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Special Report: Women Directors in January 2014

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by Serena Donadoni
February 18, 2014 11:04 AM
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Still from Jillian Schlesinger's "Maidentrip"

While Frozen continues its box-office dominance (with over $360 million in domestic grosses and a new sing-along version in theaters), the Mickey Mouse short that accompanies it, "Get a Horse!," is part of another successful franchise: Oscar Nominated Short Films, which opened in 105 theaters last weekend and earned $329,505. This annual release from Shorts HD and Magnolia Pictures has become a staple of the awards season, with last year's collection earning more than $2 million during a seven-week run. This year's live-action program includes Selma Vilhunen's one-note comedy Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? while the documentary slate has Sara Ishaq's powerful Karama Has No Walls, about a bloody anti-government protest in Yemen. Lauren MacMullan's kinetic Get a Horse! recently won an Annie and is a favorite to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short. 

In addition to the Oscar Nominated Shorts anthology, January saw seven feature films and four documentaries directed by women arrive in theaters. (None had a wide release.) During the record-breaking snow and cold of January, Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys opened in New York with a gross of $5,359. The Argot Pictures release from Jessica Oreck (Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo) follows a reindeer-herding family in frigid Lapland. First Run Features initially opened Maidentrip in Toronto on December 20, so it does not appear on the Box Office Mojo rankings for January. But Jillian Schlesinger's debut documentary about 14-year-old Laura Dekker's round-the-world sailing voyage has earned $33,067 so far in North America. 

Set in Tbilisi after the fall of the Soviet Union, In Bloom also focuses on teenage girls. The semi-autobiographical debut film of Georgian-born Nana Ekvtimishvili (co-directed with husband Simon Gross) is receiving a gradual release from Big World Pictures and has grossed $22,870 from two theaters. Steph Green's debut feature Run & Jump, which follows an Irish wife and mother dealing with the aftermath of her husband's stroke, is another foreign import. The American-born Green, who often works in Ireland, was nominated for an Oscar in 2009 for her short film "New Boy," based on a Roddy Doyle story. IFC Films released Run & Jump on VOD the same day as in theaters, where it has grossed $6,569.

Francesca Gregorini's psychological thriller The Truth About Emanuel premiered in competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival as Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes. Gregorini's theatrical debut, released by Tribeca Films and Well Go USA Entertainment on VOD in November 2013, opened in January and has made $4,404. Another Sundance 2013 film, the 3D indie Charlie Victor Romeo (directed by Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels and Karlyn Michelson) that recreates the black-box recordings of airline disasters, opened in New York and Los Angeles at the end of January, but the Collective: Unconscious and 3-Legged Dog Media release has not reported its box-office receipts.

Also not reporting grosses is Band of Sisters, Mary Fishman's self-distributed debut documentary, which chronicles the social-justice activism of American nuns following Vatican II reforms in the 1960s. Annemarie Jacir (Salt of This Sea) also revisits that era in When I Saw You, set in a Palestinian refugee camp during 1967. The Match Factory release follows an 11-year-old boy and his mother who flee to Jordan following the Arab/Israeli Six-Day War.

Three additional debut features got small releases in January via Gravitas Ventures, Phase 4 Films and Artists Public Domain, respectively. Maggie Kiley's Brightest Star (formerly called Light Years) features Chris Lowell (Veronica Mars, Enlisted) as a recent college grad navigating his professional and personal lives. Anna Paquin (who's also a producer) stars in writer/director Shana Betz's Free Ride, based on her mother's life as a marijuana smuggler in Florida during the 1970s. Shannon Plumb's filmmaker husband Derek Cianfrance and their sons join her in Towheads, which is about a wife and mother whose artistic pursuits are stymied by her demanding family. 

Rankings, grosses and theater numbers for January 2014 are courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

#12 | 2014 Oscar Nominated Short Films | $329,505 | 105 theaters

#23 | In Bloom | $22,870 | 2 theaters

#36 | Run & Jump | $6,569 | 2 theaters

#41 | Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys | $5,359 | 1 theater

#43 | The Truth About Emanuel | $4,404 | 11 theaters

Also: Maidentrip | $33,067 | 5 theaters


Serena Donadoni is a freelance film critic in Detroit. She runs The Cinema Girl (with movie reviews, interviews and more) as well as The Cinema Girl blog, which tracks movie releases and has a page devoted to women directors. Follow her @TheCinemaGirl.

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