CHICHINETTE: THE ACCIDENTAL SPY – Review by Sheila Roberts

Like many of her brilliant contemporaries — U.S. Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Holocaust survivor and renowned sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and acclaimed Canadian zoologist Dr. Anne Innis Dagg come immediately to mind – World War II spy Marthe Cohn’s crucial work behind enemy lines is finally receiving some well-deserved recognition in an inspiring documentary.

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THE WOMAN WHO LOVES GIRAFFES – Review by Sheila Roberts

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes is an intimate, emotional, and thought-provoking portrait of a trailblazing woman who passionately pursued her dreams. Despite the roadblocks Dagg encountered which ended her academic career and closed off an especially happy part of her life, she never gave up and used those experiences to shape her future endeavors. At 86, she remains relevant in her field and is recognized as one of Canada’s foremost animal scientists. In an era of extraordinary environmental change, Dagg is still convinced we can all make a difference if only more people become involved and carry on like she did. This is an inspiring and well produced documentary that should be at the top of everyone’s list of must-see films.

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WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL – Review by Sheila Roberts

Rob Garver’s documentary deftly captures Pauline Kael’s lifelong love and passionate celebration of cinema. The film is entertaining and engaging as it navigates pivotal moments in Kael’s prominent career — from writing her essay on Raising Kane in which she argues Herman Mankiewicz’s substantial contributions to the authorship of Citizen Kane, to her short-lived collaboration with Warren Beatty that brought her to Hollywood after Bonnie and Clyde.

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THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN – Review by Sheila Roberts

Filmmakers Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Maija Tailfeathers’s Canadian indie, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, is part of Ava DuVernay’s impressive ARRAY initiative, a grassroots distribution, arts and advocacy collective focused on independent films by people of color and women filmmakers globally. The unpretentious film set in Vancouver examines how class and racism impact two young indigenous women from vastly different social and ethnic backgrounds.

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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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