It wasn’t difficult to find female-written and/or directed films this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. In fact, my time to attend the fest was limited to three days, so I just went to the films that fit my schedule and lo and behold, 45 percent of these films were either written and/or directed by a woman! Ranging from dark comedies and thought-provoking dramas to documentaries and unique and oftentimes hilarious short films, TFF certainly rolled out the red carpet for women this year!
BEST OF (MY) FEST:
Screenwriter Brian Sacca hands over the directing reigns to the talented Tanya Wexler as she tackles the real-life subject of the unscrupulous scavengers known as debt collectors in a fictional tale starring Zoey Deutch. The story takes place in the booming metropolis of Buffalo, NY, known for and priding itself on Buffalo Wild Wings (Anchor Bar or Duffs?) and the Buffalo Bills. With a sprinkling of The Big Short style to this story we learn everything about the entity of unregulated debt collecting while laughing out loud.
Bouncing back and forth in time and using narration to get us up to speed, Peg (Deutch) explains how she came to a point of wielding a gun and screaming at the top of her lungs. She’s whip-smart, but when she pits herself against the head honcho in the “industry,” she finds that debts aren’t always financial ones. It’s a high-paced, quick-witted film that capitalizes on the charisma of its lead actress and a story that is as engaging as it is informative and entertaining. With a supporting cast the likes of Judy Greer who plays Peg’s mom, Jai Courtney as a mob boss and a cast of personable misfits as her crew, it’s a winning equation.
Hannah Bos co-writes this deeply emotional story which, on the surface, appears simple only to give way to complex yet real issues in the lives of Kathy (Hong Chau), her son Cody (Lucas Jaye) and the elderly neighbor named Del (Brian Dennehy). Kathy and Cody arrive in this small town to clear out the belongings of her deceased older sister’s home, a sister she really never knew, but the task before her is a daunting one. As Kathy confronts her own understanding of her past, Cody forges a relationship with Del which beautifully impacts all three main characters. Driveways addresses the familiar topics of life’s regrets, aging, and love. Jaye and Dennehy create a meaningful and authentic relationship that reminds me of another film, St. Vincent. Chau is not the focal point of the film, but her understated strength girds the foundation of the film, allowing Dennehy and Jaye the latitude to shine.
THE SHORT HISTORY OF THE LONG ROAD:
Ani Simon-Kennedy writes and directs this refreshing road trip film that punctuates the importance what happens at the crossroads of life. Nola (Sabrina Carpenter) has grown up living on the road with her father and ignoring societal expectations. She soon finds herself alone and in search of her mother who abandoned them many years ago, but what Nola finds along her journey is much more than she expected. Nola clings to the lessons her father taught her while building her own confidence and finding her way. Her quest for identity and belonging is at the core of the film while it encourages the viewer to question our own preconceived notions of the norm, beautifully exemplifying the connection and need for family…no matter who comprises that family.
Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia direct this striking documentary about Chinese women who are stigmatized for not marrying. The pressure within the families and the country as a whole is exorbitant as we meet three women, all who resist the non-stop assault to marry and have a family. Exploring the avenues with which the country creates opportunities to play matchmaker, and the shame a family has as a daughter becomes one of the “leftovers,” is, from an American woman’s perspective, shocking. These three subjects allow us into their lives to experience this seemingly archaic expectation, enlightening us to another culture and the courage it takes to swim upstream. Shlam and Medalia’s skill in capturing poignant moments create an even deeper understanding of the situation and connects us to these women as we root for them to not only have independence, but happiness on their own terms.
While TFF was an abridged version this year, it was certainly a memorable one thanks to the quality of films, many which were created by women.
© Pamela Powell (5/7/19) FF2 Media
Photo credits: Tribeca Film Festival