SPOTLIGHT October 2016: Bonni Cohen, Acclaimed Director and Producer

Bonni CohenThe filmmaking team of Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk explore the results of social media bullying with the new thought-provoking, conversation-starting documentary, Audrie & Daisy.

The documentary, which is currently streaming on Netflix, focuses primarily on two teenage sexual assault victims who had their humiliation made public via Facebook and other online social media outlets. The documentary should be considered a must-see for high school students, and the filmmakers should be applauded for their approach to this disturbing topic. Read on.

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Emily Blunt on THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN — Gill Pringle interviews

EMILY Blunt gasped in horror when she first saw her transformation into a blotchy-faced alcoholic trainwreck, the unlikely heroine of The Girl on the Train. “It was hard seeing myself look so awful. I came into work with no make-up and they would make me look even worse, adding rosacea and bags. I could barely look at my own reflection.” Read more>>

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Women Defy Odds and Demand Room at TIFF Table — Thelma Adams comments

Fuck buzz. That’s how I feel addressing Toronto’s female-driven movies, whether directed by women or not. Because buzz reflects the 80 percent male gender bias, writing about film fails to connect meaningfully with the real audience that is—duh, ask your mothers—50 percent female. For me, the greatest metaphor for the plight of women film artists is Aisling Walsh’s Maudie, an intense wee biopic about the outsider artist Maud Lewis with an Oscar-ripe performance from the great empath Sally Hawkins. (“If it weren’t for Hawkins,” condescends Variety’s Peter Debruge, “there would be little to distinguish Maudie from the sort of 16mm filmstrip made for schoolchildren back in the day.” Wrong!) Read more>>

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SPOTLIGHT September 2016: Vera Farmiga, Actress and Filmmaker

Vera FarmigaVera Farmiga earned an Oscar nomination as well as AWFJ, BAFTA, Broadcast Film Critics, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globe nominations for her outstanding work in 2009’s Up in the Air. But that was just the tip of the awards iceberg as Farmiga’s been recognized for her impressive work in diverse roles by film critics and awards organizations worldwide throughout her 20+ year career. Read on>>.

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Maiwenn on MY KING and Bringing the Female Gaze to the Director’s Chair – Thelma Adams interviews

maiwennFrench filmmaker Maiwenn, 40, set me straight: it’s no easier being a female director in France than in America. The toothy Parisienne beauty in the polka-dot blouse and jeans explained: “As much as I can say I’m a victim of misogyny I don’t want to be a spokesperson, I don’t want to be a militant, I don’t want to make documentaries.” Read more>>

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SPOTLIGHT August, 2016: Margot Benacerref, Filmmaker and Cultural Activist

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Auteur filmmaker Margot Benacerraf is in the AWFJ SPOTLIGHT this month to celebrate her 90th birthday on August 14, and to honor her extraordinary career as filmmaker and cultural activist. Benacerref first came to prominence on the international cinema scene in 1959, when her first feature film, Araya, was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, where she was a novice director and the only female filmmaker included in the competition. That year, Araya shared the Cannes International Critics Prize with Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima mon amour. Read on…

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Kathriyn Bostic and Miriam Cutler Talk About the Alliance of Women Film Composers — Liz Whittemore Interviews

AWFC_logo_B_on_W_400x85I had the wonderful opportunity to interview two board members of the Alliance of Women Film Composers (AWFC), a group I consider to be sister to AWFJ. AWFC’s mission statement is as follows:

Through advocacy, support and education, the Alliance for Women Film Composers aims to increase the visibility of women composers active in media scoring. The AFWC advocates for the inclusion of women composers within industry events; supports filmmakers, game developers and studios in their inclusion of women composers; and educates, mentors and inspires emerging women composers.
I spoke with Kathryn Bostic and Miriam Cutler about the challenges and advantages of this unique group of women in the industry. Read more…
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SPOTLIGHT, July 2016: Meera Menon, Director of EQUITY

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The all-female “Ghostbusters” remake has captured the mainstream media buzz this summer, but the true feminist statement of the season is to be found in another July release, Equity. It is the sophomore effort of director Meera Menon, and it presents a powerful and thrilling feminist drama about women working in the male-dominated environs of Wall Street. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Film Editor Carol Littleton Take on ET and Feminism — Brandy McDonnell reports

Carol LittletonIn the eight years she worked in the film industry before landing the job as editor on Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Carol Littleton dealt with both sexism and nepotism. But she refused to give up on her interesting moviemaking career. “I’ve never been militant about being feminist, but I am, and I have found ways to work as a woman in the film industry that was, certainly when I started, primarily men. I’ve worked in a man’s world the whole time, and I’ve just learned to be very patient, be very clear about how I see things and not be belligerent. That doesn’t get anybody anywhere.” Read more in THE WEEK IN WOMAN

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Athina Rachel Tsangari on CHEVALIER and Competition — Pam Grady interviews

athina rachel tsangariIt takes a woman — Greek writer-director Athina Rachel Tsangari (“Attenberg”) — to take the measure of men in Chevalier, her absurd comedy set on a luxurious yacht. Six men, apparently thrown together by a blend of business and familial obligations on a spearfishing vacation, drift off the coast of Greece and come up with a game to while away the time. They will determine who is “the best in general,” a competition that pits man against man as they take the measure of absolutely everything, from sporting prowess to sleeping posture, a rivalry that undermines the group’s bonhomie and comes to consume them. “It’s almost like a likability contest. It’s almost like a floating Facebook,” said Tsangari during a visit to the Bay Area, where Chevalier screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival. “Competition is just natural,” Tsangari said. “It’s what we do from kindergarten.” Read more…

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Ethan Hawke on How River Phoenix Inspired a Chapter in His Children’s Book – Julide Tanriverdi reports

Who knew Ethan Hawke had an aversion to rules? Speaking to New York Magazine film critic David Edelstein Sunday as part of Vulture Festival, the acclaimed actor confessed that he once was “allergic” to them. Which is precisely why he ended up writing the book Rules for a Knight for his four children. It all started when Hawke had trouble introducing some house rules at home. Read more>>

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SPOTLIGHT June 2016: Susanna White, Director, OUR KIND OF TRAITOR

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Hot on the heels of Susanne Bier’s tense miniseries The Night Manager comes Our Kind of Traitor, a second suspenseful John le Carré adaptation to be directed by a woman, British filmmaker Susanna White. A couple on holiday—Ewan McGregor as poetry professor Perry and Naomie Harris as high-profile lawyer Gail—risk their own lives to help Russian money launderer Dima, played by a scene-stealing Stellan Skarsgård, defect to the UK. A lifelong fan of thrillers the opportunity to direct one herself as her sophomore feature—her first was Nanny McPhee Returns (2010)—was one White couldn’t resist. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Jennifer Lopez spurs discussion of double standards — Brandy McDonnell Comments

JENNIFER LOPEZ 1Jennifer Lopez fights the diva label and ponders “I’ve always been fascinated by how much more well-behaved we have to be than men” in an actress roundtable discussion convened by The Hollywood Reporter. Lopez’s comments lead to the consideration of behavioral double standards. Read more in THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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Kelly Reichart’s mid-career retrospective — Dorothy Woodend reports

kelly reichert 2The five-film program at Vancouver’s Cinematheque captures Reichert’s characteristic balance of sorrow and joy in a world of hard times and bad choices. The program, spanning almost the length of Reichardt’s career thus far, presents Old Joy (2006), Wendy and Lucy (2008), Meek’s Cutoff (2010) and Night Moves (2013) — which were all co-written with her writing partner, Jon Raymond — and her first feature, River of Grass (1994), in a new restoration. Read more>>

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Christy Beam Talks About MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN and Being the Subject of a Movie — Diana Saenger Interviews

Christy Beam.   Photo by Sunny Mays Photography

Christy Beam. Photo by Sunny Mays Photography

Miracles From Heaven, adapted by Randy Brown from the book by Christy Wilson Beam, became a movie with a surprising true story that has enthralled moviegoers all over the world. Domestic Total as of May,1, 2016 was $59,657,409. How does one explain the impossible was a question Beam faced when she decided to write her family story regarding their journey through faith, fear and pain of their daughter Annabel’s chronic illness? Beam set aside time to be interviewed about this experience. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT May 2016: Rachel Rosen, Programmer, San Francisco International Film Festival

awfjspotlightsmallsmallrachel rosen 1The San Francisco International Film Festival, the oldest film festival in North America, is a whirl of activity in the midst of its 59th season. San Francisco Film Society Director of Programming Rachel Rosen is in her element. This has been her world for 25 years, ever since the seasonal festival work she took while getting her MA in documentary film at Stanford University led to a career as a film programmer. Her influence has been felt not just at the San Francisco Film Society and San Francisco International Film Festival, but also at New York’s Film Forum and at Film Independent and the Los Angeles Film Festival, where she was director of programming for eight years. As the 15-day SIFF heads into its second week, Rosen takes a break from festival routine to talk about women in the world of film festivals. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Amy Schumer Talks Body Image, Glamour Mag and People Pleasing — Brandy McDonnell Interviews

amy-schumer-2013-smallIn between uproariously raunchy jokes about feminine hygiene, sexual preferences and shady massage parlors, Amy Schumer delivers pointed messages about body image, extreme dieting and double standards for men and women, hot-button issues she also covers in her TV show and movies. “I think with the women we’re exposed to so constantly in media – movies, magazines, TV – they’re so thin. And they look beautiful, and most of them are healthy and good. I also know that the majority of them are hungry,” Schumer told me in a phone interview. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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SPOTLIGHT April 2016: Emayatzy Corinealdi, Actress, Rising Star of MILES AHEAD

awfjspotlightsmallsmallemayatzy1Miles Davis may be the main subject of Don Cheadle’s bravura writing/directing debut Miles Ahead, but he’s not the only one. While the largely fictional drama mostly takes place in the 1970s, it finds the jazz great at a point in his life where he is looking back and what he is looking back at is not a time in his life, but a person: Davis’s first wife, dancer Frances Taylor. Cheadle portrays her as the great love of the trumpeter’s life and inspiration for his music, but he also underlines that she was an accomplished individual with her own talents and her own life. Taylor danced on Broadway, including in the original production of West Side Story and she was a member of the Paris Opera Ballet. Read on…

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Kim Barker on Being Portrayed by Tina Fey in WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT – Liz Braun interviews

kim barkerNew York Times reporter Kim Barker’s memoir of her days as war correspondent in Afghanistan and Pakistan — The Taliban Shuffle — has become Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a blackly comic fish-out-of-water movie that stars Tina Fey as Kim. What’s it like to be portrayed by Tina Fey? Barker thinks she and the star have a lot in common, and she’s delighted with Fey’s portrayal. “I think people will be surprised by Tina Fey’s acting. I think this is her best movie ever,” says Barker. Read more>>

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Patricia Arquette on Her Incendiary Oscars Speech and the Fight for Equal Pay – Jen Yamato reports

patricia arquette 1Patricia Arquette brought the fight for gender equality to the Academy Awards stage last year. She delivered the most impactful half-minute speech of her career, one that helped propel gender wage inequality into the national debate and led to the passage of the California Fair Pay Act, which took effect last month. This year, again on the eve of Hollywood’s biggest night, Arquette championed gender equality, co-hosting the first Dinner for Equality, gathering luminaries from entertainment, politics, and business to rally around the cause. Read more>>

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SPOTLIGHT March 2016: Margaret Sixel, Film Editor, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

awfjspotlightsmallsmallsixel head 1It’s been a season of honors for Sixel. The Oscar is just the latest addition to the many she has already received—a list that includes a BAFTA, the Australian Film Institute’s AACTA, and AWFJ’s EDA Award, among others—for her work in giving shape, form, and nail-biting tension to Mad Max: Fury Road. After over 30 years in the business, it was Sixel’s first action movie. It will certainly not be her last. Read on…

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AWARDS INTELLIGENCER: Rooney Mara Revered by Cate Blanchett and Todd Haynes – Quendrith Johnson reports

rooney maraTo hear fellow Oscar-nom, two-time winner Cate Blanchett, gush about her Best Supporting Actress and Carol consort Rooney Mara, is almost as shocking as when Blanchett uses the word “startling” to describe Mara’s acting chops. Next “The Great Cate” cobbles together some descriptive sentences worthy of a literary titan. It’s more of a love letter than an endorsement, in keeping with the forbidden 1950′s women-in-love angle in Carol. Read more on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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AWARDS INTELLIGENCER: Why Stallone Might Win the Oscar – Quendrith Johnson comments

CreedJordanSly16The deep rooted bond between Hollywood icon Sylvester Stallone and tinseltown’s phenom director Ryan Coogler comes from shared experience: they were both homeless and from that position of deprivation fought their way to the movie major leagues. Stallone, in Santa Barbara to accept the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Montecito Award, credits Coogler with creating greatness in Creed and talks about finding common ground with the young filmmaker who lived in his car while attending film school. Read more in AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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SPOTLIGHT February 2016: Agnieszka Smoczyńska, Filmmaker The Lure

awfjspotlightsmallsmallOne of the happy surprises of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival was a debut feature in the International Dramatic Competition, The Lure a musical-fantasy-horror-romance hybrid set largely in a shabby discotheque in 1980s Warsaw. Read on…

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AWFJ Members Score Achievements in 2015, and moves to level the playing field – Brandy McDonnell comments

Alliance of Women Film Journalists members celebrateD big achievements in 2015 – if only there were more women film critics to celebrate. The ongoing discussion about the need to level the playing ground for women working in Hollywood is expanding to include women filmmakers working in the documentary arena, and women who are working in film criticism. Looking ahead to 2016, the struggle continues for equality for women and for people of color in the film industry. The debate is actually heating up. Read more in THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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