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New Mavericks: Female Directors

By Titus Falodun | 3/30/2014, 1:51 p.m.
Sumayah Chappelle shines in her acting debut as 9-year-old Bri in Brittany Shyne's "Painted Lady."

In recent years, a great wave of women have arisen with a thirst to tell stories from behind the lens. This influx has brought about added depth and diversity to a male-dominated arena.

The 2014 Atlanta Film Festival will highlight this phenomenon with the "New Mavericks: Female Directors" short film screening and Q&A at 6 p.m. tomorrow (Monday, March 31) at 7 Stages Theater in Little Five Points (1105 Euclid Ave. NE Atlanta, Ga. 30307).

One of the films features the acting debut of the niece of comedy legend Dave Chappelle.

Brittany Shyne's "Painted Lady" is a coming-of-age tale, starring Sumayah Chappelle, who is 9-year-old Bri in a film about a young girl dealing with her first period.

"It felt natural to write about a girl going through puberty," Shyne told The Atlanta Voice. "I think me as a young woman, I felt it was important to write about topics like menstruation that aren't really talked about, especially from a very internal and psychological way."

Shyne uses the taboo subject as a way to address the unique real life experience of young girls maturing. "Painted Lady" is a pitch-perfect short that plays out like an inspiring children's book on screen.

"I think that really helps when issues are brought to light and kids can understand it better," she explained.

Shyne's "Painted Lady" has already won the awards for Best Film, Best Director, and tied for Best Actor in the Short Film category at the Fall 2013 Women’s Independent Film Festival in Santa Monica, California. The Wright State University motion pictures student is also seeking to continue are cinematic dreams at graduate school at Northwestern University, where she will be entered into the documentary film program.

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Misty Upham (left) and Magdalena Begay (right) in Eliza's McNitt's "Without Fire."

Another film on display tomorrow evening blends drama, science and life on Navajo land.

Written and directed by Eliza McNitt, "Without Fire" is a warming short about an asthmatic mother and her invention-minded daughter relying on each other for survival through life's internal and external storms.

The film is loosely based on a Navajo man named Garrett Yazzi, whose 2005 invention of a solar device that heats both water and air was made almost entirely from scraps.

McNitt is the daughter of a scientist, as well as a honeybee expert. And it was her very own science fair exhibit on the effects of pesticides on honeybee colonies, which led to her encounter with Yazzie.

"We both found science in unusual ways," McNitt told The Atlanta Voice. "And I wanted to create a film about his process of invention."

The story, performances, and cinematography capture the brooding struggles within a young inventor and an ailing mother not quite sure what to make of her daughter's fascination.

From the real life experiences it draws from, to the shooting on Navajo land in Arizona, this film has a genuine and stirring spirit.

"For me, it was an exploration in being vulnerable, and telling a story I felt really passionate about," McNitt said.

The next step for McNitt is to direct a feature film that retells Yazzie's story. She also looks forward to making films that challenge stereotypes about science and technology, especially for young inventors and explorers.

In the meantime, McNitt, as well as the many more rising female directors, are making their voices heard, by having having their work seen and hailed.

"We're in a very big moment of change right now for women in film," she said.

The complete list of films and directors at "New Mavericks: Female Directors" are the following:

Jacqueline Lentzou, director, "Thirteen Blue"

Eliza McNitt, director, "Without Fire"

Brittany Shine, director, "Painted Lady"

Chell Stephen, director, "Crystal"

Kate Tsang, director, "So You've Grown Attached"

Visit the schedule for this event at http://www.AtlantaFilmFestival.com for more details on the films being screened. Brothers Young Productions' director Jan Mullins and producer Gabrielle Pickle will host "New Mavericks," which is supported by Women in Film & Television Atlanta.