We all know Hollywood is a treacherous career path for anyone, but it’s especially brutal for female directors. Here’s a sobering stat: women directed only 6% of the top 250 U.S. grossing films in 2013, according to San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. That’s a 3% drop from between 1998 and 2012. Yes, it’s been getting worse, not better.
If you’ve ever been dismayed, discouraged, outraged or all of the above by the “celluloid ceiling,” there’s an easy way to take a stand: buy a seat. At the upcoming Los Angeles Film Festival, we’re screening 15 films directed by established and ascendant female directors. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve got in store this year:
Stray Dog, directed by Debra Granik
Winter’s Bone director Granik’s searching, stereotype-shattering documentary focuses on Ron “Stray Dog” Hall, who puts up a tough-guy façade to the world, but then we see another side of the Vietnam veteran and biker. One memorable night for Granik: “walking into a basement bar where a monthly biker meeting is taking place. The location has all the classic trappings of a place where we shouldn’t be. We know our main man, Stray Dog, has got our back, but nonetheless, it’s a trenchant moment of knowing what it feels like to be an outsider.”
Recommended by Enrique, directed by Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia
An aspiring actress cast in a low-budget horror picture arrives in a small town where nothing is what it is appears to be and time seems to stand still. The directors say the film is loosely based on their time working on a film production in Del Rio, Texas. They experienced a feature with no script, a crew composed of local teenagers and a director who rarely showed up on the set because he was “battling demons.”
Someone You Love (En Du Elsker), directed by Pernille Fischer Christensen
After years in Los Angeles, a famous, hard-living singer-songwriter returns home to Denmark to record a new album, but his solitude ends when his coke-snorting daughter drops off his 11-year-old grandson. This is award-winning director and Film Independent Fellow Christensen’s fourth feature. Her film En Familie won the FIPRESCI prize at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival.
Stream of Love (Szerelempatak), directed by Àgnes Sòs
In a remote Hungarian village, elderly inhabitants reveal the deepest secrets of their amorous histories of clandestine affairs, disastrous wedding nights and late-in-life erotic awakenings. Documentary director Sòs returns to her recurrent theme of intimacy in Stream of Love as she follows an octogenarian looking for love among the village women. Sòs says she made the film to take up the challenge of making documentaries about positive things.
Walking Under Water, directed by Eliza Kubarska
A fisherman in Borneo tries to pass on his knowledge to his 10-year-old nephew before their way of life changes forever. “While traveling around Borneo I saw a picture of a little boy on the boat, alone in the sea,” director Kubarska said of the documentary’s inspiration. “After observing him for quite a long time, I realized there is also his father deep under the water diving with the pipe coming out of the small, primitive compressor on the boat. The boy was in fact responsible for the life of his father as he was in charge of the machinery on the boat.”
My Name is Salt, directed by Farida Pacha
Sanabhai and his family labor in the desert of Little Raan, India, drawing salt from the barren land. They are part of a tradition of salt farming stretching for generations that has seen little change in lifestyle or processes. Director Pacha and cinematographer Lutz Konermann witness the entire process in this lyrical, visually stunning film. Working in a strict vérité style, Pacha and Konermann capture Sanabhai’s efforts in a series of stark, striking tableaus.
Land Ho!, directed by Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz
Retired and divorced 70-somethings Colin and Mitch take an impromptu trip to Iceland where they explore what their lives mean as they take in the nightlife, fine food and strong weed. Working together for the first time, directors Stephens and Katz take an unhurried approach, allowing the charm of their characters to bring lightness to this comedy of the twilight years.
Out in the Night, directed by blair dorosh-walther
In New York City’s West Village, a stranger brutally assaults four gay African-American women. In defending themselves, they also left themselves vulnerable to draconian prison sentences that wrested them from their families. Film Independent Fellow and Member dorosh-walther says she became interested in the case when she was struck by a headline in The New York Times: “Man is stabbed after admiring a stranger.” “I wanted to understand why was this man was considered, in the mainstream media, as a potential suitor and not a threat? Why weren’t these women seen as victims of violent, homophobic harassment?”
Glen Golightly / Festival Blogger