South by Southwest film pioneer Shlomit Ryan on the new film that rewrites the rules

Shlomit Ryan’s comedy about four American girls on a summer camp trip is now set to feature Maya Hawke and Rosie O’Donnell

“I’m the sassiest sister there is,” asserts an exuberant Maya Hawke on opening night at The Sex Lives of College Girls (“You must call me Mae, and please do not call me Irene or Diane”), the new comedy penned by Shlomit Ryan, the director behind Who is the Girl? and who earlier this year became the first female director to score a feature film at South by Southwest.

While Winona Ryder is in the film – along with Stella, Rose, Olivia, Amy and Meredith – the romantic plotlines are primarily driven by Maya, the obnoxiously assertive eldest sister played by Oscar-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo. “Maya could not have done better,” Ryan told the Guardian recently. “She is so, so fun.”

The film, which is due for release this summer, is a sharp comedy about four American college women preparing for a summer camp trip that means a bunch of bikini pics, the latest in a line of acquisition for a voracious photo shooter, and a growing confidence in one’s own identity.

While this quartet have grown up together in one big extended family, the bond is frayed in this film. “The older sisters, Meredith and Rose, find themselves turning a dysfunctional relationship into a true family,” Ryan said. “But when they begin to notice the increasingly brutal things they are doing to each other, they must face the consequences of their actions.”

Rosie O’Donnell plays the oldest sister Amy, a friendly but unquestioning mother of six. “She is an absolutely adorable person,” said Ryan. “And the comedy in this movie is one of ‘You got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em’.”

Another cast member is Ali Goldstein, who played flamboyant Anita in a previous Ryan project, The Female Thing. Goldstein played “her” character as Maya, adding, “I have had the pleasure of getting to know and admire Shlomit and her writing.” She says: “Shlomit’s witty humor is just so relatable.”

“There are not enough roles written for young Jewish women in the theatre, film and TV” in this country, Ryan said. Her work with her female castmates, she added, provides a vehicle to ensure young female voices are heard.

“These girls are not known as feminist until they have a bunch of lovers!” she laughs.

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