SPOTLIGHT February 2017: Amma Asante, Filmmaker, A UNITED KINGDOM — by Marilyn Ferdinand

awfjspotlightsmallsmallamma with mask“We whopped Spider-Man, and that is my claim to fame!”

With the good humor and energy that have helped her break through to the front ranks of the film industry, director/ screenwriter/actress Amma Asante celebrated the opening week box-office victory of her spellbinding feature Belle (2013) over the popular superhero franchise. Belle tells the moving true story of a biracial woman, Dido Elizabeth Belle, brought up as an aristocrat in 18th century England. While it luxuriates in the kind of genteel elegance that is catnip to audiences, Asante also offers a penetrating look at the abomination of slavery upon which such rich lifestyles were based, and the confusion its title character feels as a result. Read on…

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AWFJ on KTEP 88.5 FM: Talking EDA Awards, Oscars, and the Status of Women In Film — Jennifer Merin reports

KTEP 88.5 FM’s ON FILM host Charles Horak discusses The Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ annual and festival EDA Awards recognizing the work and contributions done by women and about women, both in front and behind the camera, points to the decreased level of opportunity for women behind the camera in 2016, and elicits a list of must-see undervalued 2016 films by and about women. Thank you, Charles Horak for your ongoing support of AWFJ and our goals. Listen to the program on KTEP 88.5 FM.

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: RIP Mary Tyler Moore, plus news on Octavia Spencer, Lily Tomlin, Kristen Chenoweth and more — by Brandy McDonnell

In this THE WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup.we remember the wonderful Mary Tyler Moore, report on honors for Octavia Spencer and Lily Tomlin, follow Kristin Chenoweth’s praise for Lion for its treatment of adoption, and praise Kerry Washington as she urges courage at Sundance. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: 2017 Oscar Nominations — Brandy McDonnell comments

With the 2017 Oscar nominations, the Academy broke or tied multiple records. The movie musical “La La Land” earned a leading 14 nominations, putting it in a tie with “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for the most in Academy Awards history. Its nods include best picture, best director and best original screenplay for writer-director Damien Chazelle, best actress for Emma Stone and best actor for Ryan Gosling. How did they fare on gender parity and diversity? Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: News wrap around Oscars, SAGs, Lily Tomlin Honored and More — Brandy McDonnell reports

lily tomlin headshotThe Academy will forego a live audience for the nomination announcements, instead livestreaming them at, which has caused quite a flap among publicists and members of the press. But everyone’s delighted that Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton will present SAGs Life Achievement Award to brilliant, all-round entertainment maverick Lily Tomlin during the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. And more coursgeous female stars are speaking out to spark change in Hollywood. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia Legacy — Brandy McDonnell comments

princess leiaWhen my sister and I were kids during the 80s, it was ALWAYS a good time to play Star Wars. We were Star Wars diehards, determined to follow the good side, not the dark. But there was a problem: There was only one heroine in that far away galaxy. So, when it came time to play Stars Wars, tough decisions had to be made. Would one of us play Han Solo or Luke Skywalker? That was no good: We were tomboys, not boys. Sometimes we both played Princess Leia, and sometimes we created our own female characters — because when we were growing up there was only one woman who got to be a hero. And while that may have been severely limiting, at least Star Wars had one. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Oscars and Movies and Targeting Millennials — Michelle McCue comments

ArquetteOscar15The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has announced – to widespread chagrin– that the press and publicists would no longer be a part of the annual tradition of being at AMPAS headquarters in Beverly Hills at the Samuel Goldwyn theater when the Oscar nominations are revealed on January 24. A beloved tradition is gone. What comes in its place and what do the changes augur for Oscar’s future? Read more on AWARDS INTELLIGENGER

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AWFJ Movie of the Week January 20-27, 2017: 2OTH CENTURY WOMEN


Director Mike Mills has a way with women. His new film 20th Century Women, coming some six years after Beginners in 2010, has been described as a love letter to his mother. But it is also a portrait of a time and place, and a collection of people perched on the edge of enormous change.

It is 1979, the last staggering breath of the 70s era of drugs, sex, and social revolution is about to give way to the big bold 80s. This transitional moment is embodied by Jimmy Carter’s infamous Crisis of Confidence speech. But inside this larger moment in history, smaller crises are also taking place. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Number of women directors falls, female characters have less to say — Brandy McDonnell reports

The number of female feature film directors has fallen, female characters have far less chance to talk in movies and there continues to be a huge gender pay gap in Hollywood. 2016 actually gave some reason to be hopeful about women in the movies. Disney released three stellar animated movies – Zootopia, Moana and Pixar’s Finding Dory — and all featuring female lead characters, none of them traditional damsels in distress. Women were leads in two smash sci-fi films with Arrival and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, with the latter becoming the second movie in the Star Wars saga to have a female lead. And the period drana Hidden Figures, based on real-life stories of African-American women who worked behind the scenes as mathematicians to help launch the first U.S. astronauts into space, is a hit at the box office. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Oscar-bound Annette Bening Shakes up the Screen — Profile by Thelma Adams (Exclusive)

anette beningIn 20th Century Women, Annette Bening redefines what it is to be an actress over forty – okay 58 – while gunning for an Oscar as Santa Barbara single mum Dorothea. Smart, sexy, searching: just three adjectives that describe the Kansas native. Fold in funny and touching, too. But what makes this mother-of-four married to former matinee idol Warren Beatty so disruptive, so eruptive, is that as a craftswoman and artist, she never stands still. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: ‘La La Land’ keeps dancing, ‘Moonlight’ still shining, ‘Kubo’ makes history — Brandy McDonnell reports

LLL d 41-42_6689.NEFLast weekend’s Golden Globes established La La Land as a clear front-runner — closely followed by Moonlight — in upcoming races for the prestigious awards doled out by the DGA, PGA, BAFTA and, ultimately, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Now, nominations have been announced by all but the Academy. To see how they compare, read Brandy McDonnell’s awards season update on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Greta Gerwig and Mike Mills on 20TH CENTURY WOMEN — Interview by Tomris Laffly

20th-century-women-posterGreta Gerwig says Mike Mills is at his core a listener and he started 20th Century Women from a place of being a listener. “He was raised by women basically. But he didn’t make any assumptions and he interviewed them all. It’s why the film feels like it’s about real women, and not about imagined projections of women by a man, which is what it usually feels like.” Asked whether he would call himself a true feminist, Mike Mills opines that it’s not really his place to say. “Well, I’m a male ally to women. A feminist? That’s something for women to decide.” Read more>>

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Golden Globes So White? – Brandy McDonnell comments

The Golden Globes might actually be a revealing indicator of how Hollywood’s entire awards structure has responded to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of the past few years. Again, the Globes have twice as many categories as the Oscars, honoring the best lead and supporting players in both drama and musical/comedy films. But this year’s fields are refreshingly diverse with nominees like Loving‘s Ruth Negga, Fences‘ Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, Hidden Figures‘ Octavia Spencer, Moonlight‘s Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris and Lion‘s Dev Patel competing. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, January 6 to 12: HIDDEN FIGURES

hiddenfigures-pHistory has a way of disappearing women. This is particularly true when it comes to women of colour. Based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures interweaves the stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. The film’s title is a gentle nod to the math necessary to plot the orbital trajectory of a rocket, but also to the women who helped to build the American space program. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT January 2017: Ava DuVernay, Film Director and Crusader — by Marilyn Ferdinand

awfjspotlightsmallsmallava-duvernay-head-shotIt’s hard to think of a more galvanizing, charismatic woman in film than Ava DuVernay. The 44-year-old producer, director, writer, distributor and crusader for social justice broke into the larger cultural zeitgeist in 2015, the year her acclaimed film Selma was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and four Golden Globes, and won the AWFJ EDA Award for Best Woman Director. She is the winner of three AWFJ EDA Awards in 2016, including those for Best Documentary and Best Female Director for 13th and Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in Film. Read on…

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AWFJ WONDER WOMEN: 55 Best Fictional Female Characters

To celebrate AWFJ’s tenth anniversary and mark the movie industry’s feminist developments since our orginzation’s inception, we present our Wonder Women Project, a list of cinema’s top 55 female fiction characters, each one a reminder to industry insiders and movie lovers that iconic females in film have had entertainment impact, social influence and long legs since the earliest days of cinema.

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Our members celebrate every imaginable liberated woman among their choices of our top 55 women characters, including a factory worker who demands her rights from her employer, a widow who founds her own successful company in the very unequal 1940s, a woman with no legal property rights who schemes to hold onto her family home, and two friends who take “Give me liberty or give me death” quite literally.

The full list was revealed in weekly posts during August, 2016, as a countdown from number 55 to number one. The order of preference was determined by AWFJ members who voted for the films. Each film is annotated by one of the AWFJ members who voted for it. The results are interesting, insightful and entertaining:

However, as Wonder Woman Project leader Marilyn Ferdinand points out in her compelling commentary, when the full list is considered in chronological order, it not only serves as a timely reminder that dynamic female characters have populated the silver screen from cinema’s inception to the present, but also shows the evolution of representative women’s images, gives a glimpse of whom we’ve needed to see during various eras and reflects historical shortcomings in stories about women of color and elderly women, among others, and the need for gender parity and greater diversity on screen.



Lola-Lola (The Blue Angel, 1930)

Jo March (Little Women, 1933, 1949, 1994)

Nora Charles (The Thin Man series, 1934-1947)

Mammy (Gone with the Wind, 1939)

Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind, 1939)

Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

Nina Ivanovna Yakushova (Ninotchka, 1939)

Hildegard Johnson (His Girl Friday, 1940)

Eve (The Lady Eve, 1941)

Ilsa Lund (Casablanca, 1942)

Mildred Pierce (Mildred Pierce, 1945)

Margo Channing (All About Eve, 1950)

Norma Desmond (Sunset Blvd, 1950)

Emma “Billie” Dawn (Born Yesterday, 1950)

Rose Sayer (The African Queen, 1951)

Princess Ann (Roman Holiday, 1953)

Sally Bowles (I Am a Camera/Cabaret, 1955, 1972)

Jean Louise “Scout” Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962)

Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins, 1964)

Martha (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1966)

Jean Brodie (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, 1969)

Maude Chardin (Harold and Maude, 1971)

Rebecca Morgan (Sounder, 1972)

Alice Hyatt (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, 1974)

Mabel Longhetti (A Woman Under the Influence, 1974)

Ripley (Alien series, 1976-1997)

Leia Organa (Star Wars series, 1977-2015)

Annie Hall (Annie Hall, 1977)

Norma Rae Webster (Norma Rae, 1979)

Doralee (9 to 5, 1980)

Aurora Greenway (Terms of Endearment, 1983)

Sarah Connor (Terminator 1 & 2, 1984, 1991)

Lucy Honeychurch (A Room with a View, 1985)

Loretta Castorini (Moonstruck, 1987)

Jane Craig (Broadcast News, 1987)

Annie Savoy (Bull Durham, 1988)

Tess McGill (Working Girl, 1988)

Louise Sawyer (Thelma & Louise, 1991)

Thelma Dickinson (Thelma & Louise, 1991)

Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)

Ada McGrath (The Piano, 1993)

Marge Gunderson (Fargo, 1996)

Jackie Brown (Jackie Brown, 1997)

Laine Hanson (The Contender, 2000)

Yu Shu Lien (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000)

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series, 2001-2011)

Paikea (Whale Rider, 2002)

The Bride (Kill Bill 1 & 2, 2003-2004)

Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada, 2006)

Ree (Winter’s Bone, 2010)

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games series, 2012-2015)

Olivia (Boyhood, 2014)

Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015)

Ma (Room, 2015)

Elle (Grandma, 2015)

For AWFJ notes on individual films, check the countdown links presented above or type the film title in the search box.

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THREE TREMBLING CITIES – Review by Martha P. Nochimson

three-trembking-cities​Three Trembling Cities, written and directed by Arthur Vincie, is an innovative web series about immigrants in New York. Wait, don’t run for the exit. It’s not an earnest and/or sentimental diatribe about America as a country of immigrants; or a timely warning against the repulsive policies of Donald Trump, although this is a good time for America to consider its immigrant heritage. ​But the word “immigrant” has become heavy, fraught with anxiety, anger, and melancholy, and Three Trembling Cities is anything but that. Read the full review on EYE ON MEDIA.

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Three powerful movies this year reflect Virginia’s troubled racial history — Stephanie Merry comments

Loving shows Virginia at its most romantic and picturesque. Toward the beginning of the drama, a man takes his pregnant wife-to-be to an empty field and tells her in a slow drawl, “I’m going to build you a house right here.” The couple stand on a patchy, tree-lined stretch of grass, the rhythmic buzzing of cicadas pulsing around them. Low-hanging clouds pass languidly overhead, and the grass flutters in the breeze; humidity practically radiates off the screen. Read more>>

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How LA LA LAND almost didn’t get made — Stephanie Merry comments

For a creative industry, Hollywood doesn’t exactly put creativity on a pedestal. Movies that aren’t reminiscent of other movies — or plays or books or comics — don’t usually get made, which is why for every imaginative film from a dreamer like Wes Anderson, Charlie Kaufman or Spike Jonze, there are dozens of reboots, sequels, remakes and origin stories. So of course “La La Land” almost didn’t make it to the big screen. The musical, which expands to Washington and other cities Friday, is one of the most celebrated movies of the year and a shoo-in for a best-picture nomination come Oscar time, but it had one huge strike against it: originality. Read more>>

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Whistler Film Festival 2016: Feminism Soars – Jennifer Merin reports

whistler-2016The 16th annual Whistler Film Festival has drawn to a close after five days packed with film screenings, a full house of filmmaker labs and pitch sessions, parties and power skiing. Parity for women is a cause that’s fully embraced by festival director Shauna Hardy Mishaw, who has established partnerships with female focused organizations to train, mentor and promote women directors and producers at the festival. Additionally, femme-helmed films scored big in award wins. Read more>>

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SPOTLIGHT DECEMBER 2016: Maren Ade, Director and Producer, TONI ERDMANN — by Julide Tanriverdi

awfjspotlightsmallsmallmaren-ade2The German filmmaker Maren Ade is making waves with her third feature Toni Erdmann which caused a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival. Now it opens in theaters and this is a movie no one should miss. Read on…

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Women on Top Summit @ Whistler Film Festival: Keynote Address by Valerie Creighton, Canadian Media Fund

valerie-creightonAt Whistler Film Festival’s spirited Women on Top Summit (held December 3, atop Whistler Mountain), Canada Media Fund’s president and CEO Valerie Creighton affirmed and underscored Canada’s commitment to reach parity for women working in all aspects of the country’s moving image industries. Creighton’s speech provides comprehensive coverage of status and strategies re Canada reaching the goal of gender parity. The entire address is published on THE FEMALE GAZE

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AWFJ EDA Awards @ IDFA 2016 Filmmaker Interview: Mette Carla Albrechtsen and Lea Glob on VENUS

mettecarla-and-lea-cropped-300x216Danish filmmakers Mette Carla Albrechtsen and Lea Glob explore the subject of young women’s sexuality by setting up an open ‘casting call’ at which they interview the film’s subjects about their sexual experiences and attitudes towards sexuality and their bodies as they develop from adolescence to womanhood. Through this compilation of interviews, the filmmakers contemplate their own attitudes towards sex, and offer the opportunity for women who see the film to do as, as well. Read what they have to say about Venus and filmmaking on THE FEMALE GAZE

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Critics Choice Documentary Awards 2016 — Jennifer Merin reports

ccdaAs proof positive of the trending interest in nonfiction film, the first-ever Critics Choice Documentary Awards (CCDA) were presented on November 3, 2016, at a gala event attended by leading documentary filmmakers, distributors and film critics. Presented by the BFCA and BTJA, the critics organizations behind the annual Critics Choice Movie Awards (to be presented on December 11), the documentary awards covered nonfiction films with theatrical releases and those shown on television or via online streaming. The CCDAs are the first awards given in recognition of the various genres of documentary film by critics. Read more…

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Top Female Performances @ New York Film Festival 2016 — Liz Whittemore reports

nyff-54-previewWoman were out in  full force at this year’s festival. From directors like Ava DuVernay, Kelly Reichardt, Alison Maclean, Maren Ade, and Mia Hansen-Løve in the Main Slate section alone, to the star studded Hollywood performers we’ve come to love and respect throughout the years. Tackling subjects such as grief, injustice, rape culture, loneliness, fear and self actualization, this year’s selections were a strong representation of the complexities of  the female gender.  Read on…

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