Sundance has revealed the lineups for its narrative and nonfiction Premieres sections.
Seventeen narrative films will be making their world premieres at Sundance next year. Only three (or 18% of the section) will be directed by women: Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women,” Anne Fontaine’s “Agnus Dei” and Maggie Greenwald’s “Sophie and the Rising Sun.”
All three women-helmed films are female-centric. With “Certain Women,” Reichardt reunites with longtime collaborator Michelle Williams to tell the story of three womens’ interconnected lives in small-town America. Joining Williams onscreen will be Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern. Fontaine’s “Agnus Dei” centers on a young French doctor determined to help WWII survivors. She finds herself with the unlikeliest of patients — pregnant nuns. “Sophie and the Rising Sun,” from Greenwald, is set in the ’40s on the brink of WWII and follows a lonely woman (Julianne Nicholson, “Masters of Sex”), whose life is turned upside down after she falls in love with an Asian man. The small town in the South she calls home reacts to their romance with bigotry and hate.
Female filmmakers fare dramatically better in the documentary Premieres section. Of 12 nonfiction films, five (or 42%) are directed or co-directed by women. Offerings include “Maya Angelou And Still I Rise,” a portrait of the trailblazing poet and activist co-directed by Rita Coburn Whack, and the latest from “What Happened, Miss Simone?” director Liz Garbus, “Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper,” the story of one of the most famous mothers and sons in the nation. Stephanie Soechtig’s “Under the Gun” tackles the debate on gun control, with a special focus on the Sandy Hook massacre.
Last week, we reported that over 41% of films in the competition lineup for Sundance 2016 are directed or co-directed by women. What was especially heartening was the breakdown of the program — namely the fact that female filmmakers were just about equally represented in the narrative and doc sections, a real rarity at festivals. Typically, female-helmed films are significantly better represented in the documentary categories, so the Competition sections at Sundance 2016 are an exciting exception to the rule. Here’s the breakdown:
U.S. Dramatic Competition: 5/16 directed or co-directed by women
U.S. Documentary Competition: 6/15 directed or co-directed by women (Note: 16 films have been announced, but one of the directors is identified as “undisclosed,” so their sex is unknown.)
World Cinema Competition: 7/12 directed or co-directed by women
World Cinema Documentary Competition: 4/11 directed or co-directed by women (Note: One film in this category has yet to be announced. There will be 12 titles total.)
If only the Premieres sections could compare. Instead, we have a narrative program that’s 18% female-helmed versus a documentary program that’s 42% female-helmed.
Here are the women-directed films screening in both Premieres sections at Sundance Film Festival 2016, adapted from a press release. Plot summaries are courtesy of the Sundance Institute.
A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated narrative
films of the coming year.
Agnus Dei / France, Poland (Director: Anne Fontaine,
Screenwriters: Sabrina N. Karine, Alice Vial, Pascal Bonitzer) — 1945 Poland:
Mathilde, a young French doctor, is on a mission to help World War II
survivors. When a nun seeks her assistance in helping several pregnant nuns in
hiding, who are unable to reconcile their faith with their pregnancies,
Mathilde becomes their only hope. Cast: Lou de Laâge, Agata Kulesza,
Agata Buzek, Vincent Macaigne, Joanna Kulig, Katarzyna Dabrowska. World
Certain Women / U.S.A. (Director: Kelly Reichardt,
Screenwriter: Kelly Reichardt based on stories by Maile Meloy) — The lives of
three woman intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing
a trail. Cast: Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, James Le
Gros, Jared Harris, Lily Gladstone. World Premiere
Sophie and the Rising Sun / U.S.A. (Director
and screenwriter: Maggie Greenwald) — In a small Southern town in the autumn of
1941, Sophie’s lonely life is transformed when an Asian man arrives under
mysterious circumstances. Their love affair becomes the lightning rod for
long-buried conflicts that erupt in bigotry and violence with the outbreak of
World War ll. Cast: Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Lorraine
Toussaint, Takashi Yamaguchi, Diane Ladd, Joel Murray. World Premiere. SALT
LAKE CITY GALA FILM
Renowned filmmakers and films about far-reaching subjects comprise this section
highlighting our ongoing commitment to documentaries.
Maya Angelou And Still I Rise / U.S.A.
(Directors: Bob Hercules, Rita Coburn Whack) — The remarkable story of Maya
Angelou — iconic writer, poet, actress and activist whose life has intersected
some of the most profound moments in recent American history. World
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You /
U.S.A. (Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady) — How did a poor Jewish kid from
Connecticut bring us Archie Bunker and become one of the most successful
television producers ever? Norman Lear brought provocative subjects like war,
poverty, and prejudice into 120 million homes every week. He proved that social
change was possible through an unlikely prism: laughter. World
Premiere. DAY ONE FILM
Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper /
U.S.A. (Director: Liz Garbus) — Gloria Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper
each tell the story of their past and present, their loves and losses, and
reveal how some family stories have the tendency to repeat themselves in the
most unexpected ways. World Premiere
Richard Linklater—dream is destiny / U.S.A. (Directors:
Louis Black, Karen Bernstein) — This is an unconventional look at a fiercely
independent style of filmmaking that arose in the 1990s from Austin, Texas,
outside the studio system. The film blends rare archival footage with journals,
exclusive interviews with Linklater on and off set, and clips from Slacker,
Dazed and Confused, Boyhood, and more. World Premiere
Under the Gun / U.S.A. (Director: Stephanie Soechtig) — The
Sandy Hook massacre was considered a watershed moment in the national debate on
gun control, but the body count at the hands of gun violence has only
increased. Through the lens of the victims’ families, as well as pro-gun
advocates, we examine why our politicians have failed to act. World