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From Jane Fonda to RBG, women over 70 in the spotlight at 2018 Sundance Film Festival

From Jane Fonda to RBG, women over 70 in the spotlight at 2018 Sundance Film Festival
“Stories of women can be wonderful,” says Susan Bay Nimoy. Her short film "Eve” was shown at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

There's a noticeable pattern at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival: Several films this year feature women over age 70 as their subjects. Six, to be exact.

"Stories of women of age can be wonderful," said 74-year-old Susan Bay Nimoy, who wrote, directed and starred in "Eve." "Maybe these films can open the door a tiny bit and let those stories in."

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"For many years the stories of women, even influential women, have not been told," said Betsy West, who directed "RBG." "So it's not surprising that we have a lot of films at the festival this year that are telling the stories of women."

Susan Bay Nimoy appears in a scene from “Eve.”
Susan Bay Nimoy appears in a scene from “Eve.” (Sundance Institute)

Nimoy's "Eve," which premieres at the festival on Jan. 23, is a short film about a widow who journeys through grief, sexual passion and renewal after 30 years of marriage.

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"We revere men of age, we find them hunky and appealing, but we don't find women of age attractive," she said. "But if you gave them really good roles to play more often, we would feel differently. We just don't see them."

Nimoy wasn't planning to star in her film, but she stepped in after the original actress cast bailed when told she'd have to show her breasts during an erotic scene.

"The nudity was such an important part of the storytelling, I felt, yes, I could do it," Nimoy said. "I didn't think twice."

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Gloria Allred appears in “Seeing Allred.”
Gloria Allred appears in “Seeing Allred.” (Alex Pollini / Sundance Insitute)

"Seeing Allred" is an intimate, "warts-and-all" Netflix documentary about attorney Gloria Allred, 76, and her 40 years of fighting for women's rights. It premiered at Sundance on Jan. 21 — the first anniversary of the women's march.

"It's exciting to see the empowerment of women," Allred said the day before the premiere. "As one of the leaders of the women's march said, you are the leaders you've been waiting for."

The movie addresses the #MeToo movement, which hit when work on the film was nearly done, and highlights courageous women who are fighting for their rights.

"We want women to move from being victims to survivors to becoming fighters for change. That's the transformation. That leads to a woman becoming empowered," Allred said. "The typical woman matters. [It] used to be called the 'common woman,' but we have a saying in the women's movement: The common woman is as common as the common loaf of bread, and she shall rise."

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and granddaughter Clara Spera appear in the documentary "RBG" by Betsy West and Julie Cohen.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and granddaughter Clara Spera appear in the documentary "RBG" by Betsy West and Julie Cohen. (Sundance Institute / CNN Films)

"RBG" tells the story of how Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg influenced women's rights throughout her career. The documentary follows the 84-year-old's life from childhood to her justiceship and rise to cultural icon status (and "Notorious RBG" nickname), as well as her unprecedented critique of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

The film also shows moments from Ginsburg's personal life including her marriage to her late husband, Marty, her workout routine, and her fight for women's rights throughout the 1970s.

"Women woke up and complained," she says in the film.

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At the "RBG" Sundance premiere on Jan. 21, Ginsburg told the audience of her own #MeToo moment at Cornell University: when an instructor gave her the answers to a test and implied a sexual favor for payment.

"I walked into his office and said, 'How dare you? How dare you?'" Ginsburg said.

Yayoi Kusama appears in Kusama - Infinity.
Yayoi Kusama appears in Kusama - Infinity. (Sundance Institute / Tokyo Lee Productions Inc.)

"Kusama – Infinity" tells the story of contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who moved to New York City and created "avant-garde innovations" inspired by the 1960s American political and social revolution.

Writer and director Heather Lenz shows how Kusama faced racism and sexism to become a world-renowned artist. Now 88, Kusamacontinues to create art while living in a mental hospital in Japan.

"Kusama – Infinity" premiered at Sundance on Jan. 21.

Jane Fonda speaks at an antiwar rally in San Francisco on Aug. 24, 1972.
Jane Fonda speaks at an antiwar rally in San Francisco on Aug. 24, 1972. (Sundance Institute / Everett Collection)

The documentary "Jane Fonda in Five Acts" follows the life of work of the Oscar-winning actress and activist, age 80. It explores the origins of her political activism and shows slices of her personal life: her complicated relationship with her father; her three marriages; her struggle with body image.

"I wanted to track Jane's journey and understand what had happened to her in her life," director Susan Lacy said. "The high points, the low points, the mistakes that brought her to being a fully realized, fully actualized woman."

The movie will premiere on HBO later this year.

Vivienne Westwood appears in “Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist.”
Vivienne Westwood appears in “Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist.” (Pierre Verdy / Sundance Institute)

"Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist" highlights the work of 76-year-old British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who brought modern punk to the forefront.

Director Lorna Tucker's film is the first to tell the story of "one of the true icons of our time" as she fights for her legacy, according to the film's official description on the Sundance website.

The film premiered at Sundance on Jan. 20 and will be in U.K. theaters on March 23.

Twitter: @anniezyu

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