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43% of 2014 DOC NYC Features Directed by Women, But Where Are the Films About Women?

43% of 2014 DOC NYC Features Directed by Women, But Where Are the Films About Women?

It’s generally not hard to find female-directed features at documentary film festivals, since women filmmakers face less obstacles in the nonfiction world. 

This year’s DOC NYC Film Festival (November 13-20) is no exception, with 43% — or nearly half — of the 91 showcased features directed or co-directed by a female helmer. 

But it’s still a little disappointing to see that less than a fifth of those features — only about 18 or so films — are specifically and explicitly about female subjects. We’re happy to see so many women behind the camera, but we’d like to see more women’s stories, too, especially since the studio movie industry routinely underestimates the appeal of female protagonists.  

Here are the documentaries that place girls and women at the center of the story. This list doesn’t include the films that have female subjects as part of an ensemble. 

Kasamayaki
Dir: Yuki Kokubo, 2014, World Premiere
Following the devastation of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Yuki visits her estranged parents in Kasama, Japan, a rural artist community, in the hopes of making sense of their past.

Penthouse North
Dir: Johanna St Michaels, 2014, NYC Premiere
In her heyday, Swedish bombshell Agneta ruled the world from her fabulous Central Park West apartment, but times—and her finances—have changed.

Tough Love
Dir: Stephanie Wang-Breal, 2014, NYC Premiere
Having lost custody of their children to Child Protective Services, two parents in New York City and Seattle fight to win back the trust of the courts and reunite their families.

Little White Lie
Dir: Lacey Schwartz, 2014, NYC Premiere
Growing up in an upper-middle-class Jewish household, Lacey Schwartz knew she looked different from the rest of her family, but never suspected the truth. 

Miss Tibet: Beauty in Exile
Dir: Norah Shapiro, 2014, World Premiere
A Tibetan teenager travels from Minneapolis to India to compete in a most unlikely beauty pageant.

The Return
Dir: Adam Zucker, 2014
How does one claim an identity in a vacuum? Living in Poland, the four young women in this engaging film learned of their Jewish roots after growing up Catholic. Seventh Art Releasing.

A Small Section of the World
Dir: Lesley Chilcott, 2014, NYC Premiere
In equal measures inspiring and endearing, this film spotlights a group of Costa Rican village women who form a coffee-growing collective—despite not knowing the first thing about growing coffee. FilmBuff, opens Dec. 5.

Vessel
Dir: Diana Whitten, 2014, NYC Premiere
Moved by the plight of desperate women in countries with restrictive reproductive rights, a Dutch physician uses laws governing international waters to bring much-needed abortion and contraceptive services on the high seas.

When People Die They Sing Songs
Dir: Olga Lvoff, 2014, NYC Premiere
Under the watchful eyes of her dutiful daughter Sonia, Regina recalls the Yiddish and French songs of her youth through music therapy sessions following a stroke.

Us, Naked: Trixie & Monkey
Dir: Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander, 2014, World Premiere
A pair of acrobatic burlesque performers attempt to juggle art, love and financial stability in this perceptive portrait.

Althea
Dir: Rex Miller, 2014, World Premiere
In the 1950s, long before Arthur Ashe or Venus and Serena Williams, Althea Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to win Grand Slam tournaments.

Hardy
Dir: Natasha Verma, 2014, NYC Premiere
Although Brooklyn’s Heather "The Heat" Hardy has only been boxing for a few years, she’s a world champion in the making—but first she has to be given the chance to prove herself in a sport that has been slow to open its doors to female athletes.

Top Spin

Dirs: Sara Newens & Mina T. Son, 2014, World Premiere
Three driven teenage athletes attempt to go for Olympic gold in the perpetually popular but underappreciated game of table tennis.

Disruption
Dir: Pamela Yates, 2013, NYC Premiere
Recognizing the persistence of income inequality in South America, a group of activist economists join together to offer an alternative path to eliminating poverty.

Divide in Concord
Dir: Kris Kaczor, 2014, NYC Premiere
A feisty octogenarian, concerned about the environmental impact of our disposable culture, is on a mission to ban the local sale of plastic bottled water, facing off against her celebrity publicist-turned-pundit nemesis.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry
Dir: Mary Dore, 2014, NYC Premiere
Through a treasure trove of archival material and profiles of several outspoken pioneers of the women’s movement, we revisit the remarkable eruption of activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s that signaled the arrival of modern feminism. International Film Circuit, opens Dec. 5.

Songs for Alexis
Dir: Elvira Lind, 2014, NYC Premiere
Eighteen-year-old hopeless romantic Ryan, a young transgender man, writes songs about his sixteen-year-old girlfriend Alexis as the couple navigates a long distance relationship between Long Island and San Francisco.

Finding Vivian Maier
Dirs: John Maloof & Charlie Siskel, 2013
When Vivian Maier died in 2009 at age 83, she left behind more than 100,000 negatives of her street photography—images that she’d scarcely shared with anyone. Sundance Selects.


Here are the films from women directors, minus the ones already mentioned above: 

GALA

Closing Night: The Yes Men Are Revolting
Dirs: Laura Nix, The Yes Men, 2014, US Premiere
A chronicle of the past five years of pranksters The Yes Men, the infamous activists known for duping the media with their impersonations of corporate shills and government stooges.In person: Laura Nix, The Yes Men

SPECIAL EVENTS 

Above and Beyond
Dir: Roberta Grossman, 2014, NYC Premiere
Reveals the hidden history behind the creation of Israel’s air force. International Film Circuit, opens Jan. 30In person: Producer Nancy Spielberg

Back On Board: Greg Louganis
Dir: Cheryl Furjanic, 2014, NYC Premiere
This strikingly candid profile explores the triumphs and tragedies of Olympian Greg Louganis, considered by many the greatest diver of all time. In person: Cheryl Furjanic, film subject Greg Louganis

An Open Secret
Dir: Amy Berg, 2014, World Premiere
Every year, thousands of children swarm Hollywood in search of fame, but what they often find under the surface is a deep and disturbing underbelly of manipulation and abuse. In person: Amy Berg

VIEWFINDERS 

In Country
Dirs: Mike Attie & Meghan O’Hara, 2014, NYC Premiere
By now, the idea of Civil War re-enactment is familiar, but the subjects of this intriguing film relive the battles of a far more surprising conflict: Vietnam.

Meet the Patels
Dirs: Geeta V. Patel & Ravi V. Patel, 2014, NYC Premiere
Nearing 30, first-generation Indian-American Ravi Patel breaks up with his secret, white girlfriend to seek the Indian woman of his parents’ dreams—who should also be named Patel, keeping with tradition. Sundance Selects, opens Mar. 14.

Monsieur Le Président
Dir: Victoria Campbell, 2013, World Premiere
Volunteering in Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake, the filmmaker encounters Gaston, a charming voodoo priest who shows leadership during the emergency.

No Control
Dir: Jessica Solce, 2014, World Premiere
A provocative exploration of the contentious issue of gun control through profiles of two men at opposite ends of the debate.

The Wound and the Gift
Dir: Linda Hoaglund, 2014, US Premiere
All over the world, people save animals that were bred, abused or sold on the black market, with an impact on both rescuer and rescued.

METROPOLIS 

The Hand That Feeds
Dirs: Rachel Lears & Robin Blotnick, 2014, NYC Premiere
An Upper East Side "Hot & Crusty" bakery serves as the unlikely setting for an old-fashioned David vs. Goliath story, as service workers demand better working conditions and wages.

Tough Love
Dir: Stephanie Wang-Breal, 2014, NYC Premiere
Having lost custody of their children to Child Protective Services, two parents in New York City and Seattle fight to win back the trust of the courts and reunite their families.

AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES 

Florence, Arizona
Dir: Andrea B. Scott, 2014, World Premiere
A resonant work of modern Americana, this film paints a rich and often humorous portrait of a cowboy town set in the heart of Arizona’s prison industry.

Grazers: A Cooperative Story
Dirs: Lisa F. Jackson & Sarah Teale, 2014, World Premiere
With interest in farm-to-table food on the rise, a small band of upstate New York farmers sees an opportunity to hold on to their endangered farms by raising and selling grass-fed beef.

Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine
Dir: Michele Josue, 2013, NYC Premiere
While the world remembers Matthew Shepard’s death at the hands of homophobic attackers, this poignant film celebrates his life.

INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
Dir: Mami Sunada, 2013, NYC Premiere
Offering animation fans a rare look inside Japan’s Studio Ghibli, this fascinating film profiles its most famous creators, Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), and his friendly rival and business partner, Isao Takahata (Pom Poko). GKIDS, opens Nov. 28.

CENTERSTAGE 

The Last Impresario
Dir: Gracie Otto, 2014, NYC Premiere
From The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, producer Michael White has helped bring enduring cultural touchstones to Broadway, London’s West End and the silver screen over the last four decades, but the bon vivant may be the most famous person you’ve never heard of. FilmBuff, opens Dec. 5.

Still Dreaming
Dirs: Hank Rogerson & Jilann Spitzmiller, 2014, World Premiere
Located just outside of Manhattan, the Lillian Booth Actors Home provides a most resonant setting for the staging of a classic play in which nothing is what it seems.

JOCK DOCS 

9-Man
Dir: Ursula Liang, 2014
A variant of volleyball developed by Chinese immigrants to America as both an athletic pastime and a social outlet in a time of widespread anti-Chinese sentiment, discrimination and segregation, now serves to unite young men with their culture.

FIGHT THE POWER 

Disruption
Dir: Pamela Yates, 2013, NYC Premiere
Recognizing the persistence of income inequality in South America, a group of activist economists join together to offer an alternative path to eliminating poverty.

Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa
Dir: Abby Ginzberg, 2014, NYC Premiere
At the height of apartheid, noted South African activist, author and attorney Albie Sachs was driven into exile, yet still faced threats to his life that cost him dearly.

SONIC CINEMA 

Songs for Alexis
Dir: Elvira Lind, 2014, NYC Premiere
Eighteen-year-old hopeless romantic Ryan, a young transgender man, writes songs about his sixteen-year-old girlfriend Alexis as the couple navigates a long distance relationship between Long Island and San Francisco.

DOCS REDUX 

Salesman
Dirs: Albert Maysles, David Maysles & Charlotte Zwerin, 1968
This breakthrough documentary follows door-to-door Bible salesmen as they ply their trade from Boston to Chicago to Miami.

MIDNIGHT DOCS 

Sex(Ed)
Dir: Brenda Goodman, 2014, NYC Premiere
Revisit the health class of your awkward teenage years in this fun survey of sexual education films. First Run Features, VOD/DVD Feb. 3.

SHORT LIST
 

CITIZENFOUR
Dir: Laura Poitras, 2014
A real-life thriller chronicling how Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the massive covert surveillance programs run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies.
RADiUS/Participant Media/HBO Documentary Films, opens Oct 24.

E-Team
Dirs: Katy Chevigny & Ross Kauffman, 2014
A look at the dangerous but life-affirming work performed by the Human Rights Watch Emergency Team, or E-Team, a compelling group of intrepid investigators willing to enter hostile territories to document crimes against humanity that might otherwise go unreported. Netflix.

The Great Invisible
Dir: Margaret Brown, 2014
An examination of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its impact on fishermen, oilmen and survivors. RADiUS/Participant Media, opens Oct. 29.

Last Days in Vietnam
Dir: Rory Kennedy, 2014
In the final weeks of the Vietnam War, with the invasion of Saigon imminent, the White House ordered the evacuation of U.S. citizens—but their South Vietnamese allies flooded onto embassy grounds seeking help. American Experience Films/PBS.

Rich Hill
Dirs: Tracy Droz Tragos & Andrew Droz Palermo, 2014
With roots in the eponymous, impoverished Missouri town, filmmaker cousins bring a sensitive touch to this richly observed and sublimely shot portrait of three boys. The Orchard.

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Comments

Tery Wilson

Don’t worry I have a few movies about women coming soon. Check out the official trailer of my action movie. youtu.be eOYUCqswKWY

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