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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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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Guest Post: Filmmaker Chanda Chevannes on Making UNFRACTURED, Activism and Refusing to ‘Play the Part’ (Exclusive)

chandra head smallOn a chilly November evening in 2014, I was sitting in a rental car outside the county jail in Watkins Glen, New York. My video camera was turned on, and resting in my lap. I had already set my white balance, exposure, and focal length. And since I had nothing to do but sit in the dark parking lot and wait, a steady stream of thoughts began to run through my mind. Or, more accurately, one thought raced around in there: Why am I doing this to myself? In the four years it took me to make my new feature documentary, I asked myself that question over and over again. Continue Reading on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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KEDI — Review by Maitland McDonagh

kedi psterIn much of the world, stray and feral felines are considered nuisances at best and outright pests at worst. But not in Istanbul, argues Turkish-born, US-based filmmaker Ceyda Torun, whose Kedi (odd how much the word sounds like “kitty”) documents the lives of street cats whose beat—one that spans millennia–is the city’s busting waterfront district, where shopkeepers and residents alike have settled into a symbiotic relationship with the sweet-faced little predators who help keep the rodent population down while happily accepting handouts. And Torun’s roving camera, often set at cat’s-eye level, gives their lives a dynamic energy that’s as enthralling as any footage of marquee-hogging elephants or lions: The woman who suggests that they’re “like aliens” isn’t entirely wrong—those pretty little eyes aren’t filled with worshipful warmth. Continue reading…

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MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS — Review by Martha K. Baker

Seeing the magnificent cast list may draw you in. Enjoying a classic mystery, even when you know who dun it, may draw you in. But after watching “Murder on the Orient Express,” you may feel discounted, for the Kenneth Branagh production has all the oomph of an airless whoopee cushion. But ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ gives new depth to ‘meh!’ 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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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Jolie and Loung Ung Honored, WONDER WOMAN Top Grosser, The Guardian’s Women’s Cinema Canon

Filmmaker, actor and activist Angelina Jolie and author-activist Loung Ung will receive the Hollywood Foreign Language Film Award at the 21st Annual Hollywood Film Awards for their critically-acclaimed film “First They Killed My Father,” which is also Cambodia’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. ‘Wonder Woman’ sill soars at the box office to become the top-grossing superhero origin film. Writer-directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s “Loving Vincent” sets new standards in animation art. The Guardian proposes a new cinematic canon chosen by women. Note that the members of the Alliance of Women Film Journalist created a Top 100 Films list a decade ago in response to AFI’s heavily male dominated Top 100 Films List. And the beat goes on. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN...

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Women Honored at the Critics Choice Documentary Awards — Jennifer Merin reports

ccda200Jane (as in Goodall) was awarded the top honor of Best Documentary and filmmaker Ceyda Torun’s Kedi won the award for Best First Documentary at the second annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards gala, held on November 2 at BRIC in Brooklyn, New York. 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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11/8/16 — Review by Nikki Baughan

11-8-16 posterA fascinating and well-crafted portrait of grass-roots democracy in action, 11/8/16 also offers a vibrant snapshot of a country defined by both its divided national politics and its unified local communities. On election day 2016, cameras travel the length and breadth of the United States, following voters, campaigners, commentators and activists from across the political spectrum as they gear up to find out whether Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump will be their next president. Continue reading…

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Horror Movies and Kids: A Scary Combination — Betsy Bozdech, Liz Whittemore, Nell Minow, Brandy McDonnell and Jennifer Merin comment

scary movies 4A new CableTV survey about horror movies that’s making the rounds this pre-Halloween week reveals, among other things, that the average age at which the (presumably adult) respondents saw their first horror movie was 7.2 years old. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that today’s kids are in the same boat, we’ve all noticed members of the PG crowd at decidedly R-rated movies — in fact, my 7-year-old daughter’s second-grade classmate recently told her that he’d seen “It.” Continue reading…

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THE SNOWMAN — Review by Susan Granger

When the director of a bizarre murder mystery admits that something went wrong, it’s worth noting. Here’s what Tomas Alfredson (“Let the Right One In,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation: “We didn’t get the whole story, and when we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing. It’s like when you’re making a big jigsaw puzzle and a few pieces are missing, so you don’t see the whole picture.” Alfredson added that the greenlight to shoot came “very abruptly,” and about 10-15% of the screenplay wasn’t even filmed. Which makes for a lot of plot holes. Continue reading…

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New York Film Festival 2017: Top Female Performances — Liz Whittemore reports

NYFF55-posterThis year’s festival was not lacking in gorgeously acted roles. Here is a list of 10 notable performances that I believe deserve attention. I will preface this list by saying I was unable to see Wonderstruck and Lady Bird. I am hearing nothing but praise for Julianne Moore‘s dual roles, newcomer Millicent Simmonds, and Saoirse Ronan. Of the 10 performances, only 7 films are represented. In no particular order, here are some ladies to be on the lookout for come awards season and beyond. Continue reading…

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THE FLORIDA PROJECT — Review by Susan Granger

Making its debut at the New York Film Festival, Sean Baker confounds with this incomprehensibly exuberant celebration of an insolent, six year-old delinquent and her irresponsibly volatile mother. Continue reading…

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Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady talk ONE OF US and Partnering with Netflix — Jennifer Merin interviews

grady ewing 3In One of Us, filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady investigate the unique lifestyle of Brooklyn’s Hassidic community. Presented in Ewing and Grady’s signature style, the highly dramatic stories of two men and a woman who want to leave the community reveal a complex and arcane culture that exists right in our midst, but is largely unknown to outsiders. Ewing and Grady talk about making One of Us and changes in documentary filmmaking during the 15-year span of their partnership. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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In Memory of Sandra Kraisirideja Orion — Guest Post by Edward Douglas

sandrakraisiridejaIt’s been hard to write this, because I’m still quite devastated by the fact that Sandra Kraisirideja Orion — or “Sandy K,” as I knew her for so long — is no longer with us. It’s a cliché for sure, but one that was entirely true: to know Sandy was to love her. There are few people on this planet who have as warm a smile and personality as Sandy did, one that could make you feel good just being around her. I was lucky to be able to spend time with her when I was at West Coast events and in Vegas for ShoWest. I cherish every minute I got to hang out with her even more now. Continue reading…

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AWFJ is Heading for Whistler Film Festival, Nov 29- Dec 3 — Jennifer Merin reports

whistler logo 2017The Alliance of Women Film Journalists will present two juried EDA Awards for the Best Female-Directed Feature and Short Films at this year’s Whistler Film Festival (WFF) taking place from November 29 to December 3. This is the fourth consecutive year in which AWFJ has partnered with the Whistler Film Festival to honor the work of female directors whose films are being presented. 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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LUCKY — Review by Martha K. Baker

Lucky is barely a moving picture, until it is. Watching paint dry involves more neurons at times than watching Lucky. Glaciers grow faster. And, then, just when it appears to defy the “moving” part of moving picture, Lucky perks up, like a corpse that twitches. That makes watching it worthwhile. Lucky is, after all, Harry Dean Stanton’s last film. Continue reading…

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FLATLINERS — Review by Susan Granger

Hollywood has suffered a disastrous summer because the major studios have raided the franchise larder too many times – and this unnecessary remake is one of the worst. Back in 1990, Joel Schumacher’s psychological horror/thriller picture was not only Oscar-nominated but made the top 20 box-office hits of the year. Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon, it had a provocative premise which is repeated this time ‘round. Continue reading

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AWFJ 2017 EDA Awards: Timeline and Categories

eda award cert blankThe Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ presents annual EDA Awards to recognize excellent work by and about women, in front of and behind the camera. 2017 marks the EDA Awards’ tenth anniversary. AWFJ presents three types of year-end awards. Standard “Best of” and “Female Focus” categories are presented annually, while “Special Mention” categories vary each year in response to the year’s crop of films, and usually include Actress Most In Need of a New Agent, Best Nudity and similar categories unique to the year end AWFJ EDA Awards. Continue reading...

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TAKE MY NOSE…PLEASE! — Review by Cate Marquis

take my nose please posterEvery woman has a body part she hates, maybe more than one. That makes ripe material for women comics. Women comics who joke about plastic surgery – Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, others – are among those featured in TAKE MY NOSE….PLEASE but this wickedly funny and fearlessly thoughtful documentary delves deeper. Though humor and more serious personal stories, director Joan Kron (making her directorial debut at age 89!) explores the double standard of looks for women and men, particularly in the entertainment field, with age discrimination, and the age gap in between leading men and leading women in films. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT October 2017: Agnès Varda, Filmmaker, Honorary Oscar Recipient, Director of FACES PLACES

“You decide you do something, then you are totally ready for things to happen.” Agnès Varda, on YouTube

agnes headsho croppedawfjspotlightsmallsmallFilm director Agnès Varda was talking about her process for creating documentaries, but she might as well have been talking about her storied career as the only female director of the French New Wave. Over her 63 years (and counting) of filmmaking, Varda has created a vast body of work composed not only of documentaries, but also short films and features. She is also an accomplished photographer. And now, at age 89, Varda has a new film and a new honor to add to her crowded list of awards and recognitions. Continue reading…

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