PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE – Review by Sheila Roberts

If you enjoy femme-centric cinema with a strong female gaze, go see filmmaker Celine Sciamma’s sublime period drama, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, set on an isolated island in 1760’s Brittany. Sciamma examines the relationship between a reluctant bride-to-be (Heloise/Adele Haenel) and the artist (Marianne/Noemie Merlant) secretly commissioned by her mother (La Comtesse/Valeria Golino) to paint her wedding portrait. While posing as a hired companion, Marianne surreptitiously observes every detail of her subject on their daily walks then paints Heloise from memory in the evenings.

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HALA – Review by Sheila Roberts

Coming of age is an angst-filled journey of self-discovery for any teenager, but in Apple’s new indie drama, Hala, it’s especially daunting for a sensitive, curious 17-year-old first generation Pakistani American (Geraldine Viswanathan) who finds herself navigating uncharted waters. Hala struggles to forge her young adult identity while confronting the challenges of dual cultures and trying to meet her parents’ (Purbi Joshi, Azad Khan) rigid expectations. Her desire to integrate as a young American girl conflicts with her family’s traditional cultural and religious values. Hala is a fantastic film that you should not miss.

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SHOOTING THE MAFIA – Review by Sheila Roberts

The brutal atrocities of life and death under the Mafia have rarely been captured in such a riveting way as they were by acclaimed Italian photojournalist Letizia Battaglia, the fascinating subject of filmmaker Kim Longinotto’s engrossing documentary, Shooting the Mafia. Battaglia’s photos encompassed the gamut of Sicilian life starting in the early 1970s, but the vast majority focused on violent Mafia crimes and their impact on the people of Palermo. Battaglia acknowledges that making a living documenting terrifying violence and receiving death threats, took an emotional toll, but she rarely let fear stop her. She knew she was being watched, and she learned quickly how to cough to conceal the click of her camera at the victims’ funerals.

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ATLANTICS – Review by Sheila Roberts

Mati Diop’s highly original film is a magical and mysterious tale told from the female-centric perspective of those left behind. It’s filled with ghostly apparitions that capture both the plight of the migrant crisis and the life altering impact of genuine love. Ada’s dreams, nightmares and memories are central to her African identity. They are omens that remind her of who she is, what she can become, and how the future belongs to her.

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HONEY BOY – Review by Sheila Roberts

Shia LaBeouf delves into the darkest recesses of his soul in Amazon’s riveting Honey Boy based on his autobiographical screenplay about a young actor’s tumultuous childhood and early adult years as he attempts to reconcile his love for his alcoholic father with his pain. Honey Boy is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. It’s transcendent cinema told with authenticity and brutal honesty. This is a beautifully crafted film, and the impressive work by director Alma Har’el, the ensemble and DP Natasha Braier make them worthy contenders for consideration this awards season.

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DILILI IN PARIS – Review by Sheila Roberts

Writer/director Michel Ocelot’s stylish, computer-animated period adventure, Dilili In Paris, follows the escapades of a surprisingly sophisticated young girl of color who performs on stage in a cultural display in Belle Epoque Paris. When her show ends, the inquisitive Dilili decides to explore the stunning city where she looks forward to making new friends.

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ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH – Review by Sheila Roberts

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is an epic cinematic journey that’s equal parts mesmerizing, disturbing and timely. While our success as a species has tipped the planet’s systems outside their natural limits, the filmmakers express optimism that our tenacity and ingenuity that helped us thrive can also lead to innovative solutions that will pull these systems back to a safe place for all life on earth.

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RIOT GIRLS – Review by Sheila Roberts

Jovanka Vuckoic’s stylish direction, Kathrine Collins’ solid tale of female empowerment, Madison Iseman and Paloma Kwiatkowski’s convincing chemistry, spot-on musical selections that drive the film’s themes and action, and the strong contributions of a largely female production crew make Riot Girls a fun, cathartic and entertaining experience.

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