Women Texas Film Festival announced the official selections for the fifth year of the critically-acclaimed Dallas-based film festival which focuses solely on the work of visionary female filmmakers (August 13-16). Pivoting to an all-virtual presentation, Olivia Peace’s teenage comedy TAHARA opens the film festival and Lisa Donato’s GOSSAMER FOLDS is the Closing Night Selection for WTxFF, which will again feature LGBTQIA+ stories, provocative documentaries, and Texas-based female filmmakers throughout its lineup.
WTxFF Founder and Artistic Director Justina Walford said, “We feel going all-virtual this year makes us emphasize the work we are curating even more so since there are no physical events or parties to distract us even for a moment. Therefore, we are reminded at every moment of what sets our film festival apart from other film festivals and what sets film festivals (in general) apart from simply seeing a movie at a multiplex: Curating. Discovering, introducing, and presenting dynamic female filmmakers and giving them an enthusiastic platform to show their work, discuss it, and celebrate their audacity to put those thoughts, ideas, and visions onscreen for us all to share is what is behind the work we do – whether we see that film on a big screen or in our living rooms or our laptops.”
Walford added, “We love being part of the international movement to showcase female filmmakers and we know we must continue our efforts with even more force so that we change the filmmaking industry in hiring an equitable gender ratio. Our goal has always been to show the range of the female storyteller, and the depths to which women can take us via their work in film- whether it be emotional, visual, introspective, startling, shocking, and horrific. From our gripping documentaries like NEVER GOING BACK and A WHORE LIKE ME to our endearing films like GOSSAMER FOLDS and TAHARA, there are tremendous layers in each project that engage and thrill us.”
Olivia Peace’s TAHARA delighted audiences during its debut earlier in the year at Slamdance, and also made a splash at Frameline, the celebrated LGBTQIA+ film festival, last month. The film follows two best friends who comically deal with the emotional stress resulting from the suicide of their Hebrew school classmate in very different ways. The school’s attempts to help the students understand grief through their faith immediately leads to awkward places, but after an innocent kissing exercise changes everything for one of them, the best friends find themselves distracted by the teenage complications neither of them even remotely anticipated.
Walford has said that it wouldn’t seem like WTxFF without a Lisa Donato film, having screened a number of her short films prior to this year. Therefore, it seems entirely right and appropriate that her new film, GOSSAMER FOLDS would be selected to close out this year’s fest. Set in 1986, the film follows a ten-year-old boy who has been uprooted and unwillingly moved to the suburbs of Kansas City. Already on unsure footing due to the move, his world is further shaken thanks to his parent’s marriage troubles. However, he finds solace thanks to the friendship he begins to find with his next-door neighbors: a retired college professor and his transgender daughter, Gossamer. Among the impressive list of familiar faces and names in the film include Alexandra Gray, Sprague Greyden, Shane West, Ethan Suplee, Jen Richards, and Yeardley Smith. While details have not been finalized Donato will be joined by some of the cast members for a special virtual Q&A following the screening.
In addition to being a prime showcase in Dallas and North Texas for LGBTQIA+ films, as demonstrated yet again by the Opening and Closing Night selections, as well as films like Ksenia Ratushnaya’s outrageous and mind blowing film, OUTLAW, and Jessica Wolfson and Jessie Auritt’s documentary short THE PAINT WIZZARD about a transgender painter, Women Texas Film Festival has also built a reputation for finding hard-hitting documentaries that often line up with current hot political topics.
This year is no different, with Sharon Yaish and Yael Shachar’s A WHORE LIKE ME taking a look at sex trafficking via one woman’s harrowing journey back into the world she had escaped. Larissa Lam’s FAR EAST DEEP SOUTH opens a different door into the subject of race and American history through her film about Chinese immigrants in Mississippi. Janette A. López’s NEVER GOING BACK gives needed insight into the humanity behind the immigration issue with its focus on one family’s journey from Honduras to the States. Marie Skovgaard’s THE REFORMIST – A FEMALE IMAM, takes a hard look at the struggles within the Islamic faith as it follows the efforts of a woman to open one of the first mosques in Europe headed by a female imam.
Highlights among the curated shorts selections include: Britt Lower’s CIRCUS PERSON, about a woman’s self-realization journey following a breakup and her subsequent crush on the other woman, which screened as part of the worldwide WE ARE ONE fest; the return of former WTxFF award-winner Tracie Laymon, with her latest film, GHOSTED about a woman’s new relationship being thwarted by the deceased ex; Comedy writer and Executive Producer on HBO’s Insecure, Amy Aniobi’s HONEYMOON, follows a newlywed couple’s first night after their first meeting; Award-winning screenwriter Stacey Davis’ CHERRY about a woman’s hopes for a final Easter with her dying father; and celebrated Kenyan-American filmmaker Wanjiru Njenendu’s BOXED about the remarkable story of a slave who mailed himself to freedom. Texas shorts selections include another returning WTxFF alum, Paloma Hernandez’s PASTICHE, about a struggling artist who accidentally becomes entangled in art forgery, and the directorial debut of indie film producer Lisa Normand (THE OLD MAN & THE GUN) with her comic horror film NO REALLY, I’M FINE, PANDEMIC NOTWITHSTANDING.
All films can be viewed for free with an option to donate. Seating is limited. Also, all films except exclusive screenings can be viewed at any time starting August 13th at 5pm until midnight August 16th. Q&As and panels will be announced and viewable here: https://wtxff.eventive.org/. Stay tuned for details at womentxff.org.
The 2020 Women Texas Film Festival official selections:
Opening Night Selection
Director: Olivia Peace
Country: USA; Running Time: 82 min
Carrie Lowstein and Hannah Rosen have been inseparable for as long as they can remember. When their former Hebrew school classmate, Samantha Goldstein, commits suicide, the two girls go to her funeral as well as the “Teen Talk-back” session designed to be an opportunity for them to understand grief through their faith. But, after an innocent kissing exercise turns Carrie’s world inside out, the best friends find themselves distracted by the teenage complications of lust, social status, and wavering faith.
Closing Night Selection
Director: Lisa Donato
Country: United States; Running Time: 96:13 min
In 1986, ten-year-old Tate is uprooted and unwillingly moved to the suburbs of Kansas City. As his parent’s marriage unravels, Tate finds solace in the unlikely friendships of his next-door neighbors: a retired college professor and his transgender daughter, Gossamer.
ADDITIONAL FEATURE-LENGTH FILMS
A WHORE LIKE ME
Directors: Sharon Yaish, Yael Shachar
Country: Israel; Running Time: 62 min
When Chilla was 22, she was kidnapped from a pub in Hungary and sold to a group of Israelis dealing with human trafficking for prostitution. Today, twenty years later, Chilla is a different woman, who has managed to get out of the drug abuse cycle, celebrating 10 years of sobriety, and volunteering at a clinic helping women on the street. But the Ministry of Interior in Israel refuses to give Chilla a resident certificate and would not accept her claim of being a women trafficking victim. She then goes searching for her kidnappers to obtain proof. The journey into the past forces Chilla to return to prostitution hell, only this time a strong woman and a camera in hand. She struggles through her trauma, but can you go back to your most painful place and stay alive?
Director: Azul Lombardia
Country: Argentina; Running Time: 72 min
A nap afternoon in the outskirts of town. The worlds of two women intertwine, going from a casual conversation to a battle field, without being able to avoid the inevitable: a domestic tragedy.
FAR EAST DEEP SOUTH
Director: Larissa Lam
Country: USA; Running Time: 76 min
FAR EAST DEEP SOUTH explores the seldom-told history of early Chinese immigrants living in the American South during the late 1800s to mid-1900s through the eyes of Charles Chiu and his family as they travel to Mississippi to find answers about his father, KC Lou. In the span of just several hours, a simple trip turns into an unexpected and emotional journey uncovering lost family history and the legacy of the early Chinese immigrants in the Deep South. The film provides a window into the lives of the Chinese in the South and the discrimination they faced in the midst of segregation. The film will not only highlight the struggles and perseverance of the Chinese, but explore the racial dynamics between the white, black and Chinese communities and the added challenge of exclusionary immigration policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that impacted families for generations.
Directors: Elif Akarsu Polat, Cigdem Bozali
Country: Turkey; Running Time: 103 minutes
Zeynep is a girl who lives in a small Anatolian town. Her childhood passes as carefree as a festival with her best friend,Yusuf. But many things change while she reaches adolescence. Yusuf is her best friend and becomes her first love, too. While Zeynep can’t name the emotional change yet, Yusuf disappears from her life completely. This is her first big loss. This loss and her disharmony with the customary life style in her small town turns her into a lonely woman. She tries hard with all the methods she knows, to get rid of this fusty town and its pressure which affects her each and every cell painfully. She looks for the communication that she can’t establish with anyone around her and the love she lost with Yusuf, by being a pen friend with prisoners via a newspaper column. This is her adulthood game and a way to breath. Eventually, this game leads Zeynep to a lifer out of town. And this correspondence brings her to a point she can never expect. ‘…Then life plays a game. But the game never remains unfinished. The failings always getting fixed…’
Director: Rama Ra
Country: Canada; Running Time: 90 min
The journey of quick-witted Natalie “Honey Bee” Sorensen, an underage truck stop prostitute trapped in a human trafficking ring and controlled by her pimp-boyfriend until she is transplanted into foster care in remote Northern Ontario and forced to confront her identity.
NEVER GOING BACK
Director: Janette A. López
Country: Mexico; Running Time: 66 min
When Explorer left Honduras, she left everything behind. In the middle of the night, she didn’t have the chance to ask where she was going, but she’s never afraid, her father is always there taking care of her. This Honduran family travelled to Mexico looking for a safe place. A place where their two daughters could grow and their lives weren’t on the line. This is a brief chapter of this family’s journey to protect their daughters’ lives and their innocence.
Director: Ksenia Ratushnaya
Country: Russia; Running Time: 95 min
OUTLAW tells the story of gay teen Nikita who is in love with the most popular boy in his school. Rebellious Outlaw, to whom anything appears to be permissible, watches on as their relationship develops. Simultaneously, we follow the tragic love story of a transgender dancer Nina and a Soviet general, set in 1985.
SEND ME TO THE CLOUDS
Director: Teng Congcong
Country: China; Running Time: 96 min
Diagnosed with ovarian cancer, iron-willed journalist Sheng Nan is pressured to make a quick fortune and find mind-blowing sex before the costly surgery numbs her senses. Taking on a businessman’s biography writing job, she hikes into the misty mountains, where a chain of outbursts with her dysfunctional family, grumpy client, misogynistic co-worker and dreamlike romantic interest hilariously unfold. As deeply moving as it is luminously witty, writer-director Teng Congcong’s debut waltzes across the bitterness swallowed by her generation of women born under China’s One Child Policy, unprecedentedly burdened to “surpass men” while trying not to be “leftover women” at the same time.
THE REFORMIST – A FEMALE IMAM
Director: Marie Skovgaard
Country: Denmark; Running Time: 90 min
Together with a number of like-minded Muslim activists, Sherin Khankan wants to open one of the first mosques in Europe led by female imams. The members of the mosque are united in one vital mission: They are fighting for a re-reading of the Qur’an build on tolerance, gender equality and Islamic feminism – an approach that is at odds with the typical patriarchal interpretation and the widespread Islamophobia. The mosque is fighting for the women’s right to be able to get a divorce and to marry across religions. But the women in the mosque are divided. Should they keep their fights hidden or go public – should they take small steps towards the goal or man the barricades? Sherin’s wish is to speed things up. But when she starts to talk publicly about interreligious marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men, a division threatening the future of the mosque takes its it tolls on the organization.
TRT: 85 min
Director: Stacey Davis
Country: United States; Running Time: 12:00 min
With her father dying of cancer, Helen has high hopes for the family’s last Easter together.
Director: Karolina Kraus
Country: Ireland; Running Time: 03:27 min
Seán and Aoife’s plan for a scheduled online date unravels before it even begins with Aoife’s co-worker caught in the middle.
OUT OF STOCK
Director: Bryan Taira
Country: United States; Running Time: 17:48 min
In 1973, the host of The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson, made a joke that toilet paper was going out of stock. By the next day, stores across the country were completely sold out. This is the story of the first day of the toilet paper crisis.
THE NIGHT EXPRESS
Directors: Maryna Artemenko, Oksana Artemenko
Country: Ukraine; Running Time: 26:00 min
On New Year’s Eve, journalist Tanya is put on a full train by her friend. The friend claims Tanya is a surgeon to bump her up in priority for the compartment, which she must share with a drunk lawyer. Train brakes, a fallen suitcase and a severed finger now makes Tanya’s doctor claim a challenge.
Director: Morgane Sarah Becerril
Country: United States; Running Time: 13:08 min
In the underground recesses of an S&M dungeon we join Daphne – a beautiful dominatrix. Her client obediently waits wearing only a gas mask and underwear. Entering the room with grace and power, Daphne seems ready to embody the dominant sexuality her submissive client might need. But is she ready?
Director: María Guerra
Country: Spain; Running Time: 12:30 min
After the sudden death of Alvaro, Julia “his widow”, watches the body in the conjugal home. She is surprised by an unpleasant visit. Susana “his widow” comes with the legitimate intention of saying goodbye to him.
TRT: 61 min
Director: Álvaro de la Hoz
Country: Spain; Running Time: 12:25 min
Olivia is willing not to fail. She goes out and tests herself, going further and further. Until she executes her plan.
Director: Chloe Carroll
Country: United States; Running Time: 06:11 min
When an Intruder who seems very distressed by loud noises walks into Lynn’s home, screaming for help is not an option.
Director: Anna Kasińska
Country: Poland; Running Time: 19:54 min
In 2084, when the male sex is near extinction, four women wait for their menstrual cycles to synchronize. They all want to become mothers and there can only be one donor. When the day comes, Donor finally appears at their doorstep. During a dinner he suffers an accident and seems to be dead.
Director: Chloe Carroll
Country: United States; Running Time: 03:18 min
When three young adults venture into the woods, a Tick bite could be more deadly than they ever imagined.
Director: Larry Brand
Country: United States; Running Time: 6:00 min
The uninvited find a way.
Director: Caroline Lindy
Country: United States; Running Time: 14:39 min
Nothing is going right for Laura. Sick and brokenhearted, she moves back home and finds that the terrifying monster who inhabited her closet as a kid is still alive and well — and wants to talk about life.
TRT: 98 min
Director: Wanjiru Njendu
Country: United States; Running Time: 06:09 min
A fictionalized short film based on the true story of the terrifying daring escape of Henry “Box” Brown, who used creativity to escape from slavery in 1849 by mailing himself to freedom.
Director: María Cuenca
Country: Spain; Running Time: 15:00 min
A strange and lonely man spruce himself up and carefully prepares the ritual more important of his life, his last Eucharist. Letting go is an act that requires much courage and a huge dose of love.
Director: Natalia Trzcina
Country: Peru; Running Time: 09:55 min
Many children in the jungle are abandoned by their parents, who leave their homes to work at the gold mines or to the cities and they never come back. Mapowa, an eight-year-old girl who lives in the Amazon jungle, with her mother and younger brother, decides to go to the city in search of her father to sing him a song on his birthday.
Director: Amy Aniobi
Country: Mexico; Running Time: 14:40 min
Honeymoon tells the story of a newlywed couple on their first night together, made all the more awkward, romantic and honest, because they only just met.
I’LL BE HERE
Director: Tiffany Murray
Country: United States; Running Time: 11:38 min
As the rest of the world fades away, a reclusive gardener maintains a routine of precision and detail. When signs arise that he may not be alone, an overwhelming obsession for companionship may get the best of him.
Director: Yael Elbee
Country: Israel; Running Time: 18:06 min
A young woman’s search for quiet might be coming to an end after she finds a hotel room key on the sidewalk.
Director: Tessa Hope Slovis
Country: United States; Running Time: 12:20 min
“We are not broken, we are a million shattered pieces glued into something strong and solid” Based on a true event preceding the Larry Nassar trials, an unlikely pair come together at a dystopian pizza party for sexual assault survivors.
Director: Emily Jo Sargent
Country: United Kingdom; Running Time: 12:00 min
A semi-autobiographical film about the writer/director’s experiences of being in a closeted relationship. And of using fishing as a way to avoid sex.
MAGICAL REALISM SHORTS
TRT: 91 min
BUTTERFLY BIRTH BED
Director: Virginia Lee Montgomery
Country: United States; Running Time: 05:45 min
A metaphysical art film about regeneration, hope, and recovery. Inspired by ‘The Butterfly Effect’—the philosophical theorem that any small change in our environment, even the gentle flapping of a butterfly’s wings may manifest big climatic change.
Director: Britt Lower
Country: United States; Running Time: 17:15 min
Left by her fiancé for another woman, Ava joins the circus to reclaim her forgotten wildness.
Director: Tracie Laymon
Country: United States; Running Time: 18:38 min
A woman with a lot of baggage falls in love with a man haunted by his past. Literally.
Director: Ariel McCleese
Country: United States; Running Time: 07:00 min
In the aftermath of a sexual trauma, a woman begins to melt away.
Director: Razan Takash
Country: United Arab Emirates; Running Time: 12:42 min
Cybele, one of the many salespeople working for Ex Nihilo Robotics, is preparing the latest items for display at the Home Robotics Expo. The prototype, M1DAS, is an android child designed to adapt perfectly to a parent’s preferences.
NO MORE THAN THIS
Director: Hai Di Nguyen
Country: United Kingdom; Running Time: 19:41 min
“No More Than This” is a surrealist film about Nam Nguyen, a 57-year-old Vietnamese man who lives alone and works as a museum guard. One day his worst nightmare appears to come true, that in some sense, he no longer exists.
ROYAL CO HOTEL
Directors: Paula Villegas, Rakesh B. Narwani
Country: Spain; Running Time: 10:38 min
After a long flight, Almar Takahashi lands on the Costa del Sol, not the first time he has stayed in decadent hotels. There he meets a Norman Bates-style receptionist and a vampire who has been hiding in Torremolinos hotels for years.
TRT: 77 min
Director: Brittaney Bandoh
Country: United States; Running Time: 05:38 min
A suspicious, intolerant neighbor wants to take down a little girl’s lemonade stand
Director: Vergi Rodriguez, Diana Zollicofer
Country: United States; Running Time: 08:00 min
After returning from a volunteer medical trip Lily Cruz is held at immigration because of a glitch in her DACA status.
EBB & FLOW
Director: Georgia Krause
Country: United States; Running Time: 05:21 min
Amidst a heated immigration debate, a South Texas community fights to protect the hundreds of species of butterflies that live in duality between the US/Mexico border.
NO REALLY, I’M FINE PANDEMIC NOTWITHSTANDING
Director: Lisa Normand
Country: United States; Running Time: 04:35 min
A woman’s mental health deteriorates as she quarantines alone (or so she thinks) in this comedy horror.
FOR MY MONOLIDDED GIRLS
Director: Anna Tran
Country: United States, Running Time: 04:55 min
Set in the early 00’s, a young girl follows misleading tips from a magazine.
Director: Beibei Xu
Country: United States; Running Time: 13:22 min
Lili wants to hang out with her cool friends, but the family Buddhist bracelet that she wears keeps reminding her that she is watched by superior divinity. Although she tries very hard to blend in the new environment, she is always too self-conscious about it. In order to fully enjoy herself at a party, she decides to take the bracelet off, but eventually she loses it. Now she needs to do something to cover it, otherwise there will be some consequences.
Director: Paloma Hernández
Country: United States; Running Time: 15:00 min
A struggling artist becomes entangled in art forgery by mistake.
THE PAINT WIZZARD
Directors: Jessica Wolfson, Jessie Auritt
Country: United States; Running Time: 17:22 min
Millie The Paint Wizzard, is a transgender housepainter who lives and works out of her bright yellow RV in Austin TX. Just a few years ago at the age of 58, Millie finally gained the courage to come out into the world as her true self.
WHEN YOU CLEAN A STRANGER’S HOME
Director: Sharon Arteaga
Country: United States; Running Time: 06:00 min
A cinematic essay where Abby, a first-generation high school student describes what her and her mom learn about people when cleaning their homes. House decor and items left around convey a privilege that unveils Abby’s imagination, jealousy, and frustrations.