New York’s 51Fest Celebrates the Female Majority

The inaugural 51Fest, “celebrating the voice, vision and stories of the female majority” takes place in New York 18th – 21st July 2019.

Presented by Women in the World and IFC Center, 51Fest builds on the mission of the Women in the World Summit, founded by Tina Brown in 2009, to amplify and celebrate women’s voices from around the globe by convening women activists, artists, CEOs, peacemakers, entrepreneurs, and dissidents to share their remarkable, often untold, stories.

51Fest opens at the SVA Theatre with Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story, a docu-comedy focused on the fallout from the comedian’s infamous photo holding a bloody Trump mask and her battle to reclaim her life and career. After the screening, Griffin will sit down in conversation with Tina Brown, CEO and founder of Women in the World.

“The inaugural 51Fest leaves no doubt that a woman’s place is at the centre of the story,” said Brown. “Griffin’s film is a cautionary tale of what happens when a thin-skinned authoritarian, aided by a media pile-on, attempts to silence an artist for exercising her First Amendment rights.”

The 51Fest four day lineup includes the New York premieres of After the Wedding, with producer and star Julianne Moore in person for a post-screening conversation; British thriller Official Secrets, starring Keira Knightley as an Iraq War whistleblower, followed by a discussion with HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen, award-winning Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, and real-life subject Katharine Gun; Brittany Runs A Marathon, which won the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic Feature at this year’s Sundance Film Festival; Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, a rousing portrait of the legendary firebrand journalist; For Sama, winner of the Oeil D’Or award for Best Documentary at this year’s Cannes Film Festival; and Untouchable, an incisive look at movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and the sexual assault allegations against him.

The festival also includes the world premiere of the first episode of Unbelievable, a new limited series drama starring Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever; the North American premiere of the Irish drama A Girl from Mogadishu; and a sneak preview of the comedy Otherhood, starring Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette, and Felicity Huffman, directed by Sex and the City veteran Cindy Chupack. The festival will also feature a conversation with Cecile Richards and Ai-Jen Poo, co-founders of the new powerhouse women’s activist and organising group Supermajority.

Here’s the full 51Fest 2019 lineup.

Opening Night – Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story

Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story

Award-winning comedian, actress, and author Kathy Griffin laughs in the face of, well… everything, including controversy. But she faced her greatest storm by far in 2017 when an infamous photo of Griffin holding a mask with President Trump’s likeness went viral on a global scale. Within days, Griffin was fired, abandoned by friends, and soon became the subject of two federal investigations, ultimately having to defend herself under oath. Unbowed, Griffin created a new stand-up act, captured in this new docu-comedy, out of her life-rattling experience as a First Amendment warrior. If you think this is only the story of a D-List celebrity, think again: Griffin defiantly (and hilariously) represents all Americans in defending her right to free speech.

Post-screening conversation with Kathy Griffin and Tina Brown. Thursday 18th July 7.30pm at SVA Theatre 333 West 23rd Street (between 8th & 9th Avenues).

 Special Event – Women in the World Spotlight: Supermajority

Tina Brown in conversation with Cecile Richards, Ai-jen Poo
and Katherine Grainger

Join Tina Brown in conversation with Cecile Richards and Ai-jen Poo, the co-founders (along with Alicia Garza) of Supermajority, a new, inclusive organization that provides women with the tools, resources, and knowledge they need to channel the energy and activism of this moment and change the direction of this country, for good. The conversation will centre on their personal stories of activism, their plan to shape a ‘New Deal’ for women and elevate women’s stories where they belong, at the centre of the stage, the debate and the forefront of change. The conversation will be introduced by filmmaker Yoruba Richen with an exclusive clip of the forthcoming documentary And She Could Be Next, about a movement of women of colour claiming political power.

Tina Brown in conversation with Supermajority co-founders Cecile Richards and Ai-jen Poo, plus filmmaker Yoruba Richen with an exclusive sneak peek from her upcoming documentary. Friday 19th July 7pm at IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue (at West 3rd Street).

After the Wedding

Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams in After the Wedding

Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams anchor this moving drama of secrets and connections. Williams plays Isabel, an American running a struggling orphanage in Calcutta. She is summoned to New York by Theresa (Moore), a wealthy donor who demands to meet her personally before committing any funds. But when they meet, a long-hidden truth is exposed, a secret that will forever alter the course of their lives. Adapting an Academy Award-nominated Danish-language drama, this new version changes the lead roles from male to female, crafting a rich, emotionally complex story about strong women, motherhood and second chances.

Post-screening conversation with producer and star Julianne Moore and Tina Brown. Saturday 20th July 8.30pm at IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue (at West 3rd Street).

 Brittany Runs a Marathon

Brittany Runs a Marathon

Hilarious, outgoing and always up for a good time, New Yorker Brittany Forgler is everybody’s best friend, except maybe her own. At 27, her hard-partying ways, chronic underemployment and toxic relationships are catching up with her, but when she stops by a doctor’s office to score some Adderall, she gets slapped with a prescription she never wanted: get healthy. Too broke for a gym and too proud to ask for help, Brit’s at a loss, until her neighbour pushes her to lace up her sneakers and run one block. The next day, she runs two. And after finishing her first mile, she sets an almost unthinkable goal: running in the New York City Marathon. Winner of the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, this uproarious, irreverent and surprisingly emotional comedy was inspired by real events. The irresistible cast, led by Jillian Bell, lends heart and soul to an inspirational story of a party girl who finally finds real friends, and dignity, by taking control of her future, one city block at a time. 

Post-screening conversation with real-life subject Brittany O’Neill and Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR’s “Tell Me Another”. Saturday, July 20th, 2:45pm at IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue (at West 3rd Street).

 For Sama

For Sama

Framed as a love letter from a young mother to her newborn daughter, For Sama is a personal, epic journey into a woman’s experience of war. It tells the story of Waad al-Kateab’s life, love, family and work through five years of violent uprising in Syria. As a journalist who has been active in the struggle against the regime, al-Kateab is faced with the heart-wrenching choice of leaving the rebel-held city of Aleppo to protect her baby or staying to continue to fight for freedom. The documentary matter-of-factly presents the toll that the harsh realities and chaos of war take on the day-to-day lives of ordinary men, women and children. Intense sequences vividly capture the determination and heartbreak of resistance fighters and medical professionals, including al-Kateab’s husband, Hamza. Brave and bold storytelling choices and first hand access make this a war documentary like you’ve never seen before, up close and through a female lens. For Sama has been recognised with numerous awards, including the L’Oeil D’Or for Best Documentary at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. 

After the screening filmmakers Waad al-Kateaband Edward Watts and subject Dr. Hamza al-Kateab will be interviewed by Anne Barnard who led coverage of the war in Syria for The New York Times from 2012 to 2018, as Beirut bureau chief. Sunday 21st July 21st 12.00pm at IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue (at West 3rd Street).

 A Girl from Mogadishu

A Girl from Mogadishu

You might not think that the taboo topic of Female Genital Mutilation, (FGM) would lend itself to the traditional narrative of a heroine’s journey, but Ifrah Ahmed is no traditional heroine. A true story, based on the testimony of multi-award-winning Irish-Somali FGM campaigner (played by Aja Naomi King), the film opens with a harrowing escape, as 17-year-old Ifrah flees war-torn Somalia, evading smugglers and traffickers to seek asylum in Ireland. Traumatised by the revelation of her FGM during a routine medical examination, she vows to dedicate her life to ending the practice. Learning English at record speed, she quickly emerges as a powerful speaker determined to legislate against it in Ireland and beyond. Her campaign takes her back to Somalia where she finally confronts her family for condoning the cultural practice of ‘cutting’. Invoking the power of testimony to strengthen, heal and channel change underpins this hopeful film about one woman’s determination to save all young girls at risk of FGM.

Post-screening discussion with writer-director Mary McGuckian, actor Barkhad Abdi, and real-life subject Ifrah Ahmed, moderated by journalist Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani of Verizon Media. Sunday, 21st July 5.15pm at IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue (at West 3rd Street).

 Official Secrets

Official Secrets

Based on actual events, Official Secrets tells the remarkable story of Katharine Gun and her effort to stop an illegal war. In 2003 while working as a British intelligence specialist, Gun (Keira Knightley) comes across a disturbing email from the US National Security Agency division chief: a request for UK assistance in blackmailing members of the United Nations Security Council into endorsing an invasion of Iraq. Shocked, she makes a decision that will change her life and put her family in danger. Gun leaks the email to the press, setting off a chain of events that exposes an international conspiracy and lands her in custody, charged under Britain’s Official Secrets Act. The movie is part political thriller and part personal journey as Gun navigates and endures the consequences faced by an ordinary person committing an extraordinary act. Knightley beautifully captures the moral complexity and vulnerability of a high-stakes whistleblower whose fight against government misinformation remains unnervingly relevant. The powerhouse cast includes Matt Smith as journalist Martin Bright and Ralph Fiennes as a human rights lawyer who steps in to defend Gun.

Post-screening conversation with real-life subject Katharine Gun, moderated by Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen. Saturday 20th July 5.30pm at IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue (at West 3rd Street).

Otherhood

Otherhood

Longtime friends Carol (Angela Bassett), Gillian (Patricia Arquette), and Helen (Felicity Huffman) are fed up with being left out of the lives of their adult sons and forgotten on Mother’s Day. Over brunch cocktails, they decide to head from Poughkeepsie down to New York City and surprise each of their sons by moving in with them until they reconcile their relationships. Of course, the plan doesn’t go exactly as expected, there’s drinking, dancing, cooking, cleaning, crying, laughing, breaking and entering, spying, judging and forgiving. Over the course of a few days each woman learns to see her son, her friends and, ultimately, herself a little differently. Veteran television writer/director Cindy Chupack (Sex and the City) infuses her first narrative feature with heartfelt humour.

Post-screening discussion with director Cindy Chupack and producers Cathy Schulman and Jason Michael Berman. Sunday 21st July 2.30pm at IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue (at West 3rd Street).

Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins

Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins

Media firebrand Molly Ivins was six feet of Texas trouble who, despite her Houston pedigree, took on Good Old Boy corruption wherever she found it. Best-selling author, Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist, and a popular TV pundit, Molly had a nation of “fans” and “frenemies.” She courageously spoke truth to power, but always served up her reportage with a heaping dollop of humour. Her razor-sharp wit left both sides of the aisle laughing and craving her coverage. At the height of her popularity, 400 newspapers carried her column. When she died of breast cancer in 2007, the nation lost a true champion and a woman who seemed to be afraid of nothing. Director Janice Engel’s vibrant portrait combines fascinating archival footage with interviews with many of the notable figures Ivins influenced, from Rachel Maddow to Dan Rather and Cecile Richards. Who today could fill Molly Ivins’ size-12 shoes? Why all of us, of course, as she herself would be the first to insist. And in times like these, a little Molly Ivins style hell-raising might be exactly what we need.

Post-screening conversation with director Janice Engel along with friends and admirers of Molly Ivins. Saturday 20th July 12.00pm at IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue (at West 3rd Street).

 Unbelievable

Unbelievable

When teenager Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever) files a police report claiming she’s been sexually assaulted by an intruder in her home, the investigating detectives, as well as the people closest to her, come to doubt the truth of her story. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall (Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) meet while investigating an eerily similar pair of intruder rapes and partner to catch a potential serial rapist. Inspired by the real events in The Marshall Project and ProPublica Pulitzer Prize-winning article, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, and the This American Life radio episode, “Anatomy of Doubt”, with episodes directed by Oscar nominees Susannah Grant and Lisa Cholodenko, Unbelievable is a limited series drama about unspeakable trauma, unwavering tenacity, and astounding resilience.

Post-screening conversation with showrunner and executive producer Susannah Grant, executive producer Sarah Timberman, executive producer and episode director Lisa Cholodenko, and actors Kaitlyn Dever, Danielle Macdonald and Merritt Wever. Friday, 19th July 8.30pm at IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue (at West 3rd Street).

 Untouchable

Untouchable

The inside story of the meteoric rise and shocking fall of movie titan Harvey Weinstein, Untouchable reveals how Weinstein acquired and deployed his formidable power over decades, exploring both the method and the collateral damage of his alleged abuses. Ursula Macfarlane’s documentary begins by giving context to the scandal and chronicling the rise and domination of Miramax and The Weinstein Company. Former employees re-examine what they thought they knew, and speak of their sense of shame and ‘survivor’s guilt’. But it is most impactful when the women who Weinstein allegedly harmed give their painfully frank accounts of what the alleged abuse did to their lives, physically, emotionally, professionally and financially. Compelling interviews with Rosanna Arquette, Hope D’Amore, Paz de la Huerta, Erika Rosenbaum and others underline how the wounds Weinstein allegedly inflicted, and the shame and guilt that have festered for years, continue to blight lives. Through the power of personal storytelling, Untouchable makes clear the vital importance of the #MeToo movement and the entertainment industry’s long overdue cultural reckoning. A haunting parable for our times, the film is also a beacon call for future generations.

Post-screening conversation with director Ursula Macfarlane and subjects Hope D’Amore andErika Rosenbaum. Sunday, July 21st, 8:15pm at IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue (at West 3rd Street).

51Fest tickets are available online at 51Fest.org or in person at the IFC Center box office.

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