In what is already shaping up to be an exciting year for lesbian features, with both “Carol” and “Freeheld” sporting high-profile casts and higher expectations, queer female filmmakers are poised to make their mark on 2015 as well. Here are seven out female directors with projects opening this year.
Film: Into the Forest
Director: Patricia Rozema
The Canadian director and writer returns for double-duty again with the apocalyptic sibling drama “Into the Forest.” Based on the novel of the same name by Jean Hegland, the story follows two sisters (played by out actresses Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood) surviving in the dense woods after a sudden societal collapse.
Lesbian and bisexual audiences will remember Rozema for her quirky and queer debut “I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing,” lyrical lesbian drama “When Night Is Falling” and the “strong lesbian undercurrents” she added to her Jane Austen adaptation “Mansfield Park.”
Reports are that the film will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and should open in theaters this fall.
Director: Jamie Babbit
This sibling comedy follows sisters working as hotel maids in the California city of Fresno. Judy Greer plays the older sister, recently out of rehab for sex addiction, and Natasha Lyonne is her younger, lesbian sister. Things go wrong when a hotel guest dies, and the pair must work together to cover up the incident. “Parks and Recreation” alum Aubrey Plaza plays a trainer pursuing Lyonne’s character.
The project is written by Babbit’s wife, “Portlandia” scribe Karey Dornetto. The film also reunites the American filmmaker with Lyonne and (in a cameo) Clea DuVall. The actresses starred in Babbit’s feature debut, the 1999 lesbian cult classic “But I’m a Cheerleader.”
Fresno premiered at SXSW in March. It will screen at the Frameline San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival in June.
Director: Cynthia Mort
This long-gestating Nina Simone biopic has traveled a rocky road. From the start, controversy has surrounded the project, which stars Zoe Saldana as the jazz and soul icon and “Selma” lead David Oyelowo. Mary J. Blige was originally slated to star. Simone’s daughter has called the film “unauthorized.” Critics attacked the casting of Saldana and the darkening of her skin for the portrayal. And in 2014 Mort filed a lawsuit against the production company, claiming the film was hijacked from her.
Mort got her start writing and directing on “Roseanne” and wrote the screenplay for the 2007 Jodie Foster vengeance vehicle “The Brave One.” She also produced the NBC sitcom “Will & Grace” and the HBO series “Tell Me You Love Me.”
“Nina” was screened for marketers at Cannes in 2014. The premiere date is still to-be-determined, but it will be distributed by Entertainment One and Universal. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the project will have worldwide release later this year.
Director: Dee Rees
The life of The Empress of the Blues gets the biopic treatment with its own superstar at the helm. Queen Latifah has been interested in playing Smith for more than 20 years. For her patience, the film, which premiered on HBO earlier this month, has been lavished with praise. The film chronicles her troubled childhood, rise to fame, personal demons and relationships — with both men and women.
American screenwriter and director Rees made a strong impression with her confident feature-film debut “Pariah” in 2011. The story of an African-American teenager coming to terms with her butch lesbian identity took home Independent Spirit, Gotham and GLAAD awards.
“Bessie” is available On Demand and through HBO GO and HBO NOW.
Director: Natalia Leite
“Glee” veteran Dianna Agron stars as a young woman living in a small Nevada town who becomes romantically involved with an attractive drifter played by “Boardwalk Empire” alum Paz de la Huerta. When Agron’s character starts working at a strip club at her new lover’s urging, she gets swept into a world of sex, drugs and self-discovery.
“Bare” is the feature film-debut of Brazilian-American writer-director Leite and her out creative partner Alexandra Roxo, who co-founded the production company Purple Milk. The duo also created and starred in the queer webseries “Be Here Now-ish.”
The movie premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. It will close out the Frameline San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival in June.
Director: Maura Anderson
The crowd-funded project by queer director Anderson and out screenwriter Velinda Godfrey is the feature-film debut for both. An artist (played by Godfrey) returns to her Oklahoma home and disrupts her family’s suburban life when she has an affair with her brother’s fiancée. The film also stars Laura Spencer (“The Big Bang Theory”) and Beth Grant (“The Mindy Project,” “Donnie Darko”).
Anderson previously worked as a production manager on Jennifer Lawrence’s indie breakout “Winter’s Bone” and the WIGS webseries “Blue.” Godfrey starred in the short film “Adonis,” which won the Best Emerging Short award at Cannes in 2013.
The project has earned public support from actors like Sarah Paulson, Jeffrey Tambor, Julia Stiles and Kathy Bates. The movie is currently in production in Oklahoma and is slated to be released later this year.
Film: Money Monster
Director: Jodie Foster
Foster returns behind the camera for her first feature since 2011’s “The Beaver.” The high-profile thriller stars George Clooney as a TV financial analyst who gets held hostage while on air by a man (“Unbroken” lead Jack O’Connell) who was ruined by his bad stock advice. Julia Roberts stars as the producer of Clooney’s show.
This is Foster’s first film since coming out in an acceptance speech at the Golden Globes in 2013. Last year, she married photographer and actress Alexandra Hedison. In recent years she has directed episodes of “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards.”
Last summer, TriStar won the rights to release the $30 million project. “Money Monster” was shooting in New York this spring and should be released later this year.