Preview Guide to Female-Directed Feature Films at the 2016 New York Film Festival

The 54th Annual New York Film Festival (NYFF) of the Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) opens September 30, with a new documentary The 13th by Ava DuVernay, renowned for Selma. (2014).  Running through October 16, the full slate includes, by my count of all the sections: 11 new feature-length films (fiction and documentary), plus one restored revival, as well as 18 short films directed by women.  Many filmmakers attend the screenings for post Q and As, held at several theaters on the Lincoln Center campus.  I will be covering and reviewing as many of these films as possible for FF2 Media.

How did female film directors fare in each section of feature-length films? In the most prominent “Main Slate” are films by five women directors out of 25, five women directors in the “Spotlight on Documentary” out of 15 films, and one film each by a woman in the new “Explorations” section, out of six, and in “Revivals” of restored masterpieces, out of nine.  The selection committee was chaired by Festival Director Kent Jones, and included Florence Almozini, FSLC Associate Director of Programming, and Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor, Artforum and Film Comment, FSLC’s journal.

SHORTS PROGRAMS: Six Women Directors

Shorts are often considered the minor leagues or a way station, but for women directors, especially, they can be a crucial proving ground to lead to a feature film.

One woman director is showing in Program 1: Narrative  (Programmed by Dilcia Barrera & Gabi Madsen)

Dobro (15m) – directed by Marta Hernaiz Pidal (Bosnia and Herzegovina/Mexico) U.S. Premiere

From the director’s statement: “I wanted to make a film that forgets about race or social differences, just with the simple act of two women sharing a cup of coffee.”  She is currently working on her first feature film.


One woman director is showing in Program 3: Genre Stories (Programmed by Laura Kern)

What Happened to Her (15m) – directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan  (USA)

Guevara-Flanagan is known for two illuminating feature documentaries – Going on 13 (2008) (which I enjoyed at the Tribeca Film Festival with an enthusiastic audience of girls that age) and Wonder Women!: The Untold Story of American Superheroines (2012) which is still repeated on public television during Women’s History Month.  Here she’s looking at how female nude corpses are portrayed on screen.


Two women directors are showing in Program 4: New York Stories (Programmed by Dan Sullivan)

Kitty (15m) – directed by Chloë Sevigny  (USA)  North American Premiere

For her debut directing effort, Sevigny, the well-known actress and style icon, adapted a Paul Bowles short story about a little girl who dreams of becoming a kitten that she was first charmed by 20 years ago.  

This Castle Keep (14m) – directed by Gina Telaroli (USA)  World Premiere

Telaroli, who has been outspoken about her frustrations as a female director with film festivals heavy on male directors, has experimented with alternative self-distribution of her feature documentaries including Traveling Light (2011) and Here’s To The Future (2015).  Her new film looks at what’s lost in the changing city.


One women director is showing in Program 5: Documentaries (A new section programmed by Dilcia Barrera & Gabi Madsen)

Brillo Box (3¢ off) (40m) – directed by Lisanne Skyler (USA)

Skyler’s documentaries No Loans Today (1999) and Dreamland (2000) have been shown on PBS’s POV.  Director’s Statement on her new film: “In 1969, my parents bought an Andy Warhol Brillo Box for $1,000. An exact replica of the popular Brillo soap pad product package, Warhol’s Brillo Boxes were at first dismissed by the art world.  But forty years later, in 2010, the same sculpture sold for $3,000,000 at a record-breaking Christie’s auction. This is the story of what happened in between.” BRILLO BOX (3¢ OFF) will air exclusively on HBO in 2017

Also of note in this section for those interested in women directors:  Lewie Kloster’s Legal Smuggling with Christine Choy (4m) (USA) World Premiere


PROJECTIONS Thirteen Women Directors:

In what was formerly called the “Avant-Garde” section, innovative and experimental explorations of film and video are usually presented in the format of shorts.  Projections is curated by Dennis Lim (FSLC Director of Programming) and Aily Nash (independent curator). Thomas Beard (FSLC Programmer at Large) serves as Program Advisor.

Two women directors are showing in Program 1: The Spaces Between The Words

Regal (2m) – directed by Karissa Hahn (USA)

Video/film/installation artist Hahn says she was transferring an old Regal Cinemas pre-show animation so “that the ghost has become tangible.”

See a Dog, Hear a Dog (18m) – directed by Jesse McLean (USA) World Premiere

McLean is an experimental media artist whose The Invisible World was shown in NYFF’s 2013 Views from the Avant Garde section.


Three women directors are showing in Program 2: Beyond Landscape

Burning Mountains That Spew Flame (Montañas Ardientes Que Vomitan Fuego) (14m) – directed by Helena Girón and Samuel Delgado (Spain) U.S. Premiere (right after World Premiere at TIFF)

Girón’s fascination with crossing documentary and experimental cinema using physical materials and photochemical processes is here applied into the depths of one of the longest volcanic tunnels in Europe.

Bending to Earth (15m) – directed by Rosa Barba (USA/Germany) U.S. Premiere

Based in Berlin, Barba uses celluloid as material, light, and surface.  In her new piece, which was shown as an installation at the Venice Biennale, explores the notion of territory, its occupants and their memories.

Bad Mama, Who Cares (12m) – directed by Brigid McCaffrey (USA) World Premiere

McCaffrey here continues a series looking at Ren Lallatin, a geologist who studies the Mojave Desert, but now digitally manipulating the images.  Next month, she will be presenting an evening of her recent work at the Harvard Film Archive Cinematheque.


Program 3: The Illinois Parables (60m) – directed by Deborah Stratman (USA)

In the most unusually structured solo program, Stratman’s eleven shorts are thematically linked in an experimental documentary “suite” that are each allegorical histories of settlement, removal, technological breakthrough, violence, messianism, and resistance, all taking place in the state of Illinois: I Cahokia, IL 600-1400 CE; II Alton, IL 1673; III Golconda, IL- Jonesboro, IL 1838-1839; IV Nauvoo, IL 1839-1848; V Icaria/Nauvoo, IL 1849-1860; VI Gorham, IL – Crossville, IL 1925; VII Chicago, IL 1942; VIII Joliet, IL 1940-1976; IX Macomb, IL 1948; X Chicago, IL 1969; and XI Buffalo Rock, IL 1985.  Look out for Jacques Marquette, Alexis de Tocqueville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Enrico Fermi pondering belief and nationhood.


Three women directors are showing in Program 4: Fade Out

Flowers of the Sky (9m) – directed by Janie Geiser (USA) US Premiere (right after World Premiere at TIFF)

Geiser is a multidisciplinary artist whose work includes film, performance, visual art and installation; her Kriminalistik was shown in NYFF’s 2013 Views from the Avant Garde section.  Her latest work continues recontextualizing abandoned images and objects, here two mid-century postcards depicting the Freemasonic Order of the Eastern Star and the titular comets.

Answer Print (5m) – directed by Mónica Savirón (USA) World Premiere

Originally from Madrid, Savirón is now an experimental filmmaker exploring sound and poetics.  Inspired by John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Poems of Home”, her latest work is made with deteriorated 16mm stock that is meant to disappear over time.  Look out for images by Joan Micklin Silver, of Hamlet, and found footage.

Athyrium filix-femina (for Anna Atkins) (5m) – directed by Kelly Egan (Canada) World Premiere

An homage to Atkins as a pioneer botanist and photographer (she produced the first book to use photographic illustrations), Egan handcrafts cyanotype photograms with historically domestic, feminine tools.


One women director is showing in Program 7: Pop Culture Clash

Spotlight on a Brick Wall (8m) – directed by Alee Peoples and Mike Stoltz (USA)

Peoples, who works in screen-printing, sewing, sculpture, and film, here abstracts and reconstructs a nightclub performance into its constituent parts.


Three women directors are showing in Program 9: Event Horizons

There Is Land! (Há Terra!) (13m) – directed by Ana Vaz (Brazil/France) U.S. Premiere

Brazilian artist Vaz describes her new work as “an encounter, a hunt, a diachronic tale of looking and becoming. As in a game, as in a chase, the film errs between character and land, land and character, predator and prey. . . Cannibalism. Absorption of the sacred enemy to transform him into a totem. The human adventure. The earthly goal.”

An Aviation Field (Um Campo de Aviação) (13m) – directed by Joana Pimenta (Brazil/France) US Premiere

Originally from Portugal, Pimenta now makes film and video installations in the U. S. and Brazil.  Her latest piece juxtaposes modernist Brasilia and the volcanic crater in Fogo, Cape Verde.

Electrical Gaza (18m) – directed by Rosalind Nashashibi (Brazil/France)

Commissioned by London’s Imperial War Museum, Nashashibi says “I think of the Gaza Strip as having been put under a kind of enchantment by the world powers.”  So she wished to “portray the place as I saw it, but also to find a way to show something of its nature as an alternative universe,” in a montage of everyday scenes and animation.


For MavensNest, [http://mavensnest.net/movies], I will also be identifying the films created with women in other positions, particularly writers, cinematographers, editors, and composers.

Will I get to see them all?  Will you?  Member tickets for the 2016 New York Film Festival pre-sale started September 6; public tickets go on sale September 11.   For more specifics about NYFF tickets http://filmlinc.org/NYFF, including a complete list of on-sale dates, prices, discount options, and their rush and standby policies.

The Festival does sometimes add showings “by popular demand”.  Already available are such benefits as, according to FSLC, “VIP passes and subscription packages offer the earliest opportunities to purchase tickets and secure seats at some of the festival’s biggest events including Opening and Closing Nights, and Centerpiece. VIP passes also provide access to many exciting events, including the invitation-only Opening Night party, “An Evening with…” dinner, Filmmaker Brunch, and VIP Lounge. Benefits vary based on the pass or package type purchased. VIP passes and subscription packages are on sale now.”

© Nora Lee Mandel 09/08/16

Photo Credit: New York Film Festival



About Nora

Nora Lee Mandel [http://MavensNest.net/movies.html] is a member of New York Film Critics Online and Alliance of Women Film Journalists; her reviews are counted in Rotten Tomatoes’ TomatoMeter [http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/nora-lee-mandel/].  She reviews films and television in Film Festival Traveler, Film-Forward, Lilith, and NH Jewish Film Festival’s Film Buzz.  Her ongoing Critical Guide to Jewish Women in Movies and TV [http://MavensNest.net/Lilith.html] has been the basis for talks to audiences in New York and New Jersey, and Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival.  @NLM_MavensNest

Tags: Alee Peoples, An Aviation Field, Ana Vaz, Anna Atkins, Answer Print, Anthyrium filix-femina, Bad Mama, Bending to Earth, Brillo Box, Burning Mountains That Spew Flame, Chloe Sevigny, Dobro, Electrical Gaza, Female Directors, FF2 Media, Flowers of the Sky, Gina Telaroli, Hear a Dog, Helena Giron, Janie Geiser, Jesse McLean, Karissa Hahn, Kelly Egan, Kitty, Kristy Guevara, Lisanne Skyler, Marta Hernaiz Pidal, Mike Stoltz, Monica Saviron, New York Film Festival, Nora Lee Mandel, NYFF, Regal, Samuel Delgado, See a Dog, Smuggling with Christine Choy, Spotlight on a Brick Wall, The Illinois Parables, There is Land!, This Castle Keep, What Happened to Her, Who Cares

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Nora Lee Mandel is a member of New York Film Critics Online. After high school weekends spent learning film history at NY’s Museum of Modern Art, she studied film criticism at New York University. In addition to many years of writing for national and New York City organizations in the arts, education, history, and city planning, her reviews of documentaries, independent, and foreign-language films, books, television, exhibitions, and music have also appeared in such outlets as: Film-Forward.com, FilmFestival Traveler and Lilith Magazine, the independent Jewish feminist quarterly. Her ongoing Critical Guide to Jewish Women in Movies, TV, and Pop Music has been the basis for her talks around the New York region.
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