motw logo 1-35Twenty years after it cleaned up at the box office while simultaneously polarizing critics, Luc Besson’s colorful, action-packed sci-fi extravaganza is as bonkers as ever. It has elements that are reminiscent of both “Total Recall” (1990) and “Stargate” (1994), but “The Fifth Element” is loudly, proudly its own beast — and it all hinges on Milla Jovovich’s iconic performance. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: MANKILLER sets Premier, Female Directors at LAFF and DOXA, Robbie’s DREAMLAND

Mankiller, a documentary about Wilma Mankiller, the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation, will premiere in July at LA Film Festival, which also boasts that 42 percent of its programmed films are directed by women. Margot Robbie is set to produce and star in Dreamland, a heist thriller. Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival recognizes women directors with AWFJ EDA Awards and other honors. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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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 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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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Filmmaker Liz W. Garcia, Diane Keaton and Miranda Lambert make news — Brandy McDonnell reports

Filmmaker Liz W. Garcia says the key to getting more women behind film and television cameras is to stop accepting Hollywood’s lame excuses for not hiring women. Diane Keaton Diane Keaton will receive the American Film Institute’s 45th Life Achievement Award during a gala tribute June 8 in Los Angeles. Two-time Grammy winner Miranda Lambert will oversee the music curation and write an original song for the new friendship comedy Something in the Water, created through Lionsgate digital. Read the details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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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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SPOTLIGHT May 2017: Sheila Nevins, President HBO Documentary Films, Producer and Author

nevins head 2Sheila Nevins is a straight shooter. Answer her casual “How are you?” with “Can’t complain. And you?” and you’ll get “I’ve got a lot to complain about!” in reply.

Nevins’ career could be viewed as an active response to the many complaints she has about the world in which we live.

During her 35-year tenure in HBO’s documentary programming division, culminating with her appointment as president of documentary films in 2004, Nevins has facilitated the creation and distribution of more than 1,000 short and feature-length nonfiction films. She says her work isn’t a mission, but rather recognizes that “some people are more lucky than others.” She has a “desire to talk back at what was wrong” and a belief that “the more you look away, the more you keep looking away as a kind of emotional blindness.”

Champion of the Human Experience

The subjects she has championed have ranged across human experience and social justice issues, from legal assisted suicide (How to Die in Oregon, 2001), wrongful conviction (The Trials of Darryl Hunt, 2006) and slavery (The Carpet Slaves: Stolen Children of India, 2001) to homosexuality in entertainment (The Celluloid Closet, 1995) and Down Syndrome (Educating Peter, 1992). The profiles she has presented focus on the famous (Rita Hayworth, Studs Terkel, Carrie Fisher, Elaine Stritch), the unheralded (burlesque dancers, AIDS patients) and the infamous (Tammy Faye Baker, Jack Kevorkian, Lenny Bruce).

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“I find stories all the time. I have to stop myself from finding stories,” Nevins says.

Intellectual Engagement Is Fundamental for Nevins

Nevins was born in Manhattan, raised in an intellectually engaged home and earned degrees from Barnard College and the Yale School of Drama. She said, “I always thought I was given a big chunk of fair in my life. I was the only woman in a family of four brothers. I grew up with women like Ethel Rosenberg around me, their intellect and energy.” Her early years engaged her curiosity and heightened her sense of how society is constructed.

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“You’re born, there are great injustices and you’re here for a very limited time,” she says, “The uncertainty of life and the fact that you might not be able to make choices — how you survive, how people make it work for them. It engages me. It keeps me interested in being alive.”

Telling Her Own Story

nevins bookWhile Nevins is tireless in presenting other people’s stories to the world, only now has she chosen to tell her own story. Debuting this month is her wonderfully cheeky You Don’t Look Your Age, and Other Fairy Tales (Flatiron Books), a collection of poems, essays and stories about “people who may or may not be me” covering everything from sex to cosmetic surgery.

For Nevins, writing the book was partly about ensuring that she wouldn’t be misrepresented after it was too late to set the record straight. “I lost a college friend five years ago,” she says, “and I went to her memorial service. And it was everything she wasn’t.”

Nevins is very proud of the audio version of the book, which is narrated by a formidably talented group of luminaries, including Alan Alda, Bob Balaban, Christine Baranski, Kathy Bates, Ellen Burstyn, RuPaul, Gloria Steinem, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin. “I’m amazed I had the chutzpah to call them all and got them to do it.” But as she says herself, “I have done this on behalf of other people all my life.”

Why We Chose Her

nevins headThere is little Sheila Nevins has not accomplished in her chosen field. We agree with the Peabody Board of Jurors, who presented Nevins with a prestigious personal Peabody Award for being “one of the true independent spirits in television today, whose passion and vision consistently create excellence.” As she now adds author to her long and impressive list of achievements, AWFJ is honored to SPOTLIGHT Sheila Nevins for the month of May 2017.

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN Wrap: 25 Femme-Helmed Movies and News about Lively, Kidman and Robbie — Brandy McDonnell reports

Here’s a list of 25 intriguing femme-helmed movies coming soon. Blake Lively speaks out on equality, Nicole Kidman pulls off a remarkable career renaissance, and Margot Robbie is cast to portray Queen Elizabeth I. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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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…

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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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