There are few boundaries on public transportation, at least not physical ones. Crammed together in small spaces for oftentimes unexpected lengths of time, people who don’t normally interact are suddenly forced into each others’ orbits. Such is the concept behind Tribeca winner “Materna,” which uses the New York City subway system as a meeting point for four seemingly very different women, all of whom are forced to deal with an unexpected encounter and the impact it has on their lives. At its heart, motherhood and questions of feminine identity burn bright.
The film is the directorial debut of David Gutnik, who is also the editor of several acclaimed features, including Christina Choe’s 2018 Sundance award-winning drama “Nancy.” Gutnik wrote the film alongside two of his stars, Jade Eshete (“Billions” and “High Maintenance”) and Assol Abdullina (in one of her first film roles), and the film also features leading roles from indie darlings Kate Lyn Sheil and Lindsay Burdge. The film was produced by Liz Cardenas and Emily McEvoy.
The film’s official synopsis reads: “‘Materna’ follows the journeys of four New York women who are isolated by city life, separated by class, politics, race and religion, and yet bound by a shared hunger for identity and connection. With their futures at stake, the characters’ lives are upended by a fateful encounter underground, where their stories of personal transformation become a battle for survival.”
The film’s first trailer hints at that encounter, but it also hastens to carve out each character as her own woman, complete with her individual worries, fears, and problems, all of which will feed into what’s to come underground. “Materna” also features supporting turns from Rory Culkin, Michael Chernus, and Sturgill Simpson, though it does seem to be quite the showcase for its female talents.
“Materna” was set to premiere at the canceled 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, where it still earned jury awards for both Best Actress (for Assol Abdullina) and Best Cinematography (for Greta Zozula, Chananun Chotrungroj, and Kelly Jeffrey).
“Materna” eventually screened at the 2021 edition of the festival, and will next hit VOD and all digital platforms through rising distributor Utopia on August 10.
Check out the first trailer and poster for “Materna,” available exclusively on IndieWire, below.