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September 2014 Film Preview

September 2014 Film Preview

From
an exclusive Manhattan girls’ prep school where the teachers may or may not be
drinking the blood of their students, to a woman abandoning city life to trek
1,700 miles across the Australian desert with only a dog and four camels for
company, there’s certainly an intriguing selection of films by and about women on
offer this September.

Summer
vacation may be drawing to a close, but the makers of Innocence — a YA thriller adapted from I Was Amelia Earhart author Jane Mendelsohn’s second novel — are
hoping it will keep teens flocking to theaters. With direction by Hilary
Brougher (The Sticky Fingers of Time,
Stephanie Daley), Innocence promises a refreshing take on
the supernatural coming-of-age story. 

There’s a different type of coming-of-age
tale on offer in Wetlands, whose protagonist,
18-year-old Helen, “likes to skateboard, masturbate with vegetables, and thinks
that body hygiene is greatly overrated.” Meanwhile, it’s all about recapturing
teenage freedom in Kelly & Cal, which
boasts a brilliant match of star to role: Juliette Lewis playing a former
punk-rocker struggling to adapt to life as a suburban mom, and feeling
nostalgic for her rebellious youth.

As
the month progresses, several indie features tackle much darker themes. Latvian-born
Signe Baumane’s Rocks in My Pockets does
so with fantasy and humor. This extremely personal animated feature, described
as “a crazy quest for sanity,” tells the stories of five women’s battles with
mental illness, and is inspired by the experiences of the director’s own
family. 

Family ties are also key to Archaeology
of a Woman
, which centers around the relationship between a former
journalist suffering from dementia and her daughter — and to Fort Bliss, in which a single mother returns from a tour of duty in
Afghanistan to discover her young son has become distanced from her. 
Meanwhile,
first-time director Leigh Janiak makes an impressive debut with horror movie Honeymoon, and Mia Wasikowska strides
out into the Australian Outback in the footsteps of Robyn Davidson in Tracks, finally bringing Davidson’s
memoir of the same name about her nine-month solo trek across the desert to the screen.
 

There
is also no shortage of enigmatic and inspirational women to be found among this
month’s documentary offerings. Catherine Gund’s Born to Fly focuses on “the Evel Knievel of dance” Elizabeth Streb,
and the death-defying feats of her Extreme Action Company dance troupe. 

There’s
also a biographical portrait of the multi-talented designer of the Harlequin
eyeglass frame Altina Schinasi to look forward to, while director Lina
Plioplyte hunts down the quietly revolutionary trendsetters of today in her
film on New York City’s most fashionable women over 60, Advanced Style

Other women-directed documentaries include Pegi
Vali’s long, hard look at the tourism industry (Gringo Trails), Genevieve Bailey’s exploration of the experience of
childhood across the world (I Am Eleven), Rory Kennedy’s look at the final days of the Vietnam War (Last Days of Vietnam) and Angela Christlieb’s portrait of a man suffering from an incurable disease
who takes solace in hedonistic pursuits (Naked
Opera
).

Here are the September films written, directed, and/or
about women. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise
indicated.

September
3

Rocks
in My Pockets – Written and Directed by Signe Baumane
 

In
the new animated gem Rocks in My Pockets,
Latvian-born artist and filmmaker Signe Baumane tells five fantastical tales
based on the courageous women in her family and their battles with madness.
With boundless imagination and a twisted sense of humor, she has created daring
stories of art, romance, marriage, nature, business, and Eastern European
upheaval-all in the fight for her own sanity. Employing a unique, beautifully
textured combination of papier-mâché stop-motion and classic hand-drawn
animation (with inspiration from Jan Svankmajer and Bill Plympton), Baumane has
produced a poignant and often hilarious tale of mystery, mental health,
redemption and survival.

September
4

Gringo
Trails (doc) – Directed by Pegi Vali
 

Is
tourism destroying the world, or saving it? From the Bolivian jungle to the
party beaches of Thailand, and from the deserts of Timbuktu, Mali, to the
breathtaking beauty of Bhutan, Gringo
Trails
shows the unanticipated impact of tourism on cultures, economies,
and the environment, tracing some stories over 30 years.

September
5

Innocence – Directed by Hilary Brougher; Co-Written by Hilary Brougher and Tristine
Skyler
 

Haunted
by dreams of the death of her beloved mother in a Montauk surfing accident, 16
year-old Beckett and her father, novelist Miles Warner, move to Manhattan and
attempt to piece together their shattered life. Now enrolled at the exclusive
Hamilton preparatory school, her psychosis and hallucinations intensify with
the dubious suicides of current and past students, as does her first love for
Tobey Crawford. The discovery that her new school may be run by a coven of
beautiful and seductive women who perpetuate their youth by drinking the blood
of virgins becomes the ultimate challenge of Beckett and Tobey’s young lives. Innocence is a chilling allegory of the
precarious state of an American teenager, explores themes of loss, the human
condition and a society torn between purity and narcissism.

Kelly
& Cal – Directed by Jen McGowan; Written by Amy Lowe Starbin

Juliette
Lewis is punk-rocker turned suburban mom Kelly, nostalgic for the life she no
longer has and uncertain of a future where she doesn’t yet fit in. 17-year-old
Cal (newcomer Jonny Weston), is frustrated at his lack of control over the hand
he’s been dealt. When the two neighbors meet, they find in each other an
unlikely but much-needed connection to the world.

Wetlands 

Eighteen
year-old Helen Memel (Carla Juri) likes to skateboard, masturbate with vegetables
and thinks that body hygiene is greatly overrated. Struggling with her parents’
divorce, she spends her time experimenting and breaking one social taboo after
the other with her best friend, Corinna (Marlen Kruse). When a shaving accident
lands her in the hospital, she sees it as a way to reconcile her parents, but
ends up forming an unlikely bond with her male nurse, Robin (Christoph
Letkowski) in the process.
 

Naked Opera (doc) – Directed by Angela Christlieb

Naked Opera is a portrait of Marc, a talented, intelligent, charismatic, and wealthy middle-aged Luxembourger who has suffered from an incurable illness since childhood. If that sounds like the recipe for a sentimental tear-jerker of a kind we’ve all seen a thousand times before, think again: while Marc’s debilitating illness may win him a substantial measure of sympathy, the cynicism, misanthropy, and thirst for power that his physical weakness seems to have engendered make things much more complicated.

The Last Days of Vietnam (doc) – Directed by Rory Kennedy

April, 1975. During the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, as the North Vietnamese Army closed in on Saigon, South Vietnamese resistance crumbled. City after city and village after village fell to the North while the few U.S. diplomats and military operatives still in the country contemplate withdrawal. With the lives of thousands of South Vietnamese hanging in the balance, those in control faced an impossible decision — who would go and who would be left behind to face brutality, imprisonment, or even death.  

September
10

Born
to Fly (doc) — Directed by Catherine Gund
 

Elizabeth
Streb’s Extreme Action Company is to American Ballet Theater as Spider-Man is
to a National Geographic special on arachnids. Working out of an industrial
building in Williamsburg, her troupe hones dangerous, mind-boggling feats:
hybrids of dance, acrobatics, performance art, theater of cruelty, and maybe
just plain cruelty. The spiky-haired Streb, outfitted in motorcycle boots and
de rigeur black everything, is a surprisingly gamine woman whose charisma is as
palpable as the affection and compassion she affords her dancers. Catherine
Gund’s exhilarating documentary records Streb’s latest forays into
gravity-defying actions as well as wonderful archival footage that records her
early decades of work, leading up to the MacArthur “genius” grant she
received in 1997. Two of many breathtaking spectacles that punctuate the movie:
Streb dancers bungee-jumping off London’s Millennium Bridge and dangling
fearlessly from the London Eye. Streb earns her reputation as the Evel Knievel
of dance.

September
12

Honeymoon – Written and Directed by Leigh Janiak

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. Treadaway (Penny DreadfulControl) and Leslie (HBO’s Game of Thrones) give captivating leading performances as a couple that takes new love to disturbing depths. With romance slowly giving way to terror, writer/director Leigh Janiak puts her unique stamp on this intimate, chilling thriller. 

Archaeology
of a Woman – Directed by Sharon Greytak
 

In
Archaeology of a Woman, Margaret
(Sally Kirkland), a feisty, tormented former newspaper columnist, fights to
protect her freedom in spite of the dementia she cannot control. After an
episode in a shopping plaza parking lot where she is unable to find her car and
is driven home by the police, her daughter Kate (Victoria Clark), an aspiring
New York City chef, is beckoned upstate to her mother’s aid. While there, Kate
develops a romantic tryst with a rookie officer (Karl Geary) as she deals with
her mother’s demands. Kate attempts to get Margaret involved with activities at
the senior center, but Margaret is apprehensive and resentful. Soon, a man from
Margaret’s past, Sergeant Calder (James Murtaugh), re-enters her life, causing
Margaret to fear she will no longer be able to protect herself. Before
returning to New York, Kate installs a small surveillance camera to monitor her
mom at home revealing a far more private life of fear, lust and longing and her
connection to a 30-year-old crime. Through its disconcerting narrative
structure, Archaeology of a Woman tells
a visceral tale of the unsettled lives of two very different generations of
women – one whose secret is buried deep inside her memories, and the other who
seeks to dig up the truth.
 

I
Am Eleven (doc) — Directed by Genevieve Bailey

Australian
filmmaker Genevieve Bailey travelled the world for six years talking with
11-year-olds to compose this insightful, funny and moving documentary portrait
of childhood. From an orphanage in India, to a single-parent household in
inner-city Melbourne, to bathing with elephants in Thailand, I Am Eleven explores the lives and
thoughts of children from 15 countries. I
Am Eleven
weaves together deeply personal and at times hilarious portraits
of what it means to sit at this transitional age. These young minds provide us
with a powerful insight into the future of our world.

Altina (doc)

Altina Schinasi, (1907 – 1999), was a paradox. Simultaneously seductive and reserved, her sheltered upbringing was in sharp contrast to the bold sexuality of her artwork, and she created a fashion sensation in the 1930s with her design for Harlequin eyeglasses. Altina is an affecting, provocative, and richly informative documentary about an American trendsetter- a woman before her time. 

September
19

Fort
Bliss – Written and Directed by Claudia Meyers
 

A
decorated Army medic and single mother returns home from an extended tour in
Afghanistan to discover that the bond with her five-year-old son has been
shattered. In her absence, the boy has attached to his father and his new
girlfriend. As she struggles to reclaim her son’s affection and reintegrate
into civilian life, she meets a mechanic with whom she becomes romantically
involved. Just as her life begins to stabilize and the bond with her son shows
signs of healing, she gets news of another deployment. She must now find a way
to reconcile her duties as a mother and her obligations as a soldier.

Tracks 

Director
John Curran (The Painted Veil, We Don’t Live Here Anymore) and the
producers of The King’s Speech bring
you the film Tracks, which tells the
remarkable true story of Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska), a young woman who
leaves her life in the city to make a solo trek through almost 2,000 miles of
sprawling Australian desert. Accompanied by only her dog and four unpredictable
camels, she sets off on a life-changing journey of self-discovery. Along the
way, she meets National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) who
begins to photograph her voyage.

Advanced
Style (doc) – Directed by Lina Plioplyte
 

Street
style photographer Ari Seth Cohen and director Lina Plioplyte dive into the
personal lives of New York City’s most fashionable women over 60. In an
industry obsessed with youth, these older women dispel conventional ideas about
beauty and aging and prove that with age comes grace, confidence, boldness,
flair and new, unimagined opportunities for fame and fortune.

Art and Craft (doc) – Directed by Jennifer Grausman

Mark Landis has been called one of the most prolific art forgers in US history. His impressive body of work spans thirty years, covering multiple styles and periods. And while the copies could fetch impressive sums on the open market, Landis isn’t in it for money, but instead donates his fakes to museums across the country.  When Matthew Leininger, a tenacious registrar in Cincinnati, discovers the ruse and organizes an exhibition of the work, Landis must confront his legacy and a chorus of museum professionals clamoring for him to stop.

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