MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 28 – May 5: TOMORROW EVER AFTER

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The notion of time travel is almost as old as time itself. Ever since we humans invented the idea, we’ve been struggling against it, wanting to go forwards, and then backwards, anywhere but the oppressive present. Director Ela Thier takes this conceit, and tips it gently on its head in her remarkable new film Tomorrow Ever After. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 21-27, 2017: CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY

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The street fight between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs is the subject of Director Matt Tyrnauer’s new film Citizen Jane: Battle for the City. The film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and opened the DOC NYC Festival, is now entering theatres across the country. Despite the fact that the majority of the action took place more than 50 years ago, it could not be more timely. Continue reading…

citizen jane posterIn 1955, Robert Moses had amassed near-supreme power in New York City, installing bridges, tunnels and public housing on a mass scale. But his plan to bisect Washington Square Park with a four-lane roadway was met with unexpected opposition the form of one Jane Jacobs: mother, journalist, and unlikely activist, who roused her neighbourhood of Greenwich Village, and set about stopping Moses dead in his tracks.

The story has inspired essays, articles, and even an opera, but the pair only met once in real life. Jacobs described the moment in an interview with James Howard Kunstler: “He was there briefly to speak his piece. But nobody was told that at the time. None of us had spoken yet because they always had the officials speak first and then they would go away and they wouldn’t listen to the people. Anyway, he stood up there gripping the railing, and he was furious at the effrontery of this, and I guess he could already see that his plan was in danger. Because he was saying: ‘There is nobody against this – NOBODY, NOBODY, NOBODY but a bunch of … a bunch of MOTHERS!’ And then he stomped out.”

Tyrnauer captures the larger ideas, detailing not only the history and ideology that fuelled the high modernism of the 1950s and 60s, but also uncovering the archetypal clash embodied in the film’s two main combatants. In essence: male versus female, top down against bottom up, and, most fundamentally, destroyer versus creator. Where Moses saw festering rot and urban chaos described as a cancer that needed be surgically removed, Jacobs saw diversity and density, life thronged with messy and competing voices, alive, pulsing, and complex.

After his initial roadway project was defeated, Moses circled back around, designating large swathes of Greenwich Village as “blighted”, a slum that required extensive redevelopment. Again, Jacobs sprang into action, organizing protests, rallies, and even getting arrested.

Jacobs went on to publish her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, becoming herself a lodestone of influence for generations of urban planners. But the fight that Jacobs started is far from over. When asked after the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, what he hoped the takeaway would be, the director stated: “Jacobs was fearless in speaking truth to power, the model of a citizen soldier. Her story resonates today, as we are faced with a president — an international developer, no less, of luxury towers — who throws around the terms ‘urban renewal’ and ‘American carnage.’ The film can be seen as a playbook for people who want to defend vulnerable minority communities everywhere. Certainly in this country, but also in the developing world, entrepreneurs and governments collude routinely to uproot low-income sections of cities in favor of towers for the rich. That is in large part what Jacobs was writing about, and it’s happening all over again, on a much bigger scale.”– – Dorothy Woodend

Team #MOTW Comments:

Anne Brodie: Matt Tyrnauer’s galvanizing documentary Citizen Jane: Battle for the City describes how a writer turned activist helped turn the tide and saved our cities. Jacobs knew a city’s value is in the well being of its citizens and the places they frequented – sidewalks, parks, neighbourhoods – made life safe and pleasant. Le Corbusier’s idea of stark modernism, which meant wiping the “old” to make way for the new – soulless superblock residential towers, expressways through the heart of the city and its communities, she felt was an insidious lie. This wave nearly did sweep North America fifty years ago but heroine Jane’s movement grew and as a result, some plans were abandoned, some blocks were torn down and the movement to build was tamed for a time. They didn’t work, they created slums, danger, and criminality. Jacobs arguments helped saved New York and Toronto from greedy city planners at the time when the environmental and feminist movements were taking off, a trifecta of win-win. China is now in the throes of Le Corbu modernisation, building city after city of dense superblocks that will according to Jacobs result in a long-term threat to well-being. Archival footage of Jacobs being a warrior, speaking out, reasoning and marching stirs the pulse. Her eagerness to go into battle was our good fortune. Good thing she can’t see the condo superblocks today.

Betsy Bozdech: Watching “Citizen Jane,” it’s impossible not to wish that Jane Jacobs was still with us, continuing to put her grit and determination to use organizing the kind of passionate protests that helped her fight for the heart and soul of America’s urban landscape. Deftly mixing historical footage with insightful interviews, Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary manages to make the topic of city planning engaging and relevant, all while introducing us to a woman who deserves a statue in one of the parks she worked so hard to save.

Jennifer Merin: At a time when cinemaphiles and the world at large are clamoring for positive female images and strong women as role models on the screen, Matt Tyrnauer’s Citizen Jane: Battle for the City introduces us to Jane Jacobs, the author and activist whose social and political engagement preserved NYC neighborhoods for the people who live in them. Jane Jacobs is a superb role model, and director Matt Tyrnauer’s remarkable biodoc is a blueprint of how one woman can make an enduring difference. This inspiring film is a must-see.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

Director: Matt Tyrnauer

Release Date: April 21, 2017

Running Time: 92 minutes

Language: English

Principal Cast: Documentary about Jane Jacobs, author and activist.

Screenwriters: Matt Tyrnauer (Director), Daniel Morfesis (Editor)

Production Company: Altimeter Films

Distributor: IFC/Sundance Selects

Trailer

Official Site:

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Thelma Adams, Anne Brodie, Betsy Bozdech, Cynthia Fuchs, Pam Grady, Leba Hertz, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sheila Roberts, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna, Jeanne Wolf, Dorothy Woodend

Other Movies Opening This Week

Written by Betsy Bozdech, edited by Jennifer Merin, social media by Sandra Kraisirideja

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AWFJ EDA Awards @ DOXA: Nominated Films and Juries

For the second consecutive year, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists is partnering with DOXA Documentary Film Festival to present EDA Awards for best female-directed films at the 16th annual festival, to be held from May 4 to 14, in Vancouver, BC. doxa logo 2017DOXA programmers have nominated female-directed films in two EDA Awards categories: Best Female-Directed Feature Length Documentary and Best Female-Directed Documentary Short. EDA Awards juries for both categories are comprised exclusively of AWJF members. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 24 – 31, 2017: THEIR FINEST

motw logo 1-35Mix a few dashes of “Argo,” a smidge of “Monuments Men” (admittedly, there’s not all that much worth taking), and a hearty dollop of “Hope and Glory,” and you’ll start to get an idea of what to expect from “Their Finest.” This World War II-set romantic dramedy follows a scrappy group of British filmmakers/propagandists who find themselves scrambling to make a morale-boosting movie based on an inspiring true story … sort of. Read on…

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Oscars 2017: A Compendium of AWFJ Members’ Views — Jennifer Merin reports

oscar trophyOur goal is to present a compendium of AWFJ members’ perspectives on Oscars 2017. Not surprisingly, the views vary widely from utter enthusiasm to complete dismay, with mix of meh in between. Quite a few of our members opted out of the project, claiming awards burn out, indicating frustrations with the Academy’s new press procedures and/or stating that this year’s entire awards campaign and media buildup was either too political or not political enough. Read what Jeanne Wolf, Susan Wloszczyna, Moira Sullivan, Diana Saenger, Sheila Roberts, Nell Minow, Brandy McDonnell, Michelle McCue, Karen Martin, Kimberly Lindbergs, Leba Hertz, Candice Frederick, Marilyn Ferdinand, Chaz Ebert, Katherine Brodsky, Liz Braun, Betsy Bozdech and Erica Abeel have to say about Oscar 2017 on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 3 – 10: THE LAST WORD

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Where would we be without Shirley MacLaine? Ever since her first appearance in cinema (Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry), the woman has proven to be a wild card in the best sense of the term. Think of the jilted office girl that captivates Jack Lemmon in The Apartment, the ripeness and sass of Sweet Charity, or the remarkable mother from hell in Terms of Endearment. La MacLaine injects a tartness, intelligence and slyness into her performances that elevates even the most well-trod of narrative tropes. Read on…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK Feb 27 to Mar 3: FROM NOWHERE

motw logo 1-35From Nowhere has the peculiar timing of being released in theatres in the midst of the current maelstrom around immigration in the US. The film premiered last year at the SXSW Festival, where it picked up an audience choice award. Back in those innocent and unsuspecting days of yore, the film was relevant and topical, but now it is essential. As the US president threatens to muster the National Guard to round up  the undocumentedFrom Nowhere offers up a portrait of three young lives caught up in this Kafkaesque situation. Read On….

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 17-21: AMERICAN FABLE

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Horror and fantasy film have long been a birthplace for emerging talent. Steven Spielberg, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Kathryn Bigelow, and Gareth Edwards – all cut their teeth in genre cinema before moving onto other things. Director Anne Hamilton is in fine company, and her new film American Fable emerges from this august tradition, trailing references aplenty. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, Feb 3 – 10: I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

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Raoul Peck’s impeccable and rigorous film I Am Not Your Negro comes at a moment when cinema is creating new conversations about race. Ava DuVernay’s 13TH, Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight, Denzel Washington’s Fences, Hidden Figures, and Loving – all contend in different ways with oppression, prejudice, and racial hatred. Read On… 

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, Jan 27 to Feb 3: SOPHIE AND THE RISING SUN

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Director Maggie Greenwald’s film Sophie and the Rising Sun is distinctly old-fashioned, sturdy in its construction, stolid even, but with fine details of time and place that add depth and grain to the action. The film is a handsome affair about interracial romance and racial prejudice, and although it occasionally traffics in sentiment, the solidity and strength provided by the female cast keeps it focused on rational tolerance, womanly solidarity and a little old thing called love. Read On…

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AWFJ Welcomes New Members for 2017

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists receives applications for membership throughout the year, and invites several applicants to join the organization at the beginning of each year. For 2017, we have invited eight exceptional, enthusiastic and dedicated film journalists to become AWFJ members. We Welcome them to the organization and look forward to collaborating with them on AWFJ projects that will advance the cause of gender parity and diversity on screen, behind the lens and in film media and journalism. To meet our new members, read on…

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