"Regarding Susan Sontag."
The Tribeca Film Festival (April 16-27) announced the first half of its 2014 line-up earlier this week, and women's representation at the festival could both be better and worse.
Among the first 47 films to be publicized, the 25% of projects directed or co-directed by women is far from a fifty-fifty split, but it's certainly higher than, say, the 2014 South by Southwest's rate of 17%. And there's more good news: the percentage of female-made films is even higher among the works in the World Narrative and World Documentary competitions (about 30%) than in the out-of-competition Viewpoints category.
Scroll down for the list of women-directed films playing at this year's TFF:
World Narrative Feature Competition
In a testament to the universal power of film, the themes of this year's competition resonate across international lines and in conversation with one another in their unique and powerful takes on self-discovery.
Brides (Patardzlebi), directed and written by Tinatin Kajrishvili. (France, Georgia) - North American Premiere. In the suburbs of Tbilisi, Georgia, seamstress Nutsa shares an apartment with her two young children and awaits the return of her husband, Goga, who has six years left on his prison sentence. With only rare visits and phone calls to connect with her husband, Nutsa faces difficult decisions about keeping the family together and maintaining her own freedom. In her first narrative feature, director Tinatin Kajrishvili captures an intimate look at love and absence, and a subtle indictment of the harsh Georgian penal system. In Georgian with subtitles.
- Something Must Break
(Nanting Maste Ga Sonder), directed and written by Ester Martin Bergsmark, co-written by Eli Leven. (Sweden) - North American Premiere. When Sebastian meets Andreas for the first time, he knows they belong together. While Sebastian defies gender norms -- flouting convention in his androgynous fluidity -- straight-identifying Andreas becomes unable to accept his attraction to another man, as their relationship progresses. Struggling with his identity, Sebastian becomes increasingly determined to become "Ellie," even if it means walking away from Andreas. Something Must Break brims with raw electricity as it explores questions of gender and sexuality with refreshing candor. In Swedish with subtitles.
- Zero Motivation directed and written by Talya Lavie. (Israel) - World Premiere. Filmmaker Talya Lavie steps into the spotlight with a dark comedy about everyday life for a unit of young female Israeli soldiers. The human resources office at a remote desert base serves as the setting for this cast of characters, who bide their time pushing paper, battling for the top score in Minesweeper, and counting down the minutes until they can return to civilian life. Amidst their boredom and clashing personalities, issues of commitment -- from friendship to love and country -- are handled with humor and sharp-edged wit. In Hebrew with subtitles.
World Documentary Feature Competition
Sponsored by Santander Bank, N.A.
The 12 films of this year's World Documentary Competition are typified by depth of character and beauty in form.
1971, directed and written by Johanna Hamilton, co-written by Gabriel Rhodes. (USA) - World Premiere. Forty years before WikiLeaks and the NSA scandal, there was Media, Pennsylvania. In 1971, eight activists plotted an intricate break-in to the local FBI offices to leak stolen documents and expose the illegal surveillance of ordinary Americans in an era of anti-war activism. In this riveting heist story, the perpetrators reveal themselves for the first time, reflecting on their actions and raising broader questions surrounding security leaks in activism today.
Misconception, directed by Jessica Yu. (USA) - World Premiere. For almost 50 years, the world's population has grown at an alarming rate, raising fears about strains on the Earth's resources. But how true are these claims? Taking cues from statistics guru Hans Rosling, Misconception offers a provocative glimpse at how the world -- and women in particular -- are tackling a subject at once personal and global. Following three individuals, director Jessica Yu focuses on the human implications of this highly charged political issue, inspiring a fresh look at the consequences of population growth. In English, Hindi, Mandarin, and Russian with subtitles.
Ne Me Quitte Pas, directed and written by Sabine Lubbe Bakker and Niels van Koevorden. (Netherlands, Belgium) - International Premiere. Left by his wife for another man, Marcel falls into alcoholism and a deep depression, with only his friend Bob, also an alcoholic, to look after him. The friendship between the two men captures the frailty of the male ego and the natural comedy borne from their candid conversations. Ne Me Quitte Pas follows this downward spiral of mid-life crisis in a tender, often humorous, sometimes disturbing, examination of the "crisis of masculinity," alongside a mesmerizing exploration of mundane rural existence. In Flemish and French with subtitles.
- Regarding Susan Sontag, directed and written by Nancy Kates, co-written by John Haptas. (USA) - World Premiere. Hungry for life and gracefully outspoken throughout her career, Susan Sontag became one of the most important literary, political, and feminist icons of her generation. Kates' in depth documentary intimately tracks Sontag's seminal, life-changing moments through her own words, as read by Patricia Clarkson -- from her early infatuation with books to her first experience in a gay bar; from her first marriage to her last lover. Regarding Susan Sontag is a nuanced investigation into the life of a towering cultural critic and writer whose works on photography, war, and terrorism still resonate today. An HBO Documentary film.
The core of Tribeca's commitment to launching fresh voices and embracing risky, utterly original storytelling is Viewpoints.
- Art and Craft, directed by Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman. (USA) - World Premiere, Documentary. Mark Landis is one of the most prolific and notorious "artists" of the century. An expert forger of masterpiece art, Landis has duped curators across the nation, further befuddling them by donating his imitations instead of selling them. Many have dedicated years tracking his escapades with one burning question: "Why?" Framed around a cat-and-mouse chase between Landis and those he has hoodwinked, Art and Craft paints a richly complicated portrait of mental illness, skewed philanthropy, and the desire to feel connected.
- Bad Hair (Pelo Malo), directed and written by Mariana Rondon. (Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Germany) - U.S. Premiere, Narrative. Junior, a nine-year-old living in Caracas, wants nothing more than to straighten his unruly hair to look like a singer for his school photo -- a fixation that stirs homophobic panic in his overtaxed mother. Each effort Junior makes to alter his appearance and gain his mother's love is brushed off with abrasive avoidance until he's ultimately faced with a heartbreaking decision. With a painfully tender performance by Samuel Lange, writer-director Mariana Rondon directs this coming-of-age drama about the search for identity clashing with intolerance. In Spanish with subtitles.
Beneath the Harvest Sky, directed and written by Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly. (USA) - U.S. Premiere, Narrative. Bored and restless, best friends Dominic and Casper are making plans to escape their small town in Northern Maine to start new lives in Boston. In order to earn the money, Dominic spends the summer harvesting potatoes, while Casper becomes involved in the family business -- smuggling drugs over the Canadian border. The divergent paths of the two boys, both trapped in their circumstances in different ways, will change their friendship forever. Brought to life by two stellar lead performances, Beneath the Harvest Sky is an authentic portrayal of adolescent frustration, culminating in a heartbreaking coming-of-age drama. A Tribeca Film release.
- Below Dreams, directed and written by Garrett Bradley. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. A reverie of images and sound, Below Dreams loosely follows the narratives of three very different people returning to New Orleans for the promise of a better life. But as each character experiences the city's realities, it becomes clear that their individual hopes and dreams may no longer be possible, and that with change must also come sacrifice. Shot documentary style, but with dreamlike qualities melding fiction and reality, this is a hypnotic tribute to both the socially marginalized and to the city of New Orleans itself.
- Broken Hill Blues (Omheten), directed and written by Sofia Norlin. (Sweden) - North American Premiere, Narrative. A group of adolescents wrestle with their uncertain futures in a remote mining town that is literally cracking underneath their feet. Kiruna, the northernmost town in Sweden, sits above an iron ore mine that has been slowly eroding the land around it for decades. Soon, Kiruna and everyone in it will have to move, but to where they do not know. As the displaced teenagers linger on the cusp of adulthood, they echo the town's own fragility in this beautiful and understated film. In Swedish with subtitles.
- Honeymoon, directed and written by Leigh Janiak, co-written by Phil Graziadei. (USA) - New York Premiere, Narrative. What begins as a happy honeymoon for newlyweds Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) takes a sinister turn when Bea disappears from bed one night and Paul discovers her the next day naked in the woods with no memory of how she got there. Soon Bea begins an escalating, unexplainable shift from a happy, carefree young woman to a cold, distant, and calculating one. Supernatural forces may be at work, but they uncannily echo some of the anxieties that come with a new marriage -- issues such as secrecy, mistrust, and loss of identity -- in Janiak's brooding domestic drama.