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Women directors growing presence at Tribeca Film Festival

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Women directors are making their mark at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, crafting entries such as a psychological thriller about a person's disappearance, a look at a same-sex couple's rights and a story about sisters.

Twenty-six feature films, about a quarter of the total to be presented during the two-week festival, are by women directors, including the first feature film by a female Saudi filmmaker shot entirely in her country.

Although the number is still small compared to male directors, festival organizers said women's participation has been growing annually.

"Women have always played prominent roles and creative roles in the film industry. As far as directing, it seems more women are taking on that role," said Genna Terranova, the vice president of programming at the festival.

The choice of films at this year's festival that runs through April 28 is as varied as the women themselves.

In "The Moment," a mystery starring Jennifer Jason Lee as a photojournalist in a fragile mental state following the disappearance of her lover, director and co-writer Jane Weinstock examines relationships and recovery.

Linda Bloodworth Thomason, a television writer and producer who financed her film through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, chronicles the story of a gay man after his partner's death in "Bridegroom."

In her first feature film, writer-director Jenee LaMarque focuses on the bond between sisters in "The Pretty One."

"Wadjda," Saudi writer-director Haifaa Al-Mansour's tale of a 10-year-old girl in Riyadh trying to buy a bicycle, is being screened at Tribeca after winning awards at festivals in Dubai and Venice.

"Women are not only making just one type of movie," Terranova told Reuters. "They are making the types of movies that interest them and that they are passionate about."

MALE DOMAIN

While women have made strides in other areas of the film industry, directing has remained a largely male domain, particularly in Hollywood.

In 2012, women accounted for nine percent of directors working on the top 250 films, a four percent rise from the previous year, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

The number of women directors is slightly better in independent films at 16.9 percent and documentaries at 34.5 percent, according to research by the University of Southern California.

"It's just an easier place for people to make films," said Marina Zenovich, whose documentary "Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic," about the late American comedian that premieres at Tribeca, referring to independent filmmaking.

The two-time Emmy Award winner believes women are making progress in what she described as a tough industry for both sexes.

"But it is harder for female filmmakers and it always has been," she said. "It is a fight that a lot of women in the industry are perking up to. We are half the population."

Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow made history when she became the first woman to win the Academy Award for best director for her 2008 film "The Hurt Locker." She is among only four women to have been nominated for the prize.

Zenovich sees Bigelow as "a total role model." Terranova agrees.

"For any female director who is struggling or maybe doing a different kind of movie, seeing Kathryn Bigelow win that award is a very inspiring moment," she said. "It certainly helps you when you see people achieve goals that you aspire to."

(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Philip Barbara)

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