2018 Tribeca Film Festival Puts Focus on Women in Time’s Up Era

2018 Tribeca Film Festival
Tribeca Film Festival

Female filmmakers represent nearly half -- 46 percent -- of the films being presented at the 17th festival. Plus, ET picks the must-see films -- many starring or by women -- and events.

In the wake of the Time’s Up movement, which aims to eliminate the imbalance of power in the workforce and bring gender parity behind the camera, the Tribeca Film Festival becomes the first major film festival to pro-actively attempt to balance its representation; an effort championed by festival co-founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal and EVP of Tribeca Enterprises Paula Weinstein. Of the feature films presented this year, nearly half are directed by women -- 46 percent of the 96 titles -- the highest percentage in the festival’s history. Among them are Oscar-nominated Amy Ziering (The Bleeding Edge), Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan making her directorial debut (The Party's Just Beginning), festival opener Lisa D’Apolito (Love, Gilda), documentarian Madeleine Sackler with her first scripted feature (O.G.) and Susanna White (Woman Walks Ahead starring Jessica Chastain).

Of the filmmakers participating in the Tribeca Talks: Directors Series, three of the five slots belong to Lesli Linka Glatter, Laura Poitras and Nancy Meyers, with the Tribeca Talks: The Journey making its debut with a conversation with Sarah Jessica Parker, who stars in the Tribeca world premiere of Blue Night, about her career both on and off-screen.

Perhaps the most direct connection to the Time’s Up movement is the legal defense fund and the festival’s inaugural New York event: a day of conversations with women raising awareness about inequality in the workplace. “While you will see some of the leaders of the movement -- Ashley Judd and Julianne Moore -- you’re also going to have conversations about the farm workers, what's going on in legal aid, what goes on with human resources,” Rosenthal tells ET. “So, it's really a day that will hit more than just the entertainment business.”

Of course, the draw is the films and TV shows being presented -- and female-centric narratives are among the highlights ET previewed ahead of the festival, including a documentary that examines Barbie’s place in a modern era (Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie); scripted stories about a woman reigniting long-dormant passions after returning to the Orthodox Jewish community where she grew up (Disobedience with Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams), estranged sisters driven to extremes when their mother dies (Little Woods starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James) and a girl forced to attend gay conversion therapy (The Miseducation of Cameron Post starring Chloe Grace Moretz).

Here is ET’s selection of the must-see films and TV pilots at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, which runs April 18 to April 29 in New York City:

The American Meme

This intriguing new documentary takes a deeper look at what it’s like to be a viral sensation -- and the darker side to internet fame. Paris Hilton, Brittany Furlan, DJ Khaled and more are featured in the film, offering unique perspectives on their relationship with social media, fandom and the many ups and downs of celebrity. (Directed by Bert Marcus; April 27)

All About Nina

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays an aspiring standup comedian, who ditches her abusive boyfriend (Chace Crawford) for Los Angeles. Winstead’s performance recalls her work in Smashed as her hard-drinking character navigates the pitfalls of making it big and the notion of love, thanks to an all-too-patient suitor played by Common. (Written and directed by Eva Vives; April 22)

All These Small Moments

In this heartwarming coming-of-age tale, Howie (Brendan Meyer) navigates the pangs of adolescence and his parents’ (Molly Ringwald and Brian d’Arcy James) crumbling marriage. The only thing keeping him going is the mysterious presence of Odessa (a radiant Jemima Kirke, also in Untogether with Jamie Dornan). (Written and directed by Melissa Miller Costanzo; April 24)

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

After losing her left arm in a shark attack, Bethany Hamilton got back on the board and took the surfing world by storm. Soon, she was winning ESPYs and Teen Choice Awards and sharing the screen with Carrie Underwood in Soul Surfer and competing on The Amazing Race. Now, she’s tackling motherhood as she looks at what’s next in her career. (Directed by Aaron Lieber; April 20)


Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivola star in a story about a woman (Weisz) forced to face long-dormant emotions and feelings after reuniting with childhood friends (McAdams and Nivola) from her Orthodox Jewish community from director Sebastián Lelio, who won an Oscar for A Fantastic Woman. (Co-written and directed by Sebastián Lelio; April 24)

Duck Butter

Alia Shawkat co-wrote and stars in this film about two woman who engaged in a romantic and sexual experiment: to spend the next 24 hours together, having sex every hour. But putting their relationship in a vacuum has some unexpected results. (Co-written and directed by Miguel Arteta; April 20)

Every Act of Life

Audiences get a closer look at the life and work of playwright Terrence McNally through interviews with Angela Lansbury, Audra McDonald, Chita Rivera, Edie Falco, Larry Kramer and more. McNally also opens up his early life -- particularly relationships -- and how they shaped his journey. (Directed by Jeff Kaufman; April 23)


Part of Tribeca’s Pilot Season, which premieres independently produced TV pilots, Fabled reimagines classic fairy tales in real-life situations, telling them through the perspective of its female characters. The premiere episode, "Anodyne,” brings together Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and Alice from Alice in Wonderland after the two are committed to a mental institution. (Directed by Jennifer Morrison; April 23)

The Gospel According to André

“The André Leon Talley,” as he was referred to by Tyra Banks on America’s Next Top Model, invites audiences into his world, offering a deeper look at his humble beginnings in the South to his rise in fashion media and his legacy as a longtime fashion journalist, breaking ground as a black man in white-dominant world. (Directed by Kate Novak; April 25)


The life and career of playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman is revisited in this intimate documentary that tells the full story of the man who “gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul.” Known for the hit songs he co-wrote with Alan Menken for Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, the film provides the full context behind those classics and his journey from childhood to his death from complications with AIDS. (Directed by Don Hahn; April 22)


Building off the breakout success of Baby Driver, Ansel Elgort stars in an unexpected film the mundane life of Johnathan (Elgort), who shares an apartment with John (Elgort). The sci-fi drama plays out like an extended episode of Black Mirror, but is grounded by the actor’s performance. (Co-written and directed by Bill Oliver; April 21)

Little Woods

Tessa Thompson and Lily James played estranged sisters struggling to survive in an economically-depressed North Dakota fracking boomtown forced back into each other’s lives after their mother dies. The film is another showcase for Thompson, who has a jam-packed 2018 with Annihilation, Avengers: Infinity, the return of Westworld and Creed II. (Written and directed by Nia DaCosta; April 21)

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Following her breakout success with Appropriate Behavior, Desiree Akhavan is back with a new tale about a woman dealing with her sexuality -- this time about Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz) who is sent to gay conversion therapy after getting caught having sex with another girl on prom night. (Co-written and directed by Desiree Akhavan; April 22)

Momentum Generation

Before the likes of Bethany Hamilton and the current generation of surfers, there was the Momentum Generation, including Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Kalani Robb and Taylor Steele. The new documentary looks back on their rise in the ‘80s and how they made Americans legitimate stars of the surf -- and pop culture -- world. (Directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist; April 21)


Part of Tribeca’s Pilot Season, Nice is a new potential series about Teddy, a black sheep of her conservative Korean-American family dealing with the unexpected return of cancer. It’s created by and stars Naomi Ko, who made a brief but memorable appearance in 2014’s Dear White People. (Directed by Andrew Ahn; April 23)

Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story

From executive producer Jay-Z comes a new docu-series based about the life of Trayvon Martin. Based on the book of the same name by Martin’s parents, the film examines not only Martin’s life, which was cut short at 17 when he was shot and killed in Florida, but also the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement that followed. The first episode premieres at Tribeca before debuting on Paramount Network. (Directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason; April 20)

RX: Early Detection a Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee

The 2015 breast cancer diagnosis of Semi-Homemade Cooking host and chef Sandra Lee and her subsequent battle to survive is the subject of this harrowing documentary short from Emmy-winning producer and former Good Morning America producer Cathy Chermol Schrijver. The film premieres at Tribeca before debuting later on HBO. (Directed by Cathy Chermol Schrijver; April 26)


What does it take to write an Ed Sheeran chart-topper? Songwriter provides an intimate inside look into the creation of the hit album, Divide, while giving fans a rare look at archival footage of Sheeran’s childhood and glimpses of Sheeran’s romance with Cherry Seaborn. (Directed by Murray Cummings; April 23)


The absurd true story of a bank robbery not going quite as planned when a group of bank clerks insisted on defending the thief who had taken them hostage is the subject of Stockholm starring an eccentric Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace, who shines in a rare non-sci-fi role. (Written and directed by Robert Budreau; April 19)

This Is Climate Change

The four-part virtual reality series will take audiences inside impacted parts of the world through an immersive, 360-degree view. Following the Sundance Film Festival premiere of “Melting Ice,” an episode featuring Al Gore, the remaining three parts -- “Famine,” “Feast” and “Fire” -- will make their debut here. (Directed by Danfung Dennis; April 21)

Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie

Barbie has an image problem and it’s up to the makers behind the hit Mattel doll to update her place and presence in a modern era that reflects women’s progress and more diverse perspectives on body image and beauty. The film, featuring interviews with Gloria Steinem, Roxane Gay and more, premieres at Tribeca before streaming on Hulu. (Directed by Andrea Nevins; April 25)

We the Animals

Based on the lyrical, coming-of-age novel of the same name by Justin Torres, We the Animals tells the story of three brothers living with their troubled parents in an economically-depressed part of upstate New York. The magical realism blends together elements of Beasts of a Southern Wild with the same kind of grounded reality of Moonlight. (Directed by Jeremiah Zagar; April 22)

Woman Walks Ahead

Jessica Chastain portrays activist and artist Catherine Weldon, who retreats to North Dakota after the death of her mother to paint a portrait of Sioux chief Sitting Bull, in this cinematic real-life tale about a woman defying the odds in the Old West. The film screens at Tribeca before premiering on DirecTV Cinema May 31 and debuting in theaters June 29.(Directed by Susanna White; April 25)


Filmmaker Drake Doremus offers up another romantic tale in a sci-fi world, following Equals with Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult. This time, Zoe explores the notions of love between humans and androids -- known her as “synthetics” -- and what it means to be “real.” Ewan McGregor and Lea Seydoux lead an ensemble cast of outstanding performances, which also includes Theo James and Christina Aguilera. (Directed by Drake Doremus; April 21)


-- Additional reporting by Rande Iaboni