, the cinematographer for the Oscar-winning documentary “Inside Job,” explores the damage rapid development has wrought in her native Cambodia on both a human and environmental level.

“Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes”: Writer/director Francesca Gregorini’s tightly constructed script fuses pain with poetry as it centers on a sensitive teen who develops a bond with a neighbor who bears a striking resemblance to her late mother.

“The Square”: Jehane Noujaim’s film looks at the hard realities faced day-to-day by people working to build Egypt’s new democracy.

“Valentine Road”: Marta Cunningham’s film delves into the Feb. 12, 2008 shooting by eighth-grade student Brandon McInerney, who shot his classmate Larry King twice in the back of the head during first period. When Larry died two days later, his murder shocked the nation. Was this a hate crime, one perpetrated by a budding neo-Nazi whose masculinity was threatened by an effeminate gay kid who may have had a crush on him? Or is there more to the story?

“Fill the Void”: Rama Burshtein’s film follows 18-year-old Shira, whose cloistered life takes a dramatic turn when her sister dies suddenly, leaving behind a newborn and a bereaved husband. As the camera gently infiltrates Shira’s family’s hushed quarters, so, too, does it keenly observe her private evolution from innocence to self-awareness as she decides whether to take her sister’s husband as her own.

“Very Good Girls”: The directorial debut of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s mom, Naomi Foner, 65, stars Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen, who make a pact to lose their virginity.

Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen in Very Good Girls
Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen in Very Good Girls


One response to “Women Filmmakers Rule at Sundance: Lake Bell, Lynn Shelton and Many Others”

  1. […] Women Filmmakers Rule during Sundance: Lake Bell, Lynn Shelton and Many Others […]

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