Joan Chen at the International Film Festival & Awards Macao — Gill Pringle interviews

joan chenA female filmmaking pioneer, Chinese-born actress Joan Chen broke both race and gender barriers when she directed the May-November romance, Autumn in New York. Released in 2000, the well received film starred Richard Gere and Winona Ryder. Chen mentions taking strength from her female support teamm including editor Ruby Yang and casting directors Sheila Jaffe and Georgeanne Walken. “I didn’t think of myself as breaking down any doors at the time. I think I was so innocent. I didn’t think about my role as a woman film-maker. It seemed very simple to me – I saw a story I really wanted to tell and was determined to tell it. I was fearless. I’m still surprised there aren’t many more female directors,” muses Chen, 56, when AWFJ catches up with her at the International Film Festival & Awards Macao. Continue reading…

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Story Supervisor Jason Katz on Creating COCO — Interview by Leslie Combemale

The new Pixar film Coco speaks about ancestral ties, remembrance, and celebration. It is a story that follows young musician Miguel on his journey into the Land of the Dead to solve a family mystery, embrace his passion for music, and create his own destiny. I interviewed Story Supervisor Jason Katz, who has had a hand in nearly every Pixar release since Toy Story, including being co-story supervisor for Finding Nemo and Ratatouille. He has been involved in building Coco from the beginning, and talks here about his perspective on leading the story department as his mentor Joe Ranft would have done, what inspired him in developing the film, and how Coco is much more about life, remembrance, and his grandmother Florence, than about death. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT December, 2017: Angelina Jolie, Humanitarian Filmmaker

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angelina with handWith award season already in full thrust, SPOTLIGHT asks: Has there ever been an A-list actress who has – in the prime of her career – choosen to promote not herself, but two films that tell stories about third world countries?

The actress doesn’t even play a role in either film, but opts instead to produce The Breadwinner, an animated story about a young Afghan girl who dresses as a boy in order to feed her family in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and to direct First They Killed My Father, an unflinching child’s view on the Khmer Rouge’s deadly rule in Cambodia.Continue reading…

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Belize International Film Festival 2017 — Gill Pringle reports

belize ffNow in its 12th year, the Belize International Film Festival has enjoyed growing success with every year, thanks to its founder and festival director Suzette Zayden. A Belizean native, her original goal with BIFF was to put Belize on the film map but also to engender connectivity between her fellow countrymen through film. Continue reading…

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Jacob Tremblay on Preparing for WONDER — Interview by Sandie Angulo Chen

Child actor Jacob Tremblay hadn’t read “Wonder” when he got a call about playing the lead role in the movie based on the 2012 middle-grade bestseller. But after he got to know the character — Auggie Pullman, a 10-year-old whose face looks different from that of most kids — Jacob didn’t need convincing. “The thing that mostly drew me to wanting to do the part of Auggie is the message. I thought it was very important,” the 11-year-old actor says. 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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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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TIFF 2017: Angela Robinson on PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN — Pam Grady Interviews (Exclusive)

angela robinsn headtiff logoOne of the happy surprises of Toronto International Film Festival 2017, Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and the Women, may share the same DNA as Patty Jenkins’ blockbuster Wonder Woman, but it is an altogether different animal. This erotically charged, real-life drama spins the tale of how Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston’s (Luke Evans) muses, his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), led him to create the comic-book superheroine. The film is a fresh, sexy take on the origins of Amazonian warrior Diana. Writer/director Angela Robinson tells us her own origin story that starts with the gift of a book about a childhood favorite, as she reveals the wonder of William Moulton Marston and his women. 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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Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton on BATTLE OF THE SEXES — Jessica Zack interviews

When Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris first started working on their new Billie Jean King biopic, “Battle of the Sexes,” the 2016 presidential primaries were in full swing “and we figured we were about to see a political race between and a man and a woman, and then most likely our first female president,” said Faris recently by phone from their home in Los Angeles. Continue reading…

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TIFF’s Kathleen Drumm on the 2017 Festival’s ‘Share Her Journey’ Initiative — Interview by Julide Tanriverdi

tiff kathleen drummThere is always talk that there are not enough women in Hollywood. The latest study from the Center for the study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University revealed at the beginning of the year that only 7 percent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases in 2016 were female – shockingly a decline of two percent compared to numbers in 2015 and in 1998. How is this possible? Why are we always talking and writing about this if there is no improvement? But change might be in the air – at least in Canada. Continue reading…

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At TIFF: New Zealand’s Maori Women Directors talk WARU — Gill Pringle reports

waru posterTold from the viewpoint of nine female filmmakers, Waru is the first feature film from New Zealand to be made by Maori women since Mereta Mita’s Mauri almost 30 years ago. Eight female Maori directors each contributed a ten minute vignette, presented as a continuous shot in real time, that unfolds around the tangi (funeral) of a small boy (Waru) who died at the hands of his caregiver. The vignettes are all subtly interlinked and each follows one of eight female Maori lead characters during the same moment in time as they come to terms with Waru’s death and try to find a way forward in their community. In Maori, waru means 8. Continue reading Gill Pringle’s exclusive report from TIFF on THE FEMALE GAZE

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Diana Huey’s ‘LITTLE MERMAID’ reminds us why diverse casting matters — Brandy McDonnell reports

Even Diana Huey doubted that she would be cast as the lead in the national touring production of the latest stage adaptation of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
It wasn’t because she couldn’t sing the iconic songs while suspended from a harness or play a rebellious teenage mermaid princess who becomes a mute human in the second act. It was simply because she was born in Japan. Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Meet Upcoming Indian Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari — Interview by Mythily Ramachandran (Exclusive)

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (2)Indian director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s first film, Nil Battey Sannata,’ (Hindi for Zero divided by Zero), released last year, was so successful she had to do a second version in Tamil. She premiered her second film, a hilarious romcom titled ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’ (Hindi for ‘Bareilly’s Candy’) last month. Both films are femme-centric and, as Indian critic Mythily Ramachandran reports, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari is here to stay. Read Mythily Ramachandran’s interview with Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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Yance Ford on STRONG ISLAND, Grief and Injustice — Jennifer Merin interviews

yance ford headYance Ford has been an influential member of the documentary film community for some years, working as a programmer for POV and commissioning the works of others. With Strong Island, he turns his smarts and skills to making in a highly personal documentary about the murder of his brother and the impact that heinous event had on his family. He sat down with me to discuss Strong Island, rage and grief, injustice and wonderment. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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SPOTLIGHT September 2017: MaryAnn Johanson, FlickFilosopher.com Film Critic and Activist

awfjspotlightsmallsmallOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPioneering film critic MaryAnn Johanson celebrates the twentieth anniversary of her popular FilckFilosopher.com website this month; an impressive enough feat in itself. That MaryAnn has established herself as a distinct, influential and prolific feminist critic in a fiercely competitive and male-dominated industry, however, is testament not just to her boundless knowledge of and passion for film, but also of her extraordinary tenacity and determination. Continue reading…

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Lake Bell talks Casting, Lasting Love and I DO…UNTIL I DON’T — Diana Saenger Interviews (Exclusive)

bell headshotActress Lake Bell has been starring in films and on TV since she graduated from theater school in 2002, but her career took a quantum leap forward when her directorial debut, In A World…, a comedy she also wrote and starred in, opened in 2013. For her sophomore feature, I Do…Until I Don’t, Bell has again done it all — writing, producing, directing and starring in this quirky comedy about couples whose relationships are put to the test by an unscrupulous TV ‘journalist’ (Dolly Wells) who taps them for a show suggesting marriage should be a seven year contract with an option to renew or cancel. The film’s premise, characters and dialogue reflect Bell’s signature style of filmmaking. We wondered where that comes from. So we asked her. Continue reading…

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Meet Soundarya Rajnikanth, director of VELLAI ILLA PATTADHARI 2 — Interview by Mythily Ramachandran (Exclusive)

Soundarya Rajnikanth headshotA career in films was inevitable for Soundarya Rajnikanth, the youngest daughter of Tamil superstar Rajnijanth. Soundarya stepped out of her father’s shadow in 2014 to direct her first film, Kochadaiiyaan, an animated period film shot with motion-capture technology, a first in the history of Indian cinema. Director Soundarya returns with her second feature, the live action Vella Illa Pattadhari 2 (Unemployed Graduate, in Tamil), a sequel to the eponymous Tamil blockbuster released in 2015. Read Indian film journalist Mythily Ramachandran’s exclusive interview on The Female Gaze.

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Susan Glatzer on ALIVE AND KICKING and Community– Nell Minow interviews

susan glatzer 1 croppedThe director of the new swing dance documentary Alive and Kicking knows her subject from the inside out. Susan Glatzer is a swing dancer herself and “part of the dance world,” which she vividly depicts in the film as an exceptionally joyous, generous, and connected community. And so she did not want to make the film about just her own story. Continue reading…

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In The Muck of It: The Films of Ann Turner — Profile by Alexandra Heller Nicholas

Ann Turner - Photo by Kristian Gehradte

Ann Turner – Photo by Kristian Gehradte

I’m sitting in a small private booth at the Australian Mediatheque at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image, waiting while an old 16mm film is being set up on a vintage Steenbeck for viewing. It feels like the end of a pilgrimage, the last of Australian author, screenwriter and director Ann Turner’s films I left have to see: this is her 1981 student short, Flesh on Glass, made during her time at the Swinburne Film School (soon to become the Victorian College of the Arts). Continue reading…

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THE FEMALE GAZE: Pamela Yates talks THE RESISTANCE SAGA, documentary commitment and challenges — Jennifer Merin interviews

pamela yates reelPamela Yates makes documentaries that make a difference. Some 35 years in the making, Yates’ The Resistance Saga, a trilogy about the Mayan people’s human rights struggle in Guatemala, actually helped change the course of history in that country. Footage from the first film became forensic evidence to convict former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt of crimes against humanity. Montt’s trial was covered in the second film, The final film, which updates us while setting the saga within the context of a long history of exploitation, abuse and genocide, opens theatrically on July 12. Read what Pamela Yates says about her career, and the challenges and opportunities inherent in documentary filmmaking on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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SPOTLIGHT July 2017: Claire McCarthy, Filmmaker, OPHELIA

awfjspotlightsmallsmallclaire mccarthy 2Outside Oz, Australian filmmaker Claire McCarthy is known primarily for her 2009 film The Waiting City, starring Radha Mitchell and Joel Edgerton as a couple in disarray as they travel to India to take delivery of a child they have adopted. But McCarthy’s broader filmography even more forcefully underscores why she is the perfect director for the upcoming Ophelia project, Hamlet retold from the perspective of Shakespeare’s iconically tragic ingenue as played by Daisy Ridley. As Michelle Hannett reported from Cannes in May, the film is one of the most highly anticipated for 2018 release. Continue reading…

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Bentonville Film Fest Women-on-the-Street, Part Three — Betsy Bozdech reports

BFF_Logo_Transparent2017_Scaled_100At the Bentonville Film Festival, female filmmakers find themselves surrounded by mentors, peers, and filmgoers who celebrate women’s creativity and success in every aspect of the entertainment world. Attracting women at every career level, the annual event encourages diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera, and provides the ideal ambiance for taking a feminist pulse on the industry by collecting comments on topics of importance. AWFJ’s three-part BFF Woman-on-the-Street series does just that. We caught up with 2017 attendees (including festival founder Geena Davis) to gather their thoughts on key issues of concern to women in film. The first and most pressing question was about the current challenges they face in getting their work funded, produced, and recognized. The first question was about the current challenges they face in getting their work funded, produced, and recognized. Then we asked them what woman (or group of women) in history should have her story told on screen, but hasn’t yet. And, finally, we requested their thoughts on which characters they consider role models for young women and girls who are eager to see a wide range of female characters in the media. Read on…

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Zoe Lister-Jones on BAND AID and Her All Female Crew — Nell Minow interviews

“Band Aid” is a quirky indie with a charming premise, endearing performances, and surprising emotional power. Zoe Lister-Jones is the film’s writer, director, producer, lyricist, and star in the story of an estranged married couple who begin to reconnect by turning their arguments into rock songs. She even used some of her own clothes as wardrobe. Lister-Jones talks about being inspired by her artist parents and why it was important to her to have an all-female crew. Continue reading…

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