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.

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.

Axelle Carolyn's SOUL MATE And More Women Directors At Sitges 2013

Axelle Carolyn's ghost story SOULMATE is going to have its world premiere at the 2013 Sitges Film Festival in, well, Sitges, Spain! Her feature debut film involves a female protagonist, a dark country house, and brooding cinematography (hint: GOTHIC stuff that I like!). The official synopsis reads,

Following a failed suicide attempt, Audrey, a young widow, retires to an isolated country house. It won’t be long before she discovers that the spirit of its old owner still inhabits the place. Even so, Audrey decides to overcome her fear and stay, trusting that she’ll finally reach a somewhat harmonious relationship with the ghost.

No trailer yet for Carolyn's film, but she's in good company at the festival: there are a bunch of other women directors showing off their talents (though not as many in the competition features selections as I'd like to see).

First, it's not really that "fantastic" per se, but Gabriela Cowperthwaite's new documentary BLACKFISH is gut-wrenching, moving, tragic, and awesome – and that's just the trailer. I can't wait to see this film about a killer whale named Tilikum, who has literally killed several people as he has been held in captivity his whole life. You have to look at this:

Marina de Van's DARK TOUCH, about a young girl with telekinetic powers, is also screening (even though it's already out officially in several countries including the US, which is why it is out of competition)(. Yes, like CARRIE but with a MUCH darker approach:

Xan Cassavetes' pretentious vampire drama KISS OF THE DAMNED, also out of competition as it has been released already, is part of Sitges official programming:

There are a slew of animated, surreal shorts with women directors. but I'll just tell you about a few of the live-action short films that I think look particularly interesting.

ECCE MULIER, directed by Vanessa Pavie-Crottier, looks really creepy. The teaser shows men violently eating the least-appetizing porridge you've ever seen:

LA NUMERO 4, directed by Sara Pons Garrido, has a very ominous synopsis and trailer:

The fourth girl has managed to escape from her kidnappers. Dazed, she must face her fears and recall her terrifying captivity if she wants to save the other young girls who are still being held prisoners.

Last is Mia'kate  Russell's SWALLOW. Russell is an Aussie makeup artist, so I'm expecting some pretty amazing things from this film. It looks like we'll get some great effects. Enjoy this poster:

Mia Kate Russell Swallow
The festival happens October 11th through 20th, 2013, and is bound to be one of the best years yet. Wish I could be there to catch these in person!

Anne Fletcher's MURDER MYSTERY

Anne Fletcher (who will be directing the upcoming fantasy ENCHANTED 2) is set to direct a murder mystery called, appropriately, MURDER MYSTERY.

Produced by Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s TWC-Dimension, the script is written by James Vanderbilt (ZODIAC, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, WHITE HOUSE DOWN) and the plot synopsis thus far is:

A married couple takes the honeymoon they never had in hopes of saving their struggling marriage, but soon find themselves in the middle of their very own murder mystery when one of their fellow cruise passengers is found dead. They must travel across Europe to discover the true murderer’s identity while trying to reignite the spark to their relationship.

"MURDER MYSTERY is a throwback to Agatha Christie novels with a comedic spin. We have been huge fans of Anne Fletcher for years and have wanted to work with her. This film seems like the perfect project to team up with Anne, Endgame and Tripp," said Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein, co-chairmen of The Weinstein Company, who continued with, "We hope it makes lots of money. I own an island. My wife is 57 years younger than me. Money buys happiness."

It sort of sounds like a "Nick and Nora Charles"-style couples mystery. I'm hoping it has lots of murder, suspense, and witticisms and not so many stupid romantic comedy things in it. Fletcher has directed some really inane films (THE PROPOSAL, 27 DRESSES) but I guess there's always room for improvement?

 

Kate Rees Davies Directs ALTERED PERCEPTION

Jennifer Blanc-Biehn is on a roll. She has about a million projects in the works both as producer and director, including the recent;y-completed THE NIGHT VISITOR, and she's about to produce another one: ALTERED PERCEPTION is a science-fiction thriller that will be directed by Kate Rees Davies.
ALTERED PERCEPTION is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that follows four couples as they embark on a clinical trial of a new medication that is designed to help users move past traumatic experiences by altering their perception. As the couples continue their treatment, they begin to question and doubt their memories and eventually their sanity.
Jennifer Blanc-Biehn promises ALTERED PERCEPTION will be a “ unique story line that will resonate with many viewers because of the quick-fix mentality of our characters  and  the science behind pharmaceuticals and government involvement."   Blanc-Biehn will star alongside Chris Meyer, Hallie Jordan, Matthew Ziff, Nichola Fynn, and Christopher Backus, and the film will start production soon.

Danishka Esterhazy's Fantasy/Horror H & G

Danishka Esterhazy has been making fairy-tale retellings since I can remember being interested in cinema directed by women (like, a decade). Her  SNOW QUEEN and THE RED HOOD are chilling stories set against a modern Canadian backdrop.  Her Gothic drama BLACK FIELD uses the Canadian wilderness in the 19th Century as a window into the violent and harshly beautiful. This time, with H & G, co-written with Rebecca Gibson) she's tackled the story of Hansel and Gretel, set in modern times as well:

Gemma (Breazy Diduck-Wilson) and Harley (Annika Elyse Irving) are the young children of single mother Krysstal (Ashley Rebecca Moore). Krysstal is not the most responsible parent, to put it mildly: in the second scene we see her use the kids to steal food from a church, and as the film goes on her selfishness and neglect increase. Eventually the young ones are abandoned on the side of a highway. Venturing into the woods, they come upon a strange display: garden gnomes and dolls, with a sign welcoming children.

Danishka Esterhazy’s film is a tale of survival against all odds, updating the story of Hansel and Gretel to reflect some grim contemporary realities: substance abuse, child neglect, pedophilia and serial murder. The style is both idyllic and realistic, with Daisy chains and romps in the sun sharing the screen with menace and tragedy. It’s a potent mix, and the performances are superb: newcomers Diduck-Wilson and Irving bring a warmth and innocence to their parts, and those traits are brilliantly played off against the corruption of the adults. Of those, the key players are Moore, superb, and Tony Porteous as a farmer with an awful secret. This is a provocative and challenging film.

That's right! "Pedophilia and serial murder." Enjoy! It's premiering at the Vancouver International Film Festival on September 28th, 2013!

Lindsey Haun's NANOBLOOD

NANOBLOOD is a new "queer, sci-f-, neo-noir" short film directed by Lindsey Haun, currently raising funds, that she describes as "bold, avant-garde, and unafraid to be totally out there––sexually, and aesthetically."

Because she wanted to see a science fiction film where more intimate, mundane problems are affected by new and fantastic technologies (for good, or ill) rather than the giant, obvious, ridiculous spacescapes of films like ELYSIUM, Haun decided she'd have to make it herself. Like Liz Adams' SIDE EFFECT, Annette Slomka's THE SECRET LIFE OF SARAH SHELDON, or any of the FUTURESTATES shorts, NANOBLOOD seems to belong to that sophisticated, not-so-very optimistic vision of our future in which individuals pervert science on a very personal level.

The official synopsis:

Gary is a painter recently out of a day job, and his wife Lisa is a graduate student in nanobiology whose funding is contingent on her participation in an experimental trial to replace her blood cells with microscopic robots: nanobots. But when they decide to rent Gary’s painting studio out to Toby, a mysterious visiting scholar also participating in Lisa’s clinical trial, their bodies begin to change in unexpected ways, and sexual desire begins to emerge in unexpected places. The bots, it seems, have a mind of their own…

They filmmakers made a clever fake commercial for the fake product, Nanoblood:

I can't help be reminded of this little gem, which I really really wish was real: