The 39th annual Atlanta Film Festival taking place March 20 thru 29, 2015, has released the first ten feature films, all directed by women, selected for the festival’s film lineup. “Films from female directors composed nearly half of last year’s feature film program. This first glimpse at the Festival’s 2015 lineup showcases the outstanding quality of work found in submissions from female filmmakers,” said ATLFF Director of Programming Kristy Breneman. Of the ten features in this first wave, six are narrative (fiction) and four are documentaries.
Three of these selections are Georgia-produced films. “Female Pervert” is a comedy from Atlanta Film Festival alumnus Jiyoung Lee. “Imba Means Sing,” directed by Danielle Bernstein, follows children from the African Children’s Choir as they leave their home in Uganda for a world tour. Danielle Beverly’s “Old South” explores racial tensions in Athens, Georgia after a white fraternity moves into a traditionally black neighborhood.
Three foreign language films are also included. “Breathe” (“Respire”) comes to us from director and actress Mélanie Laurent (“Inglourious Basterds,” “Le Concert.”). The film played both the Cannes Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival in 2014. Vania Leturcq’s “Next Year” (“L’année Prochaine”) follows two French girls as they graduate school and prepare to move to Paris. Nathalie Cools’ “Trans: A Documentary About Transboys” explores the female-to-male transition by following several subjects in Ghent, Belgium.
“The Sideways Light” marks Jennifer Harlow’s directorial debut. Likewise, “Apartment Troubles” marks the first time directing for Jennifer Prediger and Jess Weixler, who also wrote and star in the film. “The Sisterhood of Night” is Caryn Waechter’s directorial debut and marks the second-most highly funded narrative project in Kickstarter history.
Continuing ATLFF’s history of strong musical programming, the 2015 program includes (in addition to the aforementioned “Imba Means Sing”) “Sound of Redemption: The Frank Miller Story.” Directed by N.C. Heikin, this documentary follows the jazz legend’s highs and lows, including his time in San Quentin prison.
“These first ten films are some of the most exciting in our festival’s history,” said Breneman. “The fact that such an exceptional and diverse crop all come from female directors is a testament to how much the independent film industry is shifting and evolving for the better. We just hope one day Hollywood takes note.”
directed by Jennifer Prediger, Jess Weixler
USA, 2014, English, 77 minutes
Olivia and Nicole are codependent roommates who are definitely going to make it; They’re just not sure how. When they get evicted from their shoebox apartment in Manhattan—conceptual art just doesn’t cover the rent—they boldly take off to L.A. and the promise of sunshine. As one door slams shut, another opens—a tarot card reading later, the duo decide to take their performance art sensibilities to the mainstream by auditioning for a reality TV talent show.
Starring: Jess Weixler, Jennifer Prediger, Megan Mullally, Will Forte, Jeffrey Tambor, Bob Byington
directed by Mélanie Laurent
France, 2014, French, 91 minutes
Seventeen-year-old Charlie is bright and beautiful, but not without her insecurities. When new girl Sarah arrives, Charlie is captured by her charisma and the two strike up a deep friendship. For a time, it seems as though each is what the other has been waiting for. When Sarah tires of Charlie and begins making new friends, their relationship takes a turn for the worse.
Starring: Joséphine Japy, Lou de Laâge, Isabelle Carré, Claire Keim
directed by Jiyoung Lee
USA, 2015, English, 63 minutes
Phoebe is a lonely video game designer seeking a true connection in the modern world. Unfortunately, she doesn’t relate to people like most in ‘normal society.’ So she starts seeing a therapist, she changes her diet and joins a book club. As her path to self-improvement unfurls, some of her more eccentric interests lead her down a darker path. She meets a few men along the way, hoping to spark a love connection. But her perversions are hard to suppress. Will she be able to change? Or will she accept her fate as a female pervert?
Starring: Jennifer Kim, Joshua Mikel
Imba Means Sing
directed by Danielle Bernstein
USA/Uganda, 2015, English, 75 minutes
Following Angel, Moses and Nina from the slums of Kampala, Uganda through a world tour with the Grammy-nominated African Children’s Choir, “Imba Means Sing” showcases these extraordinary characters as they travel from one extreme to the other. The story is told from the children’s perspectives on their one shot journey from poverty to education. The film is an intimate look at how each child processes the joys and challenges of this life-altering opportunity.
Next Year (L’année Prochaine)
directed by Vania Leturcq
France/Belgium, 2014, French, 105 minutes
Clotilde and Aude are eighteen and have always been best friends. Their relationship is strong and interdependent, as teenage friendships can be. They are finishing school and have to decide what to do the following year, after their baccalaureate. Clotilde decides to leave their small, provincial village and go to Paris, dragging Aude along with her. But the two friends will experience this departure differently, ultimately splitting up.
Starring: Constance Rousseau, Jenna Thiam, Julien Boisselier, Kévin Azaïs
directed by Danielle Beverly
USA, 2015, English, 54 minutes
In a historically black neighborhood in Athens, Georgia, a college fraternity traditionally known to fly the confederate flag moves in and establishes their presence by staging an antebellum style parade. “Old South” follows the neighborhood struggle over three years, while both communities fight to preserve their historical legacies against an evolving cultural backdrop in the South—and the nation as a whole.
The Sideways Light
directed by Jennifer Harlow
USA, 2014, English, 85 minutes
An ethereal and creepy mystery, “The Sideways Light” tells the story of Lily as she cares for her ailing mother, Ruth. While Ruth’s mind unravels, Lily struggles to understand her and the strange happenings in the house her family has called home for generations. Is Ruth the cause of the disturbances in the house? Or is it something older and more profound hidden there and in Lily’s bloodline?
Starring: Lindsay Burdge, Annalee Jefferies, Mark Reeb, Matthew Newton
The Sisterhood of Night
directed by Caryn Waechter
USA, 2014, English, 102 minutes
The story begins when Emily Parris exposes a secret society of teenage girls who have slipped out of the world of social media, into a mysterious world deep in the woods. Emily’s allegations of sexually deviant activities throw the town of Kingston into hysteria and the national media spotlight. As the accused uphold a vow of silence, Emily’s blog takes an unexpected turn when girls across the country emerge with personal stories of sexual abuse. Why are the Sisterhood girls willing to risk so much for a ritualistic gathering in the woods? From the story by Pulitzer Prize-winner Steven Millhauser, “The Sisterhood of Night” chronicles a provocative alternative to adolescent loneliness, revealing the tragedy and humor of teenage years changed forever by the Internet age.
Starring: Georgie Henley, Kara Hayward, Willa Cuthrell, Olivia De Jonge, Kal Penn, Laura Fraser
Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story
directed by N.C. Heikin
USA, 2014, English, 84 minutes
At 17, Frank Morgan was deemed Charlie Parker’s successor. In order to be just like his idol, he started taking heroin. Frank Morgan went from alto sax prodigy to junkie to bank robber. He landed in San Quentin, where there were so many jazz junkies that they formed a big band. It would take Morgan 30 hard years to turn his life around, but he did. Seamlessly weaving live performance and biography, “Sound of Redemption” penetrates the heart of the complex and gifted Frank Morgan and raises the roof at San Quentin.
Trans: A Documentary About Transboys
directed by Nathalie Cools
Belgium, 2014, Dutch, 42 minutes
There are several important steps that a trans man goes through during his transition. Following procedures that take place at the University Hospital in Ghent, Belgium, “Trans” follows several anonymous trans men as they find themselves at different stages in the process to transition from woman to man.