The Woman-Directed Films To Look For At The Tribeca Film Festival

Photo: Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival.
It's a gloomy, rainy Monday, and I can't think of anything better than spending the day watching a whole bunch of movies. Come Wednesday, April 18, all the way through April 29, watching cutting-edge, ground-breaking movies all day will be a perfectly feasible activity for New Yorkers with passes to the Tribeca Film Festival.
2018 is particularly exciting year for the Tribeca Film Festival. Of the festival's 96 films, 43 are directed by women. With 46% of its feature films directed by women, Tribeca is making strides towards achieving gender parity. This is the highest percentage of women-created films since the festival was founded in 2002.
But enough with statistics. Let's get into the stories, shall we? This year, women creators will unveil — among many others – a modern Western set in a fracking town in North Dakota, a biopic about a photographer roaming around and making trouble in 1970s Chelsea, and a documentary about the comedic genius Gilda Radner. Essentially, there's a lot to be excited about. Here are the women-created movies we can't wait to see, whenever they land on Netflix, HBO, or in movie theaters.
1 of 18
Little Woods
Directed and Written By: Nia DaCosta
Starring: Tessa Thompson, Lily James
Category: U.S. Narrative Competition

Living in a downtrodden fracking town in North Dakota, Ollie (Tessa Thompson) supports herself with two side-hustles: Sneaking people over to Canada for access to Canadian healthcare, and drug smuggling. Just when she's ready to go clean, her estranged sister, Deb (Lily James), pulls Ollie back into risky business. Their mother has died, and the sisters have only one week to pay off her mortgage.

There's been talk of "modern Westerns," but those — like Netflix's Godless, for example — still follow along the broad tropes of more classic Westerns. Little Woods might actually the first in the "modern Western" genre: Movies about people who operate as rogues in the American West as it stands today.
2 of 18
All About Nina
Directed and Written By: Eva Vives
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Common, Chace Crawford
Category: U.S. Narrative Competition

The gap between who the world thinks we are and who we think we are is usually pretty sizable – but for comedian Nina Geld (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), it's gaping. She may be a successful comedian, but her personal life is falling apart to the point that she feels she has to flee her surroundings. In L.A., she meets Rafe (Common), who forces her to rethink her situation.
3 of 18
Directed and Written By: Ondi Timoner
Starring: Matt Smith, Marianne Rendón, John Benjamin Hickey
Category: U.S. Narrative Competition

Now that Matt Smith is leaving The Crown, we'll need to seek other sources to get his sharp cheekbones in our lives. Luckily, he stars in Mapplethorpe, a biopic about the famous photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe's sexually explicit photography rendered him, as his ex-lover put it in an op-ed for The Guardian, "a sexual outlaw." The biopic follows Mapplethorpe from his time in New York in the '70s before he died of AIDS in 1989.
4 of 18
State Like Sleep
Directed and Written By: Meredith Danluck
Starring: Katherine Waterston, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Michiel Huisman
Category: U.S. Narrative Competition

Look, I'm still reeling from the thought of seeing Luke Evans and Michiel Huisman acting alongside each other in State of Sleep, but ignore me. State Like Sleep follows Katherine (Katherine Waterston) on a trip to Brussels to track her late spouse's path during his last days alive. Her travels lead her to a secret gentleman's club called Lebellfleur, which may hold the answers to her husband's premature death.
5 of 18
Directed By: Madeleine Sackler
Starring: Jeffrey Wright, William Fichtner, Theothus Carter, Mare Winningham, Boyd Holbrook
Category: U.S. Narrative Competition

Madeleine Sackler spent five years at the Pendleton Correctional Facility interviewing inmates, gathering footage, and shooting her two films, both of which will premiere at Tribeca. It’s a Hard Truth, Ain’t It is a documentary that tells the stories of 13 inmates at Pendleton. O.G. is fictional – though with a cast primarily composed of real inmates and real guards, it has stunning veracity. In the movie, Jeffrey Wright (aka Bernard of Westworld) plays Louis Menkins, a man five weeks away from being released after 26 years. Louis is faced with the decision of risking that freedom to protect a younger inmate, Beecher (Theothus Carter, a real inmate), from gang affiliation.
6 of 18
Directed By: Ioana Uricaru
Starring: Mălina Manovici, Steve Bacic, Dylan Scott Smith, Milan Hurduc
Category: International Narrative Competition

Lemonade begins with Mara (Mălina Manovici) being questioned and examined by U.S. Immigration Authorities. Mara only arrived to the U.S. a few months ago as a caretaker — and now is marrying the man she had been caring for. Everything Mara does is for her 8-year-old son, who's just coming over from Romania, and has no idea that he's going to stay forever. Her process is made complicated by a misogynistic immigration officer Moji (Steve Bacic). Lemonade takes a good, hard, uncomfortable look at the American immigration system.
7 of 18
The Party's Just Beginning
Directed and Written By: Karen Gillan
Starring: Karen Gillan, Lee Pace, Matthew Beard, Paul Higgins
Category: International Narrative Competition

Imagine you grow up in a small town in the Scottish Highlands, leave, star in Doctor Who and get famous, and then return to write and direct a movie set in the same region you grew up. That's just what Karen Gillan did with her directorial debut, The Party's Just Beginning. Her character, Liusaidh (pronounced Lucy), is a 20-something woman struggling to adjust to life after the loss of her best friend.
8 of 18
Directed By: Gabriela Pichler
Starring: Fredrik Dahl, Yara Aliadotter, Zahraa Aldoujaili
Category: International Narrative Competition

In an effort to lure a large supermarket chain into opening up a store (and opening 500 jobs), the residents of Lafors, Sweden, try to make a documentary about their town. The actual task of creating a movie is turned over to the town's high school students. Instead of making an idealistic video, two girls set out to make a documentary of what Lafors is really like — challenging the project entirely. Most of the actors in Amateurs are amateurs themselves, giving the movie an authentic feel (à la The Florida Project).
9 of 18
All These Small Moments
Directed and Written By: Melissa Miller Costanzo
Starring: Brendan Meyer, Jemima Kirke, Molly Ringwald, Brian d'Arcy James, Sam McCarthy, Harley Quinn Smith
Category: Spotlight Narrative

Howie Sheffield (Brendan Meyer) has a front-row seat to the dissolution of his parents' (Molly Ringwald and Brian d'Arcy James) marriage. Outside of his stressful home life, Howie becomes fixated with a woman, Odessa (Jemima Kirke), who he sees during his commute. When Howie becomes friends with Lindsay (Harley Quinn Smith), he unexpectedly also meets Odessa.
10 of 18
Directed and Written By: Mitzi Peirone
Starring: Madeline Brewer, Imogen Waterhouse, Sarah Hay
Category: Midnight

Likely, you won't be forgetting the premise of Braid anytime soon. In the movie, two New York artists (and amateur drug dealers), Petula Thames (Imogen Waterhouse) and Tilda Darlings (Sarah Hay), mishandle a tremendous amount of money, and have only two days to make it back. Out of options, Petula and Tilda take a road trip to the mansion where their childhood friend, Daphne (Madeline Brewer), has lived since inheriting her fortune. Her friends don't know it, but Daphne has become a schizophrenic agoraphobe, and made a reality out of the childhood games she used to play with Petula and Tilda. To get the money, Petula and Tilda will have to play along — and it'll be shocking.
11 of 18
Directed and Written By: Emma Forrest
Starring: Jemima Kirke, Lola Kirke, Jamie Dornan, Ben Mendelsohn
Category: Spotlight Narrative

Have you been desperate to see the Kirke sisters acting alongside each other? Now's your chance. In Untogether, Jemima Kirke plays Andrea, a teenage prodigy who's getting her life back on track following years of drug addiction. She starts an affair with Nick (Jamie Dornan), a war veteran-turned-novelist. Andrea's sister, Tara (Lola Kirke) is in a stable relationship with an older man (Ben Mendelsohn), and then she finds herself attracted to an even older, charismatic rabbi. Emma Forrest told The Hollywood Reporter that Untogether is about “the desire we all have to be seen, really seen. Sometimes we get lucky and find a partner who fulfills that criteria. Sometimes we get even luckier and meet someone who shows us that who we truly are ... is not what we’d convinced ourselves.”
12 of 18
Directed By: Marianna Palka
Starring: Christina Hendricks, Anna Camp, Alysia Reiner
Category: Spotlight Narrative

Egg is an unconventional comedy about motherhood — both its pressures and its realities. In the movie, Christian Hendricks and Alysia Reiner play art school rivals who happen to be pregnant at the same time. Only Tina (Reiner) has a surrogate (Anna Camp) carrying her child. Reiner called Egg a "darkly comic stereotype-breaking story about parenthood.”
13 of 18
Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland
Directed By: Kate Davis, David Heilbroner
Category: Feature Documentary

In 2015, Sandra Bland was pulled over by police after failing to signal a lane change in Waller County, Texas. Three days later, Bland was dead – apparently, she had died by suicide in her jail cell. The terrible incident raised more questions than answers for Bland's community of friends, family, and activists. How, in the span of three days, could Bland go from being a committed Black Lives Matter activist on the cusp of a new career change, to dead in a police cell? In this documentary, filmmakers piece together a portrait of Bland – and a searing indictment of racial injustice — through interviews with her loved ones and colleagues, as well as hearing from Bland herself through footage from her video series "Sandy Speaks."
14 of 18
Mary Shelley
Directed By: Haifaa Al Mansour
Starring: Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Joanne Froggatt, Tom Sturridge, Maisie Williams
Category: U.S. Premiere

It's high time Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin — who you probably know better as Mary Shelley — got her own movie. Shelley, played by Elle Fanning in the movie, was only 20 when she wrote Frankenstein, one of the seminal tests in English literature. Mary Shelley will explore the author's childhood, marriage to the Romantic poet Percy Shelley, and the creation of a monstrous book.
15 of 18
Directed By: Cynthia Lowen
Category: Feature Documentary

We're still figuring out the internet – how to exist on it, and how to regulate it. Women, especially, are impacted by cyber bullying and harassment. Netizens follows three women whose lives were drastically changed by online harassment, including regular death threats. The women were unable to escape. Instead of being cowed, the women — along with advocates and legal experts — fought back to create a safer internet for us all.
16 of 18
Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie
Directed By: Andrea Nevins
Category: Spotlight Documentary

Barbie is turning 60, but you'd hardly know it, looking at her. This documentary gives a fascinating glimpse at the evolution of Barbie, from revolutionary toy to lightning rod for debate about what women should look like. By now, Barbie's more than just a toy — she's a symbol. How can Barbie adapt to the 21st century?
17 of 18
Love, Gilda
Directed By: Lisa D’Apolito
Category: Feature Documentary

Comedian Gilda Radner died of cancer in 1989, but through a combination of audiotapes, diary entries, auditions, and home movies, Radner is still able to tell her own story in Love, Gilda. Radner appeared on Saturday Night Live from 1975-1980, where she created unforgettable characters like Roseanne Roseannadanna, Emily Litella, and Lisa Loopner.
18 of 18
The Fourth Estate
Directed By:
Liz Garbus
Category: Feature Documentary

The state of media and politics is changing — and that's an understatement. The Fourth Estate tracks how the election of Donald Trump changed the New York Times. Documentarian Liz Garbus gained unprecedented access to the newspaper's inner workings during a time when the leader of the executive branch of the government was calling publications like the Times “the enemy of the people.”

More from Movies


R29 Original Series