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

 

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…

read more

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…

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

AWFJ EDA Awards @ DOXA 2017: The Winners!

As DOXA 2017 draws to a close, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists is delighted to announce the winners of this year’s EDA Awards for Best Female-Directed Feature and Best Female-Directed Short’ both presented at the festival’s awards ceremony on Saturday, May 13 in Vancouver. Continue reading…

read more

AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Heather White on COMPLICIT

HEATHER WHITEWhile people in the West use smartphones to live healthier, happier lives, the construction of such devices has horrific health effects on the people who actually make them. Complicit shines a light on the dark irony of the global electronic manufacturing industry in China, where 90% of the world’s consumer electronics are produced, including 70% of its cell phones. Read what Complicit co-direcxtor Heather White has to say about her compelling expose on THE FEMALE GAZE.

read more

AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Jessica Kingdon on COMMODITY CITY

JESSICA KINGDON DOXA HEADChina’s Yiwu Market is one of the largest shopping complexes in the world. Gorgeously shot, thematically focused and politically resonant, Jessica Kingdon’s ethnographic essay film blurs the boundary between consumer goods and the humans who sell them. Malls consume more than they are consumed, Small spaces, time lost,immersion in distraction. Read what Jessica Kingdon has to say about the making and meaning of her film on THE FEMALE GAZE.

read more

AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Julia Hechler on LES CLOYS

julia hechler doxa2017In a particular Parisian neighborhood, residents have devised a means of establishing their own cultural identity and reclaiming their person power through the creation of a slanguage they call Verlan (back to front). American filmmaker Julia Hechler captures their trending tongue on film. Read what she has to say about the importance of language, getting to know your subjects and her next career moves on THE FEMALE GAZE.

read more

AWFJ EDA Awards @DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Cat Mills on FIXED!

cat mills doxa filmmakerRepair cafes are popping up around the world as a community-based antidote to throwaway culture. In Cat Mills’ EDA Award-nominated short, Fixed!, we get a glimpse inside Canada’s first repair cafe in Toronto, where a team of dedicated volunteers are helping their neighbors, one fix at a time. Read what she has to say about her beautifully crafted film, its riveting subjects, and her career. Read more on THE FEMALE GAZE

read more

AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Clara van Gool on VOICES OF FINANCE

van gool doxa short 2017 filmmakerDutch filmmaker Clara van Gool’s short dance documentary takes us to London’s bleak financial district, where traders, bankers, and hedge fund managers describe an atavistic society, blood red in tooth and claw. As they move through the city streets, bodies become a metaphor for the extremity of an industry that twists and bends human nature into torturous form. Read what Clara van Gool has to say about making the film, dance as metaphor and her career on THE FEMALE GAZE.

read more

AWFJ EDA Awards @ DOXA Filmmaker Interview: Elisa Chee on LUCY

elisa chee filmmaker doxaNominated for the AWFJ EDA Award or Best Female-Directed Short at DOXA 2017, Vancouver-based filmmaker Elisa Chee uses masterful animation to recall the story of a domesticated chimpanzee called Lucy and a human named Janis Carter, the caretaker who made it her life’s work to rehabilitate Lucy and return her to her natural environment. Read what she has to say about her beautifully crafted short film, its subjects, animation in documentaries and her career on THE FEMALE GAZE.

read more

AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Alexandra Gaulupeau on LIFE AT A SNAIL’S PACE

alexandra gaulupeau for doxa2017.Filmmaker Alexandra Gaulupeau takes us into the unique world of Marla Coppolino, a malacologist (snail expert), artist and self-proclaimed spokesperson for the largely misunderstood diminutive species of land snails. Through the creation of elaborate miniature scenes and cello scores, Coppolino displays her own mighty appreciation for the tiny, slimy (and surprisingly sexy) creatures! Read what Alexandra Gaulupeau has to say about making her first film, microphotography and mini-budgeting and connecting people to the natural world on THE FEMALE GAZE

read more

AWFJ EDA AWARD @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Yan Chun Su on DROKPA

yan_chun_su_headshot 2Filmmaker Yan Chun Su’s gorgeous observational film captures life on the Tibetan Plateau. The last of Tibet’s drokpa (nomads) lead herds of yak and sheep over hilly grasslands. No longer limitless and free- ranging, they move across sections of pasture, now allotted to them by the Chinese government. Read what Yan Chun Su has to say about the changing environment, nomadic life, organic filmmaking and her career on THE FEMALE GAZE.

read more

AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Claire Simon on LE CONCOURS

claire simon 275Le Concours, translated as “The Entrance Exam,” is an in-depth and intimate look at the students applying to La Fémis, one of the world’s most famous and prestigious film, where filmmaker Claire Simon was Head of Directing Studies. As the budding cinéastes struggle to find a place, the narrative spends a good deal of time with their interlocutors, pulling back the curtain to reveal the depth of seriousness and care that is extended to the students. Impassioned arguments about merit, and the very nature of cinema are hurled into the air. Read what Claire Simon has to say about her most recent project on THE FEMALE GAZE.

read more

AWFJ EDA Awards @ DOXA: Films and Juries

For the second consecutive year, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists is partnering with DOXA Documentary Film Festival to present EDA Awards for best female-directed films at the 16th annual festival, to be held from May 4 to 14, in Vancouver, BC. doxa logo 2017DOXA programmers have nominated female-directed films in two EDA Awards categories: Best Female-Directed Feature Length Documentary and Best Female-Directed Documentary Short. EDA Awards juries for both categories are comprised exclusively of AWJF members. Continue reading…

read more

CASTING JONBENET — Review by Jennifer Merin

casting jonbenet posterCasting JonBenet is a deeply disturbing documentary that delves into the still unsolved murder mystery in the case of JonBenet Ramsey, and how the story of the six-year old beauty pageant queen whose short life was apparently filled with abuse has impacted America’s psyche. Rather than representing the circumstances surrounding the actual murder or attempting to solve the mystery, filmmaker Kitty Green plumbs public opinion and explores the social impact of the case by “auditioning” prospective cast members for a proposed truth-based drama about JonBenet and the infamous murder. Read the full review on CINEMA CITIZEN.

read more

THE INVISIBLE WAR (2012) — RetroReview by Jennifer Merin

invisible-war-poster-artConsidering that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, this is a good time to take another look at The Invisible War, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s compelling documentary about the rape of soldiers — women and men, but mostly women — in the U.S. military. As the film indicates, some 20 percent of enlistees report an assault, though the actual number is suspected to be almost double that. Additionally, the number of reported incidents is about double the number of reported rapes in the civilian world. There is systematic cover up of incidents, although authorities declare a zero tolerance policy. Nothing much has changed since the film’s 2012 release. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

read more

MR. UNTOUCHABLE (2007) — RetroReview by Jennifer Merin

mr untouchable posterHe was the ultimate Harlem gangster. The New York Times Magazine dubbed Leroy “Nicky” Barnes Mr. Untouchable, and he lived large on the millions of dollars he made as head honcho in Harlem’s heroin trade. It was a business he ran ruthlessly, until 1977, when he was arrested, he turned State’s evidence and disappeared into the witness protection program. In Marc Levin’s fine documentary Barnes emerges from the shadows, sort of. The documentary is emerging from the archives at Harlem’s Maysles Cinema on April 18. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

read more

THE FENCE: Documentary RetroView by Jennifer Merin

the fence poster rory kennedyDo We Want or Need a Fence Along the US-Mexico Border? Rory Kennedy’s 2010 documentary provides the answers, chronicling fence history from 2008, when the US government decided to build a 700-mile long fence along the 2000-mile border with Mexico. Intended to block terrorists and illegal immigrants from entering the country, the fence was built by 19 construction companies, 350 engineers, thousands of construction workers using tens of thousands of tons of metal — at a cost of $3-billion. Filmmaker Rory Kennedy uses statistics, archival and new footage, interviews with experts and humorous commentary to investigate the project’s impact and question its value, effectiveness and ethics. Read more on CINEMA CITIZEN

read more

National Film Board of Canada aims for gender parity by 2020 — Jennifer Merin reports

nfblogoGovernment Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson Claude Joli-Coeur announced that the NFB is aiming to achieve gender parity (50 percent) in key creative positions for animated, documentary and interactive works in production as of 2020. The initiative targets editing, cinematography, screenwriting and music composition and includes key creative positions related to animation and immersive/interactive storytelling, where women are decidedly in the minority—positions such as art director, art designer and creative technologist. Read more on THE FEMALE GAZE

read more

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…

read more