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September 2015 Film Preview

September 2015 Film Preview

September sees the premieres of a number of women-centric indie gems we’ve been waiting impatiently for while they’ve been touring the festival circuit. “Misunderstood” by Italian punk-rebel actress, singer, director, model and cinema royalty, Asia Argento, premiered in Cannes 2014 and has garnered attention for its raw, supposedly autobiographical coming-of-age story about 9-year-old Aria (Argento’s official name), who’s gravely neglected by her famous parents in the wake of their divorce.

In another coming-of-age film out of Cannes, French actress-turned-director Mélanie Laurent’s claustrophobic “Breathe,” high-school senior Charlie (Josephine Japy) is also troubled by her parents’ divorce. She escapes her problems by befriending the new wild and sophisticated girl in class, Sarah (Lou de Laâge) — but their intense friendship soon turns into a destructive obsession.

Elle Fanning, perhaps the most experienced and skilled 17-year-old in Hollywood history, stars as a transgender teen during his transition from female to male in Gaby Dellal’s much-talked-about “About Ray.” Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon star as his mother and grandmother adjusting to his new identity.

Lizzie Velasquez also knows a thing or two about feeling different. The 25-year-old anti-bullying activist was born with a rare syndrome that prevented her from gaining weight. She’s portrayed in Sara Hirsh Bordo’s documentary “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story,” which made a splash at its SXSW premiere.

Emily Blunt also caused quite a stir when she spoke out against the Cannes Film Festival’s dress code, after Screen reported that several women had been turned away from the red carpet for wearing flats. We doubt Blunt’s drug cartel-fighting FBI agent — who was so awesome the producers wanted to change the character into a man — in “Sicario” would have made it as far in heels.

Here are all the September films — depressingly few as they are — written, directed and/or about women. All descriptions are from press materials unless stated otherwise.

September 11

Breathe – Written and Directed by Mélanie Laurent

Melanie Laurent’s teen psychological drama “Breathe” stars Josephine Japy as Charlie, a seventeen-year-old who does well in school and seems to have everything going for her. When the much more sophisticated Sarah (Lou de Laage) moves to town, however, Charlie finds herself drawn to the worldly girl whose mother supposedly works for an NGO. The two become fast friends, but soon Sarah makes Charlie uncomfortable with her wilder ways.

Sleeping With Other People – Written and Directed by Leslye Headland

From the creator of “Bachelorette,” “Sleeping With Other People” stars Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie as two romantic failures whose years of serial infidelity and self-sabotage have led them to swear that their relationship will remain strictly platonic. Headland’s film, described as “a romantic comedy with commitment issues,” insists on asking one of those age-old rom com questions: Can love still bloom while you’re sleeping with other people?

Paul Taylor: Creative Domain (Documentary) – Directed by Kate Geis

Paul Taylor is one of the dance world’s most elusive and respected choreographers. For over 50 years he has only given glimpses into his creative process. This film is an unprecedented exploration of how Mr. Taylor creates a single dance. The dominant voice is Paul’s, between the guarded and unguarded moments we see him with new eyes and new understanding.

Goodnight Mommy – Co-Directed and Co-Written by Veronika Franz

In the heat of the summer. A lonesome house in the countryside between woods and corn fields. Nine-year-old twin brothers are waiting for their mother (Susanne Wuest). When she comes home, bandaged after cosmetic surgery, nothing is like before. The children start to doubt that this woman is actually their mother. [From there] emerges an existential struggle for identity and fundamental trust.

Meet the Patels (Documentary) – Co-Directed by Geeta Patel

“Meet the Patels” is a laugh-out-loud, real-life romantic comedy about Ravi Patel, an almost-30-year-old Indian-American who enters a love triangle between the woman of his dreams — and his parents. 


September 18

About Ray – Directed by Gaby Dellal; Written by Nicole Beckwith and Gaby Dellal

After realizing his true identity, New York teenager Ray (Elle Fanning) decides to transition from female to male. The film follows Ray’s courageous journey as those closest to him, including his mother (Naomi Watts) and lesbian grandmother (Susan Sarandon), must learn to accept him for who he is.

Prophet’s Prey (Documentary) – Directed by Amy Berg

When Warren Jeffs rose to Prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, he took control of a religion with a history of polygamous and under-age marriage. In a short time, Warren managed to expand these practices and the power of his position in unprecedented ways. He bridged the gap between sister wives and ecclesiastical rape, blurring the moral compass of his entire congregation. The film examines Warren Jeffs’ life and shows how he became a worshiped and adored Prophet. Warren has a devout following numbering in the tens of thousands — many of whom would give their life at any moment with just one word from the Prophet. Despite a trail of abuse and ruined lives, Warren has maintained his grip on power.

Sicario

In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by an elite government task force official to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past, the team sets out on a clandestine journey, forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive.

East Side Sushi

East Side Sushi introduces us to Juana (Diana Elizabeth Torres), a working-class Latina single mother. Forced to give up her fruit-vending cart in order to find a more secure job, Juana lands a position as a kitchen assistant at a local Japanese restaurant and discovers a whole new world of cuisine and culture, as well as a new friend. While working in the restaurant’s kitchen, Juana secretly observes the sushi chefs and eventually teaches herself to make a multitude of sushi. Her creativity sparked, Juana’s re-ignited passion for food drives her to want more from her job and her life. Eventually, she attempts to become a sushi chef, but is unable to because she is the “wrong” race and gender. Against all odds, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, determined to not let anyone stop her from achieving her dream.

Songs From the North (Documentary) – Written and Directed by Soon-Mi Yoo

An essay film which offers a unique look at the enigma of North Korea, a country typically seen through the distorted lens of jingoistic propaganda and derisive satire. Interweaving footage from director Soon-Mi Yoo’s three visits to North Korea with songs, spectacle, popular cinema and archival footage, “Songs From the North” tries to understand the psychology and popular imagery of the North Korean people. To look closely and objectively at North Korea, a country that challenges our most fundamental assumptions about the human condition is ultimately to question the meaning of freedom, love and patriotism.  

September 25

The Intern – Written and Directed by Nancy Meyers

A former successful business owner and widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).

Misunderstood/Incompresea – Directed by Asia Argento; Written by Asia Argento and Barbara Alberti 

Rome, 1984. Aria (Giulia Salerno) is nine-year-old girl. On the verge of divorce, Aria’s parents are too preoccupied with their careers and extra-marital affairs to tend to her needs. While her two older sisters are pampered, Aria is treated with cold indifference. Yet she yearns to love and to be loved. At school, Aria excels academically but is considered a misfit by everyone. She finds comfort in her cat, Dac, and in her best friend, Angelica (Alice Pea). Thrown out of both parents’ homes and abandoned by even her best friend, Aria finally reaches the limit of what she can bear. Soon after, she makes an unexpected life decision.

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story (Documentary) – Directed by Sara Hirsh Bordo

A documentary following the inspiring journey of 25-year-old, 58-pound Lizzie from cyber-bullying victim to anti-bullying activist. Born with a rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Velasquez was first bullied as a child in school for looking different and, later online, as a teenager when she discovered a YouTube video labeling her “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” The film chronicles unheard stories and details of Lizzie’s physical and emotional journey up to her multi-million-viewed TEDx talk, and follows her pursuit from a motivational speaker to Capitol Hill as she lobbies for the first federal anti-bullying bill. It documents her triumphant journey to the other side of bullying, and her mission to inspire and empower a more positive online environment.

Mississippi Grind – Co-Directed and Co-Written by Anna Boden

Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is a talented poker player, but his gambling habit is getting the best of him. One day, he meets a charismatic young traveler named Curtis (Ryan Reynolds). Deeming Curtis his lucky charm, Gerry convinces him that they should hit the road together. As they gamble their way down South toward a legendary high-stakes poker game in New Orleans, the trip’s highs and lows unveil the duo’s true character and motivation, and an undeniable bond forms between them.

Sleepless in New York (Documentary)

Paralyzing, tormenting and overwhelming — often laughed off as nothing more than an affliction of adolescence, lovesickness is the topic of a new, sensitive and compelling documentary film. Renowned anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher reveals the astounding and profound processes that unfold in the brains of the lovesick. She says: “The game of love matters. It matters big time.” Exploring the difficult path out of self-destructive obsessive behavior toward a new self, “Sleepless in New York” is a film for those in love, out of love or looking for love.

The Keeping Room – Written by Julia Hart 

In this re-imagined American Western set towards the end of the Civil War, Southerner Augusta (Brit Marling) encounters two renegade, drunken soldiers who are on a mission of pillage and violence. After escaping an attempted assault, Augusta races back to the isolated farmhouse that she shares with her sister Louise (Hailee Steinfeld) and their female slave Mad (Muna Otaru). When the pair of soldiers track Augusta down intent on exacting revenge, the trio of women are forced to take up arms to fend off their assailants, finding ways to resourcefully defend their home — and themselves — as the escalating attacks become more unpredictable and relentless.

Wildlike (Also available on VOD)

In this thrilling coming-of-age adventure, a troubled teen must face the dangers of the Alaskan wild, as well as her own past, in order to find her way home. Sent to stay with her uncle in Alaska while her mother is in treatment, 14-year-old Mackenzie (Ella Purnell) is forced to flee as her uncle’s attention turns threatening. Unable to reach her mother and afraid that the authorities will return her to her uncle, she embarks on a journey across miles of wilderness to find a way back home to Seattle. As she plunges deeper into the Alaskan interior, a chance connection with gruff backpacker Bartlett (Rene Greenwood) proves to be her only lifeline. Mackenzie shadows Bartlett across the rugged frontier, thwarting his efforts to cut her loose until he has no choice but to help her survive, and against the backdrop of a spectacular landscape, they discover the redemptive power of friendship.

10 Days in a Madhouse 

The stunning, true story of journalist Nellie Bly’s now-legendary undercover stint in a mental hospital in 1887. This dramatic biopic follows a 23-year-old Bly (Caroline Barry), a fledgling and preternaturally talented news writer looking to expose rampant abuse, corruption, murder and gross mistreatment of patients in the women’s insane asylum at a mental hospital known as Blackwell’s Island. To gain access to the asylum, however, Bly must first convince the requisite authorities that she is insane. After being admitted into the wing, Bly uncovers shocking truths and injustices that would gain the nation’s attention and launch her career as one of the most influential journalists in American history.

Endgame – Written and Directed by Carmen Marron

Since he was 5 years old, Jose’s grandmother taught him to play chess like his grandfather, who was a champion in Mexico. Now as part of the Brownsville school team, Jose has the chance to use his skills, and for once in his life finds himself in the spotlight, as he tries to help his team make it to the Texas state finals. As their coach, Mr. Alvarado, teaches his students the meaning of perseverance and team effort in the face of adversity, Jose discovers his own strengths and uses them to bring his broken family together.

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