THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Chastain, Thurman, Adams and ‘Captain Marvel’ in the News — Brandy McDonnell reports

Jessica Chastain’s strong stand on equal pay, Uma Thurman to head Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury, Amy Adams will receive the American Cimemateque Award. Ama Boden and Ryan Fleck tapped to helm ‘Captain Marvel,’ and more news in this week’s THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Women’s Media Summit in P-town — Loren King reports

Most cinephiles know that there’s a gender gap in today’s Hollywood. The question is, what can be done about it? “This is not a fight about jobs. This is a fight about how our stories are told. This is a fight about the perspective from which our universal stories emerge,” notes Maria Giese, a film director who in 2015 instigated an industry-wide federal investigation into discrimination against female directors in Hollywood. Giese joined Christine Walker, CEO of the Provincetown Film Society, and Caroline Heldman of the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media to organize the recent Women’s Media Summit in Provincetown. Continue reading…

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The street fight between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs is the subject of Director Matt Tyrnauer’s new film Citizen Jane: Battle for the City. The film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and opened the DOC NYC Festival, is now entering theatres across the country. Despite the fact that the majority of the action took place more than 50 years ago, it could not be more timely. Continue reading…

citizen jane posterIn 1955, Robert Moses had amassed near-supreme power in New York City, installing bridges, tunnels and public housing on a mass scale. But his plan to bisect Washington Square Park with a four-lane roadway was met with unexpected opposition the form of one Jane Jacobs: mother, journalist, and unlikely activist, who roused her neighbourhood of Greenwich Village, and set about stopping Moses dead in his tracks.

The story has inspired essays, articles, and even an opera, but the pair only met once in real life. Jacobs described the moment in an interview with James Howard Kunstler: “He was there briefly to speak his piece. But nobody was told that at the time. None of us had spoken yet because they always had the officials speak first and then they would go away and they wouldn’t listen to the people. Anyway, he stood up there gripping the railing, and he was furious at the effrontery of this, and I guess he could already see that his plan was in danger. Because he was saying: ‘There is nobody against this – NOBODY, NOBODY, NOBODY but a bunch of … a bunch of MOTHERS!’ And then he stomped out.”

Tyrnauer captures the larger ideas, detailing not only the history and ideology that fuelled the high modernism of the 1950s and 60s, but also uncovering the archetypal clash embodied in the film’s two main combatants. In essence: male versus female, top down against bottom up, and, most fundamentally, destroyer versus creator. Where Moses saw festering rot and urban chaos described as a cancer that needed be surgically removed, Jacobs saw diversity and density, life thronged with messy and competing voices, alive, pulsing, and complex.

After his initial roadway project was defeated, Moses circled back around, designating large swathes of Greenwich Village as “blighted”, a slum that required extensive redevelopment. Again, Jacobs sprang into action, organizing protests, rallies, and even getting arrested.

Jacobs went on to publish her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, becoming herself a lodestone of influence for generations of urban planners. But the fight that Jacobs started is far from over. When asked after the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, what he hoped the takeaway would be, the director stated: “Jacobs was fearless in speaking truth to power, the model of a citizen soldier. Her story resonates today, as we are faced with a president — an international developer, no less, of luxury towers — who throws around the terms ‘urban renewal’ and ‘American carnage.’ The film can be seen as a playbook for people who want to defend vulnerable minority communities everywhere. Certainly in this country, but also in the developing world, entrepreneurs and governments collude routinely to uproot low-income sections of cities in favor of towers for the rich. That is in large part what Jacobs was writing about, and it’s happening all over again, on a much bigger scale.”– – Dorothy Woodend

Team #MOTW Comments:

Anne Brodie: Matt Tyrnauer’s galvanizing documentary Citizen Jane: Battle for the City describes how a writer turned activist helped turn the tide and saved our cities. Jacobs knew a city’s value is in the well being of its citizens and the places they frequented – sidewalks, parks, neighbourhoods – made life safe and pleasant. Le Corbusier’s idea of stark modernism, which meant wiping the “old” to make way for the new – soulless superblock residential towers, expressways through the heart of the city and its communities, she felt was an insidious lie. This wave nearly did sweep North America fifty years ago but heroine Jane’s movement grew and as a result, some plans were abandoned, some blocks were torn down and the movement to build was tamed for a time. They didn’t work, they created slums, danger, and criminality. Jacobs arguments helped saved New York and Toronto from greedy city planners at the time when the environmental and feminist movements were taking off, a trifecta of win-win. China is now in the throes of Le Corbu modernisation, building city after city of dense superblocks that will according to Jacobs result in a long-term threat to well-being. Archival footage of Jacobs being a warrior, speaking out, reasoning and marching stirs the pulse. Her eagerness to go into battle was our good fortune. Good thing she can’t see the condo superblocks today.

Betsy Bozdech: Watching “Citizen Jane,” it’s impossible not to wish that Jane Jacobs was still with us, continuing to put her grit and determination to use organizing the kind of passionate protests that helped her fight for the heart and soul of America’s urban landscape. Deftly mixing historical footage with insightful interviews, Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary manages to make the topic of city planning engaging and relevant, all while introducing us to a woman who deserves a statue in one of the parks she worked so hard to save.

Jennifer Merin: At a time when cinemaphiles and the world at large are clamoring for positive female images and strong women as role models on the screen, Matt Tyrnauer’s Citizen Jane: Battle for the City introduces us to Jane Jacobs, the author and activist whose social and political engagement preserved NYC neighborhoods for the people who live in them. Jane Jacobs is a superb role model, and director Matt Tyrnauer’s remarkable biodoc is a blueprint of how one woman can make an enduring difference. This inspiring film is a must-see.


Title: Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

Director: Matt Tyrnauer

Release Date: April 21, 2017

Running Time: 92 minutes

Language: English

Principal Cast: Documentary about Jane Jacobs, author and activist.

Screenwriters: Matt Tyrnauer (Director), Daniel Morfesis (Editor)

Production Company: Altimeter Films

Distributor: IFC/Sundance Selects


Official Site:

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Thelma Adams, Anne Brodie, Betsy Bozdech, Cynthia Fuchs, Pam Grady, Leba Hertz, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sheila Roberts, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna, Jeanne Wolf, Dorothy Woodend

Other Movies Opening This Week

Written by Betsy Bozdech, edited by Jennifer Merin, social media by Sandra Kraisirideja

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Carrie Fisher, Cate Blanchett, Reba McEntire and more… — Brandy McDonnell reports

Star Wars fans have their last opportunity to see Carrie Fisher as princess-turned-general Leia Organa in Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, due in December. Cate Blanchett is Marvel’s first female villain, Reba McEntire to star in Red Blooded on TV, and Beauty and the Beast tops $1-billion. THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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motw logo 1-35Melancholy and moving, Heal the Living is a quiet, affecting French drama about organ donation. It weaves multiple characters’ stories together as it explores both the heartbreaking loss and the heady promise of renewed life. 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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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Caro and Chastain challenge status quo, Robbie scores revisionist ROBIN HOOD, Ivy Film Fest plays women composers and more — Brandy McDonnell reports

Set to direct Disney’s live action remake of Mulan, Niki Caro becomes the fourth woman director to helm a $100-million movie. Jessica Chastain says she is looking for roles that push against societal constraints. Margot Robbie set to star in Marian, a revisionist version of the macho Robin Hood tale. Women composers are featured at this year’s Ivy Film Festival, Brown University’s student-run showcase. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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The Zookeeper’s Wife is a powerful, emotional ​fact-based ​drama about both the depth of human suffering experienced during World War II and the remarkable courage and strength of character that ordinary women and men demonstrated when their friends’ and neighbors’ lives were in danger. Jessica Chastain stars as Antonina Zabinska, a warm, gentle wife, mother, and animal lover who helps her husband, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh), run the Warsaw Zoo in late-1930s Poland. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: “BEAUTY” takes Box Office , Goldie Hawn is named Icon and more — Brandy McDonnell reports

In this week’s news wrap, Beauty and the Beast continues its box-office dominance, while CinemaCon names the inimitable Goldie Hawn at its Cinema Icon, and the legacy of legendary Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds is remembered at an afternoon memorial with music, memories and more than a few tears at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Read more in THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ sets box office records for female-fueled films – Brandy McDonnell reports

beauty and the beast posterDisney’s live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” proved magical, AWFJ’s #MOTW for March 17, has set several box-office records during its first weekend in theaters. The lavish movie-musical version of the fairytale story conjured up an incredible $170 million in North America and $350 million globally. It is the biggest debut of all time for a female-fueled film, proving yet again that female protagonists are strong both on screen and at the box office. The numbers underscore the buying power of women and girls. On Friday, more than 70 percent of ticket buyers were females, with the overall weekend percentage at 60 percent, per Disney’s numbers as cited by The Hollywood Reporter. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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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

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It may be a “tale as old as time,” but there’s plenty that’s new and fresh in Disney’s live-action take on one of folklore’s most enduring opposites-attract stories. First and foremost is Emma Watson as Belle, the independent, book-loving French girl who dreams of “adventure in the great wide somewhere” and ends up the captive of the surly, bitter, cursed Beast (Dan Stevens) after trading her own freedom for her father’s (Kevin Kline). Watson’s Belle is smart, confident, courageous, and feisty — she adds a welcome dash of our beloved Hermione to a character who was already considered one of Disney’s more admirable, self-sufficient princesses. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: King Kong’s leading lady gets a much-needed upgrade — Brandy McDonnell reports

skull island brie larsonKong: Skull Island emerged as box office king, debuting at No. 1 with a $61 million take. The latest cinematic outing for the “eighth wonder of the world” topped international charts, too, earning $81.6 million from 66 territories. Since this version of Kong is here to stay for a while, it’s a good thing the director and screenwriters Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Max Borenstein (Godzilla) and Derek Connolly (Jurassic World) gave the female lead (Brie Larson) an overhaul nearly as dramatic as the supersizing of the gigantic gorilla. She’s a seasoned and fearless “anti-war photographer” who doesn’t tote a gun, but gets her team out of harrowing encounters with the Skull Island’s myriad monsters. She’s first to empathize with Kong and realize he’s not the mindless killing machine soldiers and scientists believe him to be. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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Kristen Stewart on Personal Transformation and PERSONAL SHOPPER — Loren King interviews

kristen stewartThe megastar of the Twilight franchise when she was barely out of her teens is now a respected indie actress with a prodigious output. Last year alone, she won praise for roles in Woody Allen’s Cafe Society, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, and Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and directed a short film, Come Swim. Oh, and she hosted Saturday Night Live, delivering an opening monologue that affirmed her coming out, while also skewering her own tabloid fame. Read more>>

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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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Oscars 2017: A Compendium of AWFJ Members’ Views — Jennifer Merin reports

oscar trophyOur goal is to present a compendium of AWFJ members’ perspectives on Oscars 2017. Not surprisingly, the views vary widely from utter enthusiasm to complete dismay, with mix of meh in between. Quite a few of our members opted out of the project, claiming awards burn out, indicating frustrations with the Academy’s new press procedures and/or stating that this year’s entire awards campaign and media buildup was either too political or not political enough. Read what Jeanne Wolf, Susan Wloszczyna, Moira Sullivan, Diana Saenger, Sheila Roberts, Nell Minow, Brandy McDonnell, Michelle McCue, Karen Martin, Kimberly Lindbergs, Leba Hertz, Candice Frederick, Marilyn Ferdinand, Chaz Ebert, Katherine Brodsky, Liz Braun, Betsy Bozdech and Erica Abeel have to say about Oscar 2017 on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER…

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Oscars 2017: Opportunity for More Creativity on Stage — Katherine Brodsky comments (Exclusive)

oscar logoThis year had several worthy nominees and they were well-recognized. Although as a whimsical musical fan, I was rooting for “La La Land” as Best Picture, having finally caught up on “Moonlight” a few nights prior, I recognized what a great film it was as well. But here’s a sad fact: This year’s Oscar ceremony will be remembered most for the hiccup at the end rather than anything in between. Every year, I tune in to the Oscars telecast hoping for a great show, thinking that this year will be the one. Read more on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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Oscars 2017: Poise Under Pressure — Sheila Roberts comments (Exclusive)

oscar logoEtched indelibly in my mind about the Oscars this year is how graciously the presenters and the filmmakers from “La La Land” and “Moonlight” handled the confusion that ensued on stage after the wrong Best Picture was announced. Noteworthy was the leadership of “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz who took charge and stepped in to clarify what had gone wrong, even when it meant acknowledging his own loss. It was done with a lot of class, dignity, and poise under pressure. Read more on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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Oscars 2017: Victories for ‘Moonlight,’ ‘La La Land’ and Viola Davis — Brandy McDonnell reports (Exclusive)

oscar logoIn a twist ending that only Hollywood could dream up, “Moonlight” won best picture Sunday night after a mixed-up finish at the 89th Academy Awards. Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Emmy, a Tony and an Oscar for acting. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: 2017 Oscars set records but women are still underrepresented — Brandy McDonnell reports

oscar logoThis year’s Oscar nods are good news and bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way, especially since I’m sure it will come to no surprise to industry watchers or regular readers of this blog. Despite a slew of attention-getting films such as “Jackie,” “Arrival” and “Hidden Figures.” all featuring featuring strong, complex women as leading characters, the number of female Oscar nominees for behind-the-scenes roles dropped among this year’s Academy Award nominations. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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WISH UPON — Preview by Liz Whittemore

What sets a horror film apart from all the others? A great trailer that engages fans’ curiosity, for one thing. But add another element for young fans to play with while waiting for said anticipated film? There’s your winner, and it’s Wish Upon. Read more on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM.

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A United Kingdom is director Amma Asante’s earnest, thought-provoking drama about the real-life passion between Botswana’s beloved Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and Englishwoman Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). Set in post-WWII England and Africa, the film sheds light on an important, still-relevant slice of history, addressing issues of race, politics, and colonialism while also telling a heartwarming love story. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: The Women of HIDDEN FIGURES — Brandy McDonnell Reports

hidden-figures-5Once the feel-good film of awards season, ‘Hidden Figures’ is now a big winner and a big moneymaker. Throughout this film awards cycle, Hidden Figures has been the crowd-pleasing, uplifting fan favorite. This weekend, the fact-based period drama about the African-American women who worked behind the scenes at NASA during the space race won the top prize at the SAG Awards and crossed the $100 million mark at the domestic box office. Will the film’s success make a difference? The real women whose stories are told in the film hope it will. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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Salma Hayek, Jessica Williams and Jill Soloway Spar at Sundance — Thelma Adams reports

The roots of the women’s brunch brouhaha that emerged between Hayek and Williams and extended out to include those present including Shirley MacLaine and Alfre Woodard were generational, racial and sexual, reflecting the larger critical split in the women’s movement beyond the petri dish of the Sundance Film Festival. Read more>>

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On Making SEEING IS BELIEVING: WOMEN DIRECT – Guest Post by Filmmaker Cady McClain

cady mcclain headshotCady McClain has been speaking to female directors, chronicling their stories for her serialized documentary, Seeing is Believing: Women Direct. Interviewees include Sarah Gavron, Lee Grant, Meera Menon, Betty Thomas and other accomplished directors, as well as next generation women filmmakers just blazing career paths. Not yet ready for release, Seeing is Believing: Women Direct elucidates skills needed to succeed as a woman director; women mentor women by sharing their experiences via filmed interviews. Here, McClain writes about her filmmaking process, why she’s making this documentary and what she’s learning from doing so. Read more on THE FEMALE GAZE

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