AWFJ Movie of the Week, August 15 – August 19: BEN-HUR

BEN HUR POSTEROne’s first thought on the remake of Ben-Hur might be “Why, exactly?” The era of sword and sandals epics may have reached a fever pitch in 1959, with Chuck Heston traipsing about in a metal skirt and breastplates, but even in the early days, the camp factor was high. To wit: Tony Curtis and his liquid eyes getting Laurence Olivier into hot water in Spartacus (1960). The genre seems to be periodically rediscovered every few years, with the likes of Russell Crowe (Gladiator), Christian Bale (Exodus: Gods and Kings) and Gerard Butler (The 300) donning the iron miniskirt for a bit of manly action. Read On…

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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SPOTLIGHT January 2016: Jennifer Phang, Filmmaker, Advantageous


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It has been a whirlwind year for filmmaker Jennifer Phang, since Advantageous made its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. where she and Jacqueline Kim, Phang’s co-screenwriter as well as star, were awarded a special jury prize for collaborative vision. The film has found a home with Netflix and has been nominated for the John Cassavetes Award, the Independent Spirit Award prize for the best film with a budget of under $500,000. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT December 2015: Chicken & Egg Pictures’ Julie Parker Bonello, Wendy Ettinger and Judith Helfand

awfjspotlightsmallsmallchicken and egg logoInspired by their core belief in the power of women storytellers, award-winning filmmakers Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger, and Judith Helfand founded Chicken & Egg Pictures in 2005 to create a space where women could learn from one another, test their limits, challenge the status quo, and break new ground as artists and activists. Celebrating the organization’s tenth anniversary this year, the Chicken & Egg team, which now includes Executive Director Jenni Wolfson, Interim Creative Director Yvonne Welbon, Program Manager Iyabo Boyd and a community of ‘eggspert’ advisors, boasts having awarded more than $3.7 million in grants to women making movies. Read more…

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SPOTLIGHT November 2015: Alicia Vikander, Actress and It Girl

awfjspotlightsmallsmallvikander 1Let 2015 be known as the year of Alicia Vikander. Though the Swedish actress has been around for a while–she got her start on Swedish TV in the early 2000s–over the last few months she’s delivered the quality and quantity that has really made moviegoers around the world sit up and take notice. And with her breakout role in The Danish Girl poised to hit theatres on November 27th, you’re going to start hearing her name a lot more very soon. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT October 2015: Reed Morano, Director/Cinematographer, MEADOWLAND

awfjspotlightsmallsmallIf there’s one thing I can say about Reed Morano’s Meadowland, it’s that it’s not an easy film to watch. A good film—yes. One of the most honestly, emotionally resonant films about grief ever made, in fact. But not easy. For those open to a cinematic experience with a side of catharsis, Meadowland comes out courtesy of Cinedigm on October 16th. Just have your Kleenex handy. We at AWFJ are proud to present the director as this month’s SPOTLIGHT subject. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT September 2015: Amandla Stenberg, Actress, Activist In the Making

amandla1Our latest SPOTLIGHT subject may be the youngest yet, but in her 16 years actress Amandla Stenberg has proven that she deserves to stand alongside such previously AWFJ-highlighted champions for diversity as Cynthia López and Geena Davis, if only based on her potential. It’s been a short three years since Stenberg burst into the scene with a supporting role in the first Hunger Games movie, but in that time she’s already become a leading force in conversations surrounding cultural appropriation and the need for intersectional feminism. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT August 2015: Natalie Portman, Actress, Activist and Crusader for Women Directors

awfjspotlightsmallsmallportman excerptNatalie Portman is no stranger to Hollywood. The Oscar-winning actress’ first feature film, Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional, debuted when she was only 13 years old. Since then, she’s racked up dozens of film credits, some of them—Closer, Black Swan—better than others. Looking at You, Star Wars prequels. But isn’t that the way? This consummate, classy professional has made it through decades in the film industry and earned a mantlepiece full of awards along the way… two of them, I’d be remiss not to mention, EDA Awards for Black Swan, issued in 2010 by this very group. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT July 2015: CYNTHIA LÓPEZ, New York City Media and Entertainment Commissioner

awfjspotlightsmallsmallFor Cynthia López, a love of film has always gone hand-in-hand with a love of public service and an acknowledgement of the power of media to shape the world for the better. As the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment in New York City, she has that chance—but she also has the boat-load of pressures that come with it. Not long after celebrating her one-year anniversary of being appointed Commissioner under Mayor Bill de Blasio, López speaks about her background, her accomplishments and what she hopes to achieve in year two. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT June 2015: GEENA DAVIS, Actress, Activist, Festival Co-Founder

awfjspotlightsmallsmallIt’s never a bad time to take a moment or two to appreciate Geena Davis.

Afterall, Geena Davis is Thelma! She’s the player who taught a generation of impressionable young minds that there’s no crying in baseball! geena And, it was she who also suggested that learning how to throw your voice is a greatly entertaining way to fool your friends and have great fun at parties.

But focusing AWFJ’s Spotlight on Davis at this time is a particularly fitting tribute to the Oscar-winning actress, coming as it does on the heels of the first annual Bentonville Film Festival. What does that have to do with Davis? Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT May, 2015: Shira Piven, Director, WELCOME TO ME

awfjspotlightsmallsmallshirapiven1This month’s choice for AWFJ’s SPOTLIGHT is director Shira Piven, sister of Entourage’s Jeremy Piven and daughter of the esteemed Chicago-based actors and instructors Byrne and Joyce Piven. Her second feature, Welcome to Me, opens on May 1. The femme-centric dramedy, starring Kristen Wiig, is about a mentally unstable woman who uses her millions in lottery winnings to buy her own TV talk show. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, with Variety calling it “startlingly inspired” and “breezily bonkers.” Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT April, 2015: Susanne Bier, Director

awfjspotlightsmallsmallThere are not many women who can claim an Oscar win for their film, but Susanne Bier, this month’s SPOTLIGHT, is one among the very few.

bier2withoscarthisSusanne Bier won both the Golden Globe and the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2011 for In A Better World. ‘
That two tier triumph boosted her recognition on the global moviemaking map and put her on Hollywood’s A-List for good.

In Denmark, her home country, she had already become a filmmaking luminary long before that, an acclaimed member of the famous Danish Dogme group.

And of course there’s the little fact that her 2006 film After The Wedding also had been nominated for an Oscar. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT March 2015: LILY JAMES, Actress and Ascending Star

awfjspotlightsmallsmallThis month’s choice for AWFJ’s SPOTLIGHT is Lily James, a star on the rise who is living out her own Cinderella fantasy as the belle of the ball in Disney’s sumptuous live-action iteration of the classic fairy tale. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the highly anticipated film opens on March 13. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT January 2015: GAIL ANNE HURD, Producer Extraordinaire

awfjspotlightsmallsmallThis month’s choice for AWFJ’s Spotlight is producer extraordinaire Gale Anne Hurd, 59, who decades ago smashed the gender barrier that existed in such genres as action and science fiction with ground-breaking cinematic efforts including the original Terminator trilogy and Aliens. Hurd has since expanded her sphere of influence to TV, as executive producer of the most-watched scripted drama among broadcast series, The Walking Dead, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. She will be honored with the Producers Guild of America’s David O. Selznick Achievement Award on Jan. 24. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT: December, 2014 – Anna Kendrick, Actress and Ascending Star

awfjspotlightsmallsmallThis month’s AWFJ’s Spotlight is focused on multi-talent Anna Kendrick, 29, who is having quite a moment at year’s end. Whether as a standout as Cinderella in the much-anticipated movie musical Into the Woods (opening Dec. 25) or a button-cute spokeswoman in a bit of a bind for Kate Spade’s high-end fashion line in the ho-ho-haute holiday ad titled The Waiting, this star is ascendant. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT: November, 2014 – Sheila Johnson, Film Festival Founder, Entertainment Mogul

awfjspotlightsmallsmallThis month, AWFJ’s SPOTLIGHT is focused on Sheila Johnson, billionaire entrepreneur, co-founder of BET, philanthropist and the force behind the four-day Middleburg Film Festival in Virginia – which celebrates its second year this month with a slate of 20 films, including titles that are already garnering Oscars buzz. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT August, 2014: Lia Van Leer, Film Programmer, Promoter, Provacateur

awfjspotlightsmallsmallThis month, AWFJ’s Spotlight is focused on Lia Van Leer, the extraordinarily accomplished, influential and beloved cinema programmer and cultural provocateur who has has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to promote filmmaking and film appreciation in Isreal and around the world. Lia Van Leer celebrates her 90th birthday this month, and we celebrate her! Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT July, 2014: Karen Konoval, Actress, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

awfjspotlightsmallsmallIt was one of those phone calls where Karin Konoval wasn’t sure whether her agent was just being goofy by asking her if she wanted to audition to play a chimpanzee in an untitled feature film.

“I’d played a wide range of roles but I thought this is really pushing it,” the actress joked on the New Orleans set of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes where she was shooting the blockbuster last year.

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She decided to give it a shot since it was unusual and felt like something new.

Knowing that it would be a challenge, she went to the casting call and encountered “20-somethings who were doing splits in the hallway” in preparation, some of them were even acrobats. But, with her nuanced and soulful interpretation of the character she capture the role of Maurice.

So, who is Karen Konoval, the actress who was able to portray a male Orangutan and make him so memorable? Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT June, 2014: Shailene Woodley, Actress, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

awfjspotlightsmallsmallThis month, AWFJ’s Spotlight focuses on Shailene Woodley, the versatile young actress who followed her commanding turn in Divergent with a bravely tender performance in The Fault in Our Stars. Woodley’s adored by teenage girls for whom she provides a strikingly appealing and positive role model. Read on…

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