2019 51Fest: movie reviews and recaps

July 22, 2019

by Carla Hay

Civitas Public Affairs Group partner Katherine Grainger, Supermajority co-founder Ai-jen Poo, Women in the World founder Tina Brown, Supermajority co-founder Cecile Richards, filmmaker Raphaela Neihausen, filmmaker Yoruba Richen and 51Fest program director Anne Hubbell at the Supermajority panel during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 19, 2019. (Photo by Lou Aguilar/51Fest)

The inaugural 51Fest, a New York City film festival aimed at promoting movies about women, was an inspiring experience and a resounding success: All of the offerings (which took place at IFC Center, except for one screening at the SVA Theatre) sold out, and several stars attended the event, which took place from July 18 to July 21, 2019. The festival, which is presented by feminist organization Women in the World and the independent arthouse cineplex IFC Center gets its name from the fact that women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population and at least half of all moviegoers. All of the selected projects for 51Fest have at least one female producer or a female director. Each screening had a post-screening Q&A with someone involved in the film, whether it was a star of the movie, a director, a writer and/or producer.

Most of the movies in the first 51Fest lineup already had their world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival or South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, but there are a few offerings that had their world premieres at 51Fest: The first episode of the Netflix limited series “Unbelieable,” a drama starring Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever, as well as the Netflix comedy film “Otherhood,” starring Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette and Felicity Huffman.

Tina Brown and Kathy Griffin at the New York premiere of “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story” during 51Fest at SVA Theatre in New York City on July 18, 2019. (Photo by Carlos Sanfer/51Fest)

The opening-night film was “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story,” a documentary chronicling controversial comedian Kathy Griffin’s comeback tour after being blackballed from most of the entertainment industry in 2017 because she posed for a photo holding a fake, bloody head of Donald Trump. “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story” got mostly positive reviews after its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival. Griffin did a post-screening Q&A with Women in the World founder Tina Brown.

On July, 19, there was a panel called “Women in the World Spotlight: Supermajority,” also moderated by Brown. The panel featured former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and Ai-jen Poo, the co-founders (along with Alicia Garza) of Supermajority, an activist organization aimed at empowering women. Also on the panel was Civitas Public Affairs Group partner Katherine Grainger. At the panel discussion, filmmaker Yoruba Richen previewed an exclusive clip of the forthcoming documentary “And She Could Be Next,” about a movement of women of color claiming political power.

According to a 51Fest press release: “The conversation highlighted the new organization and centered on the panelists’ personal stories of activism, their plan to shape a ‘New Deal’ for women and elevate women’s stories to where they belong — the center of the stage, the debate and the forefront of change.”

Women in the World founder Tina Brown, and Julianne Moore at the New York premiere of “After the Wedding” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Lou Aguilar/51Fest)

Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore did a Q&A with moderator Brown after the New York premiere of her dramatic film “After the Wedding.” (Click here to read the entire interview.) “After the Wedding” (a remake of the 2006 Danish film directed by Susanne Bier) is an emotionally riveting movie about three people (played by Moore, Michelle Williams and Billy Crudup) and how they are connected to a family’s secrets and lies that get exposed in the story. The movie is set for release in select U.S. theaters on August 9, 2019.

Several of the movies had their New York premieres at 51Fest and are based on true stories. They include the dramedy “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” starring Jillian Bell as a woman who enters the New York Marathon to improve her health; the drama “A Girl From Mogadishu” (starring Aja Naomi King), which tackles the difficult subject of female genital mutilation; and “Official Secrets,” starring Keira Knightley as British whistleblower Katharine Gun, who exposed U.S. political corruption behind the war in Iraq. All three of the real-life women who inspired these respective movies (Brittany O’Neill, Ifrah Ahmed and Gun) did Q&As after each respective screening.

Besides the Griffin documentary, other non-fiction films at 51Fest were the award-winning documentary “For Sama,” set in war-torn Syria; “Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins” about the late columnist/outspoken political commentator Molly Ivins; and “Untouchable,” an examination of the rise and fall of disgraced entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein and the female accusers who say that Weinstein sexually harassed or sexually abused them.

As for the two world premieres at 51Fest (“Unbelievable” and “Otherhood”), they’re both from Netflix, but these two projects couldn’t be more different.

The Netflix limited series “Unbelievable” is a taught, well-acted thriller, based on the first episode that screened at 51Fest. In the series, which is inspired by a true story, Kaitlyn Dever plays Marie Adler, a troubled teenager in Lynnwood, Washington. Marie has spent a great deal of her life in foster homes and is now old enough to live on her own. In the beginning of the episode, Marie files a police report, claiming a masked intruder raped her in her home, where she lives alone.

The problem is that Marie keeps changing her story, by saying that she could have imagined the rape, and then changing her mind again. She also changed several details of what happened, leading to further confusion. The investigating police become increasingly frustrated with her, and even Marie’s closest confidants begin to wonder that the truth is.

Sarah Timberman, Susannah Grant, Kaitlyn Dever, Merritt Wever, Danielle Macdonald and Lisa Cholodenko at the world premiere of “Unbelievable” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 19, 2019. (Photo by Lou Aguilar/51Fest)

A good deal of the series is also about detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall (played Toni Collette and Merritt Wever), who are hundreds of miles away, and are investigating a case that is similar to what Marie has reported.  The first episode of “Unbelievable” focuses primarily on introducing Marie’s storyline, but a teaser for the season shows that Emmy winners Collette and Wever give compelling performances. Dever does an outstanding job of portraying the complex character of Marie.

Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein and Danielle Macdonald at the world premiere of “Unbelievable” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 19, 2019. (Photo by Lou Aguilar/51Fest)

After the premiere of the first “Unbelievable” episode, there was a Q&A with showrunner and executive producer Susannah Grant, executive producer Sarah Timberman, executive producer and episode director Lisa Cholodenko, and cast members Dever, Wever and Danielle Macdonald, who plays another rape victim in the story. (In the audience was Beanie Feldstein, Dever’s best friend and co-star in the 2019 comedy “Booksmart.”) During the Q&A, Dever said that she didn’t consult with the real Marie because “I wanted to respect her privacy.” Dever added that in her portrayal of Marie, she didn’t want to do a “carbon copy” of her, but wanted to do an interpretation of what Marie was like.

“Unbelievable” is inspired by the real events in The Marshall Project and ProPublica Pulitzer Prize-winning article, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, and the “This American Life” radio episode “Anatomy of Doubt.” Netflix will premiere “Unbelievable” on September 13, 2019.

The comedy film “Otherhood” is the feature-film directorial debut of writer/director Cindy Chupak, who’s best known for being part of the “Sex and the City” team. The story is about three longtime friends—Carol Walker (played Angela Bassett), Gillian Lieberman (played by Patricia Arquette) and Helen Halston (played Felicity Huffman)—who spontaneously take a road trip together from their homes in suburban Poughkeepsie to New York City, in order to reconnect with their adult sons, who have a habit of ignoring their mothers. The sons, who are in their 30s, have become so emotionally distant from their mothers that they don’t return calls, email or texts, and they even forget to contact their mothers on Mother’s Day, which is a snub that triggers the road trip.

The catch is that the mothers haven’t told their sons in advance that they’re coming to visit—and the plan is to stay at their bachelor sons’ homes for a few days—so the meddling mothers aren’t quite sure what to expect. All three sons appear to be the only children in their respective families, since the mothers don’t mention any other siblings for their children. The movie gets its title because the mothers’ alienation from their sons doesn’t feel like motherhood to them. It feels like “otherhood.” As Gillian says, a mother being ignored by a child is like “inhumane emotional waterboarding.”

Angela Bassett, Felicity Huffman and Patricia Arquette in “Otherhood” (Photo by Linda Kallerus/Netflix)

All three of the mothers (who met through their sons when their sons were kids) are clingy and neurotic, in different ways. Carol, a widow who lives alone, is the biggest worrywart of the group. Carol’s son Matthew (played by Sinqua Walls), an art director at an upcoming magazine that’s similar to Maxim, has a tendency to date barely legal women, and he lives in a trendy loft in Manhattan.

Gillian is a hippie-ish, earth-mother type who has a loving and supportive husband, and she’s the type of mother who will clean her son’s apartment and make comfort-food meals without him even asking her. Gillian’s son Daniel (played by Jake Hoffman), a struggling writer who lives in a dumpy apartment in the working-class Long Island City neighborhood, has recently gone through a messy breakup with a woman he had hoped to marry.

Helen, who’s been divorced and is on her second marriage, is uptight, critical, and hates the idea of aging and becoming a grandmother. Helen’s openly gay son Paul (played by Jake Lacy) is a window dresser and is in a relationship with a guy that’s somewhere in between “friends with benefits” and “serious romance.” Paul lives in an upscale town home in Manhattan and comes from a privileged background.

Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett and Felicity Huffman in “Otherhood” (Photo by Linda Kallerus/Netflix)

Carol and Gillian are desperate for their sons to find a nice woman to settle down with and marry. The two mothers try to play matchmaker with their sons, which (not surprisingly) doesn’t go over too well. Gillian, who converted to Judaism when she married Daniel’s father, is the most aggressive about her matchmaking, and makes it clear that she prefers that Daniel choose a wife who is also Jewish. Gillian sets up a reluctant Daniel on a blind date, which is one of the funniest scenes in the movie. Carol invites herself to a work-related party that Matthew’s company is having at a hip nightclub. She gets drunk, and she zeroes in on a potential girlfriend for Matthew who’s close to his age, even though she knows that he might not be interested because he prefers to date much-younger women.

Meanwhile, pill-popping, booze-swilling Helen (who is by far the least likeable character in this story) still has lingering resentment that Paul never officially came out as gay to her (she figured it out on her own), and she hates that Paul told his father (Helen’s ex-husband) instead. It’s easy to see why Paul doesn’t like communicating with Helen, because she likes to pick fights over imagined insults, and she’s constantly accusing Paul of the emotional sabotage that Helen herself is inflicting. Paul spends quite a bit of time having to make apologies to Helen. He’s a lot more patient with her than other people would be.

Michael Berman, Cathy Schulman, Mario Cantone and Cindy Chupack at the world premiere of “Otherhood” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 21, 2019. (Photo by Carlos Sanfer/51Fest)

If you’ve seen enough comedy films (especially the ones on Netflix), you can easily predict how this story is going to go. At a post-screening Q&A with Chupack and producers Cathy Schulman and Jason Michael Berman (the Q&A was moderated by “Sex and the City” alum Mario Cantone, who has a small role in “Otherhood” as one of Paul’s acquaintances), Chupak said it took about 20 years for “Otherhood” to get made because it’s the kind of movie that most movie studios don’t want to make anymore. She added that Netflix and other streaming services are a boon for creators who want their projects to get made.

Even though “Otherhood” is set in the present day (and has lots of references to social media), there’s still kind of an outdated tone to much of the screenplay, because the mothers in the movie are so old-fashioned in how they’re desperate to get approval from the men in their lives. Showing up unannounced at an adult child’s home and expecting to stay over for a few days—it’s all just so rude and cringeworthy, that it kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth because it’s not cute at all. (Although, to be fair, two of the mothers initially can’t go through with ambushing their sons to crash in their homes as uninvited guests, so these two mothers check into a hotel at first.)

The loyal friendship between the three women is admirable, and it’s great to see what seems to be natural chemistry between the three lead actresses, who all do a fine job with the mediocre screenplay that they’ve been given. A better movie would have had the three mothers focusing less on trying to manipulate their sons’ love lives and more on the mothers trying to genuinely reconnect with their sons by trying to understand what makes them happy in their current lives. This is such a “made for Netflix” comedy movie, right down to the sitcom-ish musical score. “Otherhood” isn’t going to be nominated for any awards, but there are worse ways to spend 100 minutes of your time. Netflix will premiere “Otherhood” on August 2, 2019.

Here are some other photos from the inaugural 51Fest:

Kathleen Turner and director Janice Engel at the New York premiere of “Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Carlos Sanfer/51Fest)
Comedian/actress Ophelia Eisenberg (panel moderator) and Brittany O’Neill at the New York premiere of “Brittany Runs a Marathon” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Carlos Sanfer/51Fest)
HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen (panel moderator), Katharine Gun and “Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman at the New York premiere of “Official Secrets” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Carlos Sanfer/51Fest)
Moderator Anne Barnard, co-director Waad al-Kateab, Dr. Hamza al-Kateab and co-director Edward Watts at the New York premiere of “For Sama” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 21, 2019. (Photo by Carlos Sanfer/51Fest)
Director Mary McGuckian, actor Barkhad Abdi and activist Ifrah Ahmed at the international premiere of “A Girl From Mogadishu” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 21, 2019. (Photo by Lou Aguilar/51Fest)
Harvey Weinstein accusers Hope D’Amore and Erika Rosenbaum with director Ursula Macfarlane at the New York premiere of “Untouchable” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 21, 2019. (Photo by Lou Aguilar/51Fest)

Julianne Moore opens up about ‘After the Wedding,’ playing Gloria Steinem, Time’s Up and fighting for equality

July 21, 2019

by Carla Hay

Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore at the New York premiere of “After the Wedding” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Lou Aguilar/51Fest)

When people think of the most versatile, talented actresses in the world, Oscar-winning Julianne Moore is sure to be on that list. She’s played a diverse array of characters in such a wide variety of films, that she’s also an actress who defies predictability when it comes to what types of projects she chooses. In the drama “After the Wedding,” she plays a hard-driving New York media mogul named Theresa Young, who is thinking about making a multimillion-dollar donation to an orphanage in Calcutta, India. The orphanage is run by a modest do-gooder named Isabel (played by Michelle Williams), who is the movie’s other lead female character.

Theresa and Isabel couldn’t be more opposite, and they have completely different lives. Theresa will give the donation on the condition that Isabel come to New York and meet with her in person. During the meeting, Theresa invites Isabel to the wedding of her 21-year-old daughter, Grace (played by Abby Quinn), who is one of Theresa’s three children. She also has 8-year-old fraternal twin sons with her husband, Oscar Carlson (played by Billy Crudup), a successful artist whose specialty is sculptures. It’s at the wedding that the lives of Theresa, Isabel and Oscar collide, as secrets and lies are exposed throughout the story.

“After the Wedding” (written and directed by Moore’s husband, Bart Freundlich) is an American remake of the 2006 Danish film “Efter Brylluppet,” whose stars included Mads Mikkelsen. “After the Wedding” is Moore’s second American movie remake of 2019. She also starred in “Gloria Bell,” Sebastián Lelio’s 2019 American remake of his 2013 Chilean film “Gloria.” Whereas “Gloria Bell” is virtually identical to the original “Gloria” film, the American remake of “After the Wedding” has a dramatic overhaul by switching the genders of the three main characters. Moore and Freundlich are two of the producers of the American version of “After the Wedding,” which got mostly positive reviews after its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The movie had its New York premiere at the inaugural 51Fest, a female-focused film festival co-presented from July 18 to July 21, 2019, by the feminist organization Women in the World and the arthouse movie theater IFC Center in New York City. Here is what Moore said in a post-screening Q&A with Women in the World founder Tina Brown.

Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup and Julianne Moore in “After the Wedding” (Photo by David Giesbrecht/Sony Pictures Classics)

What was it about the original “After the Wedding” movie that made you want to do a remake of it?

Originally, this was Bart’s project. He had been approached to do an American adaptation of this really beautiful Danish film, directed by Susanne Bier. And I was just there talking to him about. We watched the [original] film, and I was really struck by this story and by one of the characters in particular. The movie was wrapping up, and I pointed to the businessman [played by Rolf Lassgård], and I was like, “Now, that’s a role I’d like to play.”

[Bart] was kind of fiddling with the script and figuring out how to adapt it. Because the [original] movie is so perfect, why do tell a story another time? Why do you make it different? And so, they came up with the idea of switching the genders. And so, immediately when he did that, I was like, “I’m in! I’m in! That part is the one I want!”

How much did that gender-flipping change the script?

A lot. In the original, there’s the issue of paternity and a lot of knowledge that people don’t have. You have the female protagonists, and obviously, there are some deliberate choices about parenting and knowledge … One of the things that I also thought was very fascinating about it too was that these women are very judgmental over each other’s choices. Both of them feel that they made the exact, right choices, and they really don’t approve of the other one’s lifestyle, but they desperately need each other. And in my case, Theresa is forced to reconcile with the one person she’d rather never, ever met.

Theresa is a very hard-driving business executive who sometimes treats people very harshly. Did you worry about playing someone who was unsympathetic?

I never saw her as unsympathetic. I think that she’s somebody who holds a lot of power … I loved the fact that she was interested in her business, that she didn’t really care about the orphanage. She was trying provide for family, provide for her employees.

[She is] somebody who controlled everything in her life, made very conscious decisions about what kind of work she wanted to do, who she wanted to marry. There’s a very veiled reference to IVF. Bart and I worked on that. I want everybody to know that she deliberately had these children [the 8-year-old twins], and tried really hard. And she’s really come up against the one thing we can’t control.

Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore in “After the Wedding” (Photo by Julio Macat/Sony Pictures Classics)

How was it working with Michelle Williams?

She was wonderful. That’s who we wanted. Bart and I talked about it. I can remember when we were making the decision. Somebody said, “So-and-so might do it,” but he said, “We really want Michelle.” I said, “If we want Michelle, let’s just go to her.”

I actually had her email from way, way back, and I emailed her directly. I thought, “All right, if you want something, go right toward it.” I said, “We have this movie. You’re our dream lead for it Would you read it?” She read it, and she committed right away, which was unbelievable. I can’t believe she actually did it. It’s a little, tiny movie. We had very few resources, but she responded very strongly to the script.

How is it working with your husband, Bart Freundlich? Do you give a lot of notes to each other about your work?

It can be challenging. This was the first time [working with him] that I actually gave really specific notes, because we were there as he was writing it … I always say that, especially in an emotional scene, an actor needs a scaffold, in the way we build our emotion as people through conversations and ideas, you want to make sure that’s present for the actor to do, so it seems like real human behavior.

There would be times when we would read it and work on it, and I’d give him notes. It’s the same thing when he’s directing. He needs plenty of information and assistance. It’s wonderful to have a collaboration like that, although it’s not so easy when your teenage daughter is also a PA [production assistant].

Was it the first time that your daughter worked with you and Bart?

Yes, it’s probably the first and the last. She’s like, “Why do people do this job? This is awful.”

Women in the World founder Tina Brown, Julianne Moore and 51Fest program director Anne Hubbell at the New York premiere of “After the Wedding” during 51Fest at IFC Center in New York City on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Lou Aguilar/51Fest)

What kind of research did you do for playing Gloria Steinem in the biopic “Gloria: A Life on the Road,” directed and co-written by Julie Taymor?

The very, very best part of working on this project was getting to meet Gloria Steinem and to spend time with her voice and her writing and her world view. When you have somebody as inspiring as that to learn from, I was really grateful for the opportunity. It’s like a lesson on how to live.

Her tolerance, her patience, her consistency of message, her non-reactivity, I think that’s really remarkable, because we’re living in a time when people are very, very reactive, and it feels very hot. And when you watch Gloria all through her entire career, when you see what’s she faced as an advocate for women and what she withstood, it’s really amazing how tolerant she was of the things she came up against, and how she continues to educate slowly and carefully, with compassion. She really is remarkable.

What did you go for, in terms of building the Gloria Steinem character from inside out?

I read her book,s and I watched all the video I could find. The movie is based on her book “My Life on the Road,” and it’s a really beautiful meditation on what her beginnings were as an activist, and her beginnings as a human being and he family. At the very end of it, she talks about how her father didn’t have a home, and her mother didn’t have a place of her own, and how you need both. You need a journey and you need a home.

And she talks about the split, the division of us as males and females, and why it doesn’t work for anybody. I think that’s really important to start with who that person was or how her ideology was shaped. It really was, even as a child, witnessing what her parents went through.

Can you talk about your involvement in the Time’s Up movement and where you think the movement is going?

Time’s Up is super-exciting. The one thing that benefits us all as human beings is contact with people who are not like ourselves. We’re often so segregated by sex, by age, by race, by culture, by jobs. So there was this opportunity to be in a room with all of these women in New York City, of various ages and various jobs, and say, “Hey, what do you do, and how can we do to help each other?” Suddenly, you have this network of people, and it’s been astonishing.

And they go, “What group do you want to be in? Do you want to be in the social group or the mentoring group?” “I want to be in legal,” so I found myself in a group with incredible legal minds. As you know, [New York governor Andrew] Cuomo just adopted the Time’s Up Safety Agenda, which is major!

Time’s Up was formed in California, which is a very progressive state. New York, much less so. As we sitting around talking about things, we realized that the statute of limitations was so short on a lot of these sexual-assault claims. Otherwise, we can’t move forward.

What’s your perception of changes for women in the entertainment industry after Time’s Up?

I think it takes a long time to turn a ship around. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I do think that because we do have these relationships with one another, Time’s Up is about safety and equity for people in the workplace, not just for women in entertainment but for all industries. We’re able to band together with other women and say, “How do I put my weight behind you? How do we solve this problem? How do we solve that problem?” It’s been wonderful to have that collective influence. It’s been only a year [since Time’s Up was formed], so it hasn’t been very long, but I do think that suddenly, there’s a conversation again, where there wasn’t one a few years ago.

Julianne Moore and Abby Quinn in “After the Wedding” (Photo by Julio Macat/Sony Pictures Classics)

How much of a role stays with you when you’re done filming a project? Can you just shed a role like skin when you’re done?

Hell yeah! They cling to you as long as you’re working on them. One of the things I hate a reshoot. I hate additional shooting. That means you have to hang on to that character maybe for six months or something. I always want to let it go, because I feel very immersed in something when I’m doing it, but then when I’m done, I’m like, “Drop it.”

One of the great things for me was having children, working in the movies and having little children, so when you go home, it’s done. You come home and shut the door. You learn to compartmentalize, and I think that’s what I like.

Acting is almost like self-hypnosis. You have to put yourself in a position where you have to actually believe the stuff is happening to you, but you also have to know that it’s not really happening to you. So, when there are actors who are like, “Oh, my God, now I know what it’s like to be blind,” it’s like, no, you don’t! You were pretending!

Because of the contemporary women’s movement, there seems to be more pressure for female actors to play strong women who live extraordinary lives. Is there a place for female actors playing “regular women”?

I’m so happy you said that, because it makes me crazy. What powerful woman do I want to play? I’m just not interested. I want to play people who are human.

I think it’s where people make a mistake. It’s not about playing somebody who’s powerful. Also, [the word] “power”—I don’t like that terminology, because that’s about status. If somebody is powerful, they are somehow “higher” than another human being. That doesn’t interest me, the idea of being the most powerful.

I want to play somebody who’s the center of their own narrative. I don’t care who they are, as long as they’re a human being, and they’re in their own story. What I don’t want is the character who kind of comes in the end and says a couple things, picks up a dish, and leaves. Nobody wants to do that, because everyone is at the center of their own narrative. We don’t have to be heroic to be the center of our own story, but we are the heroes of our story.

What’s your process for finding great material?

I don’t know. I get that question, “What character do you want to play?” And I always say, “Characters don’t exist without a narrative.” I don’t know who that is. I can describe somebody who likes to eat out and lives in Seattle, and that kind of thing, but I don’t know who they are. What’s their story? Where’s the narrative? That fascinates me. I don’t know until I read it. And when I read it, and if I get excited by it really quickly, I know it’s something I want to pursue.

There are several female candidates running for president of the United States. Which one would you want to play?

Elizabeth Warren.

Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn and Julianne Moore in “After the Wedding” (Photo by Julio Macat/Sony Pictures Classics)

What’s more pernicious in Hollywood: ageism or sexism? Is ageism worse for women than for men?

Yeah, of course. The thing that’s interesting about sexism and ageism, well, now I’m going to get into looks-ism, so I’m segueing over there. If traditionally, we have an unequal society, where women have only been valued for their marriageability, that means youth and appearance are going to be primary, unless you’ve got some huge dowry, that’s a whole other socioeconomic thing. We are still in a culture where that has seeped in.

So, this idea of women having value only when they’re young and beautiful is still in our culture. It’s going to take a long, long time for us to shed that. And it’s really only going to happen when we have equal opportunity and equal pay and equal work. So, if you are a human being who is paid the same and has the same access to a job and to opportunities, and it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, then that ageism and sexism will go away.

This thing about women feeling invisible makes me crazy. If there’s a 75-year-old man, and he is married, and he’s had a family, and he has a job and continues to be gainfully employed, and he has value, he’s never going to say that he feels invisible, because he has all this achievement behind him. But women, because they haven’t had the same opportunities, and haven’t necessarily been able to build that kind of career, are going to feel like they’re less important. Give that woman those opportunities, and she won’t feel invisible.

Is all the streaming content out there an opportunity for older actresses?

I think it’s an opportunity for everybody. One of the things I always try to remind people of is that the business doesn’t exist to give great parts to actors. The business exists to sell product globally. They’re just trying to figure out, “What can we sell all around the world?” So, it’s always been hard to find great parts for male or female actors.

I don’t know that Batman is a great part. I think it’s a fun part. I don’t think there’s an actor alive who would say, “Oh my God, that’s the role of my dreams.” People want to play complex, interesting characters—all of us, male and female. And suddenly, with all these platforms opening up, there are opportunities for everybody that are really exciting.

How long have you and Bart been married?

We’ve been together for 23 years … We lived together for seven years and had two children before we got married.

Why did you decide to get married after seven years and two children?

It just felt messy [to be unmarried]. I actually had a therapist say to me that she felt that marriage was like a container for a family. It made sense. It’s what we have as a culture to say, “We belong to each other. We’ll take care of each other. We well share each other’s money and houses and whatever.”

It’s a public proclamation of who you are in society as a couple and as a family, which is why marriage equality is so important. Everybody deserves that. Everybody needs an opportunity to say legally, “This is my family. This is who we are.”

Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore in “After the Wedding” (Photo by Julio Macat/Sony Pictures Classics)

Do you and Bart actively look to do projects together?

Well, we are now. As the business has changed, people start realizing that they can take responsibility for producing things, for developing things. Suddenly, we’re all going, “Hey, I can be a producer” or “I can hire a writer” or “I can acquire this book.” So, Bart and I are now looking at things we’d like to do together.

What’s next for you?

My next project is a Stephen King project for Apple called “Lisey’s Story” that Pablo Larraín is going to direct. I’m very excited about it because it’s a story of this marriage. These people have been together for years and years. It’s a romance but it’s also horror. It’s emotional.

I love horror. It’s interesting that it’s so popular now, because it’s so reflective of our emotional state, right? In horror, you’re always like, “Who is the monster? What is the monster? What’s happening?” This [“Lisey’s Story”] is really about this journey this woman takes to go find her husband, and it brings her literally into another place.

Except for Bart, which director do you think has gotten your best work?

I will say that your best work happens when you’re comfortable, not when you’re not comfortable. Your best work happens when you’re able to feel free, and you can do whatever you want to do, and kind of, sort of fly. I dislike it when people make an actor feel precarious. Then you don’t really go where you want to go.

I will say that think working with Todd Haynes was really extraordinary, because he does provide such an incredible amount of structure, just in terms of his language … how he frames shots, how he tells stories cinematically, how he tells them linguistically, I always feel like I have a lot of room within that structure to find stuff.

Can you talk about your relationship with Tom Ford? He’s been your director and you’ve collaborated with him in fashion.

He’s awesome! My part [in the 2009 movie “A Single Man,” Tom Ford’s directorial debut] shot in only three days. It was really, really quick … I remember it was so exciting because the music that he chose was so fantastic. It felt free! It was a beautiful set. Tom had set it up so that we were able to feel free.

After the Wedding” opens in select U.S. cities on August 9, 2019.

2019 51Fest: Women in the World teams up with IFC Center for inaugural female-focused film festival

July 17, 2019

by Carla Hay

Kathy Griffin in “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story” (Photo by Tanne Willow)

In the United States, women make up 51 percent of the population and at least half of all moviegoers. With that in mind, the feminist organization Women in the World and the independent arthouse cineplex IFC Center in New York City have teamed up for the inaugural 51Fest, a film festival aimed at promoting movies about women. All of the selected projects have at least one female producer or a female director. The event takes place July 18 to July 21, 2019. All of the screenings will be held at IFC Center, except for “Kathy Griffin: Hell of a Story,” which will take place at the SVA Theatre. Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s director(s) and/or stars from the movie.

Most of the movies in the first 51Fest  lineup have already had their world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival or South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, but there are a few offerings that will have their world premieres at 51Fest: The first episode of the Netflix limited series “Unbelieable,” a drama starring Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever, as well as the Netflix comedy film “Otherhood,” starring Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette and Felicity Huffman.

Here is the lineup of programming for the inaugural 51Fest:

Opening Night

“Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story”

Thursday, July 18, 7:30 p.m. at SVA Theatre

Controversial comedian Kathy Griffin self-financed this documentary, which chronicles her comeback tour after being blackballed from most of the entertainment industry on the 2017 fallout from posing  for a photo holding a fake, bloody head of Donald Trump. “Kathy Griffin: A  Hell of a Story” got mostly positive reviews after its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival. It’s scheduled to be released nationwide by Fathom Events for a one-night-only screening on July 31, 2019.

106 minutes. Directed by Troy Miller. A Brainstorm Media release in partnership with Fathom.

Post-screening conversation with Kathy Griffin and Tina Brown.

 

Special Event

Women in the World Spotlight: Supermajority

Friday, July 19, 7 p.m. at IFC Center

Women in the World co-founder Tina Brown (who also founded The Daily Beast) will have a  conversation with former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and Ai-jen Poo, the co-founders (along with Alicia Garza) of Supermajority, an activist organization aimed at empowering women. According to a description on the 51Fest website, “the conversation will be introduced by filmmaker Yoruba Richen with an exclusive clip of the forthcoming documentary ‘And She Could Be Next,’ about a movement of women of color claiming political power.”

Yoruba Richen

Screenings

(In alphabetical order)

“After the Wedding”

Saturday, July 20, 8:30 p.m. at IFC Center

Isabel (played by Michelle Williams) has dedicated her life to working with the children in an orphanage in Calcutta. Theresa (played by Julianne Moore) is the multimillionaire head of a media company who lives with her artist husband (played by Billy Crudup) and their twin boys in New York. When word comes to Isabel of a mysterious and generous grant for the financially struggling orphanage, she must travel to New York to meet the benefactor—Theresa—in person. After premiering at Sundance, “After the Wedding” (a remake of the 2006 Danish film directed by Susanne Bier)  makes its New York premiere at 51Fest. The movie is set for release in select U.S. theaters on August 9, 2019.

110 minutes. Directed by Bart Freundlich. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

Post-screening conversation with producer and star Julianne Moore and Tina Brown.

 

“Brittany Runs a Marathon”

Saturday, July 20, 2:45 p.m. at IFC Center

Winner of the Audience Award at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, this  comedy was inspired by real events. The irresistible cast, led by Jillian Bell, lends heart and soul to this inspirational story of a party girl who finally finds real friends — and dignity — by taking control of her future, one city block at a time. At 27, her hard-partying ways, chronic underemployment and toxic relationships are catching up with her, but when she stops by a new doctor’s office to try to score some Adderall, she gets slapped with a prescription she never wanted: Get healthy. Too broke for a gym and too proud to ask for help, Brit is at a loss, until her seemingly together neighbor Catherine pushes her to lace up her Converse sneakers and run one sweaty block. The next day, she runs two. And soon, after finishing her first mile, she sets an almost unthinkable goal: running in the New York City Marathon. After its New York premiere at 51Fest, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be released in select U.S. theaters on August 23, 2019.

103 minutes. Directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo. An Amazon Studios release.

Post-screening conversation with real-life subject Brittany O’Neill and Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR’s “Tell Me Another”

 

“For Sama”

Sunday, July 21, 12 p.m. at IFC Center

After winning awards at the SXSW Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival, the documentary “For Sama” makes its New York debut at 51Fest. “For Sama” is both an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war. A love letter from a young mother to her daughter, the film tells the story of Waad al-Kateab’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her. Her camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as Waad wrestles with an impossible choice–whether or not to flee the city to protect her daughter’s life, when leaving means abandoning the struggle for freedom for which she has already sacrificed so much. The film is the first feature documentary by Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. “For Sama” will be released in select U.S. theaters on July 26, 2019, before premiering on the PBS show “Frontline.”

95 minutes. Directed by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. A PBS Distribution/Frontline release.

After the screening, filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts and subject Dr. Hamza al-Kateab will be interviewed by Anne Barnard, who led coverage of the war in Syria for the New York Times from 2012 to 2018, as Beirut bureau chief.

 

“A Girl From Mogadishu”

Sunday, July 21, 5:15 p.m. at IFC Center

Aja Naomi King in “A Girl From Mogadishu”

“A Girl From Mogadishu” is a drama is real-life-inspired story about the horrors of female genital mutilation (FGM), based on the testimony of an Irish-Somali campaigner (played by Aja Naomi King).  The film opens with a harrowing escape, as 17-year-old Ifrah Ahmed flees war-torn Somalia, evading smugglers and traffickers to seek asylum in Ireland. When she returns to Somalia to confront her family about being an unwilling victim of FGM, she also is determined to save other young girls at risk of FGM. “A Girl From Mogadishu” has its North American premiere at 51Fest.

112 minutes. Directed by Mary McGuckian.

Post-screening discussion with writer-director Mary McGuckian, actor Barkhad Abdi, and real-life subject Ifrah Ahmed, moderated by journalist Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani of Verizon Media

 

“Official Secrets” 

Saturday, July 20, 5:30 p.m. at IFC Center

She risked everything to stop an unjust war. Her government called her a traitor. Based on world-shaking true events, “Official Secrets” tells the gripping story of Katharine Gun (played by Keira Knightley), a British intelligence specialist whose job involves routine handling of classified information. One day in 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, Gun receives a memo from the NSA with a shocking directive: the United States is enlisting Britain’s help in collecting compromising information on United Nations Security Council members in order to blackmail them into voting in favor of an invasion of Iraq. Unable to stand by and watch the world be rushed into an illegal war, Gun makes the gut-wrenching decision to defy her government and leak the memo to the press. So begins an explosive chain of events that will ignite an international firestorm, expose a vast political conspiracy, and put Gun and her family directly in harm’s way. After its New York premiere at 51fest, “Official Secrets” will be released in select U.S. theaters on August 30, 2019.

112 minutes. Directed by Gavin Hood. An IFC Films release.

Post-screening conversation with real-life subject Katharine Gun, moderated by Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen.

 

“Otherhood”

Sunday, July 21, 2:30 p.m. at IFC Center

51Fest is having a sneak preview of the comedy film “Otherhood.” Feeling marginalized and forgotten, longtime friends Carol (played Angela Bassett), Gillian (played by Patricia Arquette) and Helen (played Felicity Huffman) decide to drive to New York to reconnect with their adult sons, and in the process they realize their sons are not the only ones whose lives need to change. A journey to relate becomes a journey of rediscovery that forces these women to redefine their relationships with their children, friends, spouses and most importantly, themselves. Netflix will premiere “Otherhood” on August 2, 2019.

Post-screening discussion with director Cindy Chupack and producers Cathy Schulman and Jason Michael Berman.

100 minutes. Directed by Cindy Chupack. A Netflix release.

 

“Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins”

Saturday, July 20, 12 p.m. at IFC Center

This documentary about the late columnist/writer Molly Ivins got rave reviews after its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and the movie has its New York premiere at 51Fest. At 6 feet tall, the politically outspoken Ivins was a force to be reckoned with in expressing her liberal viewpoints. The film also includes her battles with alcoholism and breast cancer, the latter of which took her life in 2007. Featuring interviews with Ivins’ friends and former colleagues, “Raise Hell” gives an in-depth look at her life and her lasting legacy. Magnolia Pictures will release “Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins” in Texas on August 30, 2019, and in New York City and Los Angeles on September 6, 2019.

93 minutes. Directed by Janice Engel. A Magnolia Pictures release.

Post-screening conversation with director Janice Engel along with friends and admirers of Molly Ivins.

 

“Unbelievable”

Friday, July 19, 8:30 p.m. at IFC Center

When teenager Marie Adler (played Kaitlyn Dever) files a police report claiming an intruder sexually assaulted her in her home, several people begin to doubt her story. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall (played Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) are investigating a case that is similar to what Marie has reported. The limited drama series “Unbelievable,” whose first episode will have its world premiere at 51Fest, is inspired by the real events in The Marshall Project and ProPublica Pulitzer Prize-winning article, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, and the “This American Life” radio episode “Anatomy of Doubt.” Netflix will premiere “Unbelievable” on September 13, 2019.

60 min. Episode directed by Lisa Cholodenko. A Netflix release.

Post-screening conversation with showrunner and executive producer Susannah Grant, executive producer Sarah Timberman, executive producer and episode director Lisa Cholodenko, and actors Kaitlyn Dever, Danielle Macdonald and Merritt Wever. 

 

“Untouchable”

Sunday, July 21st, 8:15 p.m. at IFC Center

This documentary chronicles the downfall of former entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein because of sexual abuse allegations. Although stories about Weinstein being a sexual predator had been circulating in the industry for decades, he wasn’t fully exposed until 2017, when the New York Times and the New Yorker published articles that had several famous women (including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino) telling their stories of being sexually harassed by Weinstein. The articles are considered the catalyst for the #MeToo movement. This documentary, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, includes interviews with Weinstein accusers Rosanna Arquette, Hope D’Amore, Paz de la Huerta, Erika Rosenbaum, and others. After its New York premiere at 51Fest, “Untouchable” will premiere on Hulu on September 2, 2019.

98 minutes. Directed by Ursula Macfarlane. A Hulu release.

Post-screening conversation with director Ursula Macfarlane and subjects Hope D’Amore and Erika Rosenbaum.

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