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It's women directors' moment to shine in the Miami sunshine.........

The Directors Guild of America reports that less than 10% of its membership are women. In the history of the Academy Awards, only three women have ever been nominated for Best Director (Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion and Sofia Coppola). While women head major studios and are prolific producers, there still is a “glass ceiling” regarding women directors. But at the Miami International Film's a woman's world, and male journalists like myself just have to adjust.

The Miami International Film Festival (MIFF) has devoted nearly one third of its program to films directed by women, the highest percentage of any major international film festival in the world. The Festival is turning its spotlight on the unique voices of women directors from the US, Europe, Israel and Latin America.

Nicole Holofcener, with three films to her credit (WALKING AND TALKING, LOVELY AND AMAZING and her latest FRIENDS WITH MONEY) has mastered the art of the ensemble comedy-drama. Her latest film, FRIENDS WITH MONEY, with a dream cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack and Catherine Keener, plays as part of the Awards Night Celebration on March 11th at the Gusman Center.

Mary Harron’s debut feature I SHOT ANDY WARHOL put her on the map, and her adaptation of bad boy novelist Bret Easton Ellis’ AMERICAN PSYCHO secured her reputation as an ardent individualist. Her latest, THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE, a docudrama of the 1950’s S&M pinup, screened on Monday evening to great acclaim.

The documentary genre has offered women directors more opportunities and several key figures are represented this year, including gay history archivist Barbara Hammer (director, LOVER OTHER), Tai Uhlmann (director, FOR THE LOVE OF DOLLY), Jessica Sanders (director, AFTER INNOCENCE), Oriana Zill de Granados (director, NUESTRA FAMILIA, OUR FAMILY), Sarah Sackner (director, CLASS ACT) and Oscar nominee Liz Garbus (director, YO SOY BORICUA, PA’QUE TU LO SEPAS!, I’m Boricua, Just So You Know!).

Garbus’ co-director is actress-turned-director Rosie Perez (actress, DO THE RIGHT THING), who makes her directorial debut with YO SOY BORICUA, PA’QUE TU LO SEPAS! a tribute to her Puerto Rican roots. Other actresses who have taken the plunge into film direction include Anne Fontaine (director, IN HIS HANDS, France), Chus Gutiérrez (director, EL CALENTITO, Spain) and Niki Karimi (director, ONE NIGHT, Iran).

Several women directors take on film genres that have generally been helmed by testosterone-fueled male directors. Dalia Hager and Vidi Bilu bring a fresh perspective to the Middle East war zone in the fascinating Israeli drama CLOSE TO HOME. France’s Fabienne Godet pays homage to French master director Claude Chabrol, with her emotionally wrenching psychological thriller BURNT OUT. Buket Alakus takes on the inspirational sports movie with the rousing German drama OFFSIDE. French director Anne Fontaine enters into the territory of masters of suspense Alfred Hitchcock and Brian de Palma, with her intense psychological thriller, IN HIS HANDS (Entre Ses Mains).

If empathy can be described as a female energy trait, then the social issue documentaries directed by women only benefit from identification with their subjects. Among the highlights are ALIMENTATION GÉNÉRALE (France), Chantal Briet’s profile of a local grocery store which serves as a community nexus in a blighted Muslim suburb; MUXES: AUTHENTIC, INTREPID SEEKERS OF DANGER (Mexico), Alejandra Islas’ portrait of defiantly proud gay Zapotec Indians; SI SOS BRUJO (Argentina), Caroline Neal’s musical documentary on the struggle to keep alive the grand tradition of tango music; and TEEN MOTHERS (Brazil), Sandra Werneck’s compelling look at teenage pregnancy.

The Festival will also showcase the debut features of a mix of female directors. Claudia Llosa (director, MADEINUSA (Peru/Spain), Julia Somonoff (director, SISTERS, Spain/Argentina/Brazil), Martas Arribas and Ana Perez (co-directors, MEMORY TRAIN, Spain), Alicia Scherson (director, PLAY, Chile) and Francisca Schweitzer (co-director, TIME OUT, Chile).

It's women directors' moment to shine in the Miami sunshine.........

Sandy Mandelberger, Industry Editor

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