Nora Ephron Award Shines a Spotlight on Women Filmmakers at 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

Manhattan’s 17th Annual Tribeca Film Festival (April 18 – April 29) touted that 46 percent of the feature films in 2018 were directed by women (including special one-time screenings), the highest percentage in the festival’s history.

The anticipated centerpiece for us at FF2 Media each year is the Nora Ephron Award which “recognizes a woman who embodies the spirit and vision of the legendary filmmaker and writer Nora Ephron.” This year, the eligibility criteria for the $25,000 prize were: “One narrative film directed by or written by a woman making its world or international premiere.” The jurors this year for the 6th annual Nora Ephron Award were Joanna Gleason (Tony-winning actress), Rebecca Keegan (Vanity Fair Hollywood correspondent) and Sasheer Zamata (comedian/actress/writer).

Their selection of director/writer Nia DaCosta’s debut feature Little Woods recognized how DaCosta gave actresses Lily Collins and Tessa Thompson the means to sympathetically stretch into the grim social, financial and health care realities women face amidst the shale oil fracking boom. Click HERE to listen to DaCosta’s TFF Acceptance Speech.

TFF organizers don’t reveal which films are in contention for the Nora Ephron Award, but I was able to identify nine competition films that clearly met their criteria, as well as five others I thought were also possibles.  FF2’s Lesley Coffin has already spotlighted several of these films for us including Meredith Danluck’s State Like Sleep; Emma Forrest’s Untogether; Sophie Lorain’s Slut in a Good Way; and two male-focused films: Madeleine Sackler’s The OG and Ondi Timoner’s Mapplethorpe. 

Other female-directed (and female-centric) films at the festival include:

All About Nina – Director/writer Eva Vives sparked Mary Louise Winstead’s raw performance, like a #MeToo daughter of Ephron’s This Is My Life (1992);

All These Small Moments – Director/writer Melissa Miller Costanzo brought out the poignancy and humor in stressed NYC females — Molly Ringwald as the beleaguered wife/mother, Jemima Kirke’s “older woman,” and Harley Quinn’s feisty teen girl.

Amateurs – Two teen girls cheerfully co-opt a Chamber of Commerce promotion in Swedish director/co-writer/co-editor Gabriela Pichler’s comedy with a mostly nonprofessional cast.

Lemonade – Romanian director/co-writer Ioana Uricaru’s struggling immigrant mother (Mălina Manovici) is searingly relevant.

M – French director/writer/star Sara Forestier’s gritty, inner-city fairy tale is a new take on Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail (1998) for the romantic power of language spoken and read.

The Party’s Just Beginning – Scottish director/writer/star (and sci-fi darling) Karen Gillan created a mordantly amusing portrait of life in her suicide-beset Highlands hometown.

Hopefully, these films will all live beyond Tribeca.

Where are the five previous Nora Ephron Award Winners now?

2017 The Divine Order (Switzerland) Written and directed by Petra Volpe

Though only earning $76,000 on U.S. release (per Box Office Mojo), the 1971-set film won many other awards and it was Switzerland’s pick as its entry for the 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Volpe this year has promoted the release in the U.K. & Ireland (on International Women’s Day), Israel and Spain. FF2 Media was proud to sponsor a screening of The Divine Order at the 2018 Athena Film Festival. It is now available in the USA on DVD & streaming. The Divine Order is highly recommended by FF2 Media.

2016 Adult Life Skills (U.K.) – Written and directed by Rachel Tunnard

While Tunnard is developing TV comedy series, I’m betting that when her BFF/lead actress Jodie Whittaker is seen on U.S. TV screens in October picking up the iconic sonic screwdriver as the 13th and first female Dr Who, this quirky and touching comedy will finally be available to U.S. audiences.

2015 Sworn Virgin (Albania/Italy) Directed by Laura Bispuri and co-written with Francesca Manieri.

TFF presented the North American premiere of Bispuri and Manieri’s latest drama Daughter of Mine (Italy/Germany/Switzerland). Set in the scrappy, sun-struck landscape of Sardinia, this Italian-language drama is a powerful maternal love triangle between two mothers and their young daughter. Strand Releasing brings it to U.S. theaters later this year.  Bispuri now serves on the Advisory Board of “We Do It Together,” a nonprofit film production entity that produces films, documentaries, TV and other media dedicated to the empowerment of women.

2014 Zero Motivation (Israel) Written and directed by Talya Lavie

While the TV version of Zero Motivation is still being developed with Amy Poehler’s production company for BBC America, Lavie’s NYC-set follow-up, The Current Love of My Life (a contemporary take on Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem’s short stories) is in development with Spiro Films.

2013 Farah Goes Bang (USA) Written and directed by Meera Menon

Last year, Menon directed episodes for notable TV series, including the female-focused Queen of the South (on USA) and Glow (on Netflix).  Of the upcoming Strange Angel (CBS All Access), she tweeted: “Working on this show now. It’s going to be so good. The subject matter is totally bananas and IT REALLY HAPPENED.”

© Nora Lee Mandel (4/30/18) FF2 Media

Featured Photo: Tessa Thompson and Lily James in Little Woods (2018) courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Middle Photo: The Divine Order starring Marie Leuenberger, Max Simonischek, Rachel Braunschweig, Sibylle Brunner, Marta Zoffoli and Bettina Stucky.

Bottom Photo: FF2 Media’s Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner with filmmaker Petra Volpe at the 2018 Athena Film Festival. (2/25/18 photo courtesy of AFF)

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Nora Lee Mandel is a member of New York Film Critics Online. After high school weekends spent learning film history at NY’s Museum of Modern Art, she studied film criticism at New York University. In addition to many years of writing for national and New York City organizations in the arts, education, history, and city planning, her reviews of documentaries, independent, and foreign-language films, books, television, exhibitions, and music have also appeared in such outlets as:, FilmFestival Traveler and Lilith Magazine, the independent Jewish feminist quarterly. Her ongoing Critical Guide to Jewish Women in Movies, TV, and Pop Music has been the basis for her talks around the New York region.
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