THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR — Review by Cate Marquis

recy taylor posterNancy Biurski’s timely documentary tells a personal story, of one woman’s brutal rape in 1944 rural Alabama, but then ties her individual experience to the larger themes of history, racism, sexism, white supremacy and patriarchy, in compelling and often surprising ways. Inspired in part by the book “At The Dark End Of The Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance – a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power” by Danielle L. McGuire, director Nancy Biurski skillfully blends the various elements into a documentary that is fascinating, informative and moving. Continue reading…

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THE TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES –Review by Cynthia Fuchs

TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES POSTER“When we were kids,” narrates Medina (Maika Monroe), “Jim and I had a treehouse in our backyard. I liked it best when it was just the two of us.” Now, the teenager adds, as you see her and her twin brother Jim (Cody Fern), surfing in the Pacific Ocean. “For the first time in a long time, it felt like we were in our treehouse again.” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 8: THE TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES

motw logo 1-35In “The Tribes of Palos Verdes,” well-manicured lawns, sprawling houses, and groomed beaches can’t prevent family turmoil from wreaking havoc in the life of teenage Medina (Maika Monroe). Yet the melancholy drama, written by Karen Croner, features a particularly strong performance by Jennifer Garner, who plays against type as Sandy, Medina’s neurotic, insecure, emotionally unstable mother. 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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THE TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES — Review by Cate Marquis

TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES POSTERTHE TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES is a drama about a family recently transplanted from the down-to-earth Midwest to the gated suburban beach community of Palos Verdes, California. It immerses the family in a kind of culture shock and only dad Phil (Justin Kirk), a cardiac surgery, is enthusiastic about the move. Nonetheless, mom Sandy (Jennifer Garner) and teen-aged fraternal twins Medina (Maika Monroe) and Jim (Cody Fern) are trying to make the best of it. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 27: THE DANCER

motw logo 1-35Chances are, even people who wouldn’t describe themselves as “into dance” have heard the name Isadora Duncan and know something about her career and tragic death. But what about dancer and performance artist Loie Fuller, the innovator of modern dance who helped propel Duncan to superstardom in the early 20th century? Stephanie Di Giusto’s drama “The Dancer” remedies that by telling the story of Fuller’s complex, fascinating and often-heartbreaking life and career. Continue reading…

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THE DANCER — Review by Cate Marquis

the dancer dancer posterStephanie DiGusto’s THE DANCER depicts the story of Loie Fuller, a dance innovator of the late 19th and very early 20th centuries whose Serpentine dance of billowing costumes and lighting effects, made her world famous. If you have seen clips of early silent films, there is a fair chance you have seen a snippet of her striking, butterfly like dance. Her dance style, a precursor to modern dance, influenced another famous dancer, Isabelle Duncan, played by Lilly-Rose Depp (the daughter of Johnny Depp), who once studied with her and whom Fuller mentored. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 21: BOMBSHELL – THE HEDY LAMARR STORY

motw logo 1-35“Bombshell” is the perfect title for a documentary about Hedy Lamarr. Not only was Lamarr a renowned Hollywood screen siren (aka a “bombshell”), but she also helped invent signal-hopping radio-based technology that was used to guide Allied torpedoes (literal bombshells) during World War II, a system whose DNA can be seen in the Bluetooth and WiFi systems we all rely on today. Continue reading…

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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 BREADWINNER — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

breadwinner poster“Stay inside where you belong.” Again and again in The Breadwinner, 11-year-old Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is reminded of her place. A girl in 2001 Kabul, she’s surrounded by war and threatened by the Taliban. She’s not supposed to read, think for herself, or go outside without a man, she’s not supposed to show her face and she’s certainly not supposed to work a job. A the same time, however, her father Nurullah (Ali Badshah), a teacher, encourages her to explore the world around her, to feel confident and to tell and listen to stories, because, he says, “Stories remain in our hearts even when all else is gone.” Continue reading…

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MUDBOUND — Review by Esther Iverem

The human, under surveillance and under American Southern totalitarianism, is the recurrent theme in the new, compelling Netflix feature “Mudbound.” Director-producer Dee Rees adapts Hillary Jordan’s World War II-era novel with the appropriate amount of claustrophobia and stricture befitting Jim Crow Mississippi. Continue reading…

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MUDBOUND — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

rees mudbound posterMudbound begins with digging. The screen is black, the sound unmistakable. The scene that emerges takes place at night: two brothers are digging a grave for their father. A storm is coming, so Henry (Jason Clarke) and Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) are in a hurry. “We ain’t gonna make it,” mutters Jamie. Henry insists that they will, that they have to. “That was my brother Henry,” narrates Jamie. “Absolutely certain whatever he wanted to happen would. Certain his little brother would never betray him.” Continue reading…

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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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11/8/16 — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

11-8-16 posterOn the morning of the 2016 US presidential election, national polls gave Donald Trump a 7 to 29% chance of winning. So begins 11/8/16, a documentary that compiles stories of that day, 16 subjects filmed by 16 artists. The first noise you hear is ticking, over a wide view of the Empire State Building in the early, still-dark hours. The sound suggests a countdown, bridging to a closeup of taxi driver Amrit at morning prayer. Afterwards, he speaks with fellow Sikhs, noting that they have been able to “have some identity” in America. “Otherwise,” he adds, “we don’t have an identity anywhere else in the world.” Continue reading…

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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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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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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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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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FACES PLACES — Review by Susan Granger

French New Wave pioneer Agnes Varda, who made her first film in 1954, is now 89 years old – and as warm and vital as ever, even if her eyesight is fading. Working with acclaimed 34 year-old French photographer/muralist JR, she shares her lifelong passion for images and how they are created, displayed and shared in this personalized, pastoral documentary. 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 DIVINE ORDER — Review by Cate Marquis

THE DIVINE ORDER POSTERTHE DIVINE ORDER is a tale about a group of ordinary women in a Switzerland village who fought for women to get the vote. The surprising part is that this battle for the right to vote took place in 1971. Since American women got the vote in 1920, it’s easy for us to assume Europe quickly followed. But it seems Switzerland missed out on the earlier wave of women’s rights. Which meant that in 1971, Switzerland was catching up on the 1960s Sexual Revolution and the budding 1970s women’s liberation movement, the second time in the 20th century women took to streets to demand their rights. 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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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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