MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 17: THE BREADWINNER

motw logo 1-35The Breadwinner is a powerful, gorgeously animated film about Parvana, a remarkable little girl caught in untenable circumstances in Taliban-controlled Kabul, Afghanistan. From the studio and filmmakers who previously gave us The Secret of Kells and other animated gems, “The Breadwinner” isn’t your typical mainstream “cartoon” fare. Based on the same-named novel by Deborah Ellis (who has co-screenwriting credit with Anita Doron), director Nora Twomey’s remarkable film tells a deep, thoughtful story replete with elements of both pain and joy, despair and hope. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Varda and Tomlin Honored, Nowlin Plays PTSD Woman Vet, Sexual Harassment Help Line Set

Legendary French filmmaker Agnes Varda, now age 89, receives an honorary Oscar in Hollywood, while The Society of Voice Arts & Sciences has bestowed upon Lily Tomlin the Voice Arts Icon Award, presented at New York’s Lincoln Center. Actress Kate Nowlin weighs in on what it’s like to play a war veteran suffering from PTSD in Blood Stripe, which she also co-scripted. The tsunami of stories out sexual harassment continues to sweep through the entertainment industry and Women in Film Los Angeles is launching a sexual harassment hot line to help those who have suffered unwanted sexual attention for decades to overcome the trauma. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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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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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 10: MUDBOUND

motw logo 1-35Telling the intertwining stories of two families — one white, one black — living on the same piece of rural Mississippi farmland in the 1940s, Dee ReesMudbound blends strong performances, notable cinematography, and heartbreaking human drama. It’s clear things are going to get grim from the opening sequence, in which adult brothers Henry and Jamie McAllan (played by Jason Clarke and Garrett Hedlund, respectively) try to bury their father despite the onslaught of a torrential downpour, which leaves both men shaken and covered in mud. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Jolie and Loung Ung Honored, WONDER WOMAN Top Grosser, The Guardian’s Women’s Cinema Canon

Filmmaker, actor and activist Angelina Jolie and author-activist Loung Ung will receive the Hollywood Foreign Language Film Award at the 21st Annual Hollywood Film Awards for their critically-acclaimed film “First They Killed My Father,” which is also Cambodia’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. ‘Wonder Woman’ sill soars at the box office to become the top-grossing superhero origin film. Writer-directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s “Loving Vincent” sets new standards in animation art. The Guardian proposes a new cinematic canon chosen by women. Note that the members of the Alliance of Women Film Journalist created a Top 100 Films list a decade ago in response to AFI’s heavily male dominated Top 100 Films List. And the beat goes on. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN...

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SPOTLIGHT November 2017: Dee Rees, Independently Epic Filmmaker, Director MUDBOUND

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With just a few films to her credit, director Dee Rees is already making an assured and unique mark on American cinema. She brings mature talent, technical skill, and creative vision, all while being true to herself as a gay African-American woman. Available November 17, her latest film Mudbound vividly demonstrates she can extend her intimately emotional filmmaking to an epic scale. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 3, 2017: 11/8/16

motw logo 1-35Anticipation. Excitement. Hope. Worry. Fear. Anger. Despair. On November 8, 2016 — election day — tens of millions of Americans felt one, many, or all of those emotions, no matter who they voted for. And the wide-ranging, collaborative documentary “11/8/16″ brings all of those big feelings right back to the forefront as it chronicles a day that many of us wish we could forget (or at least do over) but that history will always remember. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Femme-Helmed Horror, Kids and Horror, and A Scary Project for Tracy Oliver

Special for Halloween, we’ll tell you where to get the creeps with horror movies directed by women, you can weigh in on the age at which young kids should be introduced to the chills and gore of the horror genre, and get the scoop on Girls Trip co-writer Tracy Oliver’s new project — she’s inked to adapt and direct the young adult best seller scarer, “Survive the Night.” Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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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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Horror Movies and Kids: A Scary Combination — Betsy Bozdech, Liz Whittemore, Nell Minow, Brandy McDonnell and Jennifer Merin comment

scary movies 4A new CableTV survey about horror movies that’s making the rounds this pre-Halloween week reveals, among other things, that the average age at which the (presumably adult) respondents saw their first horror movie was 7.2 years old. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that today’s kids are in the same boat, we’ve all noticed members of the PG crowd at decidedly R-rated movies — in fact, my 7-year-old daughter’s second-grade classmate recently told her that he’d seen “It.” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK: October 27: NOVITIATE

motw logo 1-35If your idea of life in mid-20th-century convents is all about kindly nuns solving problems like Maria and climbing every mountain, Novitiate will be a real eye-opener. Writer/director Margaret Betts’ first feature-length drama tells the sometimes-bleak story of Cathleen (Margaret Qualley), an earnest young woman from Tennessee who decides to take the veil in the early 1960s, on the eve of the far-reaching Vatican II reforms that would change traditional church life forever. Continue reading…

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In Memory of Sandra Kraisirideja Orion — Guest Post by Edward Douglas

sandrakraisiridejaIt’s been hard to write this, because I’m still quite devastated by the fact that Sandra Kraisirideja Orion — or “Sandy K,” as I knew her for so long — is no longer with us. It’s a cliché for sure, but one that was entirely true: to know Sandy was to love her. There are few people on this planet who have as warm a smile and personality as Sandy did, one that could make you feel good just being around her. I was lucky to be able to spend time with her when I was at West Coast events and in Vegas for ShoWest. I cherish every minute I got to hang out with her even more now. Continue reading…

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11/8/16 — Review by Anne Brodie

11-8-16 posterI’d love to see the team of Periscope wielding documentarians who filmed 11/8/16 gather together the folks they interviewed on the day and night of the 2016 presidential election to see how they feel about Trump now. He’s accomplished nothing of value, he’s let down his “people” badly, alienated himself from the international community, burned bridges and normalised hatred and fascism. I can’t believe we’re using the word “fascism” to describe a thing happening in the US in 2017. Continue reading…

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Angela Robinson on PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN — Julide Tanriverdi interviews

angela robinson on set with cameraProfessor Marston and the Wonder Woman” tells the story of the man who created the female superhero. Consider it the other Wonder Woman movie, and it’s an indie. Like most indies it took writer/director Angela Robinson some time to get her movie made. She worked on the script on nights and weekends for over four years. Then it took another four years to get the film financed. Robonson had been a lifelong fan of Wonder Woman and was obsessed not only with the superhero but also with her creator, William Moulton Marston. He led a fascinating double life because he was hiding his polyamorous relationship with his wife and mistress. Interviewed by AWFJ.org at the Toronto International Film Festival, Angela Robinson spoke about why she needed to tell the Marston family story on screen. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 20: THE DIVINE ORDER

motw logo 1-35Several decades after the Sexual Revolution swept across the United States (and around the world) during the late 1960s, it’s all too easy to gloss over just how earth-shattering a change the movement for greater feminine freedom made in the lives of so many women and their families, and to women’s roles in society. Petra Volpe’s entertaining political dramedy, The Divine Order, tells the story of unstoppable women who defied local traditions and oppressive husbands to fight for greater personal freedom. The film offers a compelling reminder of why we must continue to press forward for women’s rights. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Judd and Mirren Honored, Chenoweth Cast and Weinstein Ousted! — Brandy McDonnell reports

In an unprecedented move, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has terminated Harvey Weinstein’s membership, following the storm stirred by revelations of his sexual harassment of actresses and other women in his employ. Ashley Judd, who has spoken out about Weinstein’s transgressions, is to receive The Women’s Media Center’s Speaking Truth to Power Award on Oct. 26 at Capitale in New York City. Helen Mirren has been named the recipient of The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 45th annual Chaplin Award, to be presented at a gala on April 30, 2018. Kristin Chenoweth has signed on to star in and produce the ABC pilot “The Real Fairy Godmother,” playing a self-absorbed “real housewife” who learns that she’s descended from a secret order of Fairy Godmothers and is destined to use her magical abilities to help those in need. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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THE FALL OF TOXIC MASCULINITY AND THE RISE OF FEMININE CONSCIOUSNESS — Chaz Ebert comments

WE WOULD ALL LIKE TO BELIEVE that the “casting couch” in Hollywood had vanished over time as a relic of a less-enlightened age. People in the entertainment industry, particularly certain men in power, minimized this tradition of abuse, likening it to a rite of passage. But as a former lawyer who has handled sexual harassment cases, I can affirm that this “ritual” of men in power taking advantage of the powerless and vulnerable with unwanted sexual advances or unpermitted touching and verbal and physical abuse is entirely unacceptable and illegal, and in some cases constitutes criminal sexual assault. 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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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 13, 2017: TAKE MY NOSE…PLEASE!

motw logo 1-35Any woman who’s ever felt dissatisfied with any aspect of her appearance — so, pretty much every woman — will find something to relate to in “Take My Nose … Please!” Documentarian Joan Kron (directing her first film at the age of 89!) blends her subjects’ personal stories with a broader survey of the media’s impact on female body image to create a film that’s simultaneously provocative and empathetic (as well as frequently laugh-out-loud funny). Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Taymor Hired, Weinstein Fired and Cameron is Still at It — Brandy McDonnell reports

Julie Taymor will helm a coming-of-age biopic about feminist journalist and activist Gloria Steinem, based on Steinem’s bestselling memoir My Life on the Road, adapted for the screen by Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Sarah Ruhl. Harvey Weinstein was terminated from The Weinstein Company Sunday following last week’s New York Times expose detailing decades of sexual abuse allegations made against the Oscar-winning producer by employees and actresses including Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, among others. James Cameron is still trying to terminate feminist positivity about Wonder Woman, asserting that bustier-clad Gal Gadot is too beautiful to be groundbreaking. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 6, 2017: FACES PLACES

motw logo 1-35Celebrated filmmaker Agnes Varda is no stranger to making films about everyday, relatable people — including herself. FACES PLACES, her collaboration with photographer/artist J.R. (he’s known only by his initials), chronicles the pair’s friendship and partnership while introducing audiences to a wide range of French people, who share their communities and fascinating stories with Varda and J.R. in exchange for powerful, personalized public art installations. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT October 2017: Agnès Varda, Filmmaker, Honorary Oscar Recipient, Director of FACES PLACES

“You decide you do something, then you are totally ready for things to happen.” Agnès Varda, on YouTube

agnes headsho croppedawfjspotlightsmallsmallFilm director Agnès Varda was talking about her process for creating documentaries, but she might as well have been talking about her storied career as the only female director of the French New Wave. Over her 63 years (and counting) of filmmaking, Varda has created a vast body of work composed not only of documentaries, but also short films and features. She is also an accomplished photographer. And now, at age 89, Varda has a new film and a new honor to add to her crowded list of awards and recognitions. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Focus on Feminism and Diversity in TE ATA — Brandy McDonnell reports

te ata 1 croppedTe Ata brings a trailblazing Native American storyteller’s story to the screen. Q’orianka Kilcher plays the Chickasaw actress who introduced her people’s legends to audiences worldwide. Born in Indian Territory, Mary Frances Thompson grew up steeped Chickasaw lore. Drama teachers at Oklahoma College for Women encouraged her to weave American Indian stories into her performances. Taking the name “Te Ata,” (“bearer of the morning”), she left Broadway theater to share Native American stories – a path leading to her White House performance at President Franklin Roosevelt’s first state dinner in 1933. Te Ata continued storytelling even as the federal Code of Indian Offenses prohibited American Indians from practicing their culture. The film was produced by the Chickasaw Nation, who wanted to tell the story their way. Read about the production and what screenwriter Jennie Barbour has to say about it on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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TIFF 2017: Best and Noteworthy Films — Julide Tanriverdi comments

tiff logoIt’s the one question that people keep asking you after you return from a film festival: Which movie did you like best? That is obviously not always easy to answer since there is a vast selection (this year TIFF showed more than 200 films). I was able to watch only 21 of them within a week. These are my personal picks. Continue reading…

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