The closing night film of this year's Venice Film Festival, which runs from the end of August through September 10th, is a comedy/drama titled Damsels In Distress, directed by Oscar-nominated actor/writer/director Whit Stillman - his first film in 13 years.
The film tells the story of a trio of beautiful girls Violet Wister (Gerta Gerwig), Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Heather (Carrie MacLemore), who set out to "revolutionize life at a grungy American university. They welcome transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) into their group which seeks to help severely depressed students with a program of good hygiene and musical dance numbers. The girls become romantically entangled with a series of men who threaten the girls’ friendship and sanity."
The name of that immediately stood out to me was Megalyn Echikunwoke, the last name being Nigerian. Never heard of her, so, naturally, I looked her up.
The 27 year old Washington DC native's highest profile job would likely be her recurring role during the 2008/2009 season of CSI: Miami, in which she appeared for 23 episodes, and the first season of 24. She has also played roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, That 70s Show, sci-fi series The 4400, and much more.
Needless to say, she's been busy, but mostly in TV.
Her role in Damsels In Distress will be her first big screen lead performance, since she's in the core starring cast. Being in the closing night film of one of the most prestigious festivals in the world is certainly a good look as well.
I should note that she's not the only actor of African descent in the film; supporting roles are played by Jermaine Crawford (who you'll remember from The Wire; here he plays a character named Jimbo), and Aja Naomi King (she's a relative newcomer who'll play Wendell Pierce's daughter in the upcoming indie drama Four, which I wrote about earlier today. In this film she'll play a character named Positive Polly).
How about those character names, huh? Violet Wister, Jimbo, Positive Polly... there are also characters named Thor, Mad Madge and Freak Astaire.
Sony Pictures Classics already has worldwide rights to the film, but no release dates yet.
No trailer yet either.