BRAINWASHED: SEX-CAMERA-POWER (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

In her new documentary Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power, director Nina Menkes cues up a bathtub scene from 1972’s Superfly. Guess what happens? From a close-up of a man and a woman, the camera glides down the woman’s back to her buttocks, then shows her breasts while the man stays discreetly in the suds. Compiling nearly 200 clips since 1896 from popular, classic, and indie films, Brainwashed analyzes certain filmmaking techniques that continually view women as objects

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BRAINWASHED: SEX-CAMERA-POWER (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Leslie Combemale

In her documentary Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power, which is inspired by her lecture “Sex and Power: The Visual Language of Cinema”, Menkes uses over 170 clips from films from the 1940s to the present from all genres to demonstrate that shot design is gendered. She makes a strong case for the idea that the visual grammar of cinema creates an environment that encourages discrimination, pay inequality, and sexual harassment, both inside and outside the film industry. Cinephiles may find themselves defensive about their favorite flicks, but it’s hard to ignore the many points she backs up with examples. Brainwashed may well fundamentally change the way we watch films, and it should.

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BRAINWASHED: SEX-CAMERA-POWER (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Through the use of film clips, filmmaker Nina Menkes shows how a male-perspective-based film vocabulary has formed and hardened into accepted practice—one used even by women filmmakers. It is Menkes’ contention that these internalized norms of film construction influence how men and women behave in the real world. If women cannot be heard in a film, it’s only a short leap to silencing them in workplaces, public spaces, and relationships. If women are sexualized and give in to men’s sexual demands with pleasure in the movies without negative consequences, then sexually harassing and raping them in real life won’t seem so wrong.

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BODY PARTS (Tribeca 2022) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Early in the documentary Body Parts, Rosanna Arquette remembers auditioning in a bikini for a part in the 1991 comedy S.O.B. One day while shooting, director Blake Edwards told her to take her top off. Then nineteen, Arquette hedged, not realizing the role called for nudity. Afraid she’d lose her job, she relented. Such affecting interviews are but one facet of Body Parts, a film that discusses how some creatives are pushing back against exploiting the female body, especially in nude scenes and sex scenes.

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QUEEN OF DIAMONDS – Review by Leslie Combemale

It’s not easy living in a transactional world without losing hope. That seems to be one of the truths evident to viewers of Queen of Diamonds. Newly restored, the film is written, produced, directed, and shot by feminist auteur Nina Menkes. She has been in the spotlight most recently for her documentary Brainwashed: Sex, Camera, Power, examin[ng the gendered and often misogynistic visual grammar of cinema. Traveling to an earlier work by Menkes offers a fascinating look at how a female filmmaker can reframe or manipulate what has, over time, become the traditional visual language of film, in the service of more femme-centric storytelling.

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SPOTLIGHT February, 2022: Nina Menkes, Independent Filmmaker, Feminist Activist, Educator

Nina Menkes is a trailblazer of American independent cinema and a crucial voice in our current reckoning with the ways film—both as an industry and an art form—treats women. More importantly, few living filmmakers have created work so virtually unprecedented in its stark originality. Her oeuvre is ripe for rediscovery.

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