If the numbers are any indication, it’s still a tough time to be a woman in Hollywood. As the wage gap persists, the number of women behind the camera is growing at a glacial pace—so slowly, in fact, that last year the government launched a federal investigation into discrimination against female directors.
But women are taking matters into their own hands by fighting to tell stories from new perspectives on screens both big and small, as well as on the page. Mark your calendar for these projects.
Jan. 15 on PBS
With so many shows and movies about British queens (The Crown, The Queen, The Royals, Elizabeth, The Young Victoria, to name a few), it’s a wonder so few are actually written by women. As the creator of Victoria, the British series starring Doctor Who actor Jenna Coleman that recently premiered in America on PBS, Daisy Goodwin imbues the petite queen with a quiet power. The show tackles Victorian issues like birth control (or the lack thereof), the very real threat of death during childbirth and the question of finding a power balance in a relationship when the woman makes more money.
Dubbed the new Gone Girl, Katie Kitamura’s A Separation follows a translator who travels to a remote part of Greece in search of her missing husband, who also happens to be a serial cheater. The suspense builds in what literary heavyweights like My Struggle author Karl Ove Knausgaard and Department of Speculation author Jenny Offill describe as a brilliant and unconventional story of a marriage in pieces.
The Woman Next Door
The Woman Next Door is a tale of a rivalry between two well-to-do widows and next-door-neighbors in South Africa, one white and one black. On the surface, author Yewande Omotoso presents a war of wits, but the story also addresses the history of colonialism, slavery, class and race as tensions come to a head.
A United Kingdom
Director Amma Asante follows up her 2014 drama Belle with another historical tale, this time centered around the true story of the first prime minister of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama, and his British wife, Ruth Williams Khama. David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike play the lovers, whose families disapproved of their mixed-race relationship. Despite widespread opposition to their union, they moved from England to Botswana to assume power after the country claimed independence from Great Britain. Asante has another historical drama, Where Hands Touch, due out in 2017, starring Amandla Stenberg as a biracial German teenager who befriends a member of the Hitler Youth.
In a year teeming with horror reboots—from Rings to Annabelle 2, Friday the 13th to Saw: Legacy—one of the most promising of the genre’s offerings is an anthology featuring four shorts written and directed by women. The directors include Annie Clark (also known by her stage name, St. Vincent), who makes her directorial debut in the anthology; Karyn Kusama, a horror veteran behind such films as The Invitation and Jennifer’s Body; Roxanne Benjamin, who made her directorial debut on another recent anthology, Southbound; and Jovanka Vuckovic, whose first horror short, The Captured Bird, was produced by Guillermo del Toro.
Big Little Lies
Feb. 19 on HBO
Reese Witherspoon’s production company has scooped up just about every major bestseller written by a woman in the past few years for film and television projects, including Wild, Gone Girl and now, Big Little Lies. This time she teams up with Nicole Kidman to produce the HBO mini-series and star, along with Shailene Woodley, as three mothers with dark secrets hiding beneath their perfect suburban lives. David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal) adapted the screenplay from Liane Moriarty’s book.
The Good Fight
Feb. 19 on CBS All Access
This Good Wife spinoff will focus on three attorneys: Diane (Christine Baranski), Lucca (Cush Jumbo) and Maia (Rose Leslie). Diane and her protege, Maia, are forced to start over at Lucca’s law firm after both become entangled in a Ponzi scheme. The show’s concept is subtly radical for network television: There are three female stars but none are the typical white, straight 30-something heroine. On the Good Wife, creators Robert and Michelle King did a better job than most showrunners in their approach to gender, race and sexuality. The Good Fight promises to do the same.
South and West
Joan Didion’s novels, short stories and memoirs have, over the course of decades, elevated her from mere mortal writer to literary icon. Her next release will be of interest, then, to readers hungry to understand the process by which she turned her observations of the world into timeless prose. South and West offers a selection of excerpts from two of Didion’s diaries: one which she kept while on a road trip with husband John Gregory Dunne in the summer of 1970, and another which she wrote while covering the Patty Hearst trial in 1976.
The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir
New Yorker writer Ariel Levy turns the spotlight on herself in her new memoir. In 2012 she left for a reporting trip married, pregnant and financially secure. A month later none of those things were true. She turns tragedy into humor while examining the impulses of women attempting to live their mother’s unlived lives. Endorsed by the likes of Cheryl Strayed (Wild), David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day), Lena Dunham (Not That Kind of Girl) and Alison Bechdel (Fun Home) the book promises to be both profound and intimate.
March 22 on Fox
Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights) and her husband Reggie Rock Bythewood (Notorious) are taking their talents to TV with Shots Fired, a Fox series about the rising tensions between the justice system and black communities. Following the shooting of a white kid by a black cop in North Carolina, a prosecutor and investigator begin to make inquiries amid protests that local authorities aren’t investigating the death of a black teen at the hands of police. Prince-Bythewood has advocated bringing more stories about black characters—especially black, female characters—to the screen. The series will reunite her with Love & Basketball star Sanaa Lathan, who plays the investigator.
The Zookeeper’s Wife
Niki Caro has directed two actors to Oscar nominations—Keisha Castle-Hughes in 2002’s Whale Rider and Charlize Theron in 2005’s North Country—which makes her next movie a promising outing for star Jessica Chastain. Adapted by Angela Workman from Diane Ackerman’s best-selling nonfiction book of the same name, it stars Chastain as the titular zookeeper’s wife, Antonina Żabińska. Along with her husband, Żabińska saved hundreds of Polish Jews fleeing the Nazis during World War II by offering them secret sanctuary in their zoo’s empty animal cages.
Anything Is Possible
After winning the Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge and being longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for 2016’s My Name Is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout’s work is highly anticipated by her fans in the literary world. Her next novel follows a pair of sisters, a janitor, a daughter and Lucy Barton herself, now fully grown, to weave together a story about family, isolation and reconciliation.
The Handmaid’s Tale
April 26 on Hulu
In this adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Samira Wiley (Orange Is the New Black) and Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls) are struggling to survive in a nation where women have lost their civil rights. The story centers on Moss’s Offred, one of the country’s few remaining fertile women who is forced into sexual slavery to the upper classes. Ilene Chaiken (The L Word) wrote the original script, but left to become the showrunner for Empire on Fox. Bruce Miller has since taken over as showrunner in consultation with Atwood, credited as a producer.
One of 2017’s most anticipated fiction debuts, Lisa Ko’s The Leavers tells the story of an 11-year-old boy whose mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to work one morning and never comes home. Adopted by a pair of white academics who transport him to an upstate college town, the boy straddles the fully American future his new parents envision for him and the past that’s rapidly receding from view. The winner of last year’s PEN/Bellwether Prize, which recognizes fiction that explores issues of social justice, The Leavers feels as relevant as ever as the future of immigrants in America hangs in the balance.
After stints at MadTV and Parks and Recreation, screenwriter Katie Dippold successfully crossed over to the big screen with her work on Paul Feig’s 2013 cop comedy The Heat and last summer’s Ghostbusters reboot. Now she joins forces with Amy Schumer, for the comedian’s follow-up to Trainwreck, in a mother-daughter comedy that brings Goldie Hawn back to the movies after a 15-year hiatus. The story of a South American vacation gone awry, Snatched promises a booze-fueled fiesta celebrating intergenerational lady-bonds with as much raunch as possible.
I Love Dick
May 12 on Amazon
Transparent creator Jill Soloway is getting another show, this one an adaptation of the provocatively titled feminist novel I Love Dick. Kathryn Hahn (who played Josh’s rabbi love interest in Transparent) stars as struggling indie filmmaker Chris, a New Yorker who follows her husband to an academic community in Marfa, Texas. Once there, she falls for an enigmatic professor (Kevin Bacon plays the eponymous Dick) and enlists her husband to seduce him. Soloway, who has been lauded for her portrayal of sexuality on television, will use a Rashomon-style approach to experiment with the female gaze.
More than 75 years after she first appeared in DC Comics, Wonder Woman is finally getting her own tentpole superhero movie. And unlike most superhero movies, it’s directed by a woman: Patty Jenkins, best known for her Oscar-winning 2003 crime drama Monster. After teasing the role in last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice—in which she was, for many, the one shining light in a widely-panned bomb—Israeli soldier/model/actor Gal Gadot brings the Amazonian princess to life.
Rock That Body
Lucia Aniello and her partner Paul W. Downs are a match made in improv class (literally), and their particular brand of comedy is largely responsible for such millennial stoner hits as Broad City and Time Traveling Bong. Now they bring their talents to film, where she directs a script they co-wrote about a Miami bachelorette party that goes off the rails when a male stripper ends up dead. The heavy-hitting cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Demi Moore, Kate McKinnon, Ilana Glazer and Jillian Bell.
For her sixth feature, Sofia Coppola writes and directs an adaptation of the 1971 western The Beguiled, which starred Clint Eastwood as a wounded Union soldier nursed back to health at an all-girls boarding school in Mississippi. Where the original, according to some critics, failed to elevate the inner lives and desires of the women in the same way it did Eastwood’s, Coppola stands to offer a new perspective on the material (which actually originated with the 1966 novel A Painted Devil). The remake stars Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell.
Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award in 2011 for her family novel chronicling the 12 days before Katrina hit in the town of Bois Sauvage, Miss. Her third novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing will pay homage to Toni Morrison, William Faulkner and Homer as Ward tackles the classic road novel. Her protagonist journeys from rural Mississippi to a state penitentiary and beyond.
Top of the Lake
TBA on SundanceTV
Elisabeth Moss returns as a New Zealand cop in this critically acclaimed series that was created, written and directed by Academy Award-winner Jane Campion. The first season began with Moss’ Griffin investigating the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old rape victim and was praised for its nuanced exploration of rape culture. Nicole Kidman and Gwendolyn Christie join the cast for the second season, set four years later when a girl’s body washes up on Sydney’s Bondi Beach.
For Tully, Oscar-winning Screenwriter Diablo Cody reunites with Jason Reitman for a third time (Juno, Young Adult) and Charlize Theron for a second (Young Adult) on a comedy about motherhood. Theron plays Marlo, an overtaxed mother of three whose brother gifts her with a nanny (played by the talented Mackenzie Davis, of Halt and Catch Fire and Black Mirror). One of the most original scribes giving voice to multifaceted female characters onscreen, Cody is also at work on a Barbie movie set to star Amy Schumer as the perky Mattel doll.
Between roles in Jackie, 20th Century Women, Weiner-Dog and Maggie’s Plan, 2016 found Greta Gerwig consistently in front of the camera. But this year has the indie darling behind the camera for the first time, as writer and director of a feature-length comedy. Lady Bird stars two-time Oscar nominee (at the ripe old age of 22) Saoirse Ronan as a young woman living in northern California. Though nothing else has been released about the plot to date, the combination of Gerwig’s quirky charm and Ronan’s disarming authenticity is mightily intriguing.
Gillian Robespierre’s 2014 debut Obvious Child was one of the most endearing, relatable romantic comedies in recent memory, and its head-on treatment of abortion as a straightforward decision for a young woman a refreshing deviation from the norm. For her next film, Robespierre reteams with Obvious Child star Jenny Slate and writer Elisabeth Holm, who developed that movie’s story, for a ‘90s-set comedy about two sisters who discover that their father is having an affair. The movie was acquired by Amazon after a strong debut at Sundance, but a release date has yet to be announced.
This story about one of Jesus’ best-known followers has prestige written all over it: it boasts the same producing team as 2011 Best Picture winner The King’s Speech; it’s helmed by Garth Davis, whose 2016 drama Lion was recently nominated for Best Picture in 2017; and features a script from British playwright and screenwriter Helen Edmundsen (An Inspector Calls) and Philippa Goslett (Little Ashes). Joaquin Phoenix has been cast as Jesus, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter, and Rooney Mara in the central role as Mary Magdalene.
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