SFIFF57 is featuring many films made by women, but aside from gender and the ability to make great films, it’s hard to find anything that all these directors have in common. They represent Mexico, Venezuela, China, France, Turkey, the UK, and the USA. Kat Candler (Hellion), Claudia Sainte-Luce (The Amazing Catfish), Zeynep Dadak and Merve Kayan (The Blue Wave), Gillian Robespierre (Obvious Child), Gia Coppola (Palo Alto), and Vivian Qu (Trap Street) are all presenting debut feature films. On the other end of the spectrum, Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves follows upon the success of the director’s previous films, including Wendy and Lucy (2008) and Meek’s Cutoff (2010). And Agnès Varda From Here to There is the latest expression of the uniquely playful and reflective documentary style that Agnès Varda has been developing since 1955, when she was one of the only female directors of the French New Wave.
Some of these filmmakers have taken on the lives of fellow women as their subject. The Blue Wave recounts the coming-of-age of a Turkish girl in her last year of high school. The heroine of Obvious Child contends with an unexpected pregnancy. And in The Amazing Catfish, a solitary young woman finds community in a rambunctious matriarchy. Others don’t tackle feminine themes directly. If You Don’t, I Will (Sophie Fillières) is the story of a marriage crumbling from both sides. Belle (Amma Asante) follows a heroine restrained by both gender and race in 18th century Britain. But all these films touch on universal experiences. Cesar’s Last Fast (Richard Ray Perez and Lorena Parlee) and Night Moves both tell stories of social protest, while both The Amazing Catfish and Sara Dosa’s The Last Season emphasize the human need for a family.
As a group, the women bringing films to this year’s festival provide a new perspective on what women filmmakers can do. Individually, they offer funny, impassioned, sensitive, intelligent, and unique perspectives on life.