Women Movie Directors Make a Mark at Sundance Film Festival 2015

So, how are women film directors doing in the infamously male-dominated film industry? With the 2015 Sundance Film Festival Awards finally announced, 13 women directors' films emerged with a prestigious Sundance award this year. One film co-directed by a woman won two awards. The influential film festival presents nearly three dozen awards every January.

The Wolfpack, directed by Crystal Moselle, photo courtesy of Eoin Macmanus

Sundance 2015 Award-Winning Women Directors
  1. Crystal Moselle's truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story, The Wolfpack, won the US Grand Jury Documentary Prize. The film tells the tale of a family with seven teenagers living in New York City's Lower East Side, whose parents never allow the kids to leave the house. And, in a sense, it's the perfect Sundance flick: "The Angulo brothers," the Sundance film description tells us, "learn about the outside world through the films that they watch....and spend their childhood re-enacting their favorite films using elaborate homemade props and costumes." See The NY Times review.
  2. The US Documentary Special Jury Award for Break Out First Feature went to Lyric R. Cabral, who, with David Felix Sutcliffe, co-directed the timely film (T)error. It's the riveting, disturbing account of the down-the-rabbit-hole world of the contemporary national security apparatus.. You can get the sense of what the filmmakers learned in their op ed, The FBI Isn't Catching Terrorists, It's Creating Them. The film also won an award from Candescent Films in partnership with the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program for raising powerful social issues (as did How to Change The World).
  3. British Kim Longinotto won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award for Dreamcatcher, an intimate look at the ravages of the cycle of poverty in inner city Chicago.
  4. Swedish Frida Barkfors co-directed with husband Lasse Barkfors the double award-winning documentary Pervert Park. It's about former sex offenders in the US, who live in a place called Florida Justice Transitions, an "outcast community," in which "a handful of offenders tell searing personal stories that paint a troubling portrait of abuse and justice in America." A hard-hitting inside view, it won two Sundance awards that read like tongue twisters, but have special import: the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Impact and the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Unparalleled Access.
  5. Jennifer Phang's futuristic film Advantageous, which raises ethical issues, won the U.S. Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision.
  6. Lithuanian-born, French-educated director Alanté Kavaïté directed a coming-of-age story about girls discovering themselves and their identity, through the visually arresting medium of stunt flying, called The Summer of Sangaile. Winning the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award, it was described by Hollywood Reporter as "awash with ripe, voluptuous summertime imagery and brimming with aborning adolescent female sexuality," that "promises to develop a small but ardent following on the festival circuit."
  7. British director Louise Osmond won the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award for Dark Horse, an equestrian rags-to-riches story set in cinematic Wales, clearly a crowd-pleaser.
  8. Japanese-born, American-educated Atsuko Hirayanagi won the Short Film Jury Award for International Fiction, with Oh Lucy!, about what happens when a middle-aged Asian woman dons a blonde wig, and much, much more.
  9. Australian Kitty Green directed The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul, winner of the Short Film Jury Award for Non-fiction. The work is both endearing, and given the political realities of the day, (the director was arrested eight times during the filming) also heart-rending.
  10. French director Cécile Ducrocq's film won the Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting. Back Alley depicts turf wars amongst prostitutes.
  11. Polish Paulina Skibińska's short film, Object, won a special prize called the Short Film Special Jury Award for Visual Poetry.
  12. The Sundance award for Excellence in Cinematography went to Brandon Trost, for The Diary of a Teenage Girl, a US Dramatic Competition entry directed by a woman, Marielle Heller.
  13. In The Second Mother, filmmaker Anna Muylaert directed a tough-love look at the role of a housekeeper in a wealthy Brazilian family. Regina Case, playing the housekeeper, won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting.
Gender Stats: Putting it in Perspective
About one in three of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival awards went to women. According to a story in Indiewire,
"The gender breakdown for each category, which reveals that women are healthily represented in four of the five competition categories (but for some reason are almost entirely missing from "Next," the experimental program)," says Indiewire, was as follows:
  • U.S. Dramatic Competition contestants: 5 of 16 directed by women;
  • U.S. Documentary Competition contestants 7 of 16 directed by women;
  • World Cinema Dramatic Competition contestants: 5 of 12 directed by women;
  • World Cinema Competition contestants: 6 of 12 directed by women.
Just for a point of reference,
For more on women directors at Sundance:
Interested in attending the Sundance Film Festival? How to Get Tickets to Sundance Film Festival: A Non Insiders Guide.
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