Is Anyone Untouchable?

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on February 5th, 2019.

Just under two weeks ago the 2019 Sundance Film Festival officially kicked off in Park City with its annual opening day press conference with Robert Redfordand festival programmers. This year, when festival Director John Cooper spoke, he noted that while the festival never consciously chooses a theme for the year, invariably a theme emerges from each year’s crop of submissions. This year, he noted, that theme was truth. By the end of the festival I had watched over 30 films and it was clear to me what he meant. Truth was everywhere at Sundance 2019, and sometimes it was hard to bear.

This was never more evident than when Untouchable, the new documentary by British
filmmaker Ursula MacFarlane, had its World Premiere a week ago Friday. The film charts the rise and fall of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and asks the question of how he got away with being a serial sexual predator for so long. Just how long? The film opens with an interview with a woman who alleges that Weinstein raped her back in the 1970s, meaning he likely got away with harassing, assaulting, threatening, and violating women for over four decades. All this while being heralded as one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. He was considered a maverick who built his fortune with Miramax, the studio he founded with his brother Bob in 1979, and went on to become the most infamous bully in modern Hollywood history. Weinstein’s reputation as a tyrant was legendary, and he is credited with changing the game with respect to the Academy Awards and how the industry approaches awards season and campaign tactics. In his eyes, Academy Awards were a tool to wield for power, and it seems he’s been thanked onstage more times than God by winners. Harvey Weinstein was untouchable. Until suddenly he wasn’t.

 

On October 5th, 2017, The New York Times published an exposé by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey that reported on the widespread sexual abuse committed by Weinstein. Coincidentally, just a week before this year’s festival, I heard Ms. Kantor speak on her career and of course this watershed article live with the Park City Institute. She was incredible. Their piece was followed on October 10th by a report in The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow that alleged that Weinstein had raped three women and sexually assaulted dozens more. The reaction was swift and widespread.

For Weinstein, he was dismissed from the Weinstein Company by the Board of Directors (the company has since been dissolved), he was expelled from the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, and he is currently facing criminal charges in New York City. On a wider scale, this event kicked off a global reckoning on the issue of sexual harassment through the Me Too movement and the Times Up Initiative. To date, over 80 women have accused Harvey Weinstein of abuse. More importantly, incredibly brave men and women all over the world from every possible socioeconomic background are sharing their stories of abuse and harassment and making it clear that this kind of behaviour simply will not be tolerated any longer.

The far reaching impact of the now coined Weinstein Effect will likely be discussed, debated, and studied for years to come, as it should be, but those are stories on a global level. Untouchable is a film about just one man, and how one man was able to get away with his despicable actions for so long. The film interviews former employees who confess to feeling guilty over whether or not they were complicit in aiding his actions. For me, one of the most compelling accounts came from a former colleague of Weinstein who saw legal documents accusing Weinstein of assault, and in feeling that the accusations were absolutely true, she chose to quit on the spot. She said that there are points in your life when you have to choose between your values and your pocketbook, and that this was one of those moments for her.

Other former colleagues confessed that there was simply too much money at stake to face the reality of what they knew was happening. This was a textbook case of institutionalized complicity, and make no mistake, this was all about a catastrophic abuse of power. An extreme and vile misuse of power. Harvey Weinstein wielded his power like a weapon, and he got away with it for decades. Untouchable lays bare this reality in a way that we can no longer ignore. It is the truth, as awful and heartbreaking as that truth may be.

The thing that resonated with me the most while watching this film was the how and where Weinstein’s abuses occurred. This was not some sleazy guy hitting on women in a bar. This was a powerful Hollywood producer who invited women to his hotel rooms on the pretext of business meetings and auditions, and then exploited that situation for his own sexual gratification. The film is filled with powerful testimonies from many female actors, and I thank them all for their courage to come forward. Each of them shared similar stories in graphic and disturbing detail, but the interview that left me in a puddle on the theater floor was by an actress with total night blindness who said she was shoved into a dark stairwell and derisively told to find her own way out after refusing to bare her breasts to Weinstein.

Before the screening of the film the audience was warned that the film may be triggering, and indeed it was. Even now, as I type these words, my head is filled with memories of my own experiences of sexual harassment as a young professional. I remember his words, almost the exact same words that survivors in the film used, that made it clear that if I wanted his help with my career I had to indulge his actions. If this is in no way your lived experience, then I hope you see this film. If you are someone who thinks that this whole #MeToo thing has gone overboard then I hope you in particular see this film. The purpose of a great social issue documentary is to tell a story that needs to be told to create understanding, empathy, and action. Untouchable is a great documentary.

“When you watch something so visceral and it makes you feel something very deeply, I think that’s a very powerful way to get a conversation going. But it needs so much more than that. We need to change structures and change employment law and legislation. All those things take a long time. At Sundance, there are a lot more women filmmakers this year. I’d like to think that if you can get rid of people like [ex-CBS chief and accused abuser] Les Moonves and Harvey Weinstein, these people can be toppled. I’d like to think people aren’t going to dare behave like that, but human nature isn’t that simple.” – URSULA MACFARLANE

I’ve been thinking a lot about truth since this year’s festival began, and I keep coming back to the famous line from A Few Good Men. “You can’t handle the truth”. There’s a lot of wisdom there. The truth is often ugly. It is often heartbreaking. It often involves all of us having to look inside ourselves and ask the hard questions. Am I complicit? Could I have done better? Now that I know, what do I do? The truth is a messy, dirty affair, and oftentimes it is so much easier to look away and allow the status quo to continue because it’s safe and comfortable. I will never forgive myself for not reporting my abuser because I know for a fact that he went on to abuse other women. But I also know that like many of the women who shared their stories in this film, I was the one without power, without status, and who lacked faith that appropriate action would be taken to protect me. What this film, and so many others that have debuted at this year’s festival show us, is that refusing to see the truth most often comes at the cost of those that are the most vulnerable. Maybe we can’t handle the truth, but we can’t ignore it any longer.

———————–

Please consider reading this article on Democracy Now – here Amy Goodman interviews the director of Untouchable, URSULA MACFARLANE.

This Movie Changed Me – More on Wonder Woman

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on July 30th, 2018.

Yes, I know. I know I said that I had written my last post about Wonder Woman. And then I said it again. I’ll probably say it again at the end of this post as well, but at this point I don’t think anyone will believe me, because I’m pretty sure I will always have another Wonder Woman post to write. Cool stuff just keeps happening! For instance, recently I was invited to record a podcast for This Movie Changed Me with Lily Percy and the On Being Studiosabout last year’s Wonder Woman film.They reached out to me due to my many, MANYposts and articles over the years about not just the movie, but the character as well, and I readily accepted their invitation. The episode was released a couple of days ago, and I’m beside myself with joy for many reasons. Here’s my top five!

You can find the link to the episode HERE.

1) Podcasts are cool. Over the last several years we have seen this medium explode in popularity, and for good reason. It has become much easier for people to produce a quality podcast, and more importantly, it’s become much easier for audiences to connect with it, meaning it’s easier than ever to access stories from an incredibly diverse set of voices. I have often thought about starting my own podcast where I interview incredible people who share my passion for advancing gender equity, and that still may happen. In the meantime, I invested in a startup company called Wait, What? that produces and creates podcasts because I thought the founders were fantastic, and so far this company is doing really well. Their first property was Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale, a podcast that focuses on how companies can grow from fledgling startups to successful enterprises, and it was the first American media program to commit upfront to a 50-50 gender balance for guests. Needless to say, I am on board with that!

2) I will talk about Wonder Woman with anyone who will listen, so to be invited to do so by a studio that I respect so much was a dream come true. On Being Studios is the production company founded by Krista Tippett in 2013 to produce and distribute Tippett’s growing network of podcasts. It began in 2001 with a monthly radio show called Speaking of Faith, but has since grown into the weekly On Being podcast that now reaches over 1.5 million listeners monthly. I discovered this podcast a couple of years ago and quickly devoured every episode. I’ve since been fortunate to get to know Krista and I feel privileged to call her a friend. To get to participate on one of her shows, talking about something that means so much to me, was truly an incredible experience.

3) This recording felt like the culmination of a journey many years in the making. In 2011, I asked my writing partner, Laura Moore, to work with me to prepare a report on the character of Wonder Woman, and specifically to look into why we still didn’t have a Wonder Woman movie, but characters like Batman, Superman, and Spider Man were already on their second incarnations. For the record, that was 2011. All three of those characters are now on their third iterations. Just saying. What began as a simple question eventually became a two year project and a 70 page report, and while I won’t go into all the details, the gist of the findings was that there was no good reason to not have a Wonder Woman movie on the big screen. We called out Hollywood on this lack of representation and demanded that Wonder Woman finally get her due. We released this report in April of 2013, and by the end of the year Gal Gadot had been cast in the role of Wonder Woman for the upcoming Batman vs. Superman film, with plans for her solo film to be released shortly after. Now, far be it for me to take all the credit for getting the ball rolling on this, but I have to say that the timing is an awfully big coincidence.

4) I have written extensively about Wonder Woman both on LinkedIn and on my personal website, with some posts going back over 10 years. With the help of Laura, I have decried over and over again the lack of female superheroes to be role models for young girls, and specifically the outrageousness of the notion that we got three Spider Mans across six films before we got to see Wonder Woman. For me, it wasn’t just that I love this character and wanted to see her on the big screen. It was about how the media views women in general, and how it is possible to tell the story of a woman who is powerful, courageous, and brave, and at the same time unapologetically feminine. To tell a story where leading with love is seen as a strength and not a weakness. Where women lead by example, and where they are fully formed characters who are allowed to be both strong and vulnerable, conflicted and compassionate. It’s a narrative that has been sorely lacking in Hollywood, and it’s time for this narrative to take center stage, because if the box office and critical reception to Wonder Woman are any indication, audiences are just as hungry as I am for these types of stories. After 10 years of writing about this, I was thrilled to get to share my knowledge and passion around this subject, and to bring it to the wider On Being audience.

5) Finally, I loved doing this podcast because this movie truly did change me. I was extraordinarily lucky to get to go to the premiere in Hollywood last year, and I’m not going to lie, more than a few tears may have been shed at finally getting to see the movie I had been waiting for decades to see. Not just a Wonder Woman movie, but a truly great Wonder Woman movie that embodied so much of why this character is so special and important to me. While waiting for this film to to come to the big screen I had been working full time as a champion for gender lens investing and philanthropy, and the timing of the film marked a landmark in my own journey trying to be a super shero: being named Co-Founder of Women Moving Millions. Now, and forever more, these two events are connected and it feels like a before and an after.

This post would feel incomplete without mentioning my favorite scene in the whole movie, and one I had a chance to talk about on the podcast. The scene where Wonder Woman comes into her own as a superhero as she marched across No Man’s Land. Clearly my enthusiasm was shared by others – just listen to the cheers in this video to this truly amazing moment.

In closing, Wonder Woman proved once and for all that Hollywood is capable of producing fantastic stories about incredible women, and I will keep campaigning for more films like this until there are just as many female role models as there are male role models for all the little girls and boys out there. And if you are wondering if there will be a sequel, the answer is a big YES! It is already in the works.

And that folks, is my last post on Wonder Woman.

Until the next one…

And a big thank you to Laura for sharing my love for Wonder Woman and being with me every step of the way.

PS – if you have a favorite podcast, please feel free to share it in the comment section and why you love it!

What Story Lives in You?

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on January 18th, 2018.

Every year around this time, I pound the vitamins, enable my email’s auto reply, and mentally prepare myself for the fact that I won’t be getting a good night’s sleep for the next two weeks. I do this because every year, the last two weeks of January are completely taken over by the Sundance Film Festival. From opening night to the closing awards show and party, Sundance is 11 days of films, events, panels, and parties, and this year will be no different. Or maybe it will be?

This is the first Sundance in a post-Harvey Weinstein era. This is the first Sundance since the sexual harassment and abuse scandal that has rocked Hollywood since last fall, and this is the first Sundance since the tide of change has swept through the entire industry. This is a topic that will be sure to dominate conversations, panels, and Q&As, and on Saturday, January 20th, a Respect Rally will be held in Park City to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Women’s Marches and last year’s March on Main (disclosure: I am a sponsor of the Respect Rally). It has also resulted in changes such as a very visible and thoughtful policy around code of conduct. The Sundance Institute is proudly partnering with the Utah Attorney General’s office to provide a 24 hotline to report code violations.

The theme of Sundance this year is the relationship between the storyteller and the audience. If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that stories matter now more than ever, but even more important than the story is that the story gets heard and absorbed. Or in this case, seen. Women and men have been telling their stories of abuse and misconduct for decades, but often through secret channels and whisper networks out of fear of retribution. Allegations of sexual harassment and assault are sadly nothing new, but what’s changed in the past several months is that people are finally ready to listen to these stories, to believe these stories, and finally, FINALLY, we are ready to do something about them. Stories matter, but so does the audience and how these stories are received, and I look forward to delving deeper into this issue over the coming days of the festival and beyond.

The destiny of the world is determined less by battles lost and won than by the stories we come to love and believe in. – H. Goddard.

Now on to the festival…

This year’s festival is featuring 238 works altogether, including 122 feature films and 69 short films. Altogether, the Sundance Institute received over 13,000 submissions for the 2018 festival, and I can’t wait to see what made the cut. In addition to these films, an entirely new category is debuting for indie episodic work, which is a testament to the growing presence of this medium. While this content has previously been screened at Sundance as featured programming, episodic work is now being recognized as the force it truly is with its own section within the festival. Sundance is also debuting two new awards, including the Festival Favorite to be determined by audience ballot across all screenings of all feature films, and the NEXT Innovator Award that will be presented by RuPaul. There’s also a brand new theatre, incredible works and technology to discover in the New Frontier VR and AR section, and with over 46 countries represented, this year’s festival is truly an international affair.

It is also a year of increased representation for women. Earlier this month at the Golden Globes, Natalie Portman made a point of recognizing that yet again the nominees for Best Director were all male, despite the fact that Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird won one of the top awards of the night as the Best Comedy or Musical. In a far cry from Hollywood, where only 4% of the directors of the top grossing films of the past 11 years were women, 42% of all features and shorts that are to be screened at Sundance this year are directed by women (37% of features and 51% of shorts). This represents a 4% increase in female directors of features over 2017, and a 3% overall increase in female directors. One can only hope that those numbers will continue to go up in the years to come.

As I look over my schedule for the next 11 days, I can’t help but feel equal parts exhilarated and exhausted, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You can follow the conversation online with #Sundance2018 and follow my adventures at @JackiZehner on Twitter. Below are a list of some of the films I’ll be seeing over the coming days, with descriptions pulled from the festival program. New this year are Meet the Artist videos on many of the pages, but you can also find them on Youtube HERE. If you’re in Park City happy festing! And if not, I’ll be back after the festival is over with my best of the fest of films to look out for in cinemas in the coming months.

Blindspotting – Collin is trying to make it through his final days of probation for an infamous arrest he can’t wait to put behind him. Always by his side is his fast-talking childhood bestie, Miles, who has a knack for finding trouble. They grew up together in the notoriously rough Oakland, a.k.a. “The Town,” which has become the new trendy place to live in the rapidly gentrifying Bay Area. But when Collin’s chance for a fresh start is interrupted by a life-changing missed curfew, his friendship with Miles is forced out of its comfortable buddy-comedy existence, and the Bay boys are set on a spiraling collision course with each other. Exploding with energy, style, and raw emotion, Blindspotting unravels today’s intersection of race and class with urgent and poetic justice. This is the opening night film tonight!

Private Life – Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti) have been repeatedly trying to get pregnant, undergoing multiple fertility treatments while also exploring adoption and other options. As they hit obstacles and face up to the reality of their chances, their strained marriage seems to be further than ever from completing the elusive path to parenthood.

Monsters and Men – One night, in front of a bodega in Brooklyn’s Bed–Stuy neighborhood, Manny Ortega witnesses a white police officer wrongfully gun down a neighborhood street hustler, and Manny films the incident on his phone. Now he’s faced with a dilemma: release the video and bring unwanted exposure to himself and his family, or keep the video private and be complicit in the injustice?

Juliet, Naked – Annie is stuck in a long-term relationship with Duncan—an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe. Duncan is far more devoted to his music idol than to Annie. When the acoustic demo of Tucker’s hit record from 25 years ago surfaces, it leads to a life-changing encounter between Annie and the elusive rocker himself.

Eighth Grade – Eighth-grader Kayla Day always has her phone in hand, hoping to find connections online that might make up for those she’s unable to forge in everyday life. She makes YouTube videos aimed at other adolescents dealing with similar issues—feelings of isolation, anxiety, and invisibility—but after so easily summoning this wisdom and confidence when addressing her (barely existent) audience, Kayla finds it paralyzingly difficult to apply in real situations. In the final week of a thus-far-disastrous school year—and with high school looming on the horizon—Kayla struggles to bridge the gap between how she perceives herself and who she believes she should be.

The Tale – Jennifer, a globetrotting journalist and professor, lives an enviable life with her boyfriend in New York City. That is, until her mother finds a story Jennifer wrote at age 13 depicting a “special” relationship with two adult coaches. Reading the yellowed pages of “The Tale,” Jennifer discovers the coded details she composed 40 years earlier are quite unlike her recollection. Deeply shaken yet determined to square her version of events with the truth, Jennifer sets out to find her two coaches. Returning to the Carolina horse farm where so much transpired, Jennifer’s gangly yet tenacious seventh-grade self reawakens, and the loving stories she told herself for decades begin to unravel.

Leave No Trace – For years Will and his teenage daughter, Tom, have lived off the grid, blissfully undetected by authorities in a vast nature reserve on the edge of Portland, Oregon. When a chance encounter blows their cover, they’re removed from their camp and put into the charge of social services. Struggling to adapt to their new surroundings, Will and Tom set off on a perilous journey back to the wilderness, where they are finally forced to confront conflicting desires—a longing for community versus a fierce need to live apart.

I Think We’re Alone Now – Del (Peter Dinklage) is alone in the world. Literally. After the human race is wiped out, he lives in a small, empty town, methodically going from house to house, collecting batteries and other useful items, and burying the dead. He dines alone, reads, watches movies, and shelves books in the local library he’s made his home. He’s content in his solitude—until he discovers Grace (Elle Fanning), an interloper on his quiet earth. Her history and motives are obscure, and worse yet, she wants to stay.

Inventing Tomorrow – Indonesia, India, Mexico, Hawaii, and many other countries, communities, and islands are rife with the ravages of environmental degradation. But hope comes with a surprising—and touching—group of young people. Meet six brilliant high school students as they prepare for the world’s largest high school science competition: the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Inspired by the issues and problems they’ve witnessed in their own communities, these teens propose big ideas and ingenious solutions to the world’s environmental challenges. With unfettered minds and ambition, they descend upon Los Angeles to participate in ISEF and meet thousands of their peers from all over the world. Soon, a sense of global community forms, focused on making the world a better place.

Come Sunday – Every Sunday, Bishop Carlton Pearson—evangelical megastar, brilliant orator, and television host with millions of followers—preaches the fundamentalist gospel to six thousand supplicants at his Higher Dimensions Church. He’s the pride and joy of his spiritual father, Oral Roberts, and the toast of Tulsa. One day, rattled by an uncle’s suicide and distraught by reports of the Rwandan Genocide, Pearson receives an epiphany. Suddenly it’s crystal clear—God loves all humankind; everyone is already saved, whether Christian or not; and there is no hell. But these ideas are heretical, violating sacrosanct doctrines.

Monster – Steve Harmon, a bright, sensitive 17-year-old, stands trial for acting as a lookout during the lethal armed robbery of a Harlem bodega. Before his arrest, he was an honors student and aspiring filmmaker taking street-level snapshots and on-the-fly footage of neighborhood life. Now, Steve is seen as just another young black criminal, assumed guilty and labeled a monster. But Steve and his lawyer declare his innocence and attempt to defy the odds in a bid to win his freedom.

Beirut – Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm), a top U.S. diplomat, left Lebanon in the 1970s after a tragic incident. Ten years later, the CIA calls him back to a war-torn Beirut with a mission only he can accomplish. Meanwhile, a CIA field agent who is working undercover at the American embassy is tasked with keeping Skiles alive and ensuring that the mission is a success. Without knowing who is on his side and with lives on the line, Skiles must outmaneuver everyone to expose the truth.

Burden – Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund) is a taciturn repo man rising through the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan in small-town South Carolina, 1996. Orphaned as a child, he is fiercely loyal to local Klan leader and toxic father figure Tom Griffin (a terrifying Tom Wilkinson). But Burden has a change of heart when he falls for Judy (Andrea Riseborough), a single mother who stirs his social conscience. His violent break from the Klan sends him into the open arms of Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker), an idealistic African American preacher, who offers him safety and a shot at redemption.

Damsel – It’s a classic tale of the Old West: Samuel Alabaster is a man searching for his true love. Parson Henry is another, much drunker man, searching for a new start. Penelope is a woman who has found her own path. And Rufus Cornell is just a mean bastard with a taste for buckskin. There’s rotgut, rawhide, rootin’, tootin’, and hootin’. Plus, a little tiny horse.

A Kid Like Jake – Loving parents Alex (Claire Danes) and Greg (Jim Parsons) are faced with the daunting task of applying to private kindergartens in NYC for their 4-year-old, Jake. Competing in this cutthroat environment means focusing on what is most unique about a child, forcing Alex and Greg to consider Jake’s love of dresses, fairy tales, and princesses. These qualities never seemed unusual before, but when Jake begins to act out in preschool, Alex and Greg—suddenly at odds—must find a way to support Jake’s identity without losing each other in the process.

Sorry to Bother You – Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a 30-something black telemarketer with self-esteem issues, discovers a magical selling power living inside of him. Suddenly he’s rising up the ranks to the elite team of his company, which sells heinous products and services. The upswing in Cassius’s career raises serious red flags with his brilliant girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), a sign-twirling gallery artist who is secretly a part of a Banksy-style collective called Left Eye. But the unimaginable hits the fan when Cassius meets the company’s cocaine-snorting, orgy-hosting, obnoxious, and relentlessly optimistic CEO, Steve Lift (Armie Hammer).

Three Identical Strangers – New York, 1980: Three complete strangers—Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman—make the astounding discovery that they are identical triplets. Separated at birth, adopted, and raised by three different families, the 19-year-olds are reunited by chance. Their story sets the tabloids on fire, and the triplets suddenly become famous around the world.

What They Had – During a bout of dementia, Ruth (Blythe Danner) gets out of bed at night and wanders off into a blizzard. Ruth’s brief disappearance triggers the homecoming of her daughter Bridget (Hilary Swank) and teenage granddaughter Emma (Taissa Farmiga). The episode also renews lifelong tensions between stubborn patriarch Burt (Robert Forster) and estranged son Nicky (Michael Shannon). As they all debate placing Ruth into a memory-care facility, family ties begin to fray, rekindling a rivalry between the adult siblings.

Generation Wealth – Over the past 25 years, Lauren Greenfield’s documentary photography and film projects have explored youth culture, gender, body image, and affluence. In this fascinating meld of career retrospective and film essay, Greenfield offers a meditation on her extensive body of work, structuring it through the lens of materialism and its increasing sway on culture and society in America and throughout the world. Underscoring the ever-increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots, her portraits reveal a focus on cultivating image over substance, where subjects unable to attain actual wealth instead settle for its trappings, no matter their ability to pay for it. I know Lauren personally and she is an incredible person and filmmaker. Amongst her many film credits she also did the game changing video, LIKE A GIRL.

NANCY – Nancy is a 35-year-old temp living with her mom and cat in a modest home in a modest town. She is also an aspiring writer whose submissions are consistently rejected by the likes of the Atlantic and the Paris Review. To make up for these failures and the invisibility she feels, Nancy spins elaborate lies and hoaxes under pseudonyms on the internet. When she encounters a couple whose 5-year-old daughter went missing 30 years ago, fact and fiction begin to blur in Nancy’s mind, and she becomes increasingly convinced these strangers are her real parents.

Loveling – Irene is raising four rambunctious sons in a home that is physically crumbling but warm and happy. As Irene simultaneously shelters her sister Sonia (who just left a volatile marriage), supports her own husband through a financial crisis, and plans her own long-awaited high school graduation, Irene’s eldest son, Fernando, suddenly announces he has been recruited by a professional handball team in Germany and will be leaving in just three weeks. Consummate caretaker Irene prickles at the idea of emancipating the 16-year-old so he can travel and live alone, and she becomes increasingly anxious about what her future holds.

Seeing Allred – As described in the film guide, to some, Gloria Allred is a money-grubbing, shrill feminist prone to tawdry theatrics; to others she’s the most effective and fearless women’s rights attorney in America. In this intimate, warts-and-all documentary, one thing is certain: Allred’s 40-year devotion to asserting, protecting, and expanding the rights of women is unwavering and her influence unassailable. She is also scheduled to speak at the the rally.

Lizzie – 1892: Headstrong Lizzie Borden lives with her wealthy father, stepmother, and sister in Fall River, Massachusetts. Lizzie lovingly tends to her pet pigeons and is occasionally allowed out of her dimly lit, foreboding house, but otherwise lives under strict rules set by her domineering father. When her family hires live-in maid Bridget, an uneducated Irish immigrant, the two find kindred spirits in one another. Their friendship begins with covert communication and companionship that blossoms into an intimate relationship. Meanwhile, tension builds in the Borden household, and Lizzie’s claustrophobic existence becomes increasingly more oppressive and abusive, leading to its inevitable breaking point.

Hearts Beat Loud – As single dad Frank (Nick Offerman) prepares to send hardworking daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) off to UCLA pre-med, he also reluctantly realizes he has to accept that his own record-store business is failing. Hoping to stay connected with his daughter through their shared love of music, he urges her to turn their weekly “jam sesh” into an actual band. Channeling Sam’s resistance into a band name, they unexpectedly find We’re Not a Band’s first song turning into a minor Spotify hit, and they use their songwriting efforts to work through their feelings about the life changes each of them faces.

The Long Dumb Road – Not far down the highway from his childhood home in Texas, Nathan’s car breaks down on the drive to his freshman year of art school in Los Angeles. Richard, a local mechanic, agrees to fix the car as long as Nathan helps Richard escape his bastard of a boss. On the way out of town, Richard pounds a road beer or three, sparks a joint, and begins to question why young Nathan is lacking a clear philosophy about the rest of his life. As they venture on, these two strangers will battle through bar fights, heartache, and many more unfortunate detours to make it to their next destinations in life. This is a film that I am personally invested in through the film Fund Gamechanger.

On Her Shoulders – Mobbed by iPhone cameras and pushy reporters, 23-year-old Nadia Murad leads a harrowing but vital crusade: to find the most influential platforms in the world and speak out on behalf of the embattled Yazidi community who face mass extermination by ISIS militants. Having narrowly escaped with her own life, Nadia must now relentlessly recount on radio shows, at rallies, and even on the floor of the United Nation’s general assembly her ordeal as a Yazidi sex slave and witness to her family’s brutal killings. Though excruciating, she forces herself to revisit these realities again and again. For without her testimony, the genocide happening right in front of the world’s eyes might go completely unnoticed.