Women on Film – Tribeca Film Festival 2008 – Films By And About Women – Jennifer Merin

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The Tribeca Film Festival 2008 program includes fifteen premieres, including narrative features and documentaries, by and about women:

  • Lioness, directed by Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers. (USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary. U.S. policy bars female soldiers from engaging in direct ground combat, so why were the women of Lioness sent out routinely with the marines into the some of the bloodiest counterinsurgency battles of the war?
  • Fighter, directed and written by Natasha Arthy. (Denmark) – North American Premiere, Narrative. This high-energy martial arts drama chronicles a driven high school student caught between the expectations of her traditional Turkish family and her kung fu dreams. With slickly choreographed fight scenes, Fighter is an empowering story that culminates with an emotional punch. Danish, Turkish with English subtitles. Part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.
  • Pray the Devil Back to Hell, directed by Gini Reticker. (USA) – World Premiere. After more than a decade of civil wars leading to more than 250,000 deaths and one million refugees, a group of courageous women rose up to force peace on their shattered Liberia and propel to victory the first female head of state on the African continent.
  • Going On 13, directed and written by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan Dawn Valadez and. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Ariana, Isha, Rose, and Esme are young girls who were followed for four years as they navigate the precarious path to womanhood and, in Valadez’ and Guevara-Flanagan’s expert hands, breathe new life into the coming-of-age story.
  • A Powerful Noise, directed by Tom Cappello. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Bookended by call-to-action quotes from Margaret Mead and Mahatma Gandhi, this inspiring documentary follows three extraordinary women—in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mali, and Vietnam—as they lead day-to-day battles against ignorance, poverty, oppression, and ethnic strife. Bambara, Bosnian, Vietnamese with English subtitles.
  • Charly, directed and written by Isild Le Besco. (France) – North American Premiere, Narrative. Fourteen-year-old Nicolas leaves the elderly couple he lives with and heads for the sea but crosses paths with Charly, a tough girl who takes him into her mobile home, where an unusual domestic arrangement evolves. As in her brilliant directorial debut 1/2 Price (TFF ’04), Le Besco movingly depicts a world without adults. French with English subtitles.
  • Savage Grace, directed by Tom Kalin, written by Howard A. Rodman. (Spain, USA) – New York Premiere, Narrative. A daring dramatization of the disintegrating psyche of ’60s socialite Barbara Baekeland, Savage Grace brilliantly showcases Julianne Moore at her most haunting. Insulated by wealth and abandoned by her husband, Baekeland falls into tragic dysfunction with her adoring son. Based on a true story. An IFC Films Release.
  • Worlds Apart (To Verdener), directed by: Niels Arden Oplev, written by: Steen Bille and Oplev. (Denmark) – North American Premiere, Narrative. The world of a dutiful daughter who’s a Jehovah’s Witness unravels when she falls for a nonbeliever. She is torn between her conscience, faith, and passion—and forced to make a choice between a love and a family that are worlds apart. Based on a true story. Danish with English subtitles.
  • Gotta Dance, directed by Dori Berinstein, written by Adam Zucker and Berinstein. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Festival vet Berinstein (ShowBusiness, TFF ’05) turns her camera on the amazing and inspirational story of the New Jersey NETSationals, the NBA’s first senior citizen hip-hop dance team. Against all odds, this energetic and dedicated group proves that even in their golden years, they’ve just Gotta Dance! Part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.
  • Theater of War, directed by John Walter. (USA) – World Premiere. Art and politics converge in this provocative look at the life and ideas of Bertolt Brecht, interwoven with The Public Theater’s staging of his Mother Courage. Meryl Streep, Tony Kushner, Kevin Kline, and George C. Wolfe take audiences on an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at their creative process.
  • Lake City, directed and written by Perry Moore and Hunter Hill. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. When her family is threatened by violent criminals, a mother and son must reconcile the past in order to save their home. Powerful performances by Sissy Spacek and Troy Garity highlight this potent drama, also featuring Dave Matthews and Rebecca Romijn.
  • Whatever Lola Wants, directed by Nabil Ayouch, written by Jane Hawksley, Nathalie Saugeon and Ayouch. (France, Morocco) – North American Premiere, Narrative. Perky blonde Lola is an aspiring dancer in New York, and she’s so smitten by a hunky Egyptian that when he unexpectedly heads home, she follows him. In Cairo, she discovers an even bigger passion—for belly dancing—and vows to master the art. English, Arabic with English subtitles.
  • Marina of the Zabbaleen, directed and written by Engi Wassef. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. In the sandy villages outside Cairo, the Zabbaleen eke out a living recycling the flood of waste pouring out of the most populous area on the African continent. But one girl—six-year-old free spirit Marina—dreams of a better life. This poetic documentary tells her story. Arabic with English subtitles.
  • Celia the Queen, directed by Joe Cardona and Mario De Varona, written by Cardona. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Azucar! The voice of Celia Cruz, arguably the most influential woman in Cuban music, symbolized the soul of a nation and forced down barriers of racism and sexism. She radiates on screen as her legacy is revisited in this intimate and inspiring documentary. Featuring interviews with Quincy Jones, Andy Garcia, and Wyclef Jean. English, Spanish with English subtitles.
  • I Am Because We Are, directed by Nathan Rissman. (UK) – World Premiere, Documentary. Madonna uses the power of documentary film to expose the tragic stories of the millions of Malawi children orphaned by AIDS, offering both a call to action and a revelatory personal journey. Featuring interviews with Bill Clinton and Desmond Tutu, the film is a testament to survival, change, and hope. English, Chichewa with English subtitles.
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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).