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2016 Fall Movie Preview: 11 New Movies From Female Directors and Filmmakers to See

From festival favorites to the year's most personal documentary, female filmmakers are serving some of the fall's best bets.

All this week, IndieWire will be rolling out our annual Fall Preview, including offerings that span genres, a close examination of some of the year’s biggest breakouts, all the awards contenders you need to know about now and special attention to all the new movies you need to get through a jam-packed fall movie-going season. Check back every day for a new look at the best the season has to offer, and clear your schedule, because we’re going to fill it right up.

“White Girl,” September 2

White Girl

“White Girl”


Writer-director Elizabeth Wood exploded onto the filmmaking scene when her controversial debut “White Girl” shocked audiences at the Sundance Film Festival. A fearless portrait of young female sexuality, the film stars “Homeland’s” Morgan Saylor as Leah, a college student who becomes involved with a young drug dealer during the last two weeks of summer in New York City. When the cops bust Blue in front of Leah, she must decide what to do with thousands of dollars worth of his cocaine. Wood’s bold vision for the film dictated that the lead actress had to be a younger actress, and Saylor was just 19 when filming began. Produced by Christine Vachon, “White Girl” has drawn comparisons to “Thirteen” and “Kids.” The film was acquired out of Sundance by Netflix and FilmRise. -GW

“Cameraperson,” September 9



Kirsten Johnson has been one of the best cinematographers working in nonfiction for the last two decades, with an IMDb page that includes dozens of great films including director Laura Poitras’ impressive body of work (“The Oath” and “Citizenfour”). With her memoir made through unused footage from those films, “Cameraperson,” Johnson has emerged as an exciting and unique storyteller, who has been the toast of festival circuit since the film premiered at Sundance. At the very least, “Cameraperson” is a breakthrough in the sense that dedicated film watchers and press are aware of her incredible contributions to filmmaking, but we are also anxious to see what other innovative stories of her own she may have to tell. -CO

“Miss Stevens,” September 16

"Miss Stevens"

“Miss Stevens”

Director and co-writer Julia Hart has a natural ability to turn seemingly been-there, done-that stories into layered, complex outings about women to be reckoned with. She did it with her script for the feminist Civil War film “The Keeping Room” (an instant classic of the genre that demands to be seen), and for her directorial debut, Hart shines that same kind of light on a very different story. Lily Rabe toplines “Miss Stevens” as the eponymous miss in question, a shiftless high school teacher who is tasked with dealing with her own personal issues while also chaperoning a teen debate group. The horror! The film is a smart, canny slice of the “figuring out life, perhaps kind of badly” sub-genre of comedy, and Hart adds flair and feeling in every frame. -KE

“My Blind Brother,” September 23

"My Blind Brother"

“My Blind Brother”

Sophie Goodhart knows a thing or two about handling tricky tones, as her endearing comedy spins off an unlikely premise — what if your really popular, really beloved, really blind brother was actually a huge jerk? — and ends up finding a charming romance and hilarious comedy in its midst. Featuring Adam Scott doing the kind of jerky work only he can pull off so easily, alongside a wickedly well-matched Nick Kroll and Jenny Slate, Goodhart also has a ear and eye for casting. The three exhibit a natural, fizzy comedic chemistry, one that keeps things afloat even when Goodhart doubles down on plot points of a far more serious nature. –KE

“The Dressmaker,” September 23

"The Dressmaker"

“The Dressmaker”

A sensation in Australia, where the film won four times on AACTA Awards night, Jocelyn Moorhouse’s first feature in nearly two decades is a story with strong ties to the country. Adapted from the 2000 Rosalie Ham novel of the same name, Moorhouse brings to the screen the tale of an expert clothing designer who makes her way back to her rural Australian hometown from Paris. Kate Winslet stars alongside Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving in a period piece that’s as concerned with avenging past injury as it is with the intricacies of textile assembly. A fashion western? Yes, please. -SG

“Queen of Katwe,” September 23

"Queen of Katwe"

“Queen of Katwe”


Those of us hoping Mira Nair’s fresh ingenuity and vibrancy hasn’t been lost after disappointing efforts like “Amelia” and “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” have a lot riding on “Queen of Katwe,” a biopic about Ugandan champion chess player Phiona Mutesi. The drama hails from Disney and ESPN Films, which might suggest an overtly safe and by-the-numbers true story, but Nair’s involvement and the casting of Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo certainly have us thinking otherwise. Even if the story is somewhat routine, we’re betting these talented artists can make tired underdog stories feel excitingly new. Plus, chess has proven time and time again to be a rare sport with serious dramatic chops on the big screen (see “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” “Pawn Sacrifice”). -ZS

“Audrie & Daisy,” September 23

"Audrie & Daisy"

“Audrie & Daisy”

Co-directed by Bonni Cohen (“The Rape of Europa”) alongside Jon Shenk, this Sundance premiere documentary follows two teenage girls who have both suffered — quite mightily — at the hands of online bullies. There are plenty of secrets to keep under wraps here (be cautious about diving deeper into learning more about the film until you see it, unless you’re not spoiler-phobic), but Cohen and Shenk handle some serious struggles and huge emotional beats with sensitivity and style. The film is a timely look at the lives of teens today, lives that are lived so often and so fully online, and what happens when things go terribly off-track. -KE

“Sand Storm,” September 28

"Sand Storm"

“Sand Storm”

Israeli director Elite Zexer surprised Sundance earlier this year with “Sand Storm,” a confidently told coming-of-age story about how a teenage girl’s forbidden love affair challenges the traditions of her Bedouin mother and father. It’s a world of perplexing singularities (the father, for instance, is getting ready to wed his second wife), and by throwing viewers into the middle of it and letting them sort out its rules, Zexer’s utilizes an anthropological style where the viewer is just as disoriented as the female protagonist. Rather than proposing solutions or envisioning a tight happy ending, Zexer lets “Sand Storm” linger in the crevices of a fascinating cultural challenge, and it’s bound to be one of the fall’s major surprises. -ZS

“American Honey,” September 30

"American Honey"

“American Honey”


Andrea Arnold is back, and with a long-promised and much-anticipated passion project that only illuminates just how much we need the director’s keen eye and unique attitude in today’s cinema. “American Honey” follows a ragtag group of magazine sellers — “a mag crew” — as they crisscross the Midwest selling their wares and getting lit, all told through the eyes and heart of their newest member, Star (revelatory newbie Sasha Lane). Arnold has always excelled at depicting the inner lives of young women, and “American Honey” is no exception. Star’s experiences are various and specific — from her fraught romantic relationship with co-star Shia LaBeouf to her incendiary rivalry with Riley Keough — but also wonderfully relatable and gorgeously depicted. “American Honey” is the kind of film only Arnold could make, and aren’t we lucky she did. -KE

“Certain Women,” October 14

"Certain Women"

“Certain Women”

IFC Films

For more than 20 years now, “Meek’s Cutoff” director Kelly Reichardt has made films that dismantle the tropes that historically tend to suffocate fictional female characters. Between movies like “Wendy and Lucy” and the recently restored “River of Grass,” cinema’s unofficial poet laureate of the Pacific Northwest has consistently refused to define women by the utility that they tend to serve on screen as plot devices and sex objects for the men in their lives. Based on a 2009 collection of short stories by Maile Meloy, “Certain Women” allows Reichardt to show off what she’s always done so well, the film painting three discrete portraits of women who are struggling to locate themselves in their own lives. Starring Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and — in its magnificently quiet final stretch — Kristen Stewart and luminous newcomer Lily Gladstone (respectively playing a young lawyer and the lightly infatuated ranch hand who takes her night school class), the film isn’t absent of men, but it exists independent of them, and is all the richer for it. -DE

“The Edge of Seventeen,” November 18

Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson

“The Edge of Seventeen”

STX Entertainment

“Edge of Seventeen” will make its premiere at Closing Night of TIFF 2016, but it will also be a debut for first-time director Kelly Fremon Craig. Anchored by star Hailee Steinfeld, this high-school comedy has a few dark undercurrents (as any film with a trailer that starts with a character proclaiming “I don’t want to take up a ton of your time, but I’m gonna kill myself” will), but it’s rooted in a relatable story about young friendships tested by changing affections. Throw in Woody Harrelson as a quick-witted, brutally honest teacher and the building blocks are there for a potential strong initial outing with some solid laughs. -SG

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