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Guest Post: What It’s Like to Be a Fiercely Independent Woman Film Fest Director in the Trenches

Meira Blaustein

Guest Post by Meira Blaustein

When I co-founded the Woodstock Film Festival 18 years ago I had no sense of how hard the work would be, and how immense the positive influence on so many people, near and far, it would have. When you are deep in the process of developing something that requires you to give your all, you can’t always see what’s happening outside of your immediate vision.

Eighteen years after the festival first began as a fiercely independent, artistically driven event, I can look around and see the thousands of lives that it has affected and helped: young high school students and college interns who were inspired by the festival and have gone on to successful careers in film and media, such as Amanda Warman Naseem, who started out as an assistant at the festival and today is one of the top producers at Vice; emerging filmmakers who have developed into accomplished artists in their fields, such as Leah Meyerhoff, who screened her short film “Twitch” at the festival back in 2005, and today is a feature film director who also heads the internationally known grassroots women filmmakers organization Film Fatales; community members who have discovered new passion for the power of the arts such as Jen Dragon, who was a volunteer at the festival and now runs a highly successful art gallery.

Seeing countless stories like this makes the hard work and dedication worthwhile. I suppose it’s like giving birth each year — a long and hard pregnancy period ending with a beautiful baby that gives you the courage and the energy to do it all over again.

As a woman working in a male-dominated industry, I recognize that there is much work left to do. Each year as I program the fest’s film lineup, put together the panels, and select the special honorees, I find myself looking for a gender balance that is not always easy to achieve. As such I’m proud that we have developed an official Spotlight on Women in Film and Media whereby we highlight annually the works by some of the year’s most talented and courageous women filmmakers.

This year we are showing 54 feature films, and 19 are directed by women, which puts us at a higher percentage than most festivals. Moreover, we have made a conscious effort in our programming to pay attention to issues affecting women, as well as films featuring outstanding female actors. Among the female-directed films showing this year are first-time director Lillian Lasalle’s “My Name is Pedro,” filled with engrossing twists and inspirational lessons, Hope Litoff’s “32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide,” which explores the life and death of her artist sister, and Catherine Eaton’s “The Sounding,” a narrative of a woman’s struggle to maintain her independence and find her own unique voice, also written and acted by Eaton.

The 2017 Spotlight on Women in Film and Media includes titles such as “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” “La Chana,” and “This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.”

This year’s honorary Maverick Award, given for her outstanding artistry in acting and her long-standing commitment to the support of issue-driven films as a producer, will be presented to Susan Sarandon. In the past we have honored documentarian Barbara Kopple, producer Christine Vachon, director Mira Nair, and actor Ellen Barkin. In talks and events we have featured Vera Farmiga, Melissa Leo, Lucy Liu, Kyra Sedgwick, Patricia Clarkson, Parker Posey, Uma Thurman, Catherine Hardwicke, Debra Granik, Susan Seidelman, Katherine Dieckmann, Rebecca Miller, and countless others.

So while it is still a challenge to create gender balance, I’m glad that we can do our small part in tipping the scale towards equality. The more that festivals like ours offer opportunities to showcase and celebrate the outstanding works by women filmmakers, the higher the chances that those keepers of the gate in the financing and distribution universe will open their purse and greenlight female-directed projects.

The 18th annual Woodstock Film Festival runs from October 11–15. To download a pre-fest program of this year’s event click here.

Meira Blaustein is an arts entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience developing film organizations, entertainment, arts, and media events in the U.S. and globally. Blaustein is the Co-founder, Executive Director, and Head Programmer of the Woodstock Film Festival (Wff). Wff was launched in 2000 and has become one of the most respected and influential regional film festivals in the USA. Blaustein has been running it ever since its inception. As an international consultant Blaustein also co-founded and developed the Cabo International Film Festival in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The festival developed into what is now the Baja International Film Festival. A filmmaker by training, Blaustein directed, produced, and consulted on numerous feature films in various stages, from development to marketing.

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Guest Post: What It’s Like to Be a Fiercely Independent Woman Film Fest Director in the Trenches was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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Tallgrass Film Fest Announces Inaugural Picks for Women-Directed Dox Spotlight

Madeleine Gavin’s “City of Joy,” a Dox Spotlight Section finalist

Earlier this year, the Tallgrass International Film Festival announced its new Dox Spotlight Section. This new competition features undistributed, feature-length documentaries directed by women. And now, its programming committee has chosen Dox Spotlight’s inaugural group for the 2017 fest.

Madeleine Gavin’s “City of Joy” follows a group of revolutionary women who have overcome sexual violence in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The doc recently screened as the Centerpiece film at the 2017 Athena Film Festival. Gavin works in both fiction and nonfiction, and recently edited Katherine Dieckmann’s “Strange Weather.”

Skye Borgman’s “Forever ‘B’” also explores violence, via the kidnapping of Idaho 12-year-old Jan Broberg. In a different vein, Robin Berghaus’ “Stumped” turns the camera on Will Lautzenheiser, a filmmaker who finds solace in stand-up comedy following a quadruple amputation.

The three documentaries will be judged by an all-female jury of industry professionals. This year’s jury members include Seattle International Film Festival’s Interim Artistic Director Beth Barrett, Women Make Movies Executive Director Debra Zimmerman, and award-winning documentary filmmaker Maisie Crow (“Jackson”).

Selected by the jury, the top film will receive special honors and will be individually showcased during the festival. All Dox Spotlight finalists are eligible for Tallgrass’ Audience Award for Best Documentary.

Co-Director of Programming Gretchen Mitchell hopes Dox Spotlight “helps to celebrate the women in the documentary trenches and inspire future female documentarians to record the accomplishments, the issues, and real life from a woman’s perspective.”

This year’s Tallgrass International Film Festival runs October 18–22 in Wichita, Kansas. Check out the films featured in the inaugural Dox Spotlight Section below. Summaries courtesy of Tallgrass Film Association.

City of Joy, directed by Madeleine Gavin (USA).

In Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, an area waging one of the longest conflicts in history and ravaged by sexual violence — we discover The City of Joy. This ultimately uplifting film centers around Jane, a student in the first class at a center where women who have suffered unimaginable abuse come together to create a revolutionary community of leaders.

Forever ‘B’, directed by Skye Borgman (USA).

On October 17th, 1974, in the quiet town of Pocatello Idaho, 12-year-old Jan Broberg was kidnapped by her family’s best friend and neighbor. 18 months later, out on bail and awaiting trial for kidnapping, Robert Berchtold (Brother ‘B’ to Jan and her family) abducted Jan a second time, triggering a nationwide FBI manhunt. Through threats and brainwashing, Brother ‘B’ successfully turns Jan against her own family, while simultaneously manipulating her parents who paved the way for Jan’s abduction, in plain sight.

Stumped, directed by Robin Berghaus (USA).

When filmmaker Will Lautzenheiser’s limbs are amputated, his life is derailed and he turns to stand-up comedy as a therapeutic and creative outlet. Meanwhile, a world-famous medical team is performing transplants that restore bodies to unprecedented levels. Despite grave risks, Will agrees to undergo an experimental double-arm transplant in the hope of reclaiming his independence.

Tallgrass Film Fest Announces Inaugural Picks for Women-Directed Dox Spotlight was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
See full article at Women and Hollywood »

The Most Surprising Movies of the 2017 Summer Movie Season

The Most Surprising Movies of the 2017 Summer Movie Season
Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film and TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?”, can be found at the end of this post.)

This week’s question: What was the most surprising movie of the 2017 summer movie season?

Kate Erbland (@katerbland), IndieWire

Girls Trip”!!! I can’t think of a more pleasant movie-going experience I’ve had this summer, and I saw a screening of “Dunkirk” in IMAX where my hair was literally blown back from my head and a screening of “Rough Night” where everyone was given glasses of rose and bachelorette crowns before they walked in, so I’ve done some living this season. There’s nothing quite like seeing a raucous comedy in a packed theater filled with people who are having just as much fun as you are.
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Review: ‘Strange Weather’ is an Earnest and Moving Portrait of Grief

What if a revenge road movie met an internally-focused study of grief? What if the hard-bitten, anti-sentimentality of a Southern noir was blended with the sincerity of a moving character study? What if Holly Hunter and Carrie Coon were an absolutely dynamite on-screen duo? These are all questions that are confronted head-on by writer-director Katherine Dieckmann in her latest feature, Strange Weather. Taking place years after the suicide of her son, Darcy (Hunter) is sparked into action by the realization that a friend of her late son has opened a string of restaurants with the exact business plan pitch her son had made — down to a childhood story that belongs to her and her dearly departed. Driven by, in her mind, a steadfast righteousness, she takes to the road with her best friend, Byrd (Coon) to set the record straight. Oh, and there’s a gun in the glovebox.

On paper,
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‘Strange Weather’ Review: Holly Hunter Ferociously Portrays a Grieving Mom

  • The Wrap
‘Strange Weather’ Review: Holly Hunter Ferociously Portrays a Grieving Mom
When a loved one dies accidentally, you develop tunnel vision. Your mind teems with questions: Was it quick? What were his final thoughts? What if his plans had been different that day? And when a loved one dies by suicide, that tunnel vision becomes a myopia the breadth of a laser that threatens to consume you. In “Strange Weather,” writer-director Katherine Dieckmann (“Diggers”) explores how people who kill themselves inevitably claim more than one life. It’s a hot and bone-dry September in Georgia when we meet Darcy (Holly Hunter, scrappy as ever), an administrative assistant who would rather spend her.
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Katherine Dieckmann on Crafting an Unconventional Female Protagonist in “Strange Weather”

Strange Weather

Katherine Dieckmann’s films include “Motherhood,” “Diggers,” and “A Good Baby.” She began her career as a journalist, writing for such publications as Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, and Vogue before going on to direct music videos for bands including R.E.M., Aimee Mann, and Wilco. Dieckmann is an Associate Professor at Columbia University’s graduate School of the Arts Film Program, where she has taught screenwriting for over 15 years, and a Creative Advisor for the Sundance Institute.

Strange Weather” hits theaters and VOD July 28.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

Kd: “Strange Weather” is a lyrical, emotionally rich drama tracking a woman (Holly Hunter) as she travels the deep south with her best friend (Carrie Coon) in an effort to process her grief over the loss of her son. It’s a story about how to be fully alive while facing death, about forgiveness, grace, and redemption.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

Kd: I wanted to explore the complicated path of an unconventional female protagonist in a way that felt real to me in terms of the women I actually know in my life — women I rarely if ever get to see represented on the big screen. They have reached a certain age but remain unresolved, alive, contradictory, compelling, and not prone to stereotyping.

Strange Weather” deals with female friendship, learning to see outside the sphere of your own personal pain, and finding ways to overcome that pain in the process. These are all ideas that I was interested in exploring in a feature, and this story allowed me the context to dive into all of them.

I also wanted to set a story about one woman’s turbulence within the climactic instability we all live with now, so that the outer world reflects the inner world, and vice versa.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

Kd: Hopefully people who have experienced some seismic loss — which is probably almost everybody — will find something in the story and its execution that allows them to breathe a little bit more deeply and feel less isolated in their own lingering grief, and to reach out and connect with others.

The path to redemption is often a crooked and unexpected one. And even though my main character has a traditional love interest with whom she can reconcile, what ultimately delivers her to a better place is her own tenacity and willingness to become open to both her pain and her foibles, and the constancy of her best friend, who supplies what is truly the most important relationship explored in the film.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

Kd: The biggest challenge was having 21 not-terribly-long days to realize a movie with a road trip spanning several southern states and different weather conditions, not to mention to shoot a script that contained a number of extended, emotionally complicated scenes that put great demands on my actors — which, I have to add, they met beautifully, especially Holly Hunter, who carried every one of them.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

Kd: My film got funded through the sheer stubbornness of my two female producers, Jana Edelbaum and Rachel Cohen (iDeal Partners), who were tireless in their search for financing and in their conviction that this was a film that needed to get made. Eventually they found a financier, Great Point Media, that appreciated the script for what it was and allowed me to make exactly the film I wanted to make, with zero interference, which is such a rarity in indie filmmaking these days that I can still barely believe it happened.

My executive producer Caroline Kaplan also provided steady and unconditional support.

And beyond essential was my lead actress and stalwart collaborator, Holly Hunter, who came aboard about a year before we found our backing, and fought hard for the project in that interval and beyond, whether that meant reaching out personally to potential supporting cast or simply keeping the film alive in her heart and mind and helping to will it into being.

Great Point then affirmed that Holly alone was a valuable enough element to warrant our small budget, which one would want to believe is a no-brainer, but sadly it isn’t. That was a major gift, as it allowed us to cast freely for the rest of the parts.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

Kd: The best advice I’ve received is to never give up: never abandon hope with a cherished project because only the person who wrote it and will direct it is going to care about it enough to keep it alive when the odds are looking dire, and at some point they inevitably do. Robert Altman said something like you have to love every film as though it were your own child — and you have to love even the ugly ones, meaning you can’t disown a misfire.

The worst advice I’ve ever received was to be encouraged to bend my vision and what I knew would be best for my film by miscasting to secure financing. I take full responsibility for those mistakes [because I let it happen.]

That is something I will never, ever do again — I’d rather just not make a movie at all if it comes down to that. But it’s hard to resist the temptation to get your film financed, always, even if in your heart you know you could compromise it by making dubious decisions.

Again to reference Altman, casting is everything, and if you make sure to cast intelligently — and I would add, have a solid script going in — you’d have to work really hard to screw up your film.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

Kd: Write the strongest script you can write — something you care about passionately and can wholly believe in — and then keep rewriting it. Good writing will rise to the surface at the end of the day, I truly believe that. Get to know other filmmakers, not just female ones, and forge bonds and support each other, especially to better face disappointments along the path.

I feel that many independent filmmakers I know whose work I love and admire are right there behind me, cheering me on, as I also do for them. When anyone smart and decent who has a way with material gets to make a film, it is a good thing for everybody.

But for women specifically, I think the best thing is to be fearless, stubborn, and kind — even if you’re faced with unkindness. Rise above it. Do and be better, because the world is less forgiving of women: that’s just a stone cold fact. Surround yourself with people who understand what you are up to completely independent of your gender, because if they’re the right people, that will be the last thing they’ll focus on.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

Kd: “An Angel at My Table” by Jane Campion. It speaks so clearly and poetically to why I wanted to become a writer, and how one woman writer came into existence, with a specificity that somehow makes it feel entirely universal.

I also have to co-cite the long-lost film “High Tide” by Gillian Armstrong, whose work remains criminally underappreciated today, especially “My Brilliant Career” and “Mrs. Soffel.” Judy Davis gives one of the most searing and singular portraits of a vexing woman ever committed to the screen in “High Tide.” You can find it on YouTube, but I wish Criterion would dig that one up and properly restore it.

W&H: What are the filmmaking opportunities for women in your country? Have you seen recent improvements? What do you think needs to be done see some significant change?

Kd: I think the situation for female filmmakers in the U.S. is improving markedly now, although more in television than in features. There’s still a long way to go in terms of getting smart, complex female-driven stories on the screen, and for women to be able to feel free to take on any subject matter they want, which isn’t necessarily woman-centric or “personal.”

[And progress still needs to be made for women to] get taken seriously and be given the opportunities that men with way less experience and chops get handed everyday.

We are far from parity. But compared to when I made my first feature, “A Good Baby,” nearly 20 years ago, it’s night and day.

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Katherine Dieckmann on Crafting an Unconventional Female Protagonist in “Strange Weather” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
See full article at Women and Hollywood »

‘Strange Weather’ Review: Holly Hunter’s Amazing Performance Proves She’s Still One of Our Best Actresses

‘Strange Weather’ Review: Holly Hunter’s Amazing Performance Proves She’s Still One of Our Best Actresses
The first thing we learn about Katherine Dieckmann’s “Strange Weather” is it’s set on the 88th consecutive day without rain in a tiny Georgia town. Plants are wilting; so are people. Everyone is hysterical and exhausted, and no one more so than Darcy Baylor (Holly Hunter). Crackling with the actress’ firecracker energy, early introductions to Darcy’s life make it clear that there are still plenty of secrets left to be told.

In her first feature since 2009’s “Motherhood,” Dieckmann’s film is the kind of showcase that many actresses over 40 would kill to get — but Hunter is made for it. Joined by recent Emmy nominee Carrie Coon as Byrd, her best friend, neighbor, and co-worker, “Strange Weather” is the sort of film that passes the Bechdel Test 20 times over, while also proving why the metric is so important in the first place. Made by and about women,
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Sharon Van Etten and Katherine Dieckmann on Scoring Strange Weather

In 2015, the year this story begins, Sharon Van Etten had never scored a film. She’d also never heard the name Katherine Dieckmann. Van Etten had just released I Don’t Want to Let You Down, the follow-up Ep to her exquisite 2014 album Are We There. Van Etten’s music does things to people, and it did a number on Dieckmann, a former music video director for Aimee Mann, R.E.M., and Wilco. Enchanted by her songs of muted melancholy, Dieckmann became convinced that Van Etten had to score her latest feature, a road movie set in the American South. The two […]
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July 2017 Film Preview

Girls Trip

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.

July 5

“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.

July 7

Swim Team” (Documentary) — Directed by Lara Stolman (Opens in NY; Opens in La July 21)

Swim Team

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)

Austin Found

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

The Rehearsal

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.

July 12

“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)

Bronx Gothic

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.

July 14

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

Lady Macbeth

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

Wish Upon

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)

“The Midwife”

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

Footnotes

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)

Chasing Coral

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)

False Confessions

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).

July 19

Desert Hearts” (Theatrical Re-Release)— Directed Donna Deitch; Written by Natalie Cooper (Opens in NY)

Desert Hearts

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.

July 21

Landline” — Directed by Gillian Robespierre; Written by Gillian Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm

Landline

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

Girls Trip

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)

The Untamed

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

“The Fencer”

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.

July 26

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.

July 28

Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde

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)

Strange Weather

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.
See full article at Women and Hollywood »

Holly Hunter on a Deep South Road Trip in 'Strange Weather' Trailer

"What kind of mother doesn't try to fix it?!" Brainstorm Media has debuted an official trailer for the indie drama titled Strange Weather, from writer/director Katherine Dieckmann. The film stars Holly Hunter as a mother who goes on a road trip to find out the truth about her son's suicide seven years ago. She travels around the Deep South, confronting the people who knew him to figure out more about her son. The cast includes Carrie Coon, Glenne Headly, Kim Coates, Shane Jacobsen, Johnny McPhail, Andrene Ward-Hammond. This film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year and is playing at the Munich & Edinburgh Film Festivals this month. From the looks of it, Hunter gives one hell of a great performance. Here's the official trailer (+ poster) for Katherine Dieckmann's Strange Weather, direct from YouTube: Darcy Baylor (Holly Hunter) is an academic administrator at a Mississippi college, but another
See full article at FirstShowing.net »

Female Directors Are ‘Beguiled’ at Provincetown International Film Fest

Female Directors Are ‘Beguiled’ at Provincetown International Film Fest
Since its inception in 1999, the motto of the Provincetown Film Festival has been “filmmaking on the edge,” a reference to its celebration of independent film projects and to its geographical location at land’s end on Cape Cod, Mass. The 19th iteration of the festival, which takes place June 14-18, shows that its commitment to artistic-minded fare remains not only intact, but even stronger than ever, thanks to a remarkable array of films, of which half of the narrative features were directed by women — a first in festival history.

All three of its honorees this year are also women with strong ties to independent film. Sofia Coppola, whose drama “The Beguiled” will screen June 16, is this year’s recipient of the festival’s Filmmaker on the Edge Award. Coppola snagged the director prize for “The Beguiled” at Cannes in May. Chloe Sevigny will be presented with the Excellence in Acting Award.
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Holly Hunter and Carrie Coon Lead First Trailer for ‘Strange Weather’

After making a brief impression in Terrence Malick’s Song to Song and following a part in this summer’s The Big Sick, Holly Hunter will take the lead in Strange Weather. The drama, which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival last fall, is directed by Katherine Dieckmann (who helmed the underrated Diggers) and follows a woman who searches for resolution after the death of her son.

Ahead of a late July release, the first trailer has now landed, which previews what looks to be a strong central performance from Hunter. While we missed it at Tiff last year, reactions seemed to be mostly strong, so we’re looking forward to checking it out. Also starring Carrie Coon, Kim Coates, and Glenne Headly, see the trailer below.

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.
See full article at The Film Stage »

Trailer Watch: Holly Hunter Deals with Trauma and Betrayal in “Strange Weather”

Strange Weather

A woman searches for answers after her son’s death in a newly released trailer for Katherine Dieckmann’s “Strange Weather.” Darcy’s (Holly Hunter) son killed himself seven years ago, but she can’t move on — especially because she suspects her late son’s friend, Mark, stole his business plan. She embarks on a road trip through the deep South to confront Mark, who now runs a lucrative chain of restaurants.

“I’m here for moral support,” says Darcy’s best friend Byrd (Carrie Coon, “The Leftovers”). She adds, “I am not accompanying you on some mission of violence.” Byrd’s fears aren’t unfounded — Darcy has brought along a gun.

Darcy is convinced that Mark is a villain and her son is a victim, but Byrd seems to think she’s oversimplifying the situation and jumping to conclusions. “It’s like the way you see the world is the only way to see it. That’s just the story you’ve been telling yourself — that doesn’t mean it’s how it actually was,” Byrd says.

“I wanted to explore the complicated path of an unconventional female protagonist in a way that felt real to me in terms of the women I actually know in my life — women I rarely if ever get to see represented on the big screen,” Dieckmann told us. “They have reached a certain age but remain unresolved, alive, contradictory, compelling, and not prone to stereotyping.”

She continued, “‘Strange Weather’ deals with female friendship, learning to see outside the sphere of your own personal pain, and finding ways to overcome that pain in the process. These are all ideas that I was interested in exploring in a feature, and this story allowed me the context to dive into all of them.”

Dieckmann’s credits include “Motherhood,” “Diggers,” and “A Good Baby.”

Hunter won an Oscar in 1994 for “The Piano.” She also earned nods for “Thirteen,” “The Firm,” and “Broadcast News.” You can catch her next in Sundance hit “The Big Sick,” co-written by Emily V. Gordon. The critically acclaimed romantic comedy hits theaters June 23.

Strange Weather” hits theaters and VOD July 28.

https://medium.com/media/cf30ceb65820a3164d9babc5de6e1aaa/href

Trailer Watch: Holly Hunter Deals with Trauma and Betrayal in “Strange Weather” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
See full article at Women and Hollywood »

Netflix, Brainstorm Pick Up Holly Hunter Drama ‘Strange Weather’ (Exclusive)

Netflix, Brainstorm Pick Up Holly Hunter Drama ‘Strange Weather’ (Exclusive)
Boutique distributor Brainstorm Media has taken North American theatrical rights to Katherine Dieckmann’s drama “Strange Weather,” starring Holly Hunter, with Netflix taking worldwide subscription VOD rights, excluding Japan.

Brainstorm will handle the North American theatrical release on the film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, prior to the Netflix global rollout scheduled for fall 2017. Great Point Media, which has backed such movies as “Lady Macbeth,” “Complete Unknown” and “The Party,” is handling international sales in Cannes.

Hunter plays grief-stricken Darcy, who is struggling to come to terms with the death of her son. Convinced there is something behind his suicide, Darcy travels back to the Deep South to uncover the truth with the help of childhood friend Byrd (Carrie Coon). Bolstered by her on-again off-again lover Clayton, played by Kim Coates (“Sons of Anarchy”), Darcy begins “an emotional road trip of self-discovery,” according to a statement.

The film is produced by Kalamalka Prods.
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Cannes: With ‘The Piano,’ Jane Campion Explored the Same Feminist Vision That Will Drive ‘Top of the Lake: China Girl’

Cannes: With ‘The Piano,’ Jane Campion Explored the Same Feminist Vision That Will Drive ‘Top of the Lake: China Girl’
This is the latest installment of a series exploring significant films from the careers of directors showing new work at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.

Jane Campion doesn’t put much stock in labels — seemingly preferring to adhere to the old Groucho Marx chestnut, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member” — and has spent her career pursuing work that speaks to her sensibilities. Ask Campion for her own views of feminism, and you’re likely to get an answer like the one she gave fellow filmmaker Katherine Dieckmann in a chat for Interview Magazine back in 1992, when she was still working on “The Piano” (then known as “The Piano Lesson”): “I don’t belong to any clubs, and I dislike club mentality of any kind, even feminism—although I do relate to the purpose and point of feminism.”

Clubs,
See full article at Indiewire »

Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith and Miranda July Reveal ‘Split Screen’ Secrets During Indie Series Tribute

Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith and Miranda July Reveal ‘Split Screen’ Secrets During Indie Series Tribute
For two years back in the late ’90s and early aughts, producer, filmmaker, author and cinephile John Pierson hammered together the lovingly Diy television series, which introduced movie buffs to all manner of filmmakers and their creations over the course of 60-plus episodes. “Split Screen” was IFCtv’s signature series from 1997-2001, boasting such guests as Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith, Mary Harron, Katherine Dieckmann and many, many more.

Late last year, the cult classic found a new home over on streaming service FilmStruck, which began releasing episodes of the series on their Criterion Channel in December, with a tiered rollout planned.

Read More: ‘Split Screen’: 9 Reasons You Should Watch FilmStruck’s Revival of TV’s Best-Ever Series About Indie Film

On Wednesday night in New York City, the series’ reintroduction to the cultural consciousness continued apace, as Pierson and a group of some of his most famous
See full article at Indiewire »

Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith and Miranda July Reveal ‘Split Screen’ Secrets During Indie Series Tribute

Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith and Miranda July Reveal ‘Split Screen’ Secrets During Indie Series Tribute
For two years back in the late ’90s and early aughts, producer, filmmaker, author and cinephile John Pierson hammered together the lovingly Diy television series, which introduced movie buffs to all manner of filmmakers and their creations over the course of 60-plus episodes. “Split Screen” was IFCtv’s signature series from 1997-2001, boasting such guests as Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith, Mary Harron, Katherine Dieckmann and many, many more.

Late last year, the cult classic found a new home over on streaming service FilmStruck, which began releasing episodes of the series on their Criterion Channel in December, with a tiered rollout planned.

Read More: ‘Split Screen’: 9 Reasons You Should Watch FilmStruck’s Revival of TV’s Best-Ever Series About Indie Film

On Wednesday night in New York City, the series’ reintroduction to the cultural consciousness continued apace, as Pierson and a group of some of his most famous
See full article at Indiewire Television »

The Weekend Warrior 2/10/17: The Lego Batman Movie, 50 Shades Darker, John Wick 2

Welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly look at the new movies hitting theaters this weekend, as well as other cool events and things to check out.

This Past Weekend:

Bomb, bomb bomb bomb, Boooooomb! Things just kept getting worse and worse at the box office as this past weekend saw more new releases not meeting up to their potential. The horribly-reviewed horror movie Rings (Paramount) ended up around where I predicted with $13 million, taking second place to M. Night Shyamalan’s Split. The sci-fi romance The Space Between Us (Stx Entertainment) didn’t make much of a mark, opening in ninth place with just $3.8 million with about $1,300 per theater. Robert De Niro’s The Comedian (Sony Classics) tanked worse than many recent movies, making less than a million in 848 theaters or about $1,000 per theater. By comparison, the doc I Am Not Your Negro made about 78% of that amount in 800 less theaters.
See full article at LRM Online »

Film Festival Roundup: Oxford Announces Full Schedule, Big Ears Plans Jonathan Demme Retrospective and More

Film Festival Roundup: Oxford Announces Full Schedule, Big Ears Plans Jonathan Demme Retrospective and More
Keep up with the always-hopping film festival world with our weekly Film Festival Roundup column. Check out last week’s Roundup right here.

Lineup Announcements

– The 2017 Oxford Film Festival has announced the full schedule of films for next year’s edition of the popular Mississippi film festival. Katherine Dieckmann’s drama “Strange Weather,” starring Holly Hunter, is the Opening Night Selection while Jeff Grace’s festival hit, “Folk Hero & Funny Guy,” serves as the Closing Night selection.

A total of 151 films (34 features, 117 shorts, music videos, new media, and virtual reality projects), including 15 world premieres and 4 U.S. premieres, were selected for the film festival taking place February 15-19, 2017, in Oxford, Mississippi. Along with the films in competition, the festival will be highlighted by three new sections: New Media, a virtual reality (Vr) slate of programming, and both features and shorts sections featuring Lgbtq films.

You can check out the full lineup and schedule right here.
See full article at Indiewire »
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