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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 1, 2024: SHAYDA

Trauma and abuse fuel a Persian woman’s determination to change her life — and that of her young daughter — in writer/director Noora Niasari’s compelling feature drama debut Shayda. Thanks to Niasari’s sensitive script and empathetic direction and star Zar Amir Ebrahimi’s excellent performance, the result is a film that’s likely to leave viewers feeling both rage at misogynistic traditions and hope for the possibility of change, transformation, and renewal.

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Opening Feb 26 – Mar 3, 2024 – Margaret Barton-Fumo reports

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists highlights movies made by and about women. With a vigilant eye toward current releases, we maintain an interactive record of films that are pertinent to our interests. Be they female-made or female-centric productions, they are films that represent a wide range of women’s stories and present complex female characters. As such, they are movies that will most likely be reviewed on AWFJ.org and will qualify for consideration for our annual EDA Awards, celebrating exceptional women working in film behind and in front of the camera.

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SILVER HAZE – Review by Liz Braun

Silver Haze is an imperfect film, but thanks to superb performances it is never less than completely engaging. Sacha Polak wrote and directed this redemptive drama about a working-class woman (Vicki Knight) who bears the scars — physical and emotional — of a childhood incident. As art imitates life, Knight actually is a burn victim and a former health care worker, and this is her second collaboration with filmmaker Polak. Parts of Silver Haze are based on Knight’s actual experiences; notions about the transformative power of art appear to be a constant in both real and reel life.

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Sundance Institute’s 2024 Momentum Fellowship Recipients – Jennifer Merin reports

Sundance Institute has announced eight storytellers selected for the 2024 Momentum Fellowship. Now in its sixth year, Momentum continues its mission of fostering professional growth for mid-career artists, emphasizing professional development opportunities during a critical juncture in their creative journey. The fellowship specifically targets mid-career artists hailing from historically marginalized backgrounds, offering them tailored support and resources. It is led by the Institute’s Women at Sundance and Artist Accelerator programs. Momentum supports creators working in fiction or nonfiction who have recently achieved a noteworthy accomplishment, providing participants with a full-year of customized support around current goals they identify for themselves to level up in their craft and career.

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IN THE DARK OF THE VALLEY – Review by Lois Alter Mark

Stop whatever you’re doing and go watch this powerful documentary right now. (It’s streaming on NBC and Peacock.) Focusing on “one of the most significant nuclear accidents in United States history,” In the Dark of the Valley is a vital call for action to hold corporations accountable for the harm they cause in their insatiable pursuit of profits. Melissa Bumstead, a Southern California mom, begs the powers to be to “do the right thing” and clean up the Santa Susana Field Lab, whose toxic waste may have been responsible for the leukemia her nine year old daughter, Grace, has already survived twice. It turns out Grace is not the only child in the neighborhood to have gotten a rare form of cancer and there are far too many cases to believe it’s merely a coincidence. Melissa Bumstead, a Southern California mom, begs the powers to be to “do the right thing” and clean up the Santa Susana Field Lab, whose toxic waste may have been responsible for the leukemia her nine year old daughter, Grace, has already survived twice. It turns out Grace is not the only child in the neighborhood to have gotten a rare form of cancer and there are far too many cases to believe it’s merely a coincidence.

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TIFF CELEBRATES INTERNAT’L WOMEN’S DAY THROUGHOUT MARCH – Liz Braun reports

International Women’s Day is March 8th, and the Toronto International Film Festival will devote the entire month to celebrating women in cinema. As part of TIFF’s ongoing Share Her Journey initiative, which champions women storytellers, March events will include special screenings, guests and events, with a spotlight on the films of beloved Canadian filmmaker Patricia Rozema and a series devoted to 1980s punk girl features. Guests at TIFF Lightbox include filmmakers Rozema, Liv McNeil and Meredith Hama-Brown.

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WEEK IN WOMEN: Lily Gladstone to be Honorary Chair at Independent Spirit Awards – Brandy McDonnell reports

Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization dedicated to fostering independence and inclusivity in visual storytelling, recently announced that Lily Gladstone is serving as the honorary chair of its 2024 Film Independent Spirit Awards. The honorary chair position is given each year to an individual who exemplifies outstanding artistic achievement and embodies Film Independent’s mission. Gladstone, who is NiMíiPuu, or Nez Perce, and Siksikaitsitapi, or Blackfeet, recently made cinema history with her best actress Academy Awards nomination for Killers of the Flower Moon. In addition to serving in the honorary chair role, Gladstone is nominated for a Spirit Award as a writer on the film The Unknown Country.

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LEE FIELDS: FAITHFUL MAN – Review by Lois Alter Mark

Filled with great music and the soulfulness of the acclaimed singer himself, there’s no question that Lee Fields: Faithful Man is worth a watch. There’s lots to learn about the guy who’s often compared to James Brown (in fact, he’s even been given the nickname, “Little JB”) and whose 50 year career continues to inspire modern rappers like Travis Scott and A$ap Rocky. Jessamyn Ansary and Joyce Mishaan take a pretty straightforward approach to their subject, which dilutes a little of the funk but provides more balance and acts almost like a primer on how to sustain a career into your seventies. It makes clear that Fields’ ambition, work ethic and persistence have been as important factors in his success as his massive talent.

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A DIFFERENT MAN – Review by Serena Seghedoni

At the center of it all is New Yorker Edward (Sebastian Stan), whose facial deformities have become so severe that his doctor (John Keating) fears he might lose his eyesight soon. But it’s not just a matter of health: Edward’s entire life revolves around his condition, from the way people react to him to the lack of opportunities he’s given, and he also doesn’t have any friends. It’s a miserable existence, and though our protagonist might not be showing it on the outside, he’s on the verge of giving up on life altogether, the void he feels mirrored by a leaking hole in his flat’s ceiling that grows bigger and darker every day, as a constant reminder of his predicament.

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LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP – Review by Justina Walford

Lovely, Dark, and Deep is not a slasher film. It is not for mere entertainment. It is an emotional film in a dark, shadow world about grief, regret, and sacrifice. The plot seems perfect for horror: Lennon, a new park ranger in the isolated back-country tries to uncover the truth about her sister who went missing years ago and instead confronts her regret and grief in the supernaturally charged wilderness. We spend much of the film unsure if what we see is her madness or the madness of the wilderness, but we know that as we go on this journey with Lennon, every eerie and haunting moment is connected to the painful process of loss.

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