From Comic-Con: #FemaleFilmmakerFunko for #FemaleFilmmakerFriday — Leslie Combemale comments

Proposed Patty Jenkins Pop, designed by Leslie Combemale

Proposed Patty Jenkins Pop, designed by Leslie Combemale

I approach San Diego Comic-Con annually as an avid supporter and passionate advocate of women in film, the perspective from which I have produced and moderated the panel Women Rocking Hollywood for the third consecutive year. The panel and my overal Comic-Con participation are a highlight of my professional year, especially because I have found Comic-Con to be quite receptive and progressive about recognizing women in film. My tenure has also pushed me to become a better critic and a bigger fan, and I’ve become an obsessive collector of Funko Pops, those wonderful figures that memorialize the characters I love. Unlike my husband, who hunts down the yearly releases that will later be found on Ebay for upwards of a thousand dollars, I buy only the occasional figure that strikes my fancy. When they DO strike my fancy, I absolutely positively must have them.Continue reading…

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Documentary Distribution 101: The Film Festival Effect — Jennifer Merin comments

Developing audiences for documentaries is a daunting task for even well-established filmmakers. Successful documentary distribution depends on audience demand, on convincing audiences that they want to purchase a ticket for a nonfiction film rather than for a narrative feature, even the weekly blockbuster that has a title that has been inked indelibly onto their psyche by big budget, aggressive and effective marketing. How does film festival exposure help documentaries to gain audience, and does a documentary’s success on the festival circuit translate into wider distribution? Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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EYE ON MEDIA: Conflicts between Civilization and Chaos in THE SQUARE — Essay by Martha P. Nochimson

the square posterSwedish writer/director Ruben Östlund explores the nature of art, the relationship between art and life, but most of all whether human nature is wired to fulfill the ideals of openness and inclusiveness that The Square embodies, a question that is particularly sensitive, painful, and timely as we battle the duly elected (?) fascist now in the White House. Östlund’s perspective, his provocative, off-beat, dry, very dark and enigmatically humorous approach to his story represents a rare expression of civilization in chaos. The Square played at New York Film Festival in 2017 and won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. Its most bizarre, surrealistic scenes are based on real events. Continue reading on EYE ON MEDIA.

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Women on Cannes Jury, Women at Tribeca Film Festival, Karen Gillian Directs First Feature — Brandy McDonnell reports

Actor-turned-filmmaker Karen Gillan premiered her first feature, The Party’s Just Beginning at Tribeca Film Festival. Held in NYC from April xx to xx, this year”/ TriBeCa Film Festival program came close to gender parity with 46 percent of its feature films directed by women. In other film festival news, Cannes, set for May 8-19, will for the first time since 2014, boast a female-majority jury, with Cate Blanchett presiding. Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Female Helmers take HALF THE PICTURE and LUKE CAGE 2. Hodson Writes BATGIRL — Brandy McDonnell reports

Amy Adrion’s documentary, Half the Picture, presents a compelling account of the horror stories female directors face. Femme-helmers will rule the set for half of the episodes of Luke CageSeason 2. Unforgettable scripter Christina Hodson has been tapped to write the Batgirl movie. Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 13, 2018: THE RIDER

motw logo 1-35Sweeping vistas and earnest, ultra-realistic performances are at the heart of Chloe Zhao’s moving drama “The Rider,” which follows the struggles of a modern cowboy after his promising rodeo career is cut short by a grave injury. The drama was filmed almost entirely on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and features Pine Ridge residents — members of the Lakota tribe — playing thinly fictionalized versions of themselves. Continue reading…

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YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE — Review by Nikki Baughan

lynne ramsay you were never posterTo say that Lynne Ramsay has a powerful understanding of film may be an obvious statement, given that she’s made several critically acclaimed, award-winning features and shorts. Yet her approach to filmmaking goes beyond a mastery of the craft to an innate appreciation of cinema’s immersive power. She is skilled at bending the rules, at ensuring that every on-screen element, whether seen or heard, is authentic to her characters, and at compelling her audience to become an active participant in the story. Nowhere is that clearer than in her new film, You Were Never Really Here. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, April 6, 2018: MABEL MABEL TIGER TRAINER

motw logo 1-35More than just the story of the remarkable Mabel Stark and her eventful life, Leslie Zemeckis’ documentary Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer is a fascinating glimpse into a world most of us will never experience, one of dangerous animals, fearless performers, and the nonstop behind-the-scenes drama of the big tent. It is also a chronicle of life of a gifted, determined and tougher than tigers woman performance artist in America from the turn of the nineteenth century to 1968. Continue reading…

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FOR WOMEN IN FILM, 2017 PRODUCED A BLOOM OF OPTIMISM ON THE HORIZON — Jennifer Merin comments

Annual stats tracking women’s work in the film industry consistently indicate that production gatekeepers are slow to welcome the work of female filmmakers, despite the recent successes of studio-backed femme-helmed and femme-centric blockbusters, and the ongoing inclusion initiatives of feminist groups such as the Alliance of Women Filmmakers and Film Fatales. However, despite the dismally static stats, AWFJ found an encouraging rise in the number of femme-centric and femme-helmed films released theatrically during 2017. Out of the 52 films we selected for #MOTW endorsement, 38 were directed by women. And, that number is even more impressive when you consider that for five of the year’s 52 weeks, we found no releasing films that met AWFJ standards for endorsement Continue reading…

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Australian Filmmaker Kim Farrant, STRANGERLAND and ANGEL OF MINE — Alexandra Heller-Nicholas comments

kim ferrantIn early February this year, Screen Australia announced that Noomi Rapace would star in Australian director Kim Farrant’s upcoming psychological thriller Angel of Mine. With a script by Oscar-nominated fellow Australian Luke Davies of Lion fame and based on Safy Nebbou’s 2008 French film The Mark of an Angel, the film is reimagined in the Australian city of Melbourne. In late March, Australian-born actor Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale) was added to the cast with the project beginning shooting in Melbourne this April. All signs are indicating that Farrant’s follow-up to her widely misunderstood but hugely impressive 2015 feature debut Strangerland starring Nicole Kidman promises to further reveal an until-now generally unrecognised Australian filmmaking talent. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, March 30: OUTSIDE IN

motw logo 1-35Lynn Shelton’s “Outside In” is a delicately rendered, poignant drama about the power of human connection. It centers on Chris (Jay Duplass, who co-wrote the screenplay with Shelton), who’s just spent 20 years in prison after being convicted of a crime that wasn’t really his fault (wrong place, wrong time). Out on parole largely due to the tireless advocacy and research work of his former English teacher, Carol (Edie Falco), Chris returns to a small Pacific Northwest town that welcomes him back but doesn’t really have any idea what to do with him. Continue reading…

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DARK RIVER: A Sense of Place in British Cinema — Essay by Nikki Baughan

As the opening credits of Clio Barnard’s Dark River play over a black screen, we hear the landscape before we see it. An evocative chorus of wind, sea and birdsong provides an immediate sense of place, before we are suddenly thrust – in extreme close-up – next to a sheep being shorn by protagonist Alice (Ruth Wilson). It’s a visceral introduction not just to the film’s central character but to her intimate relationship with her surroundings, which will prove so central to her story. It’s also an early nod from Barnard that her world of muck and sweat will be far removed from the traditional big-screen image of Britain. Dark River is the latest in a run of recent British films in which the story is closely tied to the physical environment, creating an unusually intense sense of place. Continue reading…
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Dark River is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for July 6, 2018.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 23, 2018: MADAME

motw logo 1-35Despite its (mostly) posh characters and haute Parisian dinner-party-centric premise, “Madame” isn’t just a zinger-filled drawing-room comedy. Rather, director/co-writer Amanda Sthers’ film is a cleverly satirical and easy to swallow examination of class, privilege, self worth, and the bone-deep insecurities that plague us all, whether we’re hosting luminaries or serving them coffee. Continue reading…

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MADAME — Review by Cate Marquis

Madame is a French comedy of manners from writer/director Amanda Sther, that plays with what happens when a wealthy hostess suddenly discovers that she needs one more dinner guest to avoid having the unlucky number 13, and decides to pass off her maid as one of the guests. But this is no costume drama set in the 18th century – this story takes place in modern Paris, with Harvey Keitel and Toni Collette playing the wealthy American couple, living in a Paris mansion. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, March 16, 2018: IN THE LAND OF POMEGRANATES

motw logo 1-35Anyone who’s ever wondered why the possibility of peace in the Middle East seems permanently out of reach should watch “In the Land of Pomegranates,” Hava Kohav Beller’s thoughtful, thought-provoking documentary about the bitter Palestinian/Jewish conflict. Beller, an octogenarian who previously earned an Oscar nomination for 1991′s “The Restless Conscience: Resistance to Hitler Within Germany 1933-1945,” spent more than a decade making this new film, and her patience pays off. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Inclusion tops box office with BLACK PANTHER and A WRINKLE IN TIME — Brandy McDonnell reports

Ignore the headlines about Black Panther dominating A Wrinkle in Time at the box office. Yes, the commercial and critical juggernaut that is Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther has topped earnings on the domestic cinema release list for the fourth consecutive week, relegating Ava DuVernay’s much-hyped adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s beloved femme-centric young-adult book into second place. But both movies are from Disney, which thus far has winning tickets in the inclusion category for 2018. Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Celebrating Women Cinematographers — Nikki Baughan reports

Rachel Morrison made history this year by becoming the first woman to be nominated for the best cinematography Oscar, for her raw, immersive work on Dee Rees’ Mudbound (2017). But that stellar achievement is something of a double-edged sword. It’s possible to be thrilled by her success, while also remaining frustrated that she’s the first woman to be so honoured by the Academy and that gender representation across all industry sectors remains so shameful. While the statistics are enduringly disheartening, women have been working tirelessly behind the camera since the earliest days of movies. So perhaps it’s time to replace that lament of ‘Where are the women?’ with a battle cry of ‘Here are the women’, to recognise and celebrate inclusivity were it exists, and to demand more of it. Continue reading….

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, March 9, 2018: CLAIRE’S CAMERA

motw logo 1-35Claire’s Camera is Cannes-centric. South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo set his quirky character-driven, genre-defying drama in the sun-drenched seaside resort town as the festival is taking place, but never visits the event’s star-studded glamour or industry hustle — both of which actually surrounded the film’s premiere at the festival in 2017. And, since the story is about friendship between two women, Claire’s Camera is femme-centric, too. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Strong Women behind BLACK PANTHER, Chenoweth joins TRIAL & ERROR, kids get free tix for A WRINKLE IN TIME — Brandy McDonnell reports

Marvel Studio’s “Black Panther” has been garnering praise for its mostly African-American cast and its depiction of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. But this superhero movie isn’t just a testosterone-fest. It is a showcase for smart, dynamic and capable women who are the power behind the mythical nation’s throne. Kristen Chenoweth is set to show her strength in season two of Trial & Error. And free tickets will be distributed to underprivileged kids so they can see and be inspired by Ava DuVernay‘s “A Wrinkle in Time.” Read the details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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SPOTLIGHT March 2018: Rachel Morrison, Cinematographer, Oscar Nominee for MUDBOUND

rachel morrison head 2Bringing a moving image to life takes much more than having the technical skills down pat. Capturing that collection of indelible images requires another special skillset – one that isn’t necessarily taught in school. It requires an understated ability to tap into the director’s vision and the actors’ emotions to produce breathtaking visual poetry. Cinematographer Rachel Morrison’s impressive body of work has long exhibited these traits. Rachel Morrison is a monumental cinematographer whose work is illuminated with nuance. Continue reading…

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AWFJ’s Women’s History Month Movies Watch List

Celebrate Women’s History Month by watching women-centric films that illuminate, educate and entertain. AWFJ’s curated list of films to watch during Women’s History Month ranges from mirth-filled comedies to truth-based stories of feminist activism, from gal pal road trip scenarios and inspiring biopics to exposes of the heinous evils of sexism and racism. The wide range of recommended films have one thing in common: they are all about women and they respectfully represent women’s perspectives on the social and political issues that we all face in daily life. Each film is a powerful reminder of how far we’ve come — and how much further we need to go. Women’s History Month has 31 days. We list 35 films, figuring that you might enjoy watching a feminist double bill on the weekend or your day off. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 2, 2018: OH LUCY!

motw logo 1-35A poignant ode to the need for human connection, Atsuko Hirayanagi’s Oh Lucy! (based on her own 2014 short film) is a quirky dramedy about a Tokyo office worker named Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima). When her solitary life is disrupted by a rather unusual English class taught by hug-happy American John (Josh Hartnett) — who gives her a curly blonde wig and an American name, Lucy — Setsuko starts down a path she never would have anticipated. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Fewer Female Protagonists in 2017 — Brandy McDonnell reports

Dismal stats reported in this year’s edition of the annual It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World report, released on February 22 by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, show that the number of female protagonists in Hollywood’s top grossing 100 films dropped during 2017, despite the blockbuster success of Wonder Woman and other femme-led films. Just how bad is it? Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Record-Breaking BLACK PANTHER Proves Inclusion Sells in Cinema — Brandy McDonnell reports

The combined success of the record-breaking, critical acclaim-nabbing and audience-thrilling success of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, introducing a black superhero and boasting a largely black cast, and the recent record-breaking, critical acclaim-nabbing and audience-thrilling successWonder Woman, whixh gave female filmgoers a superhero in their own image, should prove to Hollywood that inclusion sells in cinema, but will it bring real change in the making of movies? Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Godard and Sound: Acoustic Innovation in the Late Films of Jean-Luc Godard — Book Review by Moira Sullivan

Albertine Fox’s Godard and Sound (2017) is an impressive and elaborate study of the use of sound in Jean Luc Godard’s later films beginning in 1979 including his multimedia work. The study builds on the foundation of her doctoral thesis, which investigated the aural properties of film and the field of “audio spectatorship” in film criticism and scholarship. Fox’s interest in the subject developed through an appreciation of minimal music with an ‘acoustic’ echo. Repetitive identical musical patterns played in unison result in an echo, such as the music of Phillip Glass, Brian Eno and Meredith Monk. These echoes are likened to “after images” in paintings with overlapping patterns. There is also a parallel in film. Fox experienced two repetitive loops – the “soundtrack” and “the image” track “moving in parallel motion” in Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie (1962), which became the genesis of Godard and Sound. Continue reading…

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