Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read Merin's recent articles below. For her complete archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).

 

Articles by Jennifer Merin

 

Claire Ferguson Talks Storytelling, Trauma and Team Work in DESTINATION UNKNOWN –Jennifer Merin interviews

Claire FergusonIn Destination Unknown, British documentary filmmaker Claire Ferguson’s interviews with Holocaust survivors captures on film the most intimate and painful memories of traumas experienced in the Nazi death camps and the ongoing suffering they have caused throughout the victims’ lives. The survivors’ vivid descriptions are supported by archival footage. The combination of current testimony from surviving elders with images of what they lived through is absolutely devastating. Destination Unknown is an important addition to the canon of Holocaust films. Read what filmmaker Claire Ferguson has to say about making the film and the responsibilities of documentary filmmakers. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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Guest Post: Filmmaker Chanda Chevannes on Making UNFRACTURED, Activism and Refusing to ‘Play the Part’ (Exclusive)

chandra head smallOn a chilly November evening in 2014, I was sitting in a rental car outside the county jail in Watkins Glen, New York. My video camera was turned on, and resting in my lap. I had already set my white balance, exposure, and focal length. And since I had nothing to do but sit in the dark parking lot and wait, a steady stream of thoughts began to run through my mind. Or, more accurately, one thought raced around in there: Why am I doing this to myself? In the four years it took me to make my new feature documentary, I asked myself that question over and over again. Continue Reading on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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EDA Awards @ Whistler Film Festival: Feature and Shorts Nominees Announced — Jennifer Merin reports

whistler logo 2017The Alliance of Women Film Journalists and Whistler Film Festival are proud to announce the nominees for two AWFJ EDA Awards to be presented at the 2017 festival. This is the fourth consecutive year of the partnership between Whistler Film Festival and AWFJ to honor films directed by women. Whistler Film Festival nominates films for consideration. Juries are comprised of AWFJ members. The winners will be announced and the EDA Awards will be presented at the festival’s awards ceremony on December 3, 2017. Continue reading…

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Women Honored at the Critics Choice Documentary Awards — Jennifer Merin reports

ccda200Jane (as in Goodall) was awarded the top honor of Best Documentary and filmmaker Ceyda Torun’s Kedi won the award for Best First Documentary at the second annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards gala, held on November 2 at BRIC in Brooklyn, New York. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Best Femme-Helmed, Femme-Centric Films of 2017, November Update

motw logo 1-35Focusing specifically on films directed by women as well as those featuring strong female lead characters and female-centric stories, AWFJ’s Team #MOTW has endorsed more than 40 exceptional films during 2017, to date. Because we pick only one film per week for #MOTW endorsement, we’ve had to pass up a good number of superb films that qualified, but were not our collective top choice. In August we paused to list the Best Femme-Helmed, Femme-Centric Film of 2017, to Date, including #MOTW selections and others we’d particularly liked. Now that awards season is beginning, we’re updating that list to include films released from August through the end of October. Continue reading…

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Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady talk ONE OF US and Partnering with Netflix — Jennifer Merin interviews

grady ewing 3In One of Us, filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady investigate the unique lifestyle of Brooklyn’s Hassidic community. Presented in Ewing and Grady’s signature style, the highly dramatic stories of two men and a woman who want to leave the community reveal a complex and arcane culture that exists right in our midst, but is largely unknown to outsiders. Ewing and Grady talk about making One of Us and changes in documentary filmmaking during the 15-year span of their partnership. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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AWFJ is Heading for Whistler Film Festival, Nov 29- Dec 3 — Jennifer Merin reports

whistler logo 2017The Alliance of Women Film Journalists will present two juried EDA Awards for the Best Female-Directed Feature and Short Films at this year’s Whistler Film Festival (WFF) taking place from November 29 to December 3. This is the fourth consecutive year in which AWFJ has partnered with the Whistler Film Festival to honor the work of female directors whose films are being presented. Continue reading…

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JESUS CAMP — Documentary Retroview by Jennifer Merin

Jesus Camp posterDon’t mistake Jesus Camp for Godspell! Even though it’s not a thriller, Jesus Camp is a truly terrifying film. It is, in fact, a purely observational documentary, one that serves as a galvanizing cautionary revelation about Evangelical indoctrination of children in heartland America. Framed by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s resignation and confirmation of ultraconservative Samuel Alito as her successor, we witness home-schooled preteens, Levi (12), Rachael (9) and Victoria (10) delivered by their Evangelical parents unto Bible camp at Devil’s Lake, ND, where Pentecostal Children’s Minister Becky Fischer ‘hooks them up’ (her words) with Jesus. Continue reading…

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THE BEACHES OF AGNES — Retroview by Jennifer Merin

beaches of agnes posterIn The Beaches of Agnes (Les Plages d’Agnes), the legendary French filmmaker (who directed the narrative Cleo From Nine to Five and documentary The Gleaners, among other classics) revisits her childhood, presents footage of her young womanhood and tells of the start of her career as a photographer and cinematographer, of her eventual marriage to French New Wave director Jacques Demy and motherhood, and brings us up to the present. Mme Varda is 80 years old as this film releases theatrically in the U.S. in July, 2009, and she’s still going strong. Very strong. Continue reading…

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Guest Post: Dr. Albertine Fox on Sight, Sound and Feminst Perception in the Movies (Exclusive)

albertine fox 3In her soon-to-be published book, Godard and Sound: Acoustic Innovation in the Late Films of Jean-Luc Godard, Dr. Albertine Fox focuses on the iconic French director’s filmography to introduce her striking analysis of how the integration of disparate elements of sight and sound bring audiences to a heightened, transformative level of perception. In her exclusive commentary about writing the book, Dr. Fox connects sight and sound interplay to currently trending concerns about women’s representations and issues about diversity in cinema. Continue reading…

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GERMANS AND JEWS — Review by Jennifer Merin

germansandjewsNow streaming online and available on DVD, Germans & Jews, a documentary by Janina Quint and Tal Recanati, is a revelation about the contemporary cultural connection between two groups of people with a devastating history of division. It compares current trends in personal identification, political expectations and social stereotyping to those which existed during the 1930s and 40s, as prelude and during the Nazi regime. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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Yance Ford on STRONG ISLAND, Grief and Injustice — Jennifer Merin interviews

yance ford headYance Ford has been an influential member of the documentary film community for some years, working as a programmer for POV and commissioning the works of others. With Strong Island, he turns his smarts and skills to making in a highly personal documentary about the murder of his brother and the impact that heinous event had on his family. He sat down with me to discuss Strong Island, rage and grief, injustice and wonderment. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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The Evolution of FlickFilosopher.com — Jennifer Merin reports

When MaryAnn Johanson began her popular FlickFilosopher.com twenty years ago, internet film criticism was in its infancy. Reviewing screenshots taken of the site’s homepage over the past two decades shows how MaryAnn grew the site, responding to tech changes and to evolving formats for presentation. She set a distinctive style for herself and has continually pushed the envelope for other film bloggers. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Best Femme-Helmed, Femme-Centric Films of 2017, To Date

motw logo 1-35Focusing specifically on films directed by women as well as those featuring strong female lead characters and female-centric stories, AWFJ’s Team #MOTW has endorsed 31 exceptional films during 2017, to date. Because we pick only one film for our Movie of the Week endorsement, we’ve actually had to pass up a good number of other superb films that qualified, but were not our collective top choice. Now that we’ve arrived at the midway point in this year’s release schedule, we’re pausing to look back at all the films we’ve considered for #MOTW endorsement, and we are pleasantly surprised to note the volume of wonderful films made by and about women. Continue reading…

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Melbourne International Film Festival 2017′s PIONEERING WOMEN Program — Jennifer Merin reports

miff logo 1The success of Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (2014) focused international attention on Australian women filmmakers. Australia’s film feminism is being celebrated this year in special programming at the country’s two major film festivals — in the upcoming Melbourne International Film Festival’s (MIFF, August 3-30, 2017) focus on female-directed films from the 1980s and 90s, and with the just finishing Sydney Film Festival’s (June 7-18, 2017) roster of femme-helmed films from the 1960s and 70s. Continue reading

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500 YEARS — Review by Jennifer Merin

pamela yates 500 years poster500 Years is the third  and final film in Pamela Yates‘ extraordinary documentary series about the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for equality and justice in Guatemala. With her politically-charged trilogy, Yates has actually changed the course of history. 500 Years is the culmination of 35 years of filmmaker dedication to coverage of a pressing social and political issue. Stand alone or viewed with its companion films, it is a masterful example of how movies can make a difference. The film and its companion documentaries are must-sees for anyone who is interested in understanding current events and the role media can play in shaping them. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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THE FEMALE GAZE: Pamela Yates talks THE RESISTANCE SAGA, documentary commitment and challenges — Jennifer Merin interviews

pamela yates reelPamela Yates makes documentaries that make a difference. Some 35 years in the making, Yates’ The Resistance Saga, a trilogy about the Mayan people’s human rights struggle in Guatemala, actually helped change the course of history in that country. Footage from the first film became forensic evidence to convict former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt of crimes against humanity. Montt’s trial was covered in the second film, The final film, which updates us while setting the saga within the context of a long history of exploitation, abuse and genocide, opens theatrically on July 12. Read what Pamela Yates says about her career, and the challenges and opportunities inherent in documentary filmmaking on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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Filmmaker Interview: Directors Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum on LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD

letters from baghdad headshot smallLetters from Baghdad is the story of Gertrude Bell, an extraordinary women, sometimes called the “female” Lawrence of Arabia. She was a British spy, explorer and political powerhouse. Bell traveled widely in Arabia before being recruited by British military intelligence during WWI to help draw the borders of Iraq. As a result, she helped shape the modern Middle East. Read what Letters from Baghdad directors Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum have to say about Gertrude Bell, their compelling documentary and how it came to be, and the female perspective on filmmaking on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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THE END OF AMERICA — Documentary Retroview by Jennifer Merin

end-of-america-posterReleased in 2008, Ricki Stern and Anni=e Sundburg’s compelling documentary is a still timely analysis and report about the ten step blueprint to establishing a dictatorship that Hitler and other dictators used to subvert democratic process and put an end to personal freedoms. The film compares, step by step, events leading up to establishment of the Third Reich with what has happened in the United States in recent years. Very convincing. Very scary. And, before it’s absolutely too late to take action, it should be required viewing for anyone old enough to vote, pay taxes or join the army. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN…

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Ana Lily and Sofia and the Diversity Issue — Jennifer Merin comments

Ana Lily Amirpour and Sofia Coppola are female directors whose unique perspectives in filmmaking have attached the term auteur to their names and bodies of work. Yet, both directors are being tagged as ‘racist’ in criticism of their current productions. Continue reading…

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BLACKFISH – Documentary Retroview by Jennifer Merin

blackfishposterartThe theatrical release of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s first feature, Megan Leavey, suggests it’s time for another look at her award-winning animal rights documentary, Blackfish. The titular Blackfish is named Tilikum. He is arguably the world’s best known killer whale, or orca, and currently resides at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. Tilikum, who’s been captive and on display at the theme park for more than two decades, is responsible for the deaths of three human beings, including Dawn Branceau, a whale trainer working closely with Tilikum until her death in February, 2010. Continue reading full review on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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SAMI BLOOD — Review by Jennifer Merin

sami blood posterAmanda Kernell’s beautifully crafted first feature tells the heart-wrenching story of Elle-Marje, a Sami teenager taken her semi-nomadic family of reindeer herders and placed in a boarding school for assimilation into the predominant Swedish society, which considered Sami genetically inferior and capable only of menial jobs. Beautifully crafted with exceptionally skilled storytelling, spectacular cinematography, flawless editing, and stunning lead performances by first-time actresses and real life sisters Lene Cecilia Sparrok as Elle-Marje and Mia Erika Sparrok as her sister, Njenna. Sami Blood is an enlightening narrative. A must see. Read the full review on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2017: Feminist Programming — Jennifer Merin reports

humanrightswatchfflogo1The 28th Human Rights Watch Film Festival (June 9-18, 2017) presents topical and provocative feature documentaries that showcase courageous resilience in challenging times. In an era of global advances by far-right forces into the political mainstream, assaults on the free press, and the rise of “citizen journalism,” festival organizers hope that the films in this year’s program can serve as inspiration and motivation for the audience, from seasoned activists to those searching for a role in local and global movements. Ten of the 21 programmed documentary feature films are directed by women. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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MOVING MIDWAY — Documentary RetroReview by Jennifer Merin

moving midway posterGodfrey Cheshire, the noted and highly acclaimed film critic, uses his cinematic smarts and sensibility to good effect in Moving Midway, his first feature documentary about the relocation of his ancestral home, an antebellum North Carolina plantation named Midway, from its original location, now rapidly being encroached upon by Raleigh’s urban sprawl, to a more secluded and peaceful spot, still on family property, several miles away. The film is a fascinating study of family, location and changing times in the South. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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THE FIFTH ELEMENT — Review by Jennifer Merin

Luc Besson’s classic femme-centric scifi actioner is being re-released in theaters to mark the film’s 20th anniversary. Concurrently, SONY is preparing a special edition Blu-ray/DVD, which will be available in July 2917. As the new version of Wonder Woman is about to blockbust her way into into women’s psyches, it’s the perfect time for The Fifth Element to appear again on the big screen and re-establish her place among our galaxy of superstar cinematic female heroines. Read full review on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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