SPOTLIGHT February 2018: Daniela Vega, Star of A FANTASTIC WOMAN, Chile’s Oscar Contender

daniela vega head glamawfjspotlightsmallsmallTrailblazers whose groundbreaking accomplishments change the world, clearing the way for those who follow in their footsteps, are often reluctant to draw attention to themselves. Their motivation is simply to be allowed to be themselves. So it is with Daniela Vega, the first openly transgender actress and model in Chile, and star of the Oscar-nominated A Fantastic Woman. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT January 2018: Mattie Do, Lao Filmmaker, Oscar Contender for DEAREST SISTER

awfjspotlightsmallsmallmattie do buddhistFilmmaker Mattie Do’s very name signifies a series of impressive firsts: Lao’s first woman director and helmer of the first Lao movies to play at international film festivals, and more recently, her latest film Dearest Sister (Nong hak) became the first from the country to be submitted to The Oscars’ Best Foreign Language category. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT December, 2017: Angelina Jolie, Humanitarian Filmmaker

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angelina with handWith award season already in full thrust, SPOTLIGHT asks: Has there ever been an A-list actress who has – in the prime of her career – choosen to promote not herself, but two films that tell stories about third world countries?

The actress doesn’t even play a role in either film, but opts instead to produce The Breadwinner, an animated story about a young Afghan girl who dresses as a boy in order to feed her family in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and to direct First They Killed My Father, an unflinching child’s view on the Khmer Rouge’s deadly rule in Cambodia.Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT November 2017: Dee Rees, Independently Epic Filmmaker, Director MUDBOUND

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With just a few films to her credit, director Dee Rees is already making an assured and unique mark on American cinema. She brings mature talent, technical skill, and creative vision, all while being true to herself as a gay African-American woman. Available November 17, her latest film Mudbound vividly demonstrates she can extend her intimately emotional filmmaking to an epic scale. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT October 2017: Agnès Varda, Filmmaker, Honorary Oscar Recipient, Director of FACES PLACES

“You decide you do something, then you are totally ready for things to happen.” Agnès Varda, on YouTube

agnes headsho croppedawfjspotlightsmallsmallFilm director Agnès Varda was talking about her process for creating documentaries, but she might as well have been talking about her storied career as the only female director of the French New Wave. Over her 63 years (and counting) of filmmaking, Varda has created a vast body of work composed not only of documentaries, but also short films and features. She is also an accomplished photographer. And now, at age 89, Varda has a new film and a new honor to add to her crowded list of awards and recognitions. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT September 2017: MaryAnn Johanson, FlickFilosopher.com Film Critic and Activist

awfjspotlightsmallsmallOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPioneering film critic MaryAnn Johanson celebrates the twentieth anniversary of her popular FilckFilosopher.com website this month; an impressive enough feat in itself. That MaryAnn has established herself as a distinct, influential and prolific feminist critic in a fiercely competitive and male-dominated industry, however, is testament not just to her boundless knowledge of and passion for film, but also of her extraordinary tenacity and determination. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT August 2017: Kathryn Bigelow, Auteur, Oscar Winner, Director of DETROIT

awfjspotlightsmallsmallbigalow critics choice longKathryn Bigelow continues to advance the cause of women working in the film industry. Although she’s said that she prefers to be considered a ‘director’ rather than a ‘female director,’ she has consistently broken through the gender-based barriers that persist in the movie industry. Bigelow’s name is associated with a long list of ‘the first and/or only woman to win…’ stellar accomplishments, including capturing Academy Award gold for Best Director and Best Picture, BAFTA Award for Best Director and Best Picture, DGA Award for Outstanding Direction, PGA Award for Best Theatrical Production and numerous critics group awards (including four AWFJ EDA Awards) for best direction and best film, all for The Hurt Locker in 2008, followed by a similar array of accolades in 2012 for Zero Dark Thirty. Her latest film, Detroit, releases this month, and is already garnering awards buzz. It’s time for AWFJ to celebrate the multitalented and highly accomplished Kathryn Bigelow in our August SPOTLIGHT. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT July 2017: Claire McCarthy, Filmmaker, OPHELIA

awfjspotlightsmallsmallclaire mccarthy 2Outside Oz, Australian filmmaker Claire McCarthy is known primarily for her 2009 film The Waiting City, starring Radha Mitchell and Joel Edgerton as a couple in disarray as they travel to India to take delivery of a child they have adopted. But McCarthy’s broader filmography even more forcefully underscores why she is the perfect director for the upcoming Ophelia project, Hamlet retold from the perspective of Shakespeare’s iconically tragic ingenue as played by Daisy Ridley. As Michelle Hannett reported from Cannes in May, the film is one of the most highly anticipated for 2018 release. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT June 2017: Amber Tamblyn, Actress, Poet, Director of PAINT IT BLACK

awfjspotlightsmallsmallamber jeans 2If courage had a name, it would be Amber Tamblyn. Her unblinkingly honest artistic achievements are legion.

The 34-year-old actress just made her directorial and screenwriting debut with Paint It Black, an emotionally charged drama about the relationship between a vulnerable young woman (Alia Shawkat) and her lover’s possessive mother (Janet McTeer) following his untimely death. As the film was releasing theatrically in May, Tamblyn hit the New York boards for the first time, starring off-Broadway in Can You Forgive Her?, penned by two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Gina Gionfriddo. And, Tamblyn’s third book of poetry, Dark Sparkler, published in 2015, considers the dehumanizing myth-making surrounding more than 25 actresses who died young, including Marilyn Monroe, Brittany Murphy and Thelma Todd. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT May 2017: Sheila Nevins, President HBO Documentary Films, Producer and Author

awfjspotlightsmallsmallSheila Nevins is a straight shooter. Answer her casual “How are you?” with “Can’t complain. And you?” and you’ll get “I’ve got a lot to complain about!” in reply.

Nevins’ career could be viewed as an active response to the many complaints she has about the world in which we live. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT April, 2017: Katell Quillévéré, Filmmaker, HEAL THE LIVING

awfjspotlightsmallsmallWhen Katell Quillévéré was awarded France’s Jean Vigo Prize in 2010 for her first feature film, Love Like Poison, the cinematic community knew they had an exciting and original new filmmaker to follow. Quillévéré, who studied philosophy and cinema at the University of Paris, shows a unique talent for asking big questions through the lives of her characters. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT March 2017: Amy Hobby, Feminist Film Producer and Activist

awfjspotlightsmallsmallLast year, during one of Tribeca Film Festival’s Tribeca Talks, Jodie Foster famously commented that women who’ve maneuvered their way into the upper echelons of the Hollywood hierarchy have not been particularly helpful to women working behind the lens.

amy hobby head 1But Tribeca Film Institute’s recently anointed Executive Director Amy Hobby disagrees. While acknowledging some validity in Foster’s statement and noting that statistics continue to show dismal gender disparity in the movie industry, Hobby claims that the scene is changing.

Take note: Amy Hobby is in the know, and she’s in a position where she can actually make it so. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT February 2017: Amma Asante, Filmmaker, A UNITED KINGDOM — by Marilyn Ferdinand

awfjspotlightsmallsmallamma with mask“We whopped Spider-Man, and that is my claim to fame!”

With the good humor and energy that have helped her break through to the front ranks of the film industry, director/ screenwriter/actress Amma Asante celebrated the opening week box-office victory of her spellbinding feature Belle (2013) over the popular superhero franchise. Belle tells the moving true story of a biracial woman, Dido Elizabeth Belle, brought up as an aristocrat in 18th century England. While it luxuriates in the kind of genteel elegance that is catnip to audiences, Asante also offers a penetrating look at the abomination of slavery upon which such rich lifestyles were based, and the confusion its title character feels as a result. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT January 2017: Ava DuVernay, Film Director and Crusader — by Marilyn Ferdinand

awfjspotlightsmallsmallava-duvernay-head-shotIt’s hard to think of a more galvanizing, charismatic woman in film than Ava DuVernay. The 44-year-old producer, director, writer, distributor and crusader for social justice broke into the larger cultural zeitgeist in 2015, the year her acclaimed film Selma was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and four Golden Globes, and won the AWFJ EDA Award for Best Woman Director. She is the winner of three AWFJ EDA Awards in 2016, including those for Best Documentary and Best Female Director for 13th and Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in Film. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT DECEMBER 2016: Maren Ade, Director and Producer, TONI ERDMANN — by Julide Tanriverdi

awfjspotlightsmallsmallmaren-ade2The German filmmaker Maren Ade is making waves with her third feature Toni Erdmann which caused a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival. Now it opens in theaters and this is a movie no one should miss. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT November, 2016: Ally Derks, IDFA Founder, Documentaries Mogul and innovator

awfjspotlightsmallsmallallyderksIDFA’s founder and director Ally Derks is in the AWFJ SPOTLIGHT this month, as she helms the 2016 festival from November 16 to 29. During her 30-year tenure at IDFA, Derks has built the festival into the world’s preeminent documentaries showcase, marketplace and pitch forum, with year round programs to develop the art of documentary filmmaking and broaden its horizons. This will be the last IDFA under Derk’s direction, as she leaves the organization to spend 2017 living and working in Berlin as an invited fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy, an institution of the prestigious Robert Bosch Stiftung. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT October 2016: Bonni Cohen, Acclaimed Director and Producer

Bonni CohenThe filmmaking team of Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk explore the results of social media bullying with the new thought-provoking, conversation-starting documentary, Audrie & Daisy.

The documentary, which is currently streaming on Netflix, focuses primarily on two teenage sexual assault victims who had their humiliation made public via Facebook and other online social media outlets. The documentary should be considered a must-see for high school students, and the filmmakers should be applauded for their approach to this disturbing topic. Read on.

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SPOTLIGHT September 2016: Vera Farmiga, Actress and Filmmaker

Vera FarmigaVera Farmiga earned an Oscar nomination as well as AWFJ, BAFTA, Broadcast Film Critics, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globe nominations for her outstanding work in 2009’s Up in the Air. But that was just the tip of the awards iceberg as Farmiga’s been recognized for her impressive work in diverse roles by film critics and awards organizations worldwide throughout her 20+ year career. Read on>>.

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SPOTLIGHT August, 2016: Margot Benacerref, Filmmaker and Cultural Activist

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Auteur filmmaker Margot Benacerraf is in the AWFJ SPOTLIGHT this month to celebrate her 90th birthday on August 14, and to honor her extraordinary career as filmmaker and cultural activist. Benacerref first came to prominence on the international cinema scene in 1959, when her first feature film, Araya, was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, where she was a novice director and the only female filmmaker included in the competition. That year, Araya shared the Cannes International Critics Prize with Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima mon amour. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT, July 2016: Meera Menon, Director of EQUITY

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The all-female “Ghostbusters” remake has captured the mainstream media buzz this summer, but the true feminist statement of the season is to be found in another July release, Equity. It is the sophomore effort of director Meera Menon, and it presents a powerful and thrilling feminist drama about women working in the male-dominated environs of Wall Street. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT June 2016: Susanna White, Director, OUR KIND OF TRAITOR

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Hot on the heels of Susanne Bier’s tense miniseries The Night Manager comes Our Kind of Traitor, a second suspenseful John le Carré adaptation to be directed by a woman, British filmmaker Susanna White. A couple on holiday—Ewan McGregor as poetry professor Perry and Naomie Harris as high-profile lawyer Gail—risk their own lives to help Russian money launderer Dima, played by a scene-stealing Stellan Skarsgård, defect to the UK. A lifelong fan of thrillers the opportunity to direct one herself as her sophomore feature—her first was Nanny McPhee Returns (2010)—was one White couldn’t resist. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT May 2016: Rachel Rosen, Programmer, San Francisco International Film Festival

awfjspotlightsmallsmallrachel rosen 1The San Francisco International Film Festival, the oldest film festival in North America, is a whirl of activity in the midst of its 59th season. San Francisco Film Society Director of Programming Rachel Rosen is in her element. This has been her world for 25 years, ever since the seasonal festival work she took while getting her MA in documentary film at Stanford University led to a career as a film programmer. Her influence has been felt not just at the San Francisco Film Society and San Francisco International Film Festival, but also at New York’s Film Forum and at Film Independent and the Los Angeles Film Festival, where she was director of programming for eight years. As the 15-day SIFF heads into its second week, Rosen takes a break from festival routine to talk about women in the world of film festivals. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT April 2016: Emayatzy Corinealdi, Actress, Rising Star of MILES AHEAD

awfjspotlightsmallsmallemayatzy1Miles Davis may be the main subject of Don Cheadle’s bravura writing/directing debut Miles Ahead, but he’s not the only one. While the largely fictional drama mostly takes place in the 1970s, it finds the jazz great at a point in his life where he is looking back and what he is looking back at is not a time in his life, but a person: Davis’s first wife, dancer Frances Taylor. Cheadle portrays her as the great love of the trumpeter’s life and inspiration for his music, but he also underlines that she was an accomplished individual with her own talents and her own life. Taylor danced on Broadway, including in the original production of West Side Story and she was a member of the Paris Opera Ballet. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT March 2016: Margaret Sixel, Film Editor, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

awfjspotlightsmallsmallsixel head 1It’s been a season of honors for Sixel. The Oscar is just the latest addition to the many she has already received—a list that includes a BAFTA, the Australian Film Institute’s AACTA, and AWFJ’s EDA Award, among others—for her work in giving shape, form, and nail-biting tension to Mad Max: Fury Road. After over 30 years in the business, it was Sixel’s first action movie. It will certainly not be her last. Read on…

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AWARDS INTELLIGENCER: Sacha Pfeiffer talks SPOTLIGHT, Journalism and Subtext — Quendrith Johnson Interviews

RacheSachaOne thing is certain, in Oscar Best Film contender Spotlight, Rachel McAdams is well-cast as Boston Globe investigative reporter Sacha Pfeiffer, who proves to be an intensely interesting character in her own right. A key member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that cracked open the priest sex-abuse scandal that’s plumbed in the film, and dethroned Boston’s Catholic powerbroker Cardinal Law, Pfeiffer packed a impactful editorial punch. She still does when it comes to social and political issues. But when you meet her, she tilts her head to one side, leans back a bit and welcome you into her zone. Read more in AWARDS INTELLIGENCER...

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