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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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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.


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


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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motw logo 1-35Melancholy and moving, Heal the Living is a quiet, affecting French drama about organ donation. It weaves multiple characters’ stories together as it explores both the heartbreaking loss and the heady promise of renewed life. Continue reading…

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The Zookeeper’s Wife is a powerful, emotional ​fact-based ​drama about both the depth of human suffering experienced during World War II and the remarkable courage and strength of character that ordinary women and men demonstrated when their friends’ and neighbors’ lives were in danger. Jessica Chastain stars as Antonina Zabinska, a warm, gentle wife, mother, and animal lover who helps her husband, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh), run the Warsaw Zoo in late-1930s Poland. Read on…

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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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It may be a “tale as old as time,” but there’s plenty that’s new and fresh in Disney’s live-action take on one of folklore’s most enduring opposites-attract stories. First and foremost is Emma Watson as Belle, the independent, book-loving French girl who dreams of “adventure in the great wide somewhere” and ends up the captive of the surly, bitter, cursed Beast (Dan Stevens) after trading her own freedom for her father’s (Kevin Kline). Watson’s Belle is smart, confident, courageous, and feisty — she adds a welcome dash of our beloved Hermione to a character who was already considered one of Disney’s more admirable, self-sufficient princesses. Read on…

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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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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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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, 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 Movie of the Week, January 6 to 12: HIDDEN FIGURES

hiddenfigures-pHistory has a way of disappearing women. This is particularly true when it comes to women of colour. Based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures interweaves the stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. The film’s title is a gentle nod to the math necessary to plot the orbital trajectory of a rocket, but also to the women who helped to build the American space program. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of The Week December 2: JACKIE


Mythmaking has long been a staple of American movies. Pablo Larraín’s film portrait Jackie tackles one of the greatest of American myths — that of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. In the week following her husband’s assassination, Mrs. Kennedy granted an interview to Life Magazine. The film uses this as a framing device, and as an almost surgical means to dissect the psyche of its titular character. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, August 8 – August 12: Florence Foster Jenkins

florence_foster_jenkins_poster Meryl Steep adds another character in her pantheon of infamous dames — be it Margaret Thatcher, Julia Child, or Emmeline Pankhurst. This time it is an actual operatic grande dame in the form of Florence Foster Jenkins. The indomitable Jenkins came to fame (or more correctly, infamy) as an operatic soprano of highly dubious talent but soaring amounts of hubris and delusions of grandeur on a Wagnerian scale. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, April 4 – April 10: DEMOLITION

DEMO_1SHEET_27x40_MECH_FINAL2_ONLINE.inddOpening April 8, AWFJ’s Movie of the Week is Demolition, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners, Nightcrawler) as an investment banker struggling to cope after the tragic death of his wife. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, March 28 – April 3: MILES AHEAD

milesahead_poster copyOpening April 1, AWFJ’s Movie of the Week is Miles Ahead, an exploration of the life and music of legendary jazz musician Miles Davis, directed by and starring Don Cheadle. Cheadle takes the director’s chair for the first time, as well as the lead role of Miles Dewey Davis III who, as a jazz musician, expert trumpet player, band leader and composer, reshaped the landscape of American music and continues to be one of its greatest influencers. Cheadle also co-wrote the screenplay with Steven Baigelman, who previously penned James Brown biopic Get On Up (2014). Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, March 14 – March 20: MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

Midnight Special poster Opening March 18, AWFJ’s Movie of the Week is Midnight Special, the latest cerebral sci-fi thriller from young writer/director Jeff Nichols starring Kirsten Dunst and Michael Shannon. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, February 22-28: EDDIE THE EAGLE

Eddie_posterOpening Feb. 26, AWFJ’s Movie of the Week is Eddie the Eagle, the big screen biopic of unlikely British sporting hero Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards, who took the world of ski jumping by storm in the 1980s. Read on…

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On Multi-flexing Critical and Fictional Muscle – Thelma Adams comments

thelma-adamsIn recent years, when I’ve experienced so much strife in the New York Film Critics Circle after nearly two decades of active membership, I’ve often thought back to the first day I attended the voting meeting. I was seven or eight months pregnant with a child that would arrive early and with great difficulty, and I entered the meeting room with such hope and trepidation. Read on…

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2015 AWFJ EDA Award: Lily Tomlin Defies Age and Ageism

AWFJ President Jennifer Merin presents Lily Tomlin with the AWFJ EDA Award for Actress Defying age and Ageism

AWFJ President Jennifer Merin presents Lily Tomlin with the AWFJ EDA Award for Actress Defying age and Ageism

To see the full list of 2015 AWFJ EDA Awards, click here. For more 2015 EDA Award photos, click here.

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, January 18-24: THE 5TH WAVE

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Opening Jan. 22, AWFJ’s Movie of the Week is The 5th Wave, which stars Chloe Grace Moretz (Clouds of Sils Maria, Let Me In) as a teenager struggling to survive after alien attacks have destroyed most of Planet Earth. Read on…

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AWFJ EDA Awards @ Whistler Film Festival: The Winners! – Katherine Brodsky reports


At the Whistler Film Festival Awards Brunch on Sunday, December 6, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) recognized the outstanding achievements by four women filmmakers by presenting its prestigious EDA Awards at the festival for the third consecutive year. Read more…

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AWFJ To Present EDA Awards @ Whistler Film Festival 2015 – Katherine Brodsky reports


The Alliance of Women Film Journalists Inc. (AWFJ) is partnering with Whistler Film Festival 2015, held from December 2 to 6 in Whistler, British Columbia, to present juried AWFJ EDA Awards for Best Female-Directed Fiction Feature and Best Female-Directed Documentary Feature. This is the third consecutive year of the partnership between Whistler Film Festival and AWFJ to recognize and honor excellent work by female directors. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, November 24-November 30: JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE

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Opening Nov. 27, AWFJ’s Movie of the Week is Janis: Little Girl Blue, the new documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Amy Berg which looks at the life and work of legendary blues singer Janis Joplin. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, November 10-November 16: INGRID BERGMAN: IN HER OWN WORDS

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Opening Nov. 13, AWFJ’s Movie of the Week is Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, the intimate biopic of the legendary siren of the silver screen by Swedish writer, director and film critic Stig Bjorkman. Read on…

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St Louis International Film Festival Selects Nominees for AWFJ EDA Award @ SLIFF 2015 – Michelle McCue reports

sliff logoAWFJ will again partner with the St Louis International Film Festival to recognize women’s accomplishments in filmmaking, presenting AWFJ EDA Awards for the Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature and Best Female-Directed Documentary at the 24th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival will be held Nov. 5-15, 2015. Nominations for the AWFJ EDA Awards for Best Female-Directed Film and Best Female-Directed Documentary are made by SLIFF and have been announced. Five films will compete in each category. Here’s a glimpse of the films that have been selected: Read on…

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