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Sundance’s Shorts Program is 39% Female-Helmed

Sundance's Shorts Program is 39% Female-Helmed

The short film programs at Sundance 2016 have been announced, and of the 72 shorts being screened across various subsections, 28 are directed or co-directed by women. That means that, overall, the slate is 39% female-helmed.

For comparison, women directed or co-directed 45% of TIFF’s shorts program this year. The numbers for both TIFF and Sundance exceed the average. A recent study revealed that a whopping 68% of shorts showing at the world’s top film festivals are directed by men, with just 32% directed by women.

The U.S. Narrative Short Films lineup includes one short directed by a Hollywood star. “Jurassic Park” and “The Help” actress Bryce Dallas Howard’s “Solemates” offers a fresh take on romance, with the story told from the perspective of shoes.

“Mr. Robot” star Frankie Shaw is also premiering a short in this category. “Too Legit” follows a young woman who finds herself pregnant after being sexually assaulted on her college campus. She embarks on a quest to determine whether or not her rape is “legitimate” — a reference to Senate candidate Todd Akin’s infamously insensitive and wildly inaccurate views on rape

The International Narrative Short Films program includes stories about arranged marriages (Elnura Osmonalieva’s “Seide”) and auditioning male actors (Lovisa Siren’s “Audition”). 

On the nonfiction side of things, Razan Ghalayini’s “Entrapped” questions just how successful an FBI mission to expose suspected terrorists was. The Documentary Short Films selection includes “Beneath the Embers,” from Verónica Jessamyn López Sainz and Andrea Fuentes Charles, a portrait of a woman in Guanajuato, Mexico, struggling to make sacrifices in her present to ensure a brighter future. 

Women are scarcely represented, however, in both the New Frontier Short Films category and the Midnight Short Films, where they account for 0 of 4 films and 1 of 8 films, respectively. Pleasantly surprising, though, is the number of women behind the short animated films screening at the fest: 5 of 12 are directed or co-directed by women. 

Here’s a breakdown of each subsection:

U.S. Narrative Short Films: 7/17 directed by women
International Narrative Short Films: 6/13 directed by women
Documentary Short Films: 9/18 directed or co-directed by women 
New Frontier Short Films: 0/4 directed by women
Midnight Short Films: 1/8 directed by women
Animated Short Films: 5/12 directed by women 

Below you’ll find all of the female-helmed and co-helmed shorts screening at Sundance 2016, adapted from a press release. Plot summaries courtesy of the Sundance Institute. 


Affections / U.S.A.
(Director and screenwriter: Bridey Elliott) — This comedy about isolation and
loneliness follows a young woman who is adrift and seeking intimacy in the most
unlikely places.

Dogwalker / U.S.A.
(Director and screenwriter: Kim Sherman) — This dark comedy adventure is the
story of a young dog walker after the unexpected death of her favorite client.

the Club
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Eva Vives) — A writer’s dilemma of whether
or not to join a professional networking club takes many interesting turns as
it unfolds entirely during one therapy session.

Jungle / U.S.A.
(Director and screenwriter: Asantewaa Prempeh) — The lines between trust,
betrayal, and forgiveness are intertwined for two Senegalese vendors as they
try to make a living on the streets of New York City.

(Director: Joey Ally, Screenwriters: Jen Tullock, Hannah Utt) — Work and life
partners Kate and Leigh share everything, from their apartment to the bar they
co-own. When a sex life slump forces them to reconsider their relationship,
they must confront how intertwined their lives have become, to humorous ends.

Solemates /
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bryce Dallas Howard) — Told from the
perspective of shoes, this film tells the story of a couple’s journey through
life—the ups, the downs, the passion, and the dedication it takes to share your
life with the one you love.

 / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Frankie Shaw)
— After becoming pregnant from a sexual assault on campus, a young woman goes
on a journey to find out if the rape was “legitimate.” This film was
inspired by the statements of Senator Todd Akin.
Audition / Sweden (Director: Lovisa Sirén, Screenwriters:
Lovisa Sirén, Peter Modestij) — Mika is auditioning male actors for her first
feature, and they are all well-established alpha dogs in the film business. The
situation turns more sour as their confidence in her reaches new lows.
Belladonna / Croatia
(Director and screenwriter: Dubravka Turic) — Three women of different ages and
backgrounds meet in an ophthalmologist’s waiting room. The mention of a tragedy
that left one of them nearly blind suddenly bridges their differences and
creates a possibility for closeness and connection.

Land Tides (Marea de Tierra) / Chile,
France (Directors and screenwriters: Manuela Martelli, Amirah Tajdin) — Laura,
a heartbroken teenager from Santiago, is on holiday in the southern Chilean
archipelago, Chiloé, with her friends. As she wanders the lonely island
seascapes, she encounters a group of women who are seaweed collectors and
shares stories with them.

Maman(s) / France
(Director and screenwriter: Maïmouna Doucouré ) — Life is disrupted for
eight-year-old Aida when her father returns with a young Senegalese woman,
Rama, whom he introduces as his second wife. Sensitive to her mother’s
distress, Aida decides to get rid of the new visitor.

Mobilize /
Canada (Director: Caroline Monnet) — Guided expertly by those who live on the
land and are driven by the pulse of the natural world, this story takes us on
an exhilarating journey from the far north to the urban south.

Seide /
Kyrgyzstan (Director and screenwriter: Elnura Osmonalieva) — Seide lives in a
snowy mountain village with her humble family and her beloved horse. When she’s
forced into an arranged marriage with a man from a wealthy family, she fights
to save her horse from being slaughtered for food for the wedding.

Kind of Girl
 / Jordan (Director: Khaldiya Jibawi) — Filmed
during a media workshop for Syrian girls in Jordan’s Za’atari Refugee Camp,
17-year-old Khaldiya meditates on how the camp has opened up new horizons and
given her a sense of courage that she lacked in Syria.

 Beneath the Embers (Bajo las
 / Mexico (Directors and screenwriters: Verónica
Jessamyn López Sainz, Andrea Fuentes Charles) — Isabel, a young woman from the
Sierra mountains of Guanajuato, is motivated by the love of her family, and she
has learned that she must sacrifice her present in order to value 
tomorrow’s success and
achieve her dreams.

Entrapped / U.S.A.
(Director: Razan Ghalayini) — The FBI claimed it exposed a dangerous group of
men in a massive entrapment operation over an alleged plot to attack a U.S.
Army base in New Jersey. But were they really terrorists?

Figure / Poland, Belgium (Director and screenwriter:
Katarzyna Gondek) — A gigantic figure emerges from the snow and sits on a hill
with spiders, saints, and bumper cars in this surreal tale about creating
myths, religious kitsch, and the desire for greatness. Meet the world’s largest
sacral miniature park resident.
of a Thousand Colours
Belgium (Director: Karen Vazquez Guadarrama) —Flower of a Thousand Colours shows an intimate slice of the life
of Emiliana, a loving mother who struggles every day with her rough
environment—a Bolivian mining camp.

I Am Yup’ik /
U.S.A. (Directors: Daniele Anastasion,
Nathan Golon) — A 16-year-old Yup’ik Eskimo leaves his tiny village and travels
across the frozen tundra to compete in an all-Yup’ik basketball tournament and
bring pride to his village.

The Saint of Dry Creek / U.S.A.
(Director: Julie Zammarchi) — Patrick Haggerty was a teenager in rural Dry
Creek, Washington, in the late 1950s. Here, he remembers the day he first had a
conversation with his father about being gay.

 / U.S.A. (Directors: Ivete
, Patrick Bresnan) — Emboldened by a giant block party on the evening
of their high school prom, a group of students enters the night with the hope
of transcending their rural town and the industrial landscape that surrounds
Territory / United
Kingdom (Director: Eleanor Mortimer) — This warm and lyrical film follows a
group of unruly monkeys in Gibraltar and the people employed to control them
with peashooters.

Puppet Man
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jacqueline Castel) — A supernatural killer
stalks a young woman and her friends in a seedy, neon-lit dive bar in this
short film featuring horror legend John Carpenter.


Edmond / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Nina Gantz) — Edmond’s
impulse to love and be close to others is strong—maybe too strong. As he stands
by a lake contemplating his options, he reflects on his defining moments in
search of the origin of his desires.
Glove / U.S.A. (Directors: Alexa Haas, Bernardo Britto, Screenwriter: Bernardo Britto) — The
true story of a glove that’s been floating in space since 1968.
Grandfather Drum
Canada (Director and screenwriter: Michelle Derosier) — As the balance of the
world turns upside down for the Anishinabek people, the elder Naamowin builds a
healing drum to save his grandson and his people.

U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Dianne Bellino) — In this parable, a shy
wolf tries to connect with a group of hip, party-loving bunnies but finds her
body is in revolt.

Limbo Travel
 / France, Hungary (Directors and screenwriters:
Zsuzsanna Kreif, Borbála Zétényi) — In a country where men seem more interested
in their electronic gadgets than their peers, a group of lonely and
disillusioned women take the Limbo Limbo bus. Off to a far exotic country, they
hope to find happiness.

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