The New York Film Festival (NYFF) wraps up this weekend. Here are the best of films about women or directed by women (or both) that still have NYFF weekend screenings (including some “encore” shows on Sunday) or are streaming or open today in theaters: including Ava DuVernay’s ’13th,’ Kelly Reichardt’s ‘Certain Women,’ and Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘Julieta.’
As frustrating as our erasure and stereotyping is, however, I’d like to go beyond the question of “good” and “bad” representations of bisexual characters to ask this: exactly what it is about bisexuality which makes it so hard to represent on-screen? And why, when bisexuality is visible, is it so likely to collapse back into dominant stereotypes of bisexuality as either promiscuous or merely a phase?
We don’t have direct evidence of how Jennifer or Needy would describe their sexual orientations, but ‘Jennifer’s Body’ works as a depiction of the relationship between two young bisexual women. If nothing else, it subverts expectations around gender and sexuality in horror films. … Even when Jennifer and Needy resort to physical violence with each other, their conflict has an erotic, and even romantic, subtext.
Both films, then, arguably fit a wider cultural pattern of bi erasure, suggesting that bisexual characters must “resolve” themselves as either gay or straight. I would argue, however, that what marks ‘I Love You Phillip Morris’ and ‘Kissing Jessica Stein’ as something more nuanced and interesting than another tale of “inauthentic” bisexuality, is the subtlety with which they examine all sexual orientations as limited by our internalized need to socially perform.
‘Y Tu Mamá También’ points out the elastic, freeing nature of femininity compared to the toxic, fragile nature of masculinity. Over the course of the film, Luisa only becomes a month or so older and finds truth, or at the very least solace for herself, while Julio and Tenoch go from brash young adults to estranged, closed-off adult men, refusing to come to terms with their bisexuality.
Though the simmering sibling rivalry between Kit and Dottie is a thread that runs through the entire film, the importance of sisterhood goes far beyond this. For both women, sisterhood becomes a ticket to another world: a ticket out, but also a ticket in; to friendship, to competition, and to independence. As such, sisterhood exists as a source of empowerment.
Sisterhood is powerful, magical, and resilient: that’s the sororal message in the celebrated 2003 animated film… Character distinction between the sisters as individuals is not a major focus for writer/director Sylvain Chomet, although each Triplet has different functions/feelings at specific times. The bond of the sisters as a more monolithic force is depicted instead: Chomet presents the unity of sisterhood. … The agency of older women, including the eponymous trio, is vital to ‘The Triplets of Belleville.’
The bond between the sisters is at the heart of the wartime baseball movie, directed by Penny Marshall… Their competitive nature is a motivation to be the best… It’s obvious that Dottie always seems to have one up on Kit, which sets up the relentless struggle of the spirited Kit who wants, finally, to be better than Dottie. … Kit and Dottie are the embodiment not just of sisterhood, but of the true nature of a teammate relationship.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘Our Little Sister’ is a mature and subtle exploration of the place of the half-sister within family life; how she fits in and how she transforms what we think the family means. … The camera lingers on Suzu’s face in a moment of indecision: will she go on as before, having no feelings for what are essentially strangers anyway, or will she take a leap of faith that will mean her identity will be forever tangled with theirs?
But more and more it seems you can judge the quality of modern adaptations on how the filmmakers view Lizzie in relation to her sisters. Even though the representation of women has greatly expanded since Austen’s time, a story that revolves mostly around sisterly relationships remains rare, which makes it even more vital. And while it is true that Austen’s romance has a timeless quality that makes it popular, the narrative of sisterly love remains transcendent.
In movies and on television, the absence of Black women as scientists is glaringly obvious. …The response on social media to the vocation of Leslie Jones’ character in ‘Ghostbusters’ offers an opportunity to ponder: When have Black women been cast as scientists in laboratories, creating and inventing significant and outlandish developments, and leading investigations? …Where are the Black women playing scientists in films in the 21st century?
They’re moved to realize that, after everyone talked shit about them for weeks or months on end, someone actually appreciated what they did. It’s a moment of art imitating life that mirrored my experience with ‘Ghostbusters’… I also vastly underestimated how powerful it would be, and how great it would feel, to watch an action-comedy with only women in the leading roles.