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Women without a franchise: original, female-led films to look out for.

Summer blockbuster season is just around the corner, and with it, it will bring many films that are, to borrow, Charlie Jane Anders' words, sequels, remakes or reboots. In need of some movies that are not only standalone stories but also led by women, and in some cases, directed by women? Look no further, my fellow cinephiles.

Belle, directed by Amma Asante

Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson

Release date: May 2

Belle (Mwatha-Raw) is based on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race, illegitimate daughter of the British Admiral Sir John Lindsay and an African woman. Lindsay sent Belle to live with his uncle William Murray (Wilkinson), an earl and an important politician. Murray was influential in ending slavery in Britain, and in turn, Belle is thought to have influenced Murray in his opposition to slavery. The film dramatizes Belle's life and her impact on Murray.


Notes: A historical drama about a woman of color? Sign me up!

Tracks, directed by John Curran

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver

Release date: May 23

Tracks is based on the true story of Robyn Davidson (Wasikowska), a woman who walked 1,700 miles across the Australian desert with only a dog and four camels in tow. Although she did not intend to write about her experiences, she was eventually convinced to write about her trek for National Geographic, which led to an award-winning book, also called Tracks. A film adaptation of Tracks has been in development since the early 1980s.


Thoughts: Movies about survival and solo exploration are usually reserved for men, so it's exciting to see such a movie about a woman. The best part is that it's all true!

We Are the Best!, directed by Lukas Moodysson

Starring: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, and Liv LeMoyne

Summary: A coming of age story about a trio of punk girls (Barkhammar, Grosin, LeMoyne) is set in 1980s Stockholm, Sweden. Like true punks, the girls form a band and struggle with being considered outcasts. We Are the Best! is based on the graphic novel Never Goodnight by Moodysson's wife, Coco.


Notes: There's nothing about the idea of young girl punks in Stockholm that I don't like.

The Congress

Release date: June 27

Starring: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel

Summary: Robin Wright plays an alternate universe version of herself in this film based on the sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem. Aging and washed up as an actress, Wright is offered the opportunity to sell the rights to her digital image for a large amount of money. This decision leads to a crisis of conscience many years later, and Wright ends up angering the powers that be in this futuristic world. The Congress came out in Israel last year, and it won the Best Animated Feature at the European Film Awards in December.


Notes: Partially animated and partially live-action, this movie looks, well, totally intense and insane. And I want to see it very badly.

Jupiter Ascending, directed by Andy Wachowsi and Lana Wachowski

Starring Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum

Plot: In this original space opera, a lowly cleaning woman named Jupiter (Kunis) is visited by an extraterrestrial killer named Caine (Tatum). Caine was sent to Earth to track down Jupiter, who may or may not be the next ruler of the universe and have the power to alter many fates.


Notes: The Wachowskis' first original movie since The Matrix, Jupiter Ascending has been generating a lot of buzz. Personally, I think it has the potential to be this summer's sleeper sci-fi hit along the lines of last year's Pacific Rim.

Honorable mention:

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, directed by Ana Lily Amirpour.

Plot: Not much is known about this movie other than it's a vampire story set in Iran, which in and of itself is interesting. This film has been picked up for distribution in the U.S., but no release date has been set.


God Help the Girl, directed by Stuart Murdoch

Plot: Directed by the lead singer of Belle and Sebastian, this movie is based on the concept album of the same name. God Help the Girl (the album) features female guest vocalists, and most of the songs are about women's struggles. The film has been picked up for distribution in the U.S., but no release date has been set.


All release dates listed are via Rotten Tomatoes.

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