Femme-focused, woman-directed films ‘On the Basis of Sex’ and ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ to open and close AFI Film Festival

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Two-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” “Brooklyn”) plays the title role in the upcoming period drama “Mary, Queen of Scots.”

The American Film Institute’s fall film festival will open and close with movies about powerful, influential women helmed by female filmmakers

The 2018 AFI Film Festival runs from Nov. 8-15 in Hollywood, California.

Premiering on Nov. 8 at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, the opening night film for the 32nd edition of AFI Fest will be “On the Basis of Sex” director Mimi Leder’s (“Deep Impact”) inspiring biopic that tells the story of young lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg before she became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

The film stars Academy Award nominee Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Jack Reynor and Cailee Spaeny, with Academy Award nominee Sam Waterston and Academy Award winner Kathy Bates. The film is produced by longtime AFI Conservatory lecturer Robert W. Cort and Participant Media’s Jonathan King. The screenplay is written by Daniel Stiepleman.

“As one of the first women ever admitted to the AFI Conservatory, it’s particularly meaningful to me that ‘On the Basis of Sex’ will open AFI Fest 2018,” said Leder in a statement. “My time at the conservatory was a life-changing experience and informed my creative journey. I am forever grateful. The origin story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in this 25th anniversary year of her appointment to the Supreme Court, couldn’t come at a more important moment in our history nor be shown at a more relevant place than AFI Fest, a symbol of artistic integrity and the enduring power of cinema.

“I hope girls and young women in particular will see the film and find inspiration to realize their own unlimited potential.”

Inspired by a true story, “On the Basis of Sex” is the stirring and spirited film that follows young lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Jones) as she teams with her husband Marty (Hammer) to bring a groundbreaking case before the U.S. Court of Appeals and overturn a century of gender discrimination. The film will be released on Dec. 25 in line with Justice Ginsburg’s 25th anniversary on the Supreme Court.

On Nov. 15, the AFI Fest will close with the world premiere of another fact-based drama, “Mary Queen of Scots.”

Directed by Josie Rourke, who has primarily worked in theater up until now, and written by Academy Award nominee Beau Willimon (“The Ides of March”), the historical drama is based on John Guy’s biography, “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart.”  The film stars Academy Award nominees Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, along with Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, Gemma Chan, Martin Compston, Ismael Cordova, Brendan Coyle, Ian Hart, Adrian Lester, James McArdle, David Tennant and Guy Pearce.

“This commanding story of powerful women and political rivalry that shaped world history will close AFI Fest on a high note,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director, AFI Festivals, in a statement. “This year’s festival showcases compelling women-directed narratives that challenge the status quo, and ‘Mary Queen of Scotts’ is no exception.”

“Mary Queen of Scots” explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart (Ronan).  Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry.  Instead, she returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne.  But Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I (Robbie).  Each young Queen beholds her “sister” in fear and fascination.  Rivals in power and love, and female regents in a masculine world, the two must decide how to play the game of marriage versus independence. Determined to rule as much more than a figurehead, Mary asserts her claim to the English throne, threatening Elizabeth’s sovereignty.  Betrayal, rebellion and conspiracies within each court imperil both thrones — and change the course of history.

“Mary Queen of Scots” is due in theaters Dec. 7.

For more information on the festival, go to www.afi.com.


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