By Kim Owens, Liz Graves
The old-guy studio arguments that movies starring women don’t do well at the box office or movies led by women behind the camera don’t make money were finally placed firmly into the “bullshit” category in 2017.
The numbers don’t lie: the top three highest grossing U.S. domestic films all featured female lead roles: “Star Wars, The Last Jedi,” “Wonder Women,” and the live-action remake of “Beauty And The Beast.”
Leading off the marathon awards season, Greta Gerwig took home the Best Picture Comedy Golden Globe for the film she directed and wrote, “Ladybird,” and her lead Saoirse Ronan snagged Best Actress for a Comedy. In addition to “Lady Bird,” other top films in the Best Picture categories for the Golden Globes and the Oscars, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “The Shape of Water,” and “The Post,” all have strong women in the lead roles. After twenty years in the industry, “Mudbound” director of photography, Rachel Morrison, is the first woman ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for best cinematography, and is the first female cinematographer on a comic film, one that this is huge, tent-pole movie, Marvel’s “Black Panther.”
Considering the SXSW Film Festival kicks off less than a week after the dust has settled from the Oscars, there’s no doubt the results will scatter buzz around the festival. But this year’s programming is already slated to be robust showcase of behind the camera crews filled with female directors, producers, and screenwriters, along with women in lead roles.
In an interview with Kelly McEvers of NPR, Alicia Malone, a correspondent at Fandango pointed out, “This is the first time since 1958 that so many movies led by women topped the box office in a single year.” She followed with a somewhat pessimistic but realist statement reflected of what’s happened between 1958 and 2018, “Hollywood seems to have amnesia when it comes to the success of women. It’s a surprise every time it happens, and then quickly it fades away and they continue with male-led movies.”
But 2016 and the years before it wasn’t in anyway like 2017. We are in the midst of the #MeToo and the #TimesUp movement, which shows no signs of sliding backwards. Conferences across the globe are taking place, presenting the economic spending power women wield within the consumer market, the number of real estate purchased by women, and the number of female college graduates continues to rise.
Brands are listening. Streaming studios like Netflix show signs they are too (btw, I’m very excited to hear that Gracie & Frankie has been renewed for a third season).
What 2017 reflected at the box office, Malone explained, “Shows that audiences are really hungry for seeing women in the lead roles. And I hope that Hollywood listens and this becomes more of a trend and we see more opportunities for women in the future.”
Are you hungry to see women in lead acting or directing roles? These films scheduled to screen at SXSW 2018 will do the trick.
Director/Screenwriter: Laura Steinel
When an emotionally stunted 30 year-old woman is tasked with watching her awkward and bullied 12 year old niece for the week, she finds her life unfurling when the girl runs away to be a juggalo.
Cast: Taylor Schilling, Bryn Vale, Brian Tyree Henry, Jessie Ennis, Blair Beeken, Matt Walsh, Allison Tolman, Eric Edelstein, Kate McKinnon, Fabrizio Guido.
Director/Screenwriter: Olivia Newman
Director Olivia Newman began the journey for “First Match” as short film, winning numerous awards, including at the Aspen Shortfest, New Jersey International Film Festival, and IFC Audience Choice Award. With the accolades and recognition, she moved it into becoming a full-length film story of a teenage girl from Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood who has been through the revolving, disfunctional door of the foster care system, deciding that wrestling boys is the only way back to her estranged father. Going through the Sundance Labs program, it was picked up for full production under Neflix’s indie film umbrella.
Cast: Elvire Emanuelle, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Colman Domingo, Jharrel Jerome, Jared Kemp.
Director/Screenwriter: Nijla Mu’min
Summer is a carefree teenage girl and Instagram influencer whose world is turned upside down when her mother abruptly converts to Islam and becomes a different person. While dealing with the faith issues at home, Summer is also contemplating her own identity and sexuality after becoming attracted to a Muslim classmate.
Cast: Zoe Renee, Simone Missick, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Hisham Tawfiq, Kelly Jenrette, Dorian Missick, Ashlei Foushee, Maya Morales, Damien D. Smith
Director/Screenwriter: Carly Stone
Blake Conway is an aspiring journalist on her last year of college, looking into a somewhat grime future of questionable post-graduate job prospects and student loan payments. A hopeless romantic, she’s also a frustrated single women fed up by American men her own age that have no idea of how to treat a woman, and in true form, personifying the aspect of chivalry being dead. She decides to date an older, richer man who cares for her while documenting this journey as part of a journalism contest, which brings up questions about trading self worth and independence for security and having a romantic trist with a sugar daddy.
Cast: Jessica Barden, Hayley Law, Brett Dier, Timm Sharp, Avan Jogia, Camila Mendes.
Director/Screenwriter: Megan Griffiths
SADIE is a 13-year-old girl who is extremely close to her father, despite his lengthy and repeated military tours. When her mother begins down a romantic path with another man, Sadie turns to military-like tactics to stop the relationship, one she considers to be a betrayal, in its tracks.
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Sophia Mitri Schloss, John Gallagher Jr., Danielle Brooks, Tony Hale, Keith Williams, Tee Dennard.
Directors/Screenwriters: Hannah Marks, Joey Power
A young New York couple’s relationship develops quickly when Elliot is diagnosed with a life-changing illness after being free responsibility, spending most of his time partying with his best friend Nico. Shortly after meeting Mia, the two fall in love under the cloud of his illness, despite barely knowing each other.
Cast: Maika Monroe, Jeremy Allen White, DeRon Horton, Marisa Tomei, Sasha Lane, Joe Keery, Gina Gershon, Dean Winters, Olivia Luccardi.
Director/Screenwriter: Becca Gleason
Inspired by true events, Summer ’03 centers on Jamie, a 16-year-old girl and her extended family who are left reeling after her calculating grandmother unveils an array of family secrets on her deathbed. one involves a baptism, the other a blowjob. This sets Jamie and her family on an emotional roller coaster ride while she falls for the wrong guy at the wrong time.
Cast: Joey King, Andrea Savage, Paul Scheer, Jack Kilmer, Erin Darke, Stephen Ruffin, Kelly Lamor Wilson, Logan Medina, June Squibb.
Director/Screenwriter: Stacy Cochran
Ruth is getting by on an assistant’s salary at a posh New York girls’ school for girls in Manhattan, managing to move beyond the trouble and loss of her teenage years. Jonny is working local jobs and living the life of a wily thief near the Throgs Neck Bridge in the Bronx. The two were a couple years prior in high school, and when they meet again, Jonny’s flame for Ruth is still alive as it was back then. Bonus: the soundtrack features tracks by Damon Albarn from Blur and Gorillaz.
Cast: Emily Mortimer, Finn Wittrock, Rachel Keller, Scott Cohen, Jessica Hecht, James Ransone, Andrew Schulz, Tess Frazer, Afton Williamson, Zarif Kabier.
Directors: Fiona Dawson, Gabriel Silverman
“TransMilitary” chronicles the lives of four of the troops amoung the approximate 15,500 transgender people serve in the U.S. military, where in the past, they had to conceal their gender identity because military policies banned their ability to serve. defending their country’s freedom while fighting for their own. They put their careers and their families’ livelihoods on the line, coming out to top brass in the Pentagon as transgender in hopes of attaining the equal right to serve. Their risks paid off when the ban is lifted in 2016 by President Obama. Now with Trump running havoc in the White House and in the country as a whole, one of his many moves to take our progress backwards is to reinstate the ban, which may bring transgender troops back to square one.
Director: Sasha Waters Freyer
The scene of Marilyn Monroe’s flying skirt in “Some Like It Hot” is an iconic moment in American cinema. Garry Winogrand was on the set and captured that picture of the Hollywood legend, shooting more than a million photographs in his lifetime during the 20th century. Seen as an iconoclast and American storyteller, Winogrand died in 1984 without much fan fair. Thirty years after his death, director Sasha Water not only pays tribute to Winogrand’s cultural impact and legacy, but dives into a secret treasure: thousands of rolls of undeveloped film, hours of home movies, and lost audio tapes.
Director: Jenny Murray
¡Las Sandinistas! keeps the stories of Nicaragua’s badass women alive, those who shattered the machismo military barriers to lead combat and social reform during the 1979 Sandinista Revolution. The film exposes a watershed moment in history when thousands of women transformed society’s definition of womanhood and leadership before facing renewed marginalization by their male peers after the wars ended. Sound familiar? Like it’s happened in other countries like the UK and America? The documentary is a history lesson that also shares these women’s current, relentless pursuits for equality and democracy in the streets of their home country.
Director: Abby Epstein
Year after year, as more states legalize marijuana, more scientists have discovered its anti-cancer properties. Parents of children suffering from cancer have sought out cannabis oil from underground sources after learning about the curing properties from laboratory studies. The film shows the families’ struggles and miraculous outcomes while also questioning the government continues to take a hardline stance on keeping weed illegal on the federal level.
Director/Screenwriter: Shana Feste
Laura is a single mother living in Seattle, raising her bright but troubled son Henry alone. When her estranged, carefree father Jack, played by Christopher Plummer, gets kicked out of retirement home for his pot-dealing shenanigan ways, she agrees to drive him down the California coast where he’s to live with her sister in Los Angeles. The journey is just like Easy Rider, but with a grandfather getting his grandson to help him sell his extra weed at every stop along the way, and in a car full of adopted animals.
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer, Lewis MacDougall, Bobby Cannavale, Kristen Schaal, Dolly Wells, Yahya Abdul-Mateen , Christopher Lloyd, Peter Fonda.
Director/Screenwriter: Daryl Hannah
Daryl Hannah has been behind the camera for a number of years, producing, shooting, and directing documentaries, webisodes, music videos, and shorts like the award-winning “The Last Supper.” This time she ventures into the realms of a whimsical western tale with Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and other players to tell a story of music and love, “Somewhere in the future past, The Man In the Black Hat hides out between heists at an old stagecoach stop with Jail Time, the Particle Kid, and an odd band of outlaws. Mining the detritus of past civilizations, they wait…for the Silver Eagle, for the womenfolk, and for the full moon’s magic to give rise to the music and make the spirits fly.”
Cast: Neil Young, Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson, Corey McCormick, Anthony LoGerfo, Tato Melgar, Willie Nelson, Charris Ford, Dulcie Clarkson Ford.