In telling a history of the vibrator, "Hysteria" has quite another perspective on resourcefulness. Directed by Tanya Wexler, the film, depicts the invention by a 19th century British doctor (Hugh Dancy) in tandem with the rebellions of an early feminist (Maggie Gyllenhaal, in a part perfectly suited to her) in Victorian London.
There are numerous other films, too, that feature not only a leading lady, but a female director. Kat Coiro's "While We Were Here," is a black-and-white drama about a wife (Kate Bosworth) and husband (Iddo Goldberg) traveling in Naples, where Bosworth's character is lured by a young American abroad (Jamie Blackley). Julie Delpy's "2 Days in New York," her follow up to "2 Days in Paris," more comically places a relationship (Chris Rock plays Delpy's husband) in the context of a particular place.
In "Take This Waltz," actress Sarah Polley takes her second stab at directing after the well-received "Away From Her." While "Away From Her" was adapted from an Alice Munro story, Polley wrote the script for "Take This Waltz" herself — though it still bears a Munro-like interest in the passage of time. Michelle Williams stars as a tempted young wife to Seth Rogen.
"Your Sister's Sister" is another kind of follow-up for director Lynn Shelton, whose 2009 "Humpday" was a notable entry in the unadorned filmmaking style typically called "mumblecore." ''Your Sister's Sister" similarly uses awkward intimacy to tease out a deeper story between two sisters (Emily Blunt and Rosemarie Dewitt, both in fine, improvising form) and a possibly shared interest (Mark Duplass).
But perhaps the most unusual female protagonist at Tribeca is the young Rachel Mwanza, who plays a 13-year-old child soldier caught up in an unspecified African revolution in Montreal filmmaker Kim Nguyen's "War Witch."
"When we found her, she was living partly at her grandmother's place and partly on the streets," says Nguyen, who shot the film in the Congo. "The movie gave her a small chance of getting out of the streets."
Nguyen wanted a subjective film from the perspective a child soldier, often adapting the story after speaking with locals, like a sergeant that ended up in the film. Actors were never given a script, lending "War Witch" an uncommon realism.
"I realized quickly that she has an immense talent," says Nguyen. "When I asked her how she does it — how she bursts out in laughter, how she starts crying so normally — she just told me that she thinks of her past."
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