I strongly believe in the importance of supporting films that are directed by women, particularly women of color, due to the way that systemic sexism and racism in the film industry keep women from reaching creative and financial peaks. Unfortunately, many films directed by women don’t get as much of a marketing push as they should, so I’m going to make a list of promising narrative feature films that are getting released sometime this year either at a festival or in a wider release, or that are likely to be released this year, organized by genre.
[WARNING: the above trailer contains nudity.]
Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska
Previous Work (if applicable): Feature debut, “Aria Diva” (short film)
Starring: Marta Mazurka, Michelin Olszanska
Brief Summary: Two mermaids get a gig performing at a nightclub in the 1980s as singers and strippers; one falls in love, the other wants to eat humans.
Why I’m Excited: Musicals that are also horror films are a truly rare beast, and there hasn’t been a really good mermaid-centric horror film…ever, I think. This one made the list pretty much for sheer WTF factor alone, but the trailer is pretty great and reveals a very unique visual style.
Release Date: Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Video.
Directors: Roxanne Benjamin, Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama, Jovanka Vuckovic
Previous Work: Southbound segment “Sirens” (Benjamin); directorial debut (Clark); The Invitation, Jennifer’s Body, Girlfight (Kusama); “The Captured Bird” (short film) (Vuckovic)
Starring: Sheila Vand, Melanie Lynskey, Natalie Brown
Brief Summary: An anthology of horror films, all directed by women. The trailer doesn’t give away much as to what each segment’s story is, which is probably for the better.
Why I’m Excited: Horror anthologies tend to be pretty hit or miss, but the directorial lineup for this one is pretty solid, especially Kusama, whose The Invitation was one of my favorite films of last year. Also, I just really want to see what kind of a movie Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) would make.
Release Date: Currently available to rent or purchase via Amazon Video and iTunes. Also available to stream on Netflix.
[WARNING: the above trailer contains graphic violence.]
Director: Julia Ducournau
Previous Work: “Junior” (short film)
Starring: Garance Marillier
Brief Summary: A vegetarian college student undergoes a hazing ritual that leaves her obsessed with human flesh.
Why I’m Excited: I’ve been hankering for a worthy follow-up to Trouble Every Day, Claire Denis’ fascinating existentialist cannibalistic horror film, and this definitely looks like it might scratch that itch. Body horror is easily my favorite variety of horror (see also: my love for Cronenberg, especially The Fly).
Release Date: Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Video.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Director: Stacie Passon
Previous Work: Concussion, two episodes of the Amazon series Transparent
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario, Sebastian Stan, Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover
Brief Summary: An adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s (!) final novel, focusing on a family living in isolation after the murders of several others of the clan. One day, a cousin arrives to steal their fortune.
Why I’m Excited: Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite novelists, and this wonderful book shockingly hasn’t had a film adaptation ever, so I’m on this like a dog on kibble. The cast is excellent as well, especially Glover as Uncle Julian.
Release Date: None yet, but production wrapped in September last year, so we may be able to expect a late release this year.
Director: Alice Lowe
Previous Work: Directorial debut, co-writer on Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers
Starring: Alice Lowe, Gemma Whelan, Katie Dickie
Brief Summary: A pregnant woman is convinced that her fetus wants her to kill people.
Why I’m Excited: This one’s just too weird to ignore. Sightseers is the only Wheatley movie I haven’t seen, but I’ve heard raves for Lowe’s performance and for its script, so that plus the appearance of Game of Thrones’ Whelan and Dickie is enough for me.
Release Date: Currently available to stream on Shudder, or via an Amazon Channels subscription to Shudder.
A United Kingdom
Director: Amma Asante
Previous Work: Belle, A Way of Life
Starring: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike
Brief Summary: Based on the true story of Seretse Khama, the first president of Botswana, and his wife, Ruth Williams Khama, and the difficulties their relationship caused between the Botswanian and British governments.
Why I’m Excited: It’s such a breath of fresh air that we’re getting a film about Africa that focuses on African politicians rather than “oh, look at how gross and dirty and war-torn Africa is” that’s actually directed by a Black woman. I loved Belle, and I trust Asante to bring her signature deft touch to this story as well.
Release Date: Available to rent or buy via Amazon Video.
Mary Shelley (originally A Storm in the Stars)
Director: Hafiaa al-Mansour
Previous Work: Wadjda
Starring: Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Maisie Williams
Brief Summary: Based on Mary Shelley’s relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley, which inspired her to write Frankenstien.
Why I’m Excited: al-Mansour’s Wadjda was a miracle of a film, and I couldn’t be happier that she’ll be receiving more international attention with this effort, especially considering it’s focused on a pioneer of science fiction and horror writing.
Release Date: None yet.
Director: Lone Scherfig
Previous Work: An Education, The Riot Club, Italian For Beginners
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy, Richard E. Grant
Brief Summary: Several filmmakers attempt to make a film about the Dunkirk evacuation to boost morale for the British troops in World War II.
Why I’m Excited: Comedic takes on war propaganda are always good for a laugh with me, and Scherfig’s comic and dramatic instincts are pretty in-line with my own.
Release Date: Currently in limited release.
The Zookeeper’s Wife
Director: Niki Caro
Previous Work: Whale Rider, North Country
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Daniel Brühl
Brief Summary: Based on Diane Ackerman’s non-fiction account of the same name, about a Polish couple that used the Warsaw Zoo’s cages to hide Jewish people during World War II.
Why I’m Excited: Because we need some kind of ray of hope to get us all through this fucking Nazi-ful year. Also, I’m curious about Jessica Chastain doing a Polish accent.
Release Date: Currently in limited release.
Director: Dee Rees
Previous Work: Pariah, Bessie
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige
Brief Summary: A white family and the black tenant farmers that work with them re-locate to Mississippi, and is forced to confront harsh climates, racism, and the return of several family members from World War II. Based on Hillary Jordan’s novel.
Why I’m Excited: Stories about racism that focus on white people tend to make me ill, but with Dee Rees at the helm, I trust her to bring a smart sensibility to the project that won’t put it in the same camp as The Help.
Release Date: Netflix has purchased the rights, and is planning a simultaneous streaming and theatrical release later this year, but a date is unknown.
Director: Sofia Coppola
Previous Work (like you don’t know): Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, The Virgin Suicides
Starring: Colin Farrell, Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst
Brief Summary: A remake of the 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, about a Union soldier taken in by the headmistress of a Mississippi girls’ boarding school after he’s found injured from battle.
Why I’m Excited: Farrell taking on a Eastwood role sounds fascinating and juicy, as is Coppola’s choice to revive this originally little-seen oddity. I’m also just really happy to see Dunst being directed by Coppola again.
Release Date: Currently in limited release, expands June 30th.
Director: So Yong Kim
Previous Work: For Ellen, Treeless Mountain, In Between Days, episode of Queen Sugar
Starring: Jena Malone, Riley Keough
Brief Summary: Two women take a road trip that turns intimate, causing friction in their relationship; three years later, one invites the other to her wedding and they deal with the fallout.
Why I’m Excited: Malone and Keough are brilliant actresses, and after seeing Kim’s utter mastery displayed in For Ellen and her episode of Queen Sugar (which everyone should see), I’m ecstatic to see how well they work together.
Release Date: Available to stream on Netflix, or rent/purchase on Amazon Video.
Director: Hope Dickson Leach
Previous Work: Feature debut, “Morning Echo” (short) and “The Dawn Chorus” (short)
Starring: Ellie Kendrick
Brief Summary: A woman returns home to her family’s dilapidated farm after her brother commits suicide.
Why I’m Excited: Leach has a lot of buzz as a great new British talent, and the trailer displays a gift with actors and a style reminiscent of fellow Brit Andrea Arnold, which is always a good thing. Kendrick is also a fantastic emerging talent, and I’m excited to see how she does in her first lead role.
Release Date: Currently available to rent on Amazon Video.
Director: Kate and Laura Mulleavy
Previous Work: Directorial debut, costume designers for Black Swan
Starring: Kirsten Dunst
Brief Summary: A woman falls prey to drug-induced paranoia.
Why I’m Excited: This is the one I know the least about of any of the films on this list, but it’s working for me in the best way. I love Dunst, and anything that gets her to play twitchy and paranoid is a sure winner.
Release Date: September 15th.
Director: Sally Potter
Previous Work: Orlando, Yes, The Tango Lesson, Ginger and Rosa
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson
Brief Summary: Not much is known, except that Potter has described it as “a comedy wrapped around a tragedy” and that it “begins as a celebration and ends with blood on the floor.”
Why I’m Excited: Sally Potter makes movies for me, basically. If there were ever a director that I’d give the “A Ross Movie For Ross” award to all of their films, it’d be her. The cast looks divine, and I have no doubt Potter will be able to get something special from all of them.
Release Date: Premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, no further details.
Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Director: Sydney Freeland
Previous Work: Drunktown’s Finest, Her Story
Starring: Ashleigh Murray, Rachel Crow, Tim Blake Nelson, Sasheer Zamata
Brief Summary: When sisters Deidra and Laney are confronted with looming bills left by their imprisoned mother and the possibility of being sent to foster care, Deidra plots to rob a train for money.
Release Date: Currently available to stream on Netflix.
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Previous Work: Obvious Child
Starring: Jenny Slate, Edie Falco, John Turturro, Jay Duplass, Finn Wittrock
Brief Summary: Set in 1995. Three generations of women in a Manhattan family deal with the fallout of the family patriarch having an affair.
Why I’m Excited: Obvious Child was one of my favorite movies of 2014, so I’m psyched to see Robespierre and Slate teaming up again.
Release Date: July 21st, via Amazon Studios. Amazon will presumably hold streaming rights.
Rough Night (originally titled Rock That Body)
Director: Lucia Aniello
Previous Work: Feature debut, director and writer for Broad City, Time-Travelling Bong (miniseries)
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell
Brief Summary: Five college friends throw a bachelorette party that results in the death of a male stripper.
Why I’m Excited: Broad City is fucking hilarious, and the idea of a feature-length film in that vein with a cast this loaded with funny women fills me with glee. Bring it on.
Release Date: Currently in wide release.
Director: Janicza Bravo
Previous Work: Feature debut, Atlanta episode “Juneteenth”, “Gregory Go Boom” (short film)
Starring: Brett Gelman, Judy Greer, Nia Long
Brief Summary: A 40-year-old man questions where his life went wrong after his blind girlfriend breaks up with him.
Why I’m Excited: Bravo’s short films are pure delight, and her episode of Atlanta was a standout. Now to see if Judy Greer will finally have a significant role in a movie…
Release Date: August 18th.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Previous Work: Monster, episodes of Arrested Development and The Killing
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright
Brief Summary: It’s fucking Wonder Woman.
Why I’m Excited: Look, I know DC’s track record for films has been absolutely terrible, and I had that big rant last year about how much I hated modern studio filmmaking, but I really want this movie to be good. I need this movie to be good. It’s a damn shame that this is the only film I had for the “action” category this year (deliberately ignoring Underworld: Blood Wars), and that it’s the first superhero film in the New Teens to have a female lead OR a female director. I want it to do absolutely gangbusters numbers so that women are actually allowed to direct and play lead roles in action films. Please. Just let me have this one thing.
Release Date: Currently in wide release. Go see it, it’s good.