x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Sundance showcases record number of women filmmakers

Half the entries in the Utah festival's dramatic competition were directed by women.

The Sundance Film Festival has an apparent record line-up of women directors competing for its top honour next month.

Half the entries - eight of the 16 films - in the festival's US dramatic competition were directed by women. The next instalment of Robert Redford's independent-cinema showcase runs from January 17 to 27 in Utah.

Going back to 1992, the best showing previously for women filmmakers was in 2000, when six of the 16 US dramatic contenders were directed by women.

Among the films from women filmmakers include: Francesca Gregorini's Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, whose cast includes Jessica Biel and Frances O'Connor in the story of a troubled girl fixated on a mysterious neighbour, and Liz W Garcia's The Lifeguard, with Kristen Bell as a reporter who moves home to Connecticut and takes a job as a lifeguard.

The festival's line-up also features the first Sundance entry for the Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, who stars as Allen Ginsberg in the director John Krokidas's Kill Your Darlings.

Male directors still dominate the big screen, but the low-budget indie world has been narrowing the gender gap. Sundance's director John Cooper said it's a sign that more and more women are breaking into filmmaking.

"I think that's absolutely it," Cooper said. "Also, what we've found is that through our short-film programmes, they've been coming close to 50-50 in certain years ... So it's more of a coming-up-through-the-ranks situation," said Cooper about female directors who graduate from short films to feature-length stories.

Opening the festival is the director Cherien Dabis's drama contender May in the Summer, in which she stars as a woman who is in conflict with her family after she returns home to Jordan as her wedding nears.

Other films in the US dramatic line-up include the Napoleon Dynamite writer Jerusha Hess's directing debut, Austenland, which stars Keri Russell and Jennifer Coolidge in a romance about a Pride and Prejudice-obsessed woman searching for love at a Jane Austen theme resort; In a World, the directing debut of the actress Lake Bell, who stars in the story of a woman trying to follow in her father's footsteps to become a voice-over star; and David Lowery's Ain't Them Bodies Saints, featuring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck in a drama about an escaped prisoner reuniting with his family.