The competition slate for the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival has been announced. The 15th edition of the New York-based festival features three competition sections: U.S. Narrative, International Narrative and World Documentary. Of 18 films in the Narrative Competitions (U.S. and International), five are directed or co-directed by women -- 28%. As is usually the case, female filmmakers fare much better in the Documentary Competition selection, where they helmed or co-helmed five of the twelve features, which amounts to a very respectable 42%. (The World Doc section had even better numbers last year, when eight of twelve features in this category, or 67%, were women-directed or co-directed.)
So overall women directors account for 10 out of 30 of the films in Competition, or 33%.
Known for introducing fresh, bold voices, the Viewpoints section was also announced. 25 films are included in this category, and 11 of them -- 44% -- are women-directed or co-directed.
Bear in mind that the films in Competition and Viewpoints comprise about half of the total number screening at Tribeca, so many titles have yet to be announced.
Some of narratives that caught our eye were: "AWOL," Deb Shoval's feature directorial debut about a floundering young woman (Lola Kirke, "Mozart in the Jungle") who considers joining the army and unexpectedly falls in love with another woman (Breeda Wool), and Kadri Kousaar's "Mother (Ema)," a dark comedy and mystery about an Estonian woman who takes care of her comatose son.
The documentary section includes plenty of noteworthy titles, such as Cecilia Aldarondo's "Memories of a Penitent Heart," which follows a young woman seeking answers about her late uncle from his estranged lover. Her uncle immigrated to New York City from Puerto Rico and fought to reconcile his sexual orientation with his religion.
Among the films screening in Viewpoints is Tracy Droz Tragos's "Abortion: Stories Women Tell." Rather than focus on the debate surrounding reproductive rights, this HBO doc puts the spotlight on individual women and their experiences.
The festival will take place April 13-24.
Check out a list and plot summaries of the women-directed and co-directed films. List adapted from Variety.
US Narrative Competition: 3/10 Women-Directed or Co-Directed
Always Shine, directed by Sophia Takal, written by Lawrence Michael Levine. (USA) – World Premiere. This twisty psychological drama about obsession, fame, and femininity follows two friends, both actresses (Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald), on a trip to Big Sur, to reconnect with one another. Once alone, the women’s suppressed jealousies and deep-seated resentments begin to rise, causing them to lose their grasp on not only the true nature of their relationship, but also their identities. With Lawrence Michael Levine, Alex Koch, Jane Adams.
AWOL, directed by Deb Shoval, written by Deb Shoval and Karolina Waclawiak. (USA) – World Premiere. Joey (Lola Kirke) is a young woman in search of direction in her small town. A visit to an army recruiting office appears to provide a path, but when she meets and falls in love with Rayna (Breeda Wool) that path diverges in ways that neither woman anticipates. Building on the award-winning short of the same name, director Deb Shoval crafts a clear-eyed love story, and an impressive feature film debut.
Women Who Kill, directed and written by Ingrid Jungermann. (USA) – World Premiere. Morgan and Jean work well together as true crime podcasters because they didn’t work well, at all, as a couple. When Morgan strikes up a new relationship with the mysterious Simone, their shared interest turns into suspicion, paranoia, and fear. Ingrid Jungermann’s whip smart feature debut is an adept and wry comedy on modern romance’s hollow results, set in an LGBTQ Brooklyn. With Ingrid Jungermann, Ann Carr, Sheila Vand, Shannon O’Neill, Annette O’Toole, Grace Rex.
International Narrative Competition: 2/8 Women-Directed or Co-Directed
Icaros: A Vision, directed by Leonor Caraballo and Matteo Norzi, written by Leonor Caraballo, Matteo Norzi, and Abou Farman. (Peru, USA) – World Premiere. An American woman in search of a miracle embarks on an adventure in the Peruvian Amazon. At a healing center, she finds hope in the form of an ancient psychedelic plant known as ayahuasca. With her perception forever altered, she bonds with a young indigenous shaman who is treating a group of psychonauts seeking transcendence, companionship, and the secrets of life and death. With Ana Cecilia Stieglitz, Arturo Izquierdo, Filippo Timi. In English, Spanish with subtitles.
Mother (Ema), directed by Kadri Kousaar, written by Leana Jalukse and Al Wallcat. (Estonia) – International Premiere. This darkly comic, crime mystery set in small-town Estonia centers on Elsa, the full time caretaker of her comatose son, Lauri, and the locals, who are abuzz with rumors about who shot Lauri and why. But in this tight-knit town, where everyone seems to know everyone and everything except for what’s right under their nose, the world’s clumsiest crime may go unsolved. With Tiina Mälberg, Jaan Pehk, Andres Tabun, Andres Noormets, Rea Lest, Jaak Prints, Siim Maaten In Estonian with subtitles.
World Documentary Competition: 5/12: Women-Directed or Co-Directed
All This Panic, directed by Jenny Gage. (USA) – World Premiere. What is it like to come of age in New York City? First-time director Jenny Gage follows vivacious sisters, Ginger and Dusty, and their high school friends over the course of their crucial teen years. In this sensitive and cinematic documentary, Gage captures all the urgency, drama, and bittersweetness of girlhood as her subjects grapple with love, friendship, and what their futures hold.
LoveTrue, directed by Alma Har’el. (USA) – World Premiere. Alma Har’el, director and cinematographer of the 2011 TFF Best Documentary Feature Bombay Beach, returns with LoveTrue, a genre-bending documentary, demystifying the fantasy of true love. From an Alaskan strip club, a Hawaiian island, and the streets of NYC—revelatory stories emerge about a deeper definition of love. Set to a hypnotizing score by Flying Lotus and executive produced by Shia LaBeouf.
Memories of a Penitent Heart, directed by Cecilia Aldarondo. (USA, Puerto Rico) – World Premiere. Like many gay men in the 1980s, Miguel moved from Puerto Rico to New York City; he found a career in theater and a rewarding relationship. Yet, on his deathbed he grappled to reconcile his homosexuality with his Catholic upbringing. Now, decades after his death, his niece Cecilia locates Miguel’s estranged lover to understand the truth, and in the process opens up long-dormant family secrets. In English, Spanish with subtitles.
The Return, directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway, written by Kelly Duane de la Vega, Katie Galloway, and Greg O’Toole. (USA) – World Premiere. How does one reintegrate into society after making peace with a life sentence? California’s controversial and notoriously harsh three-strikes law was repealed in 2012, consequently releasing large numbers of convicts back into society. The Return presents an unbiased observation of the many issues with re-entry through the varied experiences of recently freed lifers.
Tickling Giants, directed and written by Sara Taksler. (USA) – World Premiere. Charting Bassem Youssef’s rise as Egypt’s foremost on-screen satirist, Tickling Giants offers a rousing celebration of free speech and a showcase for the power of satire to speak for the people against a repressive government. Where this story differs from the familiar success of Youssef’s idol, Jon Stewart: Bassem’s jokes come with serious, dangerous, and at times revolutionary consequences. In Arabic, English with subtitles.
Viewpoints 11/ 25: Women Directed or Co-Directed
Abortion: Stories Women Tell, directed by Tracy Droz Tragos. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. In 1973, the US Supreme court decision Roe v. Wade gave every woman the right to have an abortion. In 2016, abortion remains one of the most divisive issues in America, especially in Missouri. Award-winning director and Missouri native Tracy Droz Tragos sheds new light on the contentious issue by focusing on the women and their stories, rather than the debate. An HBO Documentary Film.
Adult Life Skills, directed and written by Rachel Tunnard. (U.K.) – World Premiere, Narrative. Anna (Jodie Whittaker) is stuck: she’s approaching 30, living in her mother’s shed, and spending her time making movies with her thumbs. Her mom wants her to move out; she just wants to be left alone. Adult Life Skills is an off-beat comedy about a woman who’s lost, finding herself. With Jodie Whittaker, Brett Goldstein, Lorraine Ashbourne, Alice Lowe, Edward Hogg, Eileen Davies, Rachael Deering, Ozzy Myers.
After Spring, directed by Ellen Martinez and Steph Ching. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Close to 80,000 Syrian refugees live in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. After Spring immerses us in the rhythms of the camp, the role of the aid workers, and the daily lives of two families as they contemplate an uncertain future. Executive produced by Jon Stewart, this is a fascinating journey through the camp’s physical and human landscapes. In Arabic, English, Korean with subtitles.
As I Open My Eyes (À peine j’ouvre les yeux), directed by Leyla Bouzid, written by Leyla Bouzid and Marie-Sophie Chambon. (France, Tunisia, Belgium, United Arab Emirates) – US Premiere, Narrative. As I Open My Eyesdepicts the clash between culture and family as seen through the eyes of a young Tunisian woman balancing the traditional expectations of her family with her creative life as the singer in a politically charged rock band. Director Leyla Bouzid’s musical feature debut offers a nuanced portrait of the individual implications of the incipient Arab Spring. With Baya Medhaffer, Ghalia Benali, Montassar Ayari, Aymen Omrani, Lassaad Jamoussi, Deena Abdelwahed, Youssef Soltana, Marwen Soltana. In Arabic with subtitles. Presented in association with Venice Days.
Califórnia, directed by Marina Person, written by Marina Person, Mariana Veríssimo, and Francisco Guarnieri. (Brazil) – North American Premiere, Narrative. Nostalgic, sweet, and at moments poignantly funny, Califórnia is a coming-of-age tale about a high school student, Estela, growing up in São Paulo in the 1980s. Estela is doing all she can to get to California to visit her glamorous and cultured uncle. While focused on keeping her grades up, her life is complicated by romance, sex, and social pressures. With Clara Gallo, Caio Blat, and Caio Horowicz. In Portuguese with subtitles.
Children of the Mountain, directed and written by Priscilla Anany. (USA, Ghana) – World Premiere, Narrative.When a young woman gives birth to a deformed and sickly child, she becomes the victim of cruelty and superstition in her Ghanaian community. Discarded by her lover, she is convinced she suffers from a ‘dirty womb,’ and embarks on a journey to heal her son and create a future for them both. With Rukiyat Masud, Grace Omaboe, Akofa Edjeani, Adjetey Annang, Agbeko Mortty (Bex), Dzifa Glikpo, Mynna Otoo. In Twi with subtitles.
haveababy, directed by Amanda Micheli. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Amanda Micheli’s haveababyopens with a YouTube-based competition for a free round of in vitro fertilization, courtesy of a Las Vegas fertility clinic. Through this controversial contest, Micheli explores the complexities of America’s burgeoning fertility industry and paints an intimate portrait of the many resilient couples determined to have a baby against all odds.
Obit, directed by Vanessa Gould. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Within the storied walls of The New York Times, a team of writers is entrusted with reflecting upon the luminaries, icons, and world leaders of our day. Vanessa Gould’s fascinating documentary introduces us to those responsible for crafting the unequaled obituaries of the NYT. As we’re taken through their painstaking process we learn about the pressures accompanying a career spent shaping the story of a life.
The Ride, directed and written by Stéphanie Gillard. (France) – World Premiere, Documentary. The Ride takes us along the annual 300-mile trek through the South Dakota Badlands. There, young men and women of the Lakota Sioux ride horseback and reflect upon the history of their ancestors. This intimate, stunningly photographed account captures the thoughts and emotions of the young riders and the adults who guide them along their journey.
SOLITARY, directed by Kristi Jacobson. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. With unprecedented access, director Kristi Jacobson offers a deeply moving portrait of life inside solitary confinement within a supermax prison. Filmed over the course of one year, this riveting film tells the story of the complex personalities that dwell on either side of a cell door while raising provocative questions about the nature of crime and punishment in America today. An HBO Documentary Film.
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four, directed by Deborah S. Esquenazi. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. In 1994, four women were tried and convicted of a heinous assault on two young girls in a court case that was infused with homophobic prejudice and the Satanic Panic sweeping the nation at that time. Southwest of Salem is a fascinating true crime story that puts the trial of the San Antonio Four in context of their ongoing search for exoneration.