Fitting well with the festive spirit of Christmas (if that’s your thing), December brings us a number of women-centric and female-directed films that will help end the year on a high.
The unstoppable Jennifer Lawrence provides us with yet another uncomprisingly bold female character in her most recent film “Joy,” starring alongside familiar co-stars Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper. Playing the titular character in a film that seems to echo the familial, Scorcesean, NY-set-dramas that De Niro once led, Lawrence proves that the days of male anxiety-ridden narratives are numbered. Joy to the world — there’s a new (female-driven) dynasty in town.
Narratives propelled by strong sisterhood will also command the screens this December. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will lead the sororal charge their much-anticipated comedy, “Sisters,” which follows the unashamed exploits of two thirty-something siblings who throw a house party in protest of their parents’ decision to sell their family home. Much darker will be “Bleeding Heart,” starring Jessica Biel and Zosia Mamet, which tells the story of a woman (Biel) who fearlessly enters an illicit human- and drug-trafficking underworld to save her sister (Mamet).
Two British grand dames, Maggie Smith and Charlotte Rampling, have their own starring vehicles this month. Smith plays a homeless woman with a deep and layered past in “The Lady in the Van” (based on a true story), while Rampling commands the screen as a retired Englishwoman forced to confront the reality of her very long, seemingly happy marriage in “45 Years.” Across the ocean, a young woman (Teyonah Parris) from Chicago’s South Side attempts to organize a sex strike to curb inner-city violence in “Chi-Raq.”
Following “Carol’s” critically acclaimed and refreshing portrayal of the intimate love between two women, “The Girl King” looks at the life of the 17th-century gender-queer monarch Christina of Sweden — a ruler whose determination not to become a man’s property through marriage and her controversial and close relationship with her lady-in-waiting secured her a legendary status within Scandinavian history.
Celebrating the universality of music and its profound influence on people’s lives, “Imba Means Sing” is a documentary that captures the resilient spirit of a group of talented children from Uganda, as they journey to New York to participate in a prestigious music awards ceremony.
All descriptions are from press releases, unless stated otherwise.
Rock in the Red Zone (Documentary) – Directed by Laura Bialis
On the edge of Israel’s Negev Desert lies Sderot, a city of factory workers and rock musicians — the children of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East. Despite being pummeled for years by homemade rockets, the people of Sderot persevere. In raucous Moroccan celebrations, they embrace newcomers. In quiet family dinners, they voice their dreams. And in the underground bomb shelters, they create music — a unique Sderot sound that has transformed Israeli music by injecting Middle Eastern influences into Western Rock. Into this intense cauldron of art, sand and bloodshed comes an American woman with a camera. Searching for a story about music, filmmaker Laura Bialis encounters a creative community that captivates her to love and changes the course of her life.
The Lady in the Van – Opens in Los Angeles and New York
The film tells the true story of Alan Bennett’s (Alex Jennings) strained friendship with Miss Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith), an eccentric woman of uncertain origins, who “temporarily” parked her broken down van in Bennett’s London driveway… and proceeded to live there for the next fifteen years.
Mother Teresa (Juliet Stevenson) recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is considered one of the greatest humanitarians of modern times. Her selfless commitment changed hearts, lives and inspired millions throughout the world. “The Letters,” as told through personal letters she wrote over the last 40 years of her life, reveal a troubled and vulnerable women who grew to feel an isolation and an abandonment by God. The story is told from the point of view of a Vatican priest (Rutger Hauer) charged with the task of investigating acts and events following her death. He recounts her life’s work, her political oppression, her religious zeal and her unbreakable spirit.
Orion: The Man Who Would Be King (Documentary) – Written and Directed by Jeanie Finlay
Following the death of Elvis Presley in 1977, a masked mystery man with the voice of The King emerged. Who was Orion? Where did he come from? And was he really the second coming of Elvis? At once a stranger-than-fiction music industry mystery and a poignant investigation of fame, identity and destiny, “Orion: The Man Who Would Be King” gets the wild, behind-the-scenes story of a talented but overlooked artist who sold his soul for pop stardom — and wound up paying the price.
The Girl King
“The Girl King” tells the story of one of the most iconic queens in history, Queen Kristina of Sweden. Crowned Queen in 1632 at the age of six and raised as a prince, Queen Kristina (Malin Buska) was a brilliant, yet enigmatic young leader who fought conservative forces to revolutionize Sweden while falling in love with her lady-in-waiting (Sarah Gadon) and exploring her awakening sexuality. Torn between conflicts of political, religious and personal aspirations, Kristina made one of the most controversial choices in history.
Imba Means Sing (Documentary) – Directed by Danielle Bernstein
From the slums of Uganda to the streets of New York, “Imba Means Sing” weaves together the lives of three young Africans who have been selected to participate in the Grammy-nominated African Children’s Choir. The film is an intimate character portrait told through the perspective of eight-year-old Moses, the choir’s star drummer. Growing up in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, Moses and his family lack enough resources for him to even attend the first grade and know all too well that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure his future and change the course of his family’s life. Armed with his youthful resilience and infectious smile, the film follows his journey from poverty towards his dream of becoming a pilot as he works for an education and spreads the magic of his African childhood.
A Royal Night Out
As WWII ends, and peace extends across Europe, Princesses Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Margaret (Bel Powley) are allowed out to join the celebrations. It is a night full of excitement, danger and the first flutters of romance.
My Friend Victoria – Opens in New York
An 8-year-old black child named Victoria (Keylia Achie Beguie) is taken in for a night by the wealthy, white, well-intentioned family of one of her schoolmates.The experience haunts her for years to come, shaping her desires and offering a mirage of privilege that she dreams of but finds impossible to attain. As an adult (Guslagie Malanga), she drifts from job to job, but then unexpectedly reconnects with the family’s youngest son (Pierre Andrau) in an encounter that will reshape her life yet again.
“Chi-Raq” is a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes. After the murder of a child by a stray bullet, a group of women led by Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) organize against the on-going violence in Chicago’s Southside creating a movement that challenges the nature of race, sex and violence in America and around the world.
Bleeding Heart – Written and Directed by Diane Bell
“Bleeding Heart” follows the story of May (Jessica Biel), a yoga instructor who finds herself behaving in ways she’d never have imagined herself, in an effort to protect her newly discovered sister, Shiva (Zosia Mamet) from a less than savory boyfriend.
Sisters – Written by Paula Pell
Two sisters (Amy Poehler and Tina Fey) decide to throw one last house party before their parents sell their family home.
There is just one week until Kate Mercer’s (Charlotte Rampling) forty-fifth wedding anniversary and the planning for the party is going well. But then a letter arrives for her husband (Tom Courtenay). The body of his first love has been discovered, frozen and preserved in the icy glaciers of the Swiss Alps. By the time the party is upon them, five days later, there may not be a marriage left to celebrate.
Joy – Story by Annie Mumolo
“Joy” is the wild story of a family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love pave the road in this intense emotional and human comedy about becoming a true boss of family and enterprise facing a world of unforgiving commerce. Allies become adversaries, and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy’s (Jennifer Lawrence) inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces.