This piece is co-written with Iana Murray.
2017 was a year full of the celebration of female filmmakers. Patty Jenkins brought Wonder Woman to the big screen and proved to those still in doubt that women can make blockbusters! (Wow, can you believe?!) Dee Rees‘ Mudbound and Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird were nominated for Academy Awards! So to celebrate female filmmakers and Women’s History Month we’ll share with you some films that were directed by women that you might’ve missed. Here is the 2nd part of our suggestions!
Woodshock, dir. Kate and Laura Mulleavy
Costume designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy‘s directorial debut “Woodshock” received mixed reviews from critics after its release. A quick look at the film’s Letterboxd page will show you that the audiences had a similar reaction too, a mix of 1/5 star reviews vs. people who loved it. I find myself on the second group. “Woodshock” tells the story of legal cannabis dealer Theresa (Kirsten Dunst) as she goes through a drug filled grief of her mother’s death. The film’s aesthetic reflects Theresa’s struggles in the best way. Her state of mind, which goes from real to hallucinative quite often, is reflected through lens flares and overlapping images, with images of flowers and trees (as motifs and real). “Woodshock” has its flaws, but it’s an ambitious directorial debut that deserves your attention.
Ava, dir. Léa Mysius
French director Léa Mysius‘ first feature film “Ava” tells the story of 13 years old Ava who finds out she’ll be losing her eyesight soon. In the aftermath of the news, her mother promises Ava that she’ll have the best summer holiday ever but Ava has other plans, like stealing a not so trustable guy’s dog, then committing crimes with him as her future blindness and her mother’s affair gives her nightmares. The film inhabits a teenage girl’s world wonderfully as she goes through her sexual awakening and rebels against her mother, or anyone who tries go between her and her love. Rubbing your naked self in clay and robbing people on the beach with your crush may not be your ideal first date, but it is Ava’s.
Mr. Roosevelt, dir. Noël Wells
Noël Wells’ delightful directorial debut is a coming-of-age story for those who have already come of age in the same vein as “Frances Ha”. Wells stars as Emily, a not-so-successful comedian trying to make it in Los Angeles. The opening scene sees her cycle through ingenious impersonations, (Holly Hunter at a garage sale, a vine of someone tripping at a Beyonce concert) showing how much she was wasted on SNL. When her ex-boyfriend calls to let her know her cat died (the film’s namesake) she books a flight to Austin, setting up an awkward confrontation with her past. Much like her character, the industry doesn’t quite know what to do with Noël Wells. How admirable then of her to carve her own path.
“Mr Roosevelt” is the kind of whimsical indie that would infuriate most, but with the care and sincerity that Wells brings to the film, it’s hard not to fall in love with it. The film glows with its cinematography shot on 16mm, evoking the hazy memories that come flooding back to Emily when she returns to the hometown she was set on leaving behind.
Raw, dir. Julia Ducournau
French director Julia Ducournau‘s first feature film “Raw” tells the story of Justine, who starts the most insane vet school you can imagine. Justine, who is a vegetarian, develops a taste for meat after her vet school’s welcome ritual covers all freshmans in blood and makes them eat meat. The film won FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes and the lead actress Garance Marillier was nominated for Most Promising Actress at César Awards. Marillier’s performance was one of the bests of the year. Her portrayal captures Justine’s shocking transformation perfectly. But “Raw” is not a film for the faint hearted, for many people were reported to vomit or faint due to its graphic content. But if you have a strong stomach, it’s a must watch film that was in Much Ado’s favourites of 2017.
Novitiate, dir. Maggie Betts
American director Maggie Betts‘ directorial debut “Novitiate” is set during the early 1960s Vativan II and tells the story of a young woman Cathleen (Margaret Qualley) who is training to become a nun. While the film mostly focuses on Cathleen’s journey and Reverend Mother’s struggle to accept Vatican’s new rules, Betts shows bits and pieces about other training nuns that diversity the story and show not every young girl has same reasonings or devotion that Cathleen has for becoming a nun. The sexual build up is one of the strongest parts of the film. From masturbation to questions about first kisses, the film builds up the sexual tension that’s to explode at the end perfectly. The film won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.