Thirty of the 114 narrative and documentary features having their world, North American or New York premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this year are directed by women. You might say that 26% percent isn’t high enough, but since 2014’s percentage of woman directing movies that went into wide release was at a paltry 4%, let’s hope these films all find wide distribution for the tide to shift once and for all. Among the films premiering this year are also a number of female-centric portraits directed by men, lest we forget to give our favorite male directors adequate credit.
The Festival kicked off last night and here are my top picks in the narrative and documentary feature category this year. Tickets are still available so run downtown (or to your computer where tickets are only a mouse click away at www.tribecafilm.com).
Song of Lahore
Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken serve up a fascinating view of the once legendary musical bastion Lahore and the brave musicians who have continued to play despite Pakistan’s increasing Islamisation since the 1970’s. An inspiring tale of art triumphing over ideological repression.
The Adderall Diaries
World premiering in New York, Pamela Romanowsky’s first feature is adapted from Stephen Elliott’s best-selling memoir about his descent into Adderall addiction following a bout of writer’s block, subsequent embroilment in a high-profile murder case, and personal unraveling. Played here by James Franco, Elliott–who was once my college writing professor–gets a nice makeover and a hot girlfriend in Amber Heard.
If you loved Catherine Hardwicke’s “Thirteen” as much as I did, and not simply because you will always be a teenager at heart, this beautifully observed French feature by 25 year old director Hélène Zimmer is for you. Shot in real time, her debut follows a group of young girls as they navigate the waters of early adolescence with all the attendant heartbreak, drama and excitement.
CODE Debugging the Gender Gap
Hot on the heals of the landmark Pao vs Kleiner verdict, and a few months following Gillian Jacobs’ illuminating short film about Grace Hopper – who helped build the world’s first computer at Harvard, the Mark 1, and invented the world’s first computer language, COBOL, comes the most comprehensive exploration into the dearth of women working professionally in the computer sciences. Here’s to a world where more than 19% of the workforce is female.
In My Father’s House
In Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg’s documentary, Chicago rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith decides to move back to the neighborhood where he grew up, buy his childhood home and raise his own family there, only to discover his absentee father is a homeless alcoholic living down the road. In this moving portrait of a man trying to reconcile his past with his future, forgiveness trumps all.
Celebrated cinematographer—a profession in which women have even less of a presence than computer science—Reed Morano directs her first feature here, about a couple of young parents (played by Luke Wilson and Olivia Wilde) whose lives unravel as their son goes missing. A self-assured and patient debut, Morano looks set to continue shooting and directing her own films for a while.
Peggy Guggenheim – Art Addict
Lisa Immordino Vreeland brings the same intelligently admiring touch she brought to “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel” to this rousing portrait of Peggy Guggenheim: famous art collector, empress of modern art, museum founder, lover and possessor, arguably, of the best taste this side of the Medici family. If you have not been to the foundation that bears her name, be prepared to book a ticket to Venice the moment the curtain falls.
2015’s it-girl Alba Rohrwacher— Tilda Swinton’s pale-faced daughter in “I Am Love”— plays a young woman raised in a small northern Albanian village where, in order to break free of the proscriptive and domestic role expected of a woman, she becomes a “sworn virgin” to live like a man. As Mark, she eventually travels to Italy where she discovers who she really is.
The Tribeca Film Festival runs through April 26.