SPOTLIGHT July 2018: Jennifer Fox, Autobiographical Feminist Filmmaker, THE TALE

JENNIFER FOX HEAD 1There are many terms that one could apply to Jennifer Fox—courageous, determined, questioning—but the one she prefers is curious. Fox, whose breathtaking first feature, The Tale, dives into her own history of child sexual abuse, has let her curious nature lead her all over the world to find stories that illuminate both the particular and the universal. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT June 2018: Andrea Riseborough, Actress, Director, Producer, Outspoken Activist

andrea riseborough head 3This month’s Alliance of Women Film Journalists SPOTLIGHT is on quadruple talent Andrea Riseborough, who in addition to writing, acting, and producing, has recently added directing to her arsenal of skills and cache of passions. If her name only barely rings a bell, don’t worry. As a performer, Riseborough is a chameleon who prefers to slip herself completely into each acting role. She never looks the same way twice. In fact, even if fans have been following her career since her first appearance, they are still unlikely to know her real hair color. They may not even be able to recognize her on the street. In speaking to Riseborough about her career and latest role as producer and star of the indie release Nancy, she makes it clear she couldn’t care less about celebrity recognition. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT May 2018: Jessica Thompson, Indie Filmmaker, THE LIGHT OF THE MOON

jessica thompson head 1When filmmaker Jessica Thompson won the Audience Award at 2017’s SXSW for her engaging, gritty debut drama The Light of the Moon, she wasn’t exactly expecting it. “I didn’t think it was funny enough,” the Sydney native said of the film, a New York set story that doesn’t tread easy territory, following a talented architect named Bonnie (Stephanie Beatriz in a gutsy and under-sung performance) as she grapples with the aftermath of a brutal rape. While the subject matter is dark, Thompson’s critically acclaimed film approaches it with subtlety and humor. 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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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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SPOTLIGHT September 2017: MaryAnn Johanson, Film Critic and Activist

awfjspotlightsmallsmallOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPioneering film critic MaryAnn Johanson celebrates the twentieth anniversary of her popular website this month; an impressive enough feat in itself. That MaryAnn has established herself as a distinct, influential and prolific feminist critic in a fiercely competitive and male-dominated industry, however, is testament not just to her boundless knowledge of and passion for film, but also of her extraordinary tenacity and determination. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT August 2017: Kathryn Bigelow, Auteur, Oscar Winner, Director of DETROIT

awfjspotlightsmallsmallbigalow critics choice longKathryn Bigelow continues to advance the cause of women working in the film industry. Although she’s said that she prefers to be considered a ‘director’ rather than a ‘female director,’ she has consistently broken through the gender-based barriers that persist in the movie industry. Bigelow’s name is associated with a long list of ‘the first and/or only woman to win…’ stellar accomplishments, including capturing Academy Award gold for Best Director and Best Picture, BAFTA Award for Best Director and Best Picture, DGA Award for Outstanding Direction, PGA Award for Best Theatrical Production and numerous critics group awards (including four AWFJ EDA Awards) for best direction and best film, all for The Hurt Locker in 2008, followed by a similar array of accolades in 2012 for Zero Dark Thirty. Her latest film, Detroit, releases this month, and is already garnering awards buzz. It’s time for AWFJ to celebrate the multitalented and highly accomplished Kathryn Bigelow in our August SPOTLIGHT. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT June 2017: Amber Tamblyn, Actress, Poet, Director of PAINT IT BLACK

awfjspotlightsmallsmallamber jeans 2If courage had a name, it would be Amber Tamblyn. Her unblinkingly honest artistic achievements are legion.

The 34-year-old actress just made her directorial and screenwriting debut with Paint It Black, an emotionally charged drama about the relationship between a vulnerable young woman (Alia Shawkat) and her lover’s possessive mother (Janet McTeer) following his untimely death. As the film was releasing theatrically in May, Tamblyn hit the New York boards for the first time, starring off-Broadway in Can You Forgive Her?, penned by two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Gina Gionfriddo. And, Tamblyn’s third book of poetry, Dark Sparkler, published in 2015, considers the dehumanizing myth-making surrounding more than 25 actresses who died young, including Marilyn Monroe, Brittany Murphy and Thelma Todd. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT April, 2017: Katell Quillévéré, Filmmaker, HEAL THE LIVING

awfjspotlightsmallsmallWhen Katell Quillévéré was awarded France’s Jean Vigo Prize in 2010 for her first feature film, Love Like Poison, the cinematic community knew they had an exciting and original new filmmaker to follow. Quillévéré, who studied philosophy and cinema at the University of Paris, shows a unique talent for asking big questions through the lives of her characters. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT February 2017: Amma Asante, Filmmaker, A UNITED KINGDOM — by Marilyn Ferdinand

awfjspotlightsmallsmallamma with mask“We whopped Spider-Man, and that is my claim to fame!”

With the good humor and energy that have helped her break through to the front ranks of the film industry, director/ screenwriter/actress Amma Asante celebrated the opening week box-office victory of her spellbinding feature Belle (2013) over the popular superhero franchise. Belle tells the moving true story of a biracial woman, Dido Elizabeth Belle, brought up as an aristocrat in 18th century England. While it luxuriates in the kind of genteel elegance that is catnip to audiences, Asante also offers a penetrating look at the abomination of slavery upon which such rich lifestyles were based, and the confusion its title character feels as a result. Read on…

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It’s a Wrap: AWFJ Looks Back at 2016

AWFJ is completing our tenth anniversary year, and it’s time to take stock and evolve. What has our organization accomplished during 2016, and what are our goals for 2017. But as we look back to evaluate our accomplishments and before we set forth plans for a new year filled with worthwhile projects, let’s pause for a moment to give due credit to the AWFJ members who’ve contributed their ideas, time and energy to make our 2016 programs and enterprises so successful. Well done! And here’s round of applause and a virtual pat on the back to each of you in recognition of your collegiality and activism. Now on to the nitty gritty about what AWFJ has done curing 2016, with shout outs to individual members who helmed projects and made them happen. Read on…

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SPOTLIGHT October 2016: Bonni Cohen, Acclaimed Director and Producer

Bonni CohenThe filmmaking team of Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk explore the results of social media bullying with the new thought-provoking, conversation-starting documentary, Audrie & Daisy.

The documentary, which is currently streaming on Netflix, focuses primarily on two teenage sexual assault victims who had their humiliation made public via Facebook and other online social media outlets. The documentary should be considered a must-see for high school students, and the filmmakers should be applauded for their approach to this disturbing topic. Read on.

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SPOTLIGHT September 2016: Vera Farmiga, Actress and Filmmaker

Vera FarmigaVera Farmiga earned an Oscar nomination as well as AWFJ, BAFTA, Broadcast Film Critics, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globe nominations for her outstanding work in 2009’s Up in the Air. But that was just the tip of the awards iceberg as Farmiga’s been recognized for her impressive work in diverse roles by film critics and awards organizations worldwide throughout her 20+ year career. Read on>>.

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AWARDS INTELLIGENCER: Sacha Pfeiffer talks SPOTLIGHT, Journalism and Subtext — Quendrith Johnson Interviews

RacheSachaOne thing is certain, in Oscar Best Film contender Spotlight, Rachel McAdams is well-cast as Boston Globe investigative reporter Sacha Pfeiffer, who proves to be an intensely interesting character in her own right. A key member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that cracked open the priest sex-abuse scandal that’s plumbed in the film, and dethroned Boston’s Catholic powerbroker Cardinal Law, Pfeiffer packed a impactful editorial punch. She still does when it comes to social and political issues. But when you meet her, she tilts her head to one side, leans back a bit and welcome you into her zone. Read more in AWARDS INTELLIGENCER...

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AWARDS INTELLIGENCER: Frontrunner SPOTLIGHT, #OscarsSoWhite, The Contentious Award Season – Quendrith Johnson comments

If Oscar-winner Sean Penn can go interview El Chapo, then the state of journalism really is in trouble — oh, never mind, this is just indicative of how movie people perceive and interpret the craft of journalistic writing and reporting. A cocky Penn goes on Charlie Rose to call out those who ‘don’t think I’m a real journalist,’ while having committed a de facto ethical violation of the profession by grandstanding for Rolling Stone with a fugitive, mass-murdering, drug Lord. But, if turnabout is fair play, most journalists would happily take a shot at starring in his next straight-to-video motion picture. But what are we really discussing here, writing, reporting, The Death of The Media, The Rise of The Internet? Nope. This inelegant segue leads directly to our Oscar front runner for Best Picture, Spotlight. Read more in AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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SPOTLIGHT Tops Annual AWFJ EDA Awards Winners 2015

spotlightposterSPOTLIGHT, and more SPOTLIGHT. The Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ members honor the fine film that honors the fine profession of journalism with four EDA Awards. CAROL and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD get AwFJ voters’ love with two EDAs each. And the other 17 categories are claimed by a wide and surprising range of winners. See the full roster, including AWFJ’s critical choices for best nudity and actress most in need of a new agent.
2015 EDA Award nominees
About the EDA Awards
About AWFJ

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SPOTLIGHT – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

spotlightposter “For me, this kind of story is why we do this.” So says Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron, the editor of the Boston Globe newspaper on the eve of the publication, in January 2002, of a story the team of investigative journalists in the paper’s Spotlight department had been working on for months. It would crack open the coverup of pedophile priests in the Catholic Church in Boston, led to the revelations of similar coverups around the U.S. and across the planet, and would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. But “this kind of story” represents the sort of journalism that, while not yet dead, is seriously threatened by the new economic realities of the Internet… Read more>>

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MISS YOU ALREADY, TRUMBO, SPOTLIGHT, SPECTRE and other November 6 openers – Reviews by Jennifer Merin

miss you already poster copyDon’t miss Miss You Already, a moving drama about lasting friendship between two women. Skip The Outskirts, a film that casts teenage girls as bullies. Trumbo and Spotlight, two superb truth-based narratives that put mainstream media under scrutiny, feature fine female performances — by Diane Lane and Helen Mirren in Trumbo, and by Cate Blanchett in Spotlight. SPECTRE draws on past James Bond plots, introduces new spy gadgets and continues agent antics in a way that’s appealingly spoofy — but women are still foils for Bond’s fancies. Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan as an Irish woman who immigrates to America to find a better life, but finds herself torn between the land of opportunity and her homeland. Read the reviews…

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SPOTLIGHT – Review by Susan Granger

Sure to wind up in many 10 Best lists this year, this is the fascinating, true crime story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that revealed the Roman Catholic Church’s systematic ‘cover-up’ of pedophile priests. Spotlight is the name of the Globe’s investigative team, headed by Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) and comprised of Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sarah Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matty Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). They report to managing editor Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Slattery), whose father figured prominently in the Watergate-themed “All the President’s Men.” 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 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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May 2014 SPOTLIGHT: Amma Asante, Filmmaker, BELLE

awfjspotlightsmallsmallThis month, AWFJ’s Spotlight is focused on Amma Asante, the filmmaker whose femme-centric cinema successes include the lavish period drama, Belle, opening in May, 2014.


Asante’s second feature actually started with a postcard of a painting that shows two women — one black and one white — dressed in elegant 18th Century garb.

The image, along with the first draft of the script for Belle, was sent to Amma Asante by producer Damian Jones, who’d been so impressed by the filmmakers first feature, the BAFTA-winning A Way of Life, that he wanted her to direct this lavish period drama about a mixed race woman of means living among the English aristocracy during the 18th Century.

Asante was immediately intrigued. She had long dreamed of doing an Austenesque movie with a black female lead. When this opportunity knocked, she oped the door. And in came Belle. Read on…

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April, 2014 Spotlight: Scarlett Johansson, Actress, UNDER THE SKIN

awfjspotlightsmallsmallThis month, AWFJ’s Spotlight is focused on Scarlett Johansson whose bold career choices include edgy April opener Under the Skin.

It took British director Jonathan Glazer a decade to make Under the Skin. Scarlett Johansson stuck with him all the way. Read on…

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