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Toronto Film Fest: Will Female Directors Become 'Man'-Eaters?

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Sep 11, 2009 | 6:36am EDT

With the Midnight Madness opening screening of Jennifer's Body at the Toronto Film Festival yesterday, The New York Times reports it was impossible not to notice that the women are in charge. In an interesting dovetail, the Risky Business blog notes a curious phenomenon on the other side of the gender divide: There are about a half a dozen films screening at the fest with the word 'Man' in the title -- none of which is directed by a woman.

While still struggling to find their place in the movie industry at large, female filmmakers have managed to occupy some of Toronto's most valuable slots, the NYT notes.

On Thursday Karyn Kusama's Jennifer's Body, from a script by Diablo Cody, had its premiere while Lone Scherfig's An Education also screened and Jane Campion's Bright Star played (albeit with 19 minutes of the film running upside down in one showing).

Also screening in the coming days are Niki Caro's The Vintner's Luck, Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Samantha Morton's The Unloved, Leanne Pooley’s The Topp Twins and Drew Barrymore's Whip It!.

The NYT wonders if this estrogen-fueled lineup is a harbinger of awards recognition to come as the kudo season heats up. Although The Hurt Locker screened last year in Toronto, Kathryn Bigelow has been generating Oscar talk for months.

As the paper notes, back in 2003, Toronto helped that year in general to be known as a good one for women. The Toronto screening of Lost in Translation put Sofia Coppola on the path to a best-director Oscar nomination. That same year Caro, directing Whale Rider; Catherine Hardwicke, directing Thirteen; Patty Jenkins, with Monster; and Shari Springer Berman, with American Splendor, all made a strong impression overall.

Now, about those manly titles. Biz notes that festgoers who want to see A Serious Man might want to make sure they don't end up with A Single ManSolitary Man or, in a distinction that makes all the difference, Men Who Stare at Goats.

Along with the Coen brothers' Serious Man, Tom Ford's Single Man and Brian Koppelman and David Levien's Solitary Man, there are also screenings planned for Canadian marital comedy Man Vs. Minivan and the India-based romance The Man Beyond the Bridge.

A Serious Man, A Single Man and Solitary Man all premiere within 48 hours of each other at the festival, with A Serious Man and Solitary Man debuting opposite one another Saturday night.

The filmmakers behind the "Man" movies say this burst of machismo can partly be put down to what's happening in the world at large. "With everything that's going on in the world with figures like Bernie Madoff, it would be unnatural not to look at people who held themselves out as great men but who turned out to have feet of clay," said Koppelman.

Almost all of the films, notes Biz, focus on once-proud men brought low or schooled by a crisis. Funny coincidence given all the ladies in the lineup.

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