NYFF18: Just 4 Out of 30 Main Slate Films are Female-Directed – Melissa Hanson reports

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Sometimes after a step forward, there’s a step back.

In 2017, New York Film Festival (NYFF) announced that its main slate lineup featured the most female-directed films in 10 years. This year it’s back to being below average with just four female-directed films in the lineup of 30. Even more striking, the festival’s record number was only eight of 25. Only 32% and that’s the highest percentage in 10 years. To date, NYFF has made no mention of an equality pledge, nor commented on the inclusion rider circulating in Hollywood, and it shows.

On a brighter note, each of this year’s female directors were also the writers of their films. All four female-directed have already been picked up for distribution. Netflix will release Private Life and Happy as Lazzaro (North American Premiere at NYFF), while High Life (U.S. Premiere at NYFF) was recently picked up by A24 and Storyboard Media plans on releasing Too Late to Die Young (U.S. Premiere at NYFF) in Chile. Here are notes on the four films:

PRIVATE LIFE

Writerdirector Tamara Jenkins’ Private Life stars Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn. It’s Jenkins first film since The Savages (2007) and although the subject may not be new, with this cast, it’s likely to be poignant and an emotional roller coaster. Private Life premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and will also be released on Netflix October 5th.

Private Life

Synopsis: Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti play Rachel and Richard, a middle-aged New York couple caught in the desperation, frustration, and exhaustion of trying to have a child, whether by fertility treatments or adoption or surrogate motherhood. They find a willing partner in Sadie (the formidable Kayli Carter), Richard’s niece by marriage, who happily agrees to donate her eggs, and the three of them build their own little outcast family in the process. Private Life is a wonder, by turns hilarious and harrowing (sometimes simultaneously), and a very carefully observed portrait of middle-class Bohemian Manhattanites. With John Carroll Lynch and Molly Shannon.

HAPPY AS LAZZARO (LAZZARO FELICE)

Happy As Lazzaro is Italian writer/director, Alice Rohrwacher’s second NYFF main slate feature. The Wonders was in the 2015 New York Film Festival main slate. Happy as Lazzaro will have its North American Premiere at this year’s festival, after premiering at the Cannes Film Festival. The film will be released on Netflix, but the date is not yet announced.

Synopsis: In this transfiguring and transfixing third feature from Alice Rohrwacher, we find ourselves amid a throng of tobacco farmers living in a state of extreme deprivation on an estate known as Inviolata. Wide-eyed teenager Lazzaro (nonprofessional discovery Adriano Tardiolo) emerges as a focal point. Although this all seems to be taking place at some point in the past (as implied by the warm grain of Hélène Louvart’s 16mm cinematography), a stunning mid-movie leap vaults the narrative squarely into the present day and into the realm of parable. In a fable touching on perennial class struggle with Christian overtones, Rohrwacher summons the spirit of Pasolini, while also nodding in the direction of Ermanno Olmi and Visconti.

TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG

This year, Chilean writer/director Dominga Sotomayor became the first woman to win the Leopard for Best Direction at the Locarno Festival for her second feature, Too Late to Die Young. Making its North American premiere, the film will be distributed internationally by Stray Dogs. The release date is yet to be announced.

Synopsis: The year 1990 was when Chile transitioned to democracy, but all of that seems a world away for 16-year-old Sofia, who lives far off the grid in a mountain enclave of artists and bohemians. Too Late to Die Young takes place during the hot, languorous days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when the troubling realities of the adult world—and the elemental forces of nature—begin to intrude on her idyllic teenage life. Shot in dreamily diaphanous, sun-splashed images and set to period-perfect pop, this second feature from one of Latin American cinema’s most artful and distinctive voices is at once nostalgic and piercing, a portrait of a young woman—and a country—on the cusp of exhilarating and terrifying change.

HIGH LIFE

In 2010, Claire Denis tied with Helen Mirren winning an AWFJ EDA Award for Lifetime Achievement. Denis has had several films at the New York Film Festival, most recently, last year’s, Let the Sun Shine In. Her previous films are Bastards in 2013 and White Material in 2009. High Life was recently acquired by A24 for North American distribution. Release date to be announced.

Synopsis: Claire Denis’s latest film is set aboard a spacecraft piloted by death row prisoners on a decades-long suicide mission to enter and harness the power of a black hole. But as is always the case with this filmmaker, the actual structure seems to evolve organically through moods and uncanny spells, and the closest juxtapositions of violence and intimacy. High Life features some of the most unsettling passages Denis has ever filmed, as well as moments of the greatest delicacy and tenderness. With Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, and Mia Goth.

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