During yesterday’s excellent female filmmaker panel moderated by The Atlantic’s Shirley Li, I noticed a foreign poster for Stanley Donen’s “Charade”—the greatest Hitchcock thriller that Hitch never made—hanging on the wall of filmmaker Chloe Okuno. Sure enough, Donen’s classic plays a significant role in Okuno’s excruciatingly tense feature debut about a New Yorker, Julia (Maika Monroe of “It Follows”), who moves to Bucharest with her fiancé (the ever-fascinating Karl Glusman) and senses that she is being stalked. Okuno beautifully crafts an atmosphere of paranoia, such as in a memorable shot involving an elevator that serves as a sly tip of the hat to “Charade.” Like Julia, we are not entirely sure who to believe, and Okuno has a ball playing the audience like a piano. Glusman spoke thoughtfully in the post-screening Q&A afterward about how the film portrays the predominantly male tendency to smooth over situations without really listening, and how that can become a form of gaslighting. Though the film could’ve closed on a more haunting note had it ended a few minutes earlier, it’s hard to argue with a finale as satisfying as this one. (Matt Fagerholm, Contributing Writer)
It makes sense to include this picture in Cinema Femme’s coverage of Sundance because, although it is directed by a man (Ed Perkins), its subject is one of the most publicized women in history and its brilliance is in part due to the editing by Jinx Godfrey (“Man on Wire”). Whereas the recent biopics on Princess Diana have ranged from touching (“Spencer”) to insulting (“Diana: The Musical”), this film takes viewers right back to the raw emotion that prompted my family, along with countless others, to record her funeral on videocassette while watching the footage in stunned silence. Along with fellow ace editor Daniel Lapira, Godfrey hones in on countless fleeting nuances that express the inner anguish of Diana, as well as the attention she gave to ordinary citizens that made her so beloved. One moment that hit me like a sucker punch occurs as Diana navigates her way through a swarm of paparazzi, pausing only to accept a bouquet of flowers from a little girl. What Perkins illustrates here, above all, is our complicity in the dehumanizing obsession that led to Diana’s demise at age 36. Belittling laughter suddenly turns to howls of shock, as the piercing camera lens turns to focus on us. (Matt Fagerholm, Contributing Writer)
When I watch a film, I naturally am compelled to compare it to others. But I’ve never seen the Black female experience so intimately told in this setting. In Mariama Diallo’s feature directorial debut, we are brought into the world of a mostly white elite east coast private college that has been around since practically the beginning of our US history. As the first Black Master of an all-white dormitory, Gail Bishop (Regina Hall) takes us through this world, along with the lone Black female student, Jasmine Moore, played by Zoe Renee. Jasmine is placed in a room in Gail’s house that is rumored to be haunted by a witch that terrorizes students, leading to their suicide. Diallo brings us into a provocative realm of horror fantasy that reflects her own experience at Yale University. During the Q&A, she spoke about how she views life through the lenses of fantasy and reality, and that plays into the horror commentary we see in this film. (Rebecca Martin, Managing Editor).
Mimi Cave’s directorial debut initially frustrated me with its preference for, in the words of “The Great British Baking Show,” style over substance. This film is predictable in its story and dialogue, and is derivative of many other films, but what kept me watching was the performance by Daisy Edgar-Jones, who shines as Noa, a woman whose seemingly perfect date quickly turns horrific. Edgar-Jones elevates the twists and turns that the film takes us on, and engages in an unforgettable dance with her very funny co-star, Sebastian Stan. (Rebecca Martin, Managing Editor)
Shirley Li, staff writer from The Atlantic, leads a discussion with Eva Longoria Bastón (“La Guerra Civil”), Chloe Okuno (“Watcher”) and Krystin Ver Linden (“Alice”) about their journeys as female filmmakers in today’s industry. It’s very insightful and one that a lot of their female colleagues will relate to. Many of our readers are guaranteed to feel less alone after experiencing this empowering conversation.