LITTLE FISHES: Lesbian Erotica

I knew you'd read that headline. LITTLE FISHES is the new narrative project from director Alexia Anastasio: an adaptation of the erotic writings of D.H. Lawrence. (If you don't know who D.H. lawrence is, go kill yourself.) The film takes its name from the Lawrence poem "Little Fish":

"The tiny little fish enjoy themselves
in the sea.
Quick little splinters of life,
their little lives are fun to them
in the sea."

This lesbian-love-triangle-coming-of-age story is actually more poetry than narrative – something for which Anastasio had a knack. Her short adaptation of SALOME by Oscar Wilde not only reversed gender roles but was more like an interpretive dance than anything else (you can watch the trailer here). Anastasio has a kind of unrelenting passion and originality that comes through in everything she makes, which makes her films innately fascinating to me.

LITTLE FISHES is, ultimately, a movie about girls in love. Enjoy the trailer and more information on the film's kickstarter page for finishing funds:

Tribeca Film Festival: EVERY SECRET THING, MISS MEADOWS, NIGHT MOVES

The Tribeca Film Festival, in New York City , happens  April 16th – 27th 2014, and screens literally dozens of features. Among them, this year, there are three flicks directed by women that look particularly interesting to me.

EVERY SECRET THING, directed by Amy Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener based on Laura Lippman's 1994 novel, seems to be a mystery/thriller about a kidnapping and an unsolved crime. From the 2012 announcement of the film, the story "revolves around Ronnie and Alice, who at the age of 11 were convicted of the murder of a baby and were incarcerated until they turned 18. Now released and replete with psychological problems, each attempts to adjust to life outside juvenile detention when children start to go missing. As the police turn their attention to Ronnie and Alice, the mystery surrounding the original murder and their roles in it takes the fore."

One clear summer day in a Baltimore suburb, a baby goes missing from her front porch. Two young girls serve seven years for the crime and are released into a town that hasn’t fully forgiven or forgotten. Soon, another child is missing, and two detectives are called in to investigate the mystery in a community where everyone seems to have a secret. An ensemble cast, including Elizabeth Banks, Diane Lane, Dakota Fanning, and Nate Parker, brings to life Laura Lippman’s acclaimed novel of love, loss, and murder.

MISS MEADOWS is directed and written by Karen Leigh Hopkins and starring Katie Holmes as a gun-toting vigilante.

Prim schoolteacher Miss Meadows (Katie Holmes) is not entirely what she appears. Well-mannered, sweet, and caring, yes, but underneath the candy-sweet exterior hides the soul of a vigilante, taking it upon herself to right the wrongs in this cruel world by whatever means necessary. Things get complicated, however, when Miss Meadows gets romantically entangled with the town sheriff (James Badge Dale) and her steadfast moral compass is thrown off, begging the question: “Who is the real Miss Meadows and what is she hiding?”

NIGHT MOVES, Kelly Reichardt's new flick, previously screened at Toronto 2013, but is screening for the first time in the United States at Tribeca. Basically, it's a sort-of rip-off of that novel THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG, about environmental terrorism, except with what I consider a pretty annoying cast.

 Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard star as radical activists surreptitiously plotting to blow up Oregon’s Green Peter Dam in an act of environmental sabotage. As their plan marches inexorably towards fruition, they soon discover that small steps have enormous consequences. Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy director Kelly Reichardt crafts another graceful and absorbing film about outsiders searching for a meaningful place on the edges of the system in this atmospheric environmental thriller. 

No trailers for any of these yet; but I expect we'll see some shortly as they roll out the red carpet for Tribeca. There will be a number of short films screening as well, so I'll be going through those and letting you know who's screening in the shorts competition as soon as those titles are released.

Leigh Janiak's HONEYMOON

The new feature thriller HONEYMOON, written and directed by Leigh Janiak, has been on my radar since I first saw it announced as part of the SXSW 2014 lineup. There's finally a teaser and it looks utterly chilling.

Young newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) travel to remote lake country for their honeymoon where the promise of private romance awaits them.  Shortly after arriving, Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of the night. As she becomes more distant and her behavior increasingly peculiar, Paul begins to suspect something more sinister than sleepwalking took place in the woods.

Yes, that's Rose Leslie from GAME OF THRONES.

If you happen to be at South by Southwest, you can catch HONEYMOON at these showtimes:

  • World Premiere: Friday, March 7th, 11:45pm (Alamo Ritz 1&2)
  • Public Screening #2: Tuesday, March 11th, 11:59pm (Stateside Theatre)
  • Public Screening #3: Thursday, March 13th, 11:59pm (Alamo Ritz 1)

Celluloid Ceiling, Lexi Alexander, and Etheria Film Night

I've missed out on posting a lot of really cool news about women directors lately. I took a huge imaginary trip to Iceland and Spain and have been gone for 6 weeks, which has prevented me from blogging. But since blogging is my full-time, lucrative job, I felt I needed a mini-vacation to the realms of frost giants and Gaudi.

In the past two months, some amazing things have happened that I need to catch up on, and catch you up on. First, did you hear the amazing quotes from director Lexi Alexander (PUNISHER: WARZONE) about sexism in Hollywood? Her statements were re-posted on Indiewire's Women and Hollywood blog in January 2013:

There is no lack of female directors. Repeat after me: THERE IS NO LACK OF FEMALE DIRECTORS. But there is a huge lack of people willing to give female directors opportunities. I swear, if anyone near me even so much as whispers the sentence "Women probably don't want to direct," my fist will fly as a reflex action.

Side note: The previous statement labels me as "difficult".

Alexander's statement was prompted in part by the baffling treatment she had received earlier in 2013 when fans overwhelmingly supported her as the choice for the director of the all-female EXPENDABLES film. But partly she represents numerous women in the Director's Guild of America that feel they are given unequal treatment when it comes to hiring practices based solely on the basis of their sex. Alexander now self-deprecatingly jokes that she is the new "Gertrude Stein of filmmaking," but largely due to her outspoken attitude recently, and the diligent efforts and research of director Maria Giese and the Women Directors in Hollywood Blog, the ACLU is now conducting its own investigation into any sexism that women directors may face in Hollywood. Get ready for a lawsuit, sexists!

The ACLU's announcement was followed shortly thereafter by comedian Will Ferrell (I know, right? Who knew?)  launching a brand new division of his production company called Gloria Sanchez Productions to spearhead female-led film projects.  Now I have a reason to like Will Ferrell, which is really my one big take-away from this entire thing.

February 2014 was Women in Horror Month, and there were many awesome new film projects, film festivals, articles, exchanges, and artwork created in celebration. But since December 2013, I have been in the process of creating a new film festival (sort of). The Viscera Organization and the Viscera Film Festival officially disbanded in December 2013, with creator Shannon Lark and board member Lori Bowen finishing, screening, and promoting their new psychological-yet-gory horror film I AM MONSTER (you can check it out here at the official website: www.iammonstermovie.com). In January 2014, I decided to revamp the Etheria Film Festival, the science fiction and fantasy film festival that I had put together under the Viscera banner in Boston, Massachusetts, and move it to Hollywood, CA. The new Etheria Film Night will screen not only new science fiction and fantasy, but also horror, thriller, action, and even some comedy and drama – all directed by women. You can check out our official website here: www.etheriafilmnight.com. We'll be screening the selections at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California on July 12th, 2014 with the support of the American Cinematheque.

I also took that 6 weeks off to write a chapter in the film journal Celluloid Ceiling Spring 2014, thanks to the patience of my editor Professor Gabrielle Kelly, of NYU Tisch Singapore. It was fun. I wrote a lot about lesbians and feminism in European film history.

Hard at work on my book about women directors of horror films, I plan to finish that sometime before my 80th birthday. And no I continue blogging about stuff other women are doing. Carry on.

Madeleine Olnek's Dark Comedy THE FOXY MERKINS

A foxy merkin is a toupee for your vagina that's made of fox fur. Seriously. Madeleine Olnek's (CODEPENDENT LESBIAN SPACE ALIEN SEEKS SAME) new comedy THE FOXY MERKINS looks freakin hilarious. It's also been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and is playing at Sundance 2014. Olnek herself describes the film as a "a feature length, female prostitute buddy comedy," which is, like, the best description of anything so far in 2014.

Margaret is a down-on-her-luck lesbian hooker in training. She meets Jo, a beautiful, self-assured grifter from a wealthy family and an expert on picking up women, even as she considers herself a card-carrying heterosexual. The duo hit the streets where they encounter bargain-hunting housewives, double-dealing conservative women, husky-voiced seductresses, mumbling erotic accessory salesmen and shopaholic swingers. Navigating the bizarre fetishes and sexual needs of their “dates” brings into focus the hilarious and pathetic disparity between the two hookers, as fellow travelers who will share the road together but only for a while.

You can read some pretty cool recent interviews with Olnek here and here. What sucks is that there is no official trailer for THE FOXY MERKINS yet, but you can see glimpses of it in this fundraising video from Olnek (she looks pretty normal – who knew?):

LONG LIVE THE KING – The New King Kong Documentary

I wrote about Trish Geiger's documentary BEAST WISHES last year for Famous Monsters of Filmland. Then, I saw that she and her co-director Frank Dietz were up to a new zombie mockumentary, which really looked awesome. Now, Geiger and Dietz are making a new King Kong documentary about the legendary monster icon titled LONG LIVE THE KING. Dietz is a well-known monster aficionado, and Geiger is an avid filmmaker with a keen interest in personalities, connections, and relationships, so I expect this documentary will touch on how the character of King Kong as well as the original 1933 film has shaped American pop culture, childhoods, and the history of monster movies. There are also some very talented interviewees such as Frank Darabont, Greg Nicotero, and Rick Baker. Perhaps even Peter Jackson, if they can pull it off!

Watch a bit about LONG LIVE THE KING in this fundraising video:

You can watch A ZOMBIE NEXT DOOR in entirety online, right here:

Five Australian Women Directors, One Horror Anthology

So delighted that, following on the heels of XX, there's a new all-female-horror anthology in the works from the gals down-under in OZ. The anthology will be set in a small Tasmanian town and will be produced by Lizzette Atkins under Unicorn Films’ ‘Horror from Down Under’ brand.

Isabel Peppard (BUTTERFLIES),  Donna McRae (JOHNNY GHOST),  Ursula Dabrowsky (the DEMON Trilogy), Briony Kidd (THE ROOM AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS) and Rebecca Thomson (ZOMBIE LESBIAN MUSICAL) are the five Australian women directors, and this is the film's synopsis:

Australia`s hottest female directors grab horror by the balls and deliver tales of terror and mayhem. Apocalyptic visions, bloodthirsty curses, creatures gone mad, a voodoo granny, a rape revenge reversal and a sadomasochistic sugar daddy make up one gory and gruesome horror flick that will change the cinematic landscape forever. In a small Tasmanian town, haunted by its past and terrified by its future, five stories play out…

In a recent interview in ScreenHub, project helmer Briony Kidd said,

“First of all we have to have another ‘horror camp’ – like we did earlier this year – where we get together and have a road trip and look at spooky locations and discuss and develop our ideas. We all have pretty solid stories, but what we’re working on now is how to twine them all together in the most interesting way. Standard anthologies can often seem a bit slapped together, but we are very concerned that they fit together and have an overall story arc. We have very different styles but we have a lot in common, and we can each play to our strengths. The idea is to create quite a sophisticated story world that’s quite realistic, but within that realist world outrageous stuff starts occurring – as you’d guess from the project description!”

You can read the entire Screen Hub article by Rochelle Siemienowicz right here.

 

 

 

Shockfest Lineup: TRUTH OR DARE, PINUP DOLLS ON ICE, CERAMIC TANGO & MORE

PIN UP DOLLS ON ICE, co-directed by Melissa Mira, is the opening night headliner film of the 2014 Shockfest Film Festival in Los Angeles this January. There are a LOT of film festivals all over the world, just about 50 in Los Angeles alone, and it's way too difficult to write about all of them (I'd go nuts, chained to this blog) but every once in a while a festival screens a number of brand new, very intriguing films directed by women that really grab me. This is one of those cases.

PIN UP DOLLS ON ICE is actually a sequel to a low-budget slasher called BIKINI GIRLS ON ICE (with which Mira was not involved) and stars Suzi Lorraine, one of my fave low budget horror actresses. So I'm going to this premiere because HEY it's in Los Angeles and guess where I am? And also, it looks pretty fucking fun!

The Pinup Dolls are a hot retro act who put the tease back in striptease. But when an old friend (Suzi Lorraine) hires them to put on a show at a secluded campground, the girls find themselves being stalked by a homicidal maniac with a sick obsession with ice. As they're hunted one-by-one, they soon realize they'll have to rely on more than just their looks to survive this nightmare named Moe.

Patricia Chica's short CERAMIC TANGO has actually been on my radar for a few months, so I'm excited to know it's getting some play in my native land.

After receiving grave news, a young man spirals into a deep depression, leaving him vulnerable to the will of a dangerous intruder. CERAMIC TANGO is a modern-day cautionary tale that incites viewers to pause and think about the fragility of life.

CERAMIC TANGO award-winning short film by Patricia Chica (Official Trailer) from Patricia Chica on Vimeo.

Jennifer Nicole Stang's THE DEVIL'S SNARE is having its world premiere screening. You can watch the short film right here if you can't actually make the festival:

SWALK, a short mystery/fantasy/drama directed by Dawn Cobalt, is also premiering at 2014 Shockfest.

A man must dress for a funeral and say goodbye to his wife one last time.

Sadly, no trailer for SWALK, but enjoy this poster:

SWALK

CRAZY TOWN, directed by Jules Dameron, is a sort of WIZARD OF OZ mash-up re-imagining, and to be honest – I have high hopes for it. Any film in which Sean Young plays white trash is okay in my book.

ZOMBIEWOOD is Lauren Petzke's short comedy that, like CRAZY TOWN, also seems to make fun of the Hollywood Dream.

There is a certain horror to awakening to the fact that you are now a zombie. What do you do with your “undead” life? One zombie, Harry, thinks he has the answer – get a SAG card! While the world in general has little use for zombies, there is one industry where they fit in very well – Hollywood!

No trailer for ZOMBIEWOOD either!

ZombieWood

And of course, Jessica Cameron's TRUTH or DARE is screening. We've covered that film quite a bit already!

Axelle Carolyn Interview – SOULMATE

Axelle Carolyn's new feature film SOULMATE is a poignant, charming, and pretty tale of love and ghosts set in the English countryside. Treading a fragile line between drama, horror, and Gothic romance, SOULMATE resembles her first directing endeavor, the short film THE LAST POST, in which the afterlife intrudes into the natural realm.

SOULMATE is about Audrey (played by Anna Walton), a suicidal woman mourning the recent death of her husband. Isolating herself in an old country cottage away from friends and family, she soon develops a relationship with the ghost (Tom Wisdom) haunting the property. What follows is an atypical genre film in which love is not the untimate cure-all. Carolyn answers some of my questions about the film, her direction, and her choices for SOULMATE in the following interview:

SOULMATE has a decidedly open ending and does not end on a "happy" note the way, say, American films tend to end. Can you tell me why you decided to leave the film ambiguous?
I just tried to make the ending as truthful as possible. An unhappy ending would have made the film too bleak, considering how it starts off; but I don't think a real happy ending would have made sense here. I felt the events in the film pretty much naturally led to that conclusion. Also, that's one of the perks of indie films: I don't have to make it end with rainbows and unicorns!
Do you think SOULMATE is a decidedly British or European film, or do you think that genre films are now blending across borders, culturally?
Mmmh, tough one. I read a few reviews mention me as a 'British director', and as a Belgian living in LA, I found that funny. The landscape and the setting are very typically British, and I suppose there's a tradition in the UK of slow-burn atmospheric ghost stories that I built on. But I also think the themes it deals with – grief, and finding comfort in the supernatural – are universal.
Do you think it is important to place a film in a "genre" in order to market it to audiences?  As someone whose films are not easily categorized, do you fear it is a hindrance, or believe it is a benefit?
To market it? Oh, yeah. People tell you they want to see original work, but if you defy their expectations – if you step ever so slightly away from the tropes of the genre you work it -, it becomes a hard sell, because you can't easily pinpoint a target audience. Also for the audience, 'ghost story' comes with all kinds of expectations these days: it has to be scary, it has to have jump scares… Some people love to be surprised; others hate it. I've seen both reactions so far.
SOULMATE reminds me on many levels of a traditional classic Gothic thriller in the vein of JANE EYRE, THE INNOCENTS, or GAS LIGHT. Can you tell me how you used the old house, the solitude, and the countryside to craft a story that is, on the one hand, traditionally Gothic and, on the other hand, updated for modern audiences?
That's some fantastic comparisons! All those stories, in many ways, are hard to classify within a genre… The whole story came from the fact that I knew I'd have a limited budget for my first feature, and I wanted a small amount of characters in a tiny amount of locations. I've always been obsessed with that idea of finding comfort in the supernatural, because if there are ghosts, there's an afterlife, and the people you've lost are not gone forever. So the story was born from that idea – something anybody who's ever lost someone can relate to. The locations, the atmosphere are very much inspired by those Gothic classics, but at the heart of it is a very human story, very real and contemporary. Some people have referred to the movie as a romance, by the way, and I feel it couldn't be further from it. If anything, the love story is between Audrey, the lead girl, and her late husband; but this story is about a bond broken by a premature death, not about romance. She could have lost a son and found the ghost of a little boy, it would have been the same idea.
I'd like to know a little more about your casting choices.
Anna Walton, who plays Audrey, played a part in my short film THE HALLOWEEN KID, and she was so great to work with that I immediately re-wrote the script for her. She was the first one on board and she was extremely focused and prepared. Anna is a wonderfully instinctive actress who knew the character inside out. She also has a fragility which made her character instantly likable, but also an inner strength which was essential to avoid portraying her as a victim.  Tom Wisdom, who plays the ghost, brings so much subtlety and layers to the part. Audrey is obviously essential, but the film lives or dies with the performance of the ghost: anything too big would have looked like pantomime, yet we have to understand that he's a lost, tortured soul. Tom brought exactly the right balance. Nick Brimble and Tanya Myers are both wonderful character actors, and they're both at once funny, menacing and sad. Everybody in the story deals with a loss of some kind. And of course Anubis, my dog, is a star in the making.
What have been the most challenging, and most rewarding, aspects of making SOULMATE?
The best part was the shoot, no doubt. I loved being on set, directing the cast, working with our awesome crew. We were sharing cottages around the location so at night, I'd hang out with the DoP and the producer, but also with the editor, who could show me roughly assembled scenes, and that was incredibly exciting.  But getting it financed took such a long time, so many ups and downs, and now letting go of my baby, leaving it in the hands of distributors and marketing guys and festivals and audiences, is an odd experience. Love it or hate it, it's hard not to see that it's a very personal movie, and sometimes it feels like a part of my brain is out there on display.
 You can watch some interviews with the cast and producer along with Carolyn at London's Film4 FRIGHTFEST screening just a few weeks ago:

Barbara Stepanksy To Direct Thriller 6 FIGURES

Barbara Stepansky is on a roll. After her recent Nicholl Fellowship win, she's just signed on to direct a new thriller called 6 FIGURES starring Alexa Vega, Joanna Going,  and William Mapother.

Stranded in the Mojave Desert, four friends find a chest filled with $4 million and decide to carry it out on foot, beginning a grueling, two-day trek that culminates in lies, paranoia, and murder.

Doesn't that seem like it's always the way it goes, though, when you find a chest of treasure? The film hasn't started production yet, but I will be following it when it does.

XX Anthology: Horror Directed By Women

I leave the Internet for a few hours to get my mustache waxed and the next thing I know, this big project is announced! I have been looking forward to this announcement for some time since director Jovanka Vuckovic told me this was brewing, and I've secretly yearned to know the details. Now we have them!

Jovanka Vuckovic is really the driving force behind this anthology of horror segments all directed by women. It was her initial spark that gave this project the power it has: she gathered some of the best female horror directors of our time: Mary Harron (AMERICAN PSYCHO), Karyn Kusama (JENNIFER'S BODY), Jennifer and Sylvia Soska (AMERICAN MARY), Jennifer Lynch (CHAINED), and animator Sofia Carrillo (PRITA NOIRE) for the first female-directed  horror film anthology.

XX is the title, but there are no plot descriptions yet. The anthology will also feature female leads.

From the official press release:

Producer Todd Brown said, "One of the givens of so many horror films has been the objectification of young women, and we thought it was time for a different approach to scaring audiences and letting the female voice be heard."

Greg Newman, EVP of Dark Sky Films' parent company, MPI Media Group says, "We know that women make up about half of the audience for horror films, and yet the female creative voice has been nearly silent in the horror genre. So we are thrilled about the new and distinct approach that these talented directors will bring to the project."

But I would rather hear from Vuckovic or the other directors, dudes!

I'm on this like I'm on horror films directed by women (white on rice).

XX horror anthology directed by women