THE WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup: ‘Mankiller’ to premiere at LA Film Festival, Margot Robbie to make ‘Dreamland,’ AWFJ honors female directors at Vancouver’s DOXA fest

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The Wilma Mankiller documentary "Mankiller" is set to premiere at the LA Film Festival. Photo courtesy the Wilma Mankiller Foundation

The Wilma Mankiller documentary “Mankiller” is set to premiere at the LA Film Festival. Photo courtesy the Wilma Mankiller Foundation

Wilma Mankiller documentary to premiere at LA Film Festival

“Mankiller,” a documentary about the groundbreaking first woman principal chief of the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation, will make its world premiere next month at the LA Film Festival in Los Angeles.

As I reported on my BAM’s Blog, “Mankiller” reunites the accomplished documentary team of Gale Anne Hurd (“The Walking Dead,” The “Terminator” trilogy) as executive producer and Valerie Red-Horse Mohl (“Naturally Native”) as director and producer. They are bringing their third and possibly most powerful American Indian narrative to the big screen with the film.

“Mankiller” examines the legacy of the formidable Wilma Mankiller, who defied all odds to become one of the most influential and successful leaders in the United States. The first woman elected chief of a major American Indian tribe, the Tahlequah native died in 2010 at the age of 64.

“Not only was she a great leader and achieved a lot for the Cherokee Nation and laid a lot of important foundational work for the growth and economic development, she was an amazing human being. She really gives us some important lessons in servant leadership, in working across the aisle. She did not believe in political titles; she really believed in the true idea of community organizing and working with and for people. In my opinion, we could all take some lessons from that today,” Mohl told me in a 2015 interview.

“I think she was just an incredible role model. Very humble to the point where her life is not well known. … I feel like it’s my honor to bring attention to what she did and what she really gave us.”

A stalwart activist for women’s rights, Wilma Mankiller was cited by the organizers of the January 2017 Women’s March on Washington as one of the most important leaders in America’s movement for equality.

As a girl, Mankiller’s family was relocated from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma to San Francisco, Calif. Although the move was traumatic, it was in the Bay Area during the turbulent 1960s that she became involved in the fight for civil rights and joined the Alcatraz Occupation. She brought her passion and organizing expertise with her when she returned to the Cherokee Nation.

Although she faced rampant sexism, she served three terms as the Cherokee Nation’s principal chief, winning 80 percent of the votes in her final election. Mankiller laid the foundation for the nation’s current economic and socio-cultural status as one of America’s most successful tribes.

“I was immediately drawn to Wilma’s powerful story. On both a personal and political level, her legacy is more relevant now than ever,” said Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd in a statement. “This film and Wilma’s life serve as a powerful lesson in the art of the possible.  As she herself said ‘The secret of our success is that we never, never give up.'”

Kristina Kiehl (“The Cherokee Word for Water”) and Charlie Soap, Mankiller’s widower, also serve as producers. Felicia and Gina Olaya, Mankiller’s daughters, join the production team as co-producers. The filmmakers’ close ties to Mankiller’s family and the Cherokee Nation allowed for great access, including interviews with colleagues, friends, family, celebrities and government leaders.

The world premiere screening of “Mankiller” will take place as part of the LA Film Festival on Monday, June 19 at the ArcLight Culver City, according to a news release.

The producers of “Mankiller,” as well as members of Mankiller’s family, are expected to attend the premiere. A Q&A will take place immediately following the screening.

For more information, go to or follow

LA Film Festival boasts contest lineups with 42 percent directed by women

Happily, “Mankiller” will hardly be the only film directed by a woman at this year’s LA Film Festival.

When the LA Film Festival unveiled last week its lineups for the competition sections, 42 percent of the films were directed by women and 40 percent by people of color, Variety reports.

Organizers of the 23rd annual festival announced that the U.S. fiction, documentary, world fiction, L.A. muse, and nightfall sections contain 48 feature films from 32 countries with 37 world premieres. Produced by Film Independent, the festival will open June 14 with “The Book of Henry,” starring Jacob Tremblay and Naomi Watts. The festival is headquartered at the Arclight Culver City.

The U.S. fiction competition includes several recognizable names: Camille Thoman’s “Never Here” features Mireille Enos and Sam Shepard; Christian Papierniak’s “Izzy Gets the … Across Town,” starring Mackenzie Davis, Lakeith Stanfield, and Carrie Coon; Vincent Grashaw’s “And Then I Go” with Melanie Lynskey, Justin Long, and Royalty Hightower; and Paul Briganti’s “Village People” starring Aya Cash.

The U.S. fiction lineup also includes Leena Pendharkar’s “20 Weeks,” Harris Doran’s “Beauty Mark,” Elizabeth Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell’s “Becks,” Bruce Thierry Cheung’s “Don’t Come Back From the Moon,” Andrea Sisson and Pete Ohs’ “Everything Beautiful Is Far Away,” and Daniel Peddle’s “Moss.”

Along with “Mankiller,” the documentary competition includes Arshad Khan’s “Abu,” Julia Meltzer’s “Dalya’s Other Country,” Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp’s “Liyana,” Ema Ryan Yamazaki’s “Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators,” David Fenster’s “Opuntia,” Ciara Lacy’s “Out of State,” Yatri N. Niehaus’s “Stella Polaris Ulloriarsuaq,” Sara Lamm’s “Thank You for Coming,” and Leyla Nedorosleva’s “Two Four Six.”

For more about the festival, go to

Margot Robbie appears in "The Legend of Tarzan." Warner Bros. Pictures photo

Margot Robbie appears in “The Legend of Tarzan.” Warner Bros. Pictures photo

Margot Robbie to star in, produce heist thriller ‘Dreamland’

Margot Robbie is certainly staying busy. The native Australian is set to star in “Dreamland,” a thriller that will be directed by Sundance winner Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (“As You Are”), according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In addition, Robbie will produce under her Lucky Chap Entertainment banner. Also producing are Lucky Chap’s Tom Ackerley and Josey McNamara, as well as Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Rian Cahill of Automatik. Automatik, run by Kavanaugh-Jones and Fred Berger, has been involved in the making of Jeff Nichols’ dramas “Midnight Special” and “Loving,” as well as “La La Land.”

Brad Feinstein of Romulus Entertainment is producing and financing Dreamland, which Sierra/Affinity will introduce at this year’s Cannes Film Market.

Written by Nicolaas Zwart and on the 2015 Black List, “Dreamland” is set in the 1930s, amid the devastation of the Dust Bowl. The story follows a 15-year-old boy on his quest to capture a fugitive bank robber and collect the bounty on her head, all with the goal of saving his family farm from foreclosure.

Against all odds, he beats out the FBI and the local police to find her, only to discover that she’s far more than what the authorities claim her to be. Robbie will play the bank robber.

Robbie, who last year starred in “Suicide Squad” and “Legend of Tarzan,” has two fact-based films in the can: Miramax’s “I, Tonya” and Fox Searchlight’s “Goodbye Christopher Robin.” As previously reported, she has recently been cast as cast as Queen Elizabeth I opposite Saoirse Ronan’s (“Brooklyn”) Mary Stuart in the period drama “Mary Queen of Scots.” Also as previously reported, she has been tapped for the title role of the revisionist Robin Hood project “Marian.”

Her Lucky Chap banner produced “I, Tonya” and is developing several studio projects, among them “Bad Monkeys” for Universal and “Fierce Kingdom” for Warner Bros.

AWFJ honors Yan Chun Su at Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists has honored Yan Chun Su’s “Dropka” with our EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Film at Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival. “Dropka” details how nomads in the Tibetan grasslands are coping with the effects of climate change on their way of life.

“This is my first feature-length documentary and I’m basically a one-women crew so pretty much everything from camera work to sound to editing and storytelling was a learning process and I love doing them all,” she said in an AWFJ Q&A.

“Because of the often windy condition, I had to try many types of microphone with different wind shields and I ended up recording a lot of wind sound, which I think became a character in itself in the editing process. … I think it is important to surrender yourself to the process and be open to whatever happens.”

The Best Female-Directed Film (short) award winner was Alexandra Gaulupeau’s “Life at a Snail’s Pace,” which set out to change people’s view of snails. In the short, Gaulupeau takes viewers into the unusual world of Marla Coppolino, a malacologist (aka snail expert), artist and self-proclaimed spokesperson for the largely misunderstood creatures. Through the creation of elaborate miniature scenes and cello scores, Coppolino displays her own mighty appreciation for the tiny, slimy (and surprisingly sexy) creatures

“‘Life at a Snail’s Pace’ is my graduation film from Goldsmiths College, in London. As a French person I ate snails my whole life and realised that I didn’t know anything about them. So I decided to make a film about snails. Throughout my research I came across Marla’s snail wrangling website and that fascinated me,” Gaulupeau said in an AWFJ Q&A.

Filmmaker Jérôme Clément-Wilz’s “Être Cheval (Horse-Being),” a French film about a 51-year-old transsexual woman who allows herself to be turned into a fetish object, won the Feature Documentary prize at this year’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival, according to The Georgia Straight. Honorable mention went to Petra Lataster-Czisch and Peter Lataster’s “Miss Kiet’s Children,” a Dutch film about a classroom full of Syrian refugees.

Julia Ivonova’s “Limit Is the Sky,” about six people, including Middle Eastern and African refugee who move to Alberta, won the Colin Low Best Canadian Documentary Award (presented in partnership with William F. White). François Jacob’s “A Moon of Nickel and Ice,” a look at life in the remote and treeless Russian mining town of Norilsk, was honorable mention.

The Short Documentary Award went to “Vers la tendresse,” Alice Diop’s documentary giving the perspectives of four Parisians about relationships. Cat Mills’ “Fixed!,” which shows how volunteers at a Toronto repair café help folks extend the lives of broken items, was honorable mention.

The Nigel Moore Award for Youth Programming went to Olivier Babinet’s “Swagger,” about 11 teenagers living in an underprivileged Parisian suburb. David Goldberg’s “The Caretakers” received honorable mention in the category.

For more information on the festival, go to


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