“A Suitable Girl
Women directed nearly 40 percent of the films screening in Competition at this year’s edition of the Tribeca Film Festival, and there are plenty of women-centric projects in the fest’s lineup. Whether you’re most interested in features or documentaries, stories about friendship or feminist awakenings, we’ve got you covered. We’ve assembled some of the most promising-sounding films in the program, but this is by no means an exhaustive list of projects by and about women at the fest— just some of the highlights.
Besides the features listed below, other noteworthy titles include Jessica Devaney
’s short “Love the Sinner,” a doc about her growing up Evangelical and how the Pulse
shooting affected her, and Zohar Kfir’s “Testimony,” a Vr doc centered on sexual assault survivors. You can also check out “Out of this World
: Female Filmmakers in Genre,” a special screening of three genre shorts helmed by women, and interview events with Barbra Streisand
as well as Lena Dunham
and frequent collaborator Jenni Konner
Tribeca runs from April 19–30. Plot synopses below are courtesy of Tribeca.
“The Divine Order” — Written and Directed by Petra Volpe
What it’s about: Political leaders in Switzerland cited “Divine Order” as the reason why women still did not have the right to vote as late as 1970. Director Petra Volpe
explores this surprising history through the story of Nora, a quiet housewife from a quaint village searching for the fierce suffragette leader inside her. With Marie Leuenberger
, Max Simonischek
, Rachel Braunschweig
, Sibylle Brunner
, Marta Zoffoli
, Bettina Sucky.
Why we’re interested: Women have had the right to vote in the U.S. for less than 100 years, and sadly there are women around the world that still can’t cast ballots. It’s easy to slough off women’s fight for the vote as a thing of the past, but “Divine Order” stresses that this chapter in history remains largely unwritten. “This got swept under the rug and was not talked about much in history lessons,” Volpe explained in an as-yet-unpublished interview with Women and Hollywood. “That is so typical for women’s history — it’s untold. I made this movie because I wanted to honor all the women who fought for so long and so hard.”
What it’s about: All current art is fake. Nothing is original. These are some of the statements exposed in artist Julian Rosefeldt
’s film. Starring Cate Blanchett
, we witness a series of vignettes which draw upon artist manifestos that question the true nature of art. A chameleonic Blanchett gives a tour-de-force performance as she transforms in each segment like never before
Why we’re interested: Frankly, this description of “Manifesto
” makes the film sound more than a little pretentious. But we simply can’t and won’t turn down the opportunity to see Cate Blanchett
take on 13 characters. When you watch a film starring the inimitable actress, you’re guaranteed a standout performance. So with “Manifesto
,” we can expect 13 standout performances. The unconventional project — which originated as a multi-screen film installation — sees the two-time Oscar winner playing characters as varied as a factory worker, puppeteer, and scientist.
What it’s about: “For Ahkeem
” is the moving portrait of 17-year-old Daje Shelton, a Black girl
in North St. Louis, as she navigates the many challenges of growing up in inner city America with one goal: to graduate high school.
Why we’re interested: Most films depict larger-than-life characters with experiences that are pure fantasy for the viewer. So it’s a welcome change to see a down-to-earth movie featuring a relatable protagonist with a relatable goal. Daje wants what we all want: a good life. Featuring subtle commentary on the U.S. education system, “For Ahkeem
” shows how unnecessarily difficult it is for young people like Daje to earn a high school diploma, something that should be a fundamental right for everyone.
What it’s about: When Mae (Emma Watson
) is hired to work for the world’s largest and most powerful tech and social media company, she sees it as an opportunity of a lifetime. As she rises through the ranks, she is encouraged by the company’s founder, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks
), to engage in a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics, and ultimately her personal freedom. Her participation in the experiment, and every decision she makes begin to affect the lives and future of her friends, family, and that of humanity
Why we’re interested: “Beauty and the Beast
” has officially grossed more than a billion dollars at the box office, and “The Circle
” marks “Harry Potter” alumna Emma Watson
’s follow-up to the Disney smash sensation. It appears as though Watson is playing another heroine, and this time around, she’s taking on a god of the tech industry. “The Circle
” promises to tackle timely questions and concerns about privacy laws and online identity, and will be a nice change of pace from Watson’s delightful turn as Belle.
“One Percent More Humid
” — Written and Directed by Liz W. Garcia
What it’s about: Catherine (Julia Garner
) and Iris (Juno Temple
) are childhood friends home from college for a hot New England summer. As they attempt to enjoy parties and skinny-dipping and the usual vacation hijinks, a shared trauma in their past becomes increasingly difficult to suppress. As the wedge between the friends grows, they each pursue forbidden affairs to cope. With Alessandro Nivola
, Maggie Siff
, Philip Ettinger
, Mamoudou Athie
Why we’re interested: “This is a film about grief. Sorry! There are some laughs, too, and it’s sexy, I promise. But essentially, this is a movie about the effect of grief on the friendship of two young women,” writer-director Garcia told us in a soon-to-be-published interview. We love narratives about female friendship, and Garcia explained that the plot of “One Percent More Humid
” is “an amalgam of true stories about young people and fatal car accidents.” Stories about grief are typically centered around middle-aged parents who have lost children, so it will be interesting to see two young women grappling with the aftermath of a tragedy.
“Keep the Change
” — Written and Directed by Rachel Israel
“Keep the Change
What it’s about: In a support group for adults living with autism, David — a smooth talker struggling to hide his disability — meets a woman with similar learning challenges, and they quickly forge an intimate bond. Starring a cast of nonprofessional actors on the autism spectrum, “Keep the Change
” details an underrepresented community with authenticity, optimism, and humor. With Brandon Polansky
, Samantha Elisofon
, Nicky Gottlieb, Will Deaver
, Jessica Walter
, Tibor Feldman
Why we’re interested: Hollywood usually ignores people with disabilities, and when they are depicted, they’re often reduced to single-note characters. That’s why we’re happy that “Keep the Change
” — like Alexandra Shiva
’s “How to Dance in Ohio
” — depicts the inner lives of those on the autism spectrum with actors who are actually on the spectrum. Instead of presenting David as if he is the subject of a public service announcement, Israel shows him as just another person looking for love.
“I Am Evidence” (Documentary) — Directed by Trish Adlesic
and Geeta Gandbhir
“I Am Evidence”
What it’s about: Every year in cities around the United States, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits are left untested in police storage facilities. Produced by Mariska Hargitay
, “I Am Evidence” exposes this shocking reality, bringing attention to the way in which police have historically processed sexual assault cases. Through an exploration of survivors’ accounts, the film sheds light on these disturbing statistics, and shows what can be achieved when evidence — and the individuals it represents — are treated with the respect we all deserve. An HBO Documentary Film release.
Why we’re interested: Adlesic and Gandbhir told Women and Hollywood they were drawn to tell this story because of “the outrage [they] felt” when they learned “it’s estimated that there are 400,000 untested rape kits in the Unites States.” Hopefully that outrage is contagious. If you aren’t horrified and disgusted by how the justice system treats rape survivors, “I Am Evidence” will likely make you reconsider your stance. The filmmakers hope that audiences leaving the theater “have a better understanding of the survivor experience” and “ask their legislators to pass laws that require the testing of all rape kits in a timely manner and to follow up on the findings of those tested kits.”
” (Documentary) — Directed by Camilla Hall
What it’s about: “Copwatch
” is the true story of We Copwatch
, an organization that films police activity as a non-violent form of protest and deterrent to police brutality. In her feature film debut, director Camilla Hall
crafts an intriguing and timely profile of citizen-journalist-activists — including Ramsey Orta
, who filmed Eric Garner’s fatal arrest — who seek to disrupt the ever-present challenge of police violence.
Why we’re interested: If the Kendall Jenner
Pepsi ad taught us anything, it’s that much of the public is still shockingly ignorant about movements like We Copwatch
and Black Lives Matter. “Copwatch
” strives to show that being anti-police brutality is not the same as being anti-police. Like her subjects, Hall uses her camera to spotlight racially-charged violence and hold those responsible accountable. At a time when amateur videos expose the unfounded violence racial prejudice can provoke — from traffic stops to United Airlines — this doc is more relevant than ever.
“Wasted! The Story of Food Waste” (Documentary) — Directed by Anna Chai
and Nari Kye
“Wasted! The Story of Food Waste”
What it’s about: Each year, $218 billion — or 1.3 billion tons — of food is thrown out. With nearly a billion people worldwide facing starvation, food conservation is a more urgent issue than ever before. Executive produced by Anthony Bourdain
, Chai and Kye’s fast-paced and forward-thinking food doc takes viewers on a tour of inventive new ideas for recycling waste and maximizing sustainability from innovative chefs like Massimo Bottura
, Dan Barber
, and Danny Bowien
, who turn scraps into feasts before our eyes.
Why we’re interested: “One of the perks of working with Anthony Bourdain
and on shows like ‘The Mind of a Chef
’ is that you come in contact with a lot of chefs. Being in their worlds, their restaurants, and their kitchens, we see close-up what makes these people tick and also what boils their blood,” Chai and Kye told us in an upcoming interview. “Time and again, food waste was something that chefs railed against. It’s bad business. It shows laziness, a lack of creativity, and worst of all, disrespects the time, money, labor, and craft needed to grow the ingredients.” Most people would be appalled if they realized the sheer amount of food that gets thrown out daily, yet this subject is rarely broached in the mainstream media. “Wasted!” will explore why this is a problem we all need to be thinking about, talking about, and working to solve.
“A Suitable Girl
” (Documentary) — Directed by Smriti Mundhra
and Sarita Khurana
What it’s about: Dipti, Amrita, Ritu, and Seema are all young, modern women in India looking to get married — some desperately, some reluctantly. “A Suitable Girl
” follows them over the course of four years as they juggle family, career, and friends, intimately capturing their thoughts on arranged marriage, giving them a voice, and offering a unique perspective into the nuances of this institution.
Why we’re interested: There is a western assumption that arranged marriages are inherently backwards and inferior to matches based on Disney-esque “true love.” But most people who accept this notion haven’t considered, or consulted, those who are actually in arranged marriages. “A Suitable Girl
” moves past perception by directly engaging with the brides-to-be. Mundhra and Khurana listen to the young women without judgment or pre-existing expectations. And they discover that arranged marriages are based on many factors: timing, money, class, familial obligations, the couple, etc. Just like all unions.
“Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
” (Documentary) — Directed by Alexandra Dean
What it’s about: Known for her unmatched beauty, Hedy Lamarr
’s fans never knew she also possessed a beautiful mind. Immigrating to Hollywood in the late 1930s, Lamarr acted by day and sketched inventions by night, even devising a “secret communication system” for the Allies to beat the Nazis. “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
” reveals how Lamarr gave her patent away to the Navy, receiving no credit for her engineering innovations, even as she was immortalized as a legend of the silver screen.
Why we’re interested: Society loves to force women into boxes, and “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
” shows just how unfair and ill-advised this tendency is. While Lamarr has been immortalized for her appearance, the actress’s brilliant inventions haven’t received their fair due. “Who wouldn’t want to make a story about Hedy?! She was a wild child. Some claimed she was a spy. She was a movie star and later a drug addict and a recluse. Her life was crazy enough before we discovered she came up with a technology we use in our digital devices every day,” Dean told us in an upcoming interview. “I spent years profiling inventors and innovators for Bloomberg Television and Businessweek but I never heard a life story that came close to Hedy’s story. I suppose it also particularly resonated for me because, as a short, quiet woman who always wanted to be a director, I know a little about what its like to want to do something that no one expects you to do.”
“The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” (Documentary)
“The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson”
What it’s about: Featuring never-before-seen footage and rediscovered interviews, Academy Award nominee David France
(“How to Survive a Plague
”) follows a new investigation into the mysterious death of self-described “street queen” Marsha P. Johnson
, one of the courageous black transgender activists who spearheaded the modern gay civil rights movement.
Why we’re interested: Accurate representations of trans characters and real-life trans people are severely lacking. Narratives like “3 Generations” and “The Danish Girl
” caused controversy by casting cis actors to portray trans characters. Others like “Stonewall” minimize or outright ignore the role trans activists played in the fight for Lgbtq rights. “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” is essential because it tells a trans person’s story through her own perspective — a strategy the rest of Hollywood should emulate.
“Dare to be Different
” (Documentary) — Directed by Ellen Goldfarb
What it’s about: Featuring interviews and rare footage of U2, Blondie
, Duran Duran
, Joan Jett
, The Cure, Billy Idol
, and Depeche Mode
, “Dare to Be Different
” is a nostalgic look at Wlir 92.7, the radio station that introduced these bands to a U.S. audience. Director Ellen Goldfarb
tells the story of the rise and fall of this institution, and the birth of the punk and new wave communities.
Why we’re interested: There are about a hundred existing documentaries about The Beatles, The Rolling Stones
, and Bob Dylan
. No disrespect — they are legends for a reason — but we’re excited that Goldfarb is documenting the rise of music that’s not strictly from the ’60s and ’70s. Female artists like Blondie
and Joan Jett
have been especially overlooked in music history, so we’re psyched to find out more about these influential voices and how they have resonated with fans.
“The Last Animals
” (Documentary) — Directed by Kate Brooks
“The Last Animals
What it’s about: Photojournalist Kate Brooks
turns her lens from war zones to a new kind of genocide in this sweeping and sobering film. As the single-digit population of the Northern White Rhino
ticks closer to extinction, Brooks exposes the epidemic of highly effective poachers and trafficking syndicates, and the heroic efforts of conservationists, park rangers, and scientists to protect these majestic creatures
Why we’re interested: “In 2010, I went to Kenya on a long planned vacation after embedding with a medevac unit at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. It was in the Maasai Mara that I was able to heal from some of the inhumanity I had witnessed,” Brooks recalled to Women and Hollywood in a soon-to-be-published interview. “Upon seeing a herd of wild elephants for the first time, I was reminded in an instant that in spite of all the human destruction on the planet, there was still some natural order. That experience ultimately led me to want to help them.” Brooks’ mission to help endangered elephants and rhinos evolved into an epic journey. “Production spanned four continents and the film is in five languages,” she explained. Since animals can’t speak for themselves, docs like “The Last Animals
” are crucial in educating the public about how our behavior affects different species — and why it matters. Plus, Brooks is a photojournalist, so we’re betting the wildlife footage from “The Last Animals
” is visually stunning.
Tribeca 2017 Preview: Arranged Marriages, Endangered Animals, the Justice System, & More was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium
, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.