The 54th New York Film Festival

Film Society Lincoln Center presents a stunning festival with strong performances by women directors and actors.

Film Society Lincoln Center presents a stunning festival with strong performances by women directors and actors.

From September 30 to October 16, The Film Society of Lincoln Center will celebrate some of the best and most complex and critically-acclaimed examples of American and international cinema, including numerous short films and features of special interest to lesbians, feminists, and women with a commitment to culture.

At a time when criticism of racism and sexism in Hollywood’s film industry has dominated discussions of film form and practice, not to mention racial division in the wider community, it is encouraging to see that there will be four screenings of Selma director Ava DuVernay’s remarkable and eagerly awaited documentary The 13th, which was the NYFF’s Main Slate opening night offering and which takes a frank look at the origins and state of racism in America.

Named for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the film chronicles some stark facts, such as America’s incarceration rate, which is the highest in the world, with the majority of prisoners being African-American. A limited national release of The 13th follows on October 7. Watch DuVernay in the NYFF press conference here.

In Personal Shopper, a Belgian drama directed by Olivier Assayas, Kristen Stewart plays a young American woman working in Paris as a personal shopper for a celebrity. But along with her ability to second guess her client’s style choices, Stewart’s character is the conduit for other mysterious signals, too. The film continues the interesting and artistically diverse independent and European choices being made by Stewart in-between Twilight Saga installments.

Also starring Kristen Stewart is the feature film Certain Women, co-starring Michelle Williams, and directed by Kelly Reichardt, who first gained lesbian attention with her film Wendy and Lucy. Canadian director Alison Maclean, who lesbian cinephiles might remember from her 1992 feature Crush, starring Marcia Gay Harden, returns with The Rehearsal, adapted from Man Booker Prize-winning author Eleanor Catton’s novel of the same name.

20th Century Women starring Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning has its world premiere at the NYFF and Aquarius starring Sonia Braga has its U.S. premiere.

Of interest to fans of classic Hollywood will be a retrospective screening of bisexual actor Marilyn Monroe’s performance in Henry Hathaway’s Niagara and Rawhide starring gay icon Susan HaywardThe documentary Bright Lights will offer an intimate portrait of showbiz mother-and-daughter royalty Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.

Acclaimed documentarian Errol Morris celebrates portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman in The B-Side; plus the documentary Restless Creature about Wendy Whelan, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet for 23 years, should provide a fascinating commentary on the limits of the female body and artistic achievement in dance.

But perhaps the biggest highlight for lovers of female thespians will be the great French actor Isabelle Huppert in Elle. Directed by the controversial auteur Paul Verhoeven (Showgirls), Huppert’s tour-de-force performance as a woman who deals with the psychological ramifications of being attacked by an unknown assailant in her own home, has already been hailed by critics as one of the best in her long and commanding, award-winning career.

Lincoln Center is the perfect venue and curatorial outlet for such a cinematic feast, boasting in its program a rich lineup of revivals, retrospectives, special events, installations, and main slate screenings that might just remind you of the importance of this transformative medium in digital times, and of the enduring power of women behind and in front of the camera.

Watch the trailer for Elle below