THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Insurgent-Poster

Is it convoluted, perhaps unnecessarily so, perhaps as a result of adhering too closely to the novel it’s based on? Maybe. Is the world it posits perhaps implausible? Could be. So what? The same applies to the Harry Potter movies and the Hunger Games flicks. Take away the book-adaptation issues, and the same applies to the Star Wars films. Substitute comic-book foundations, and the same applies to the Marvel movies. The essential thing about Insurgent is that it gets all the important stuff right (as do, for the most part, all those other series). And the really clever thing about Insurgent that elevates it a step above the first film, Divergent, is that it sneakily undercuts a lot of the tropes of what has become a subgenre: the young-adult hero’s journey. Read more>>

read more

AWFJ @ SFF Filmmaker Forum: Storytelling Skill Sets For Documentarians — Liz Whittemore Reports

SFF-Banner4_2015

As audience members, each of us has a visceral response to images on the screen. We walk away with our own opinions and feelings when the lights come up once again. Whether a particular documentary touches you or not, having the opportunity to interact with the filmmakers in person is sometimes a once in a lifetime experience. During this year’s Salem Film Festival, AWFJ hosted two very successful and extraordinarily insightful panel discussions. Jennifer Merin moderated each of the panels, asking questions of the artists that they may never have posed to themselves. With time allotted for audience participation, attendees were allowed a glimpse into the making of some of the films featured at this year’s festival. Read on…

read more

AWFJ Movie of the Week, March 16-22: KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER

Opening March 18, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Kumiko, The Treasure Hunterthe beguiling new film from actor-writer-director David Zellner and his co-writer brother Nathan Zellner. Their story is simple, yet brilliant. Lonely Japanese worker Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi; The Brothers Bloom, Pacific Rim) finds a VHS copy of the Coen Brothers’ classic 1996 crime caper Fargo and, convinced by the title card assertion that it’s a true story, believes it to be a genuine treasure map that will lead her to a large stash of cash buried beneath the Minnesota snow. Read on…

read more

SALT OF THE EARTH – Review by Susan Granger

salt of the earth postet160One of the most dazzling documentaries ever, the Oscar-nominated “Salt of the Earth” chronicles the work of humanistic photographer Sabastiao Salgado – as seen through the eyes of his son, Juliano, and filmmaker Wim Wenders. This unique visual odyssey into “the heart of darkness” begins as Salgado comments on one of his most recognized images, a shot of 50,000 men in the vast Serra Pelada gold mine that formed part of the indigenous “Workers: Archeology of the Industrial Age” series, published in 1993. Read on…

read more

SUITE FRANÇAISE – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

suitefrancaiseposterThe story of how Irène Némirovsky’s novel Suite Française became known to the world is amazing. She wrote it as contemporary fiction inspired by the events she was living through — the defeat of France by the Nazis in 1940, and the subsequent German occupation — but then it was lost, packed away unread, until the 1990s, and finally published only in 2004. Her fiction is a time capsule of the moment of its creation, reflecting the thinking and feeling of a time before any hindsight on the war was possible. It is not memory or history — it is now. Just a different now from our own. Read more>>

read more

AWFJ @ Salem Film Fest 2015 Filmmaker Forum – “The Obligations and Limitations of Engagement”

At the heart of a good documentary is the heartbeat of the film’s lead characters, and they’re often people who’ve experienced traumatic, life changing events or situations. The documentarians on our panel have witnessed their subjects’ troubles in a most intimate way. We ask them to describe their relationships with their subjects, to tell us how they balance the requisite empathy and objectivity to tell the story, and how they know when it’s time to disengage and complete their films. Core questions that reveal the challenges and solutions facing filmmakers telling the stories of people experiencing difficult life situations. Participants: Erinnisse and Patryk Rebisz (co-dir.) Shoulder the Lion; Morgan Schmidt-Feng (dir.) Om Her Own; Jonathan Howells (dir.) Alfred & Jakobine; Marie-Lou Gingras (editor) Once Upon A Crime: The Borrelli – Davis Conspiracy. Moderated by Jennifer Merin. View the photo gallery.

read more

AWFJ Movie of the Week, March 9-15: CINDERELLA

Opening March 13, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Cinderellaa live-action retelling of the classic fairy tale from actor/director Kenneth Brangh, who follows up previous films Jack Ryan:Shadow Recruit and Thor with something altogether more gentle. Read on…

read more

WILD TALES – Review by Susan Granger

Opening with one of the shortest and most amusing segments, Argentinean filmmaker Damian Szifron’s unconventional anthology is built around the psychological concept of revenge.
“Pasternak” deals with a fateful encounter on a plane, as a suave music critic (Dario Grandinetti) begins a conversation with a beautiful model (Maria Marull), seated across the aisle. Within moments, they discover they’re not the only people in business class with a connection to the model’s ex-boyfriend, Gabriel Pasternak. Think “Twilight Zone.” Read on…

read more

DREAMCATCHER – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

dreamcatcherposter

Fresh from its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is veteran documentarian Kim Longinotto’s moving portrait of Brenda Myers-Powell and her Dreamcatcher Foundation, which supports women escaping from prostitution. Longinotto follows Myers-Powell on her nightly rounds in Chicago, offering help and hope to women — some of whom are still only girls — who are ready to get off the streets, and condoms and hugs for those who aren’t. Read more>>

read more

Sundance’s Caroline Libresco on Striving for Gender Equality – Interview by Cathryn Atkinson (Exclusive)

carolinelibresco200Sundance Institute’s annual survey about movies made by women is due for release in April. The ongoing studym an aspect of Sundance’s ongoing concerns about gender equality, is creating what is arguably the most complete set of data available on how females filmmakers fare in the indie realm, in contrast to the shocking stats about women moviemakers in Hollywood. Sundance Flim Festival Documentaries programmer Caroline Libresco previews the survey, and talks about measures Sundance is taking to level the playing field for women. Read on…

read more