Few women directors featured at New York Film Festival

Running from September 28 and continuing until October 14, the 56th edition of the New York Film Festival will take over the Big Apple. This popular film festival is where moviegoers can enjoy many special events, and Q&As with notable and up-and-coming filmmakers and special guests. Of course, there are also the 30 new feature films from around the world.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking to watch feature films by women filmmakers at the NYFF, you must know that the scale is tipped in the men’s favor. That doesn’t mean that associate director of programming, Florence Almozini, isn’t trying to bring more female representation to the festival. As she describes in my interview, it’s not exactly easy, but she knows that things must change.

Lisa Iannucci (LI): How do you find the films that you’re going to show at the New York Film Festival?

Florence Almonzini (FA): We try to find films that speak to our hearts, but we follow certain directors and try to find out what they are doing too. So, when someone like Claire Denis know she has something that’s going to come around, we anticipate how we can get this film and hopefully it’s going to work for us and for her and we can include it. It’s difficult to speak in terms of gender, specifically, although I’m very much aware of the disparity that’s apparent in the festivals.  

It’s very difficult for women because they do not have the same access to finances. Also, I don’t want to push for something that’s not going to work when you play it. It’s such a big venue and I don’t want the film to be badly received because maybe it’s not something I would have liked as much. A great film is a great film no matter who made it.

We have a lot of interesting discussions about what films should be included and, because we focus mostly on established names and directors, I don’t think it’s very easy to find more women directors to show. I think this year was a little bit of a struggle for me.

LI: What do you think needs to change on behalf of the industry and behalf of the women directors themselves?

FA: In the U.S., you find a lot of women directing their first films and then they seem to disappear. Some get financing for their second films, but not many. So there needs to be equality on financing. And if I go back to Claire Denis, she made an amazing science fiction film that took her a lot of time to find the financing and to make the profits on her own. For a man, making a sci-fi movie is much easier, for a woman, they don’t get the money and then they must find something else that’s more about family or relationships – things women typically get funding for. It’s a little sad.

I also program a French film festival and we’re at about 50% equality in that one, but women get the opportunity to direct anything, like war or action movies. We have a balance and it’s more exciting when you get to see different angles.  

LI: What can we expect to see at the film festival from women film directors?

FA: We have four different movies by woman in the main slate, which is the biggest section in the festival. First, the cerebral sci-fi movie by Claire Denis, High Life. We also have Happy as Lazzaro, this beautiful Italian film by the young Italian director, Alice Rohrwacher. It’s her first feature and it’s a beautiful film about a young man growing up in Italy today.

We have Private Life by Tamara Jenkins, about a couple trying to have a child today. It’s very funny, it’s pretty deep and it’s not a classic romantic comedy. It really goes to your heart and I really, really like that film.

We also have a young, upcoming director from South America, Domingo Sotomayor, who premiered Too Late to Die Young at the Locarno International Film Festival and that’s the last festival where we can see films that we can include. We also wanted to focus on young directors and diversity in terms of geographically, not just Europe and North America. Too Late to Die Young has a beautiful sense of coming-of-age and what will happen to your family when you grow up. One of the young actresses in the film is transitioning, but you have this sense when you watch the film that it’s very open and I like that in a film.  

LI: What about the documentaries?

FA: We have several, including an Austrian one called Waldheim Waltz, a strong feature documentary by Ruth Beckermann, a very established Austrian director. There’s also Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes Speaker by Alexis Bloom.

So we don’t have a lot in terms of female directors, but we bring you a lot of diversity in terms of the world with different countries, different continents, different styles, and people at different stages of their career too, which is also interesting to see.

Tickets for this festival are on sale now. You can find more information about all of the films and special events at https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2018/.

Here are the films made by women filmmakers that will be shown at the 56th New York Film Festival:

Happy as Lazzaro: Alice Rohrwacher (128 minutes). A throng of tobacco farmers working on an estate live in a state of extreme deprivation, but nothing is what it seems in Alice Rohrwacher’s transfiguring and transfixing fable, which touches on perennial class struggle and enters the realm of parable.

Private Life: Tamara Jenkins (123 minutes). Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti are achingly real as Rachel and Richard, a middle-aged New York couple caught in the desperation, frustration, and exhaustion of trying to have a child. Tamara Jenkins’s first film in ten years is by turns hilarious and harrowing.

Too Late to Die Young: Dominga Sotomayor (110 minutes). The troubling realities of the adult world intrude on a girl’s teenage idyll in this dreamy drift through the Chile of the early 1990s, a nostalgic and piercing portrait of a young woman—and a country—on the cusp of exhilarating and terrifying change.


Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes: Alexis Bloom (107 minutes). Alexis Bloom’s scrupulous, methodically mounted documentary concerns Roger Ailes, the hemophiliac boy from Warren, Ohio, who worked his way up from television production to the Nixon White House to stewardship of the full-fledged right-wing propaganda machine Fox News.

The Waldheim Waltz: Ruth Beckermann (93 minutes) Ruth Beckermann exclusively uses archival footage to study how various media reported the events surrounding former Austrian president Kurt Waldheim’s political accession despite a controversy over his role in the Nazi regime during World War II.

Second Time Around: Dora García (94 minutes) García’s first feature explores the intersection of politics, psychoanalysis, and performance, nimbly interweaving narrative and nonfiction devices to arrive at something wholly distinct from either.

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché: Pamela B. Green (103 minutes). This energetic documentary tells the story of Alice Guy-Blaché, a true pioneer who got into the movie business in 1894, at the age of 21 before becoming head of production at Gaumont and directing films. Narration by Jodie Foster.

Searching for Ingmar Bergman: Margarethe von Trotta (99 minutes). On the occasion of Ingmar Bergman’s centenary comes this lovely, personal film from one of his greatest admirers, Margarethe von Trotta, a tribute from an artist with such a deep affinity for the subject.

© Lisa Iannucci (10/01/18) FF2 Media

Photos: Private Life and Happy as Lazarro

Photo Credits: New York Film Festival

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