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

 

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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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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