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Women Who Brunch (and Make Movies)

Women unite! Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal hosted a brunch Thursday to celebrate the Festival's women filmmakers. In the mix were jurors, directors, producers, actresses, and staff.

©Getty Images, photo credit: Amy Sussman

"This is truly my favorite event of the Festival," said Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal, speaking in front of a packed crowd enjoying a Thursday morning brunch at City Hall Restaurant. What made this brunch special, however, was that it was filled with the female artists and filmmakers of all stripes (from directors to writers to producers to actresses) who have left their mark on the Festival. Rosenthal also gave kudos to the Tribeca team: "This has been an amazing Festival, thanks to Executive Director Nancy Schafer and her great leadership, and the fantastic women on her team. Tribeca women, raise your hands!"

When it comes to the world of film, women are historically underrepresented. This fact put Schafer's good news into sharp relief: "We are so proud that this year's Festival has more women filmmakers than ever, and that's with a smaller slate. Our stats are way higher than the national average." This year there are 24 female directors out of 88; many can be found in the Showcase and documentary sections.

©Getty Images, photo credit: Amy Sussman

Among this year's glamorous attendees were jurors Mary-Kate Olsen, Debra Messing, Melissa Leo (also a star of Don McKay) and Parker Posey; directors Jac Schaeffer, Leslie Cockburn, Bette Gordon, Gloria LaMorte, Paola Mendoza, Alexis Manya Spraic, Rebecca Cammisa; actresses Julianna Margulies and Jill Hennessy; producers Bristol Baughan and Jasmine McGlade, and many more. The women appeared to instantly connect, strengthening an already tight network of women filmmakers connected to Tribeca.

encouraged the crowd to get out and see each other's films, acknowledging the busy-ness of the Festival while highlighting the multitasking abilities of successful women. "I always say, if you need to get something done, give a busy woman something else to do, and it will happen." To illustrate her point even further, Rosenthal explained that the Film Festival was founded as a way to bring people back downtown after the destruction of September 11, 2001. "We wanted to have movies as a way for people to create new memories. In that vein, Tribeca also makes a point to support other causes that are important to us."

With that, Rosenthal introduced the women in the room to Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a movement started by nine women in the entertainment industry, one of them being Rosenthal's good friend Sherry Lansing. (In an aside, Rosenthal shared Lansing's advice to women in the industry: "Always return your phone calls. Let them say anything else about you, but not that you don't return calls.") SU2C supports a "series of dream teams of cancer researchers... with grants up to $70 million," Rosenthal explained, cementing Tribeca's support. "It's up to us as women, mothers, aunts, sisters, wives, daughters, and even just good girlfriends to stand up." Kathleen Lobb, Vice President of the Entertainment Industry Foundation and one of the female forces behind SU2C, concurred: "We want everyone in the U.S. to get it—that they can help. Whether you can give $5 or $5 million, it all makes a difference."

©Getty Images, photo credit: Amy Sussman  ©Getty Images, photo credit: Amy Sussman

After the presentations, more female bonding ensued. Juror Parker Posey talked about her serving on the Tribeca jury with art dealer Mary Boone, whom Posey played in Julian Schnabel's Basquiat back in 1996; it is still Posey's only role where she played a real-life person. "Mary was fantastic. I visited her in her fabulous apartment—with amazing art on the walls, as you can imagine—and she even let me wear her clothes in the movie. It doesn't get any better than that."

Cammisa (Which Way Home) and Baughan (Racing Dreams) held court at a table together. Cammisa shared shocking and heartbreaking stories about her dangerous film shoot riding trains in Mexico. She was still thrilled from last night's amazing screening, where the Q&A received over 25 impassioned queries. Cockburn (American Casino) stopped by to offer her praises for the other women's films. According to Cockburn, her film's look at the financial crisis led to former Wall Streeters (in grey shirts, to "remain anonymous") debating during the Q&A. "They didn't care about the people [affected by the crisis], though," she wryly noted.

It was simply exciting to see such impassioned, intelligent women sharing stories and discussing the ways that film (in this particular case, documentaries) could serve as a record of the human condition—after all, art is currently in dire straits. One could only hope that special gatherings like these help facilitate more work by female filmmakers. We need them to keep digging, to find more stories, and to make more movies that can change the world.



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