Women’s films at Sundance 07

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Sundance presents 50 films, including fiction features, documentaries and shorts, by women this year, including the postumous premier of the final film of Adrienne Shelly, the beloved actress and filmmaker who was murdered in New York on November 1, 2006. The film, WAITRESS, is about about a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep South, who falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness. In Shelly’s memory, her husband, Andy Ostroy, has formed a foundation to support the work of female filmmakers.

Other women’s films at the Sundance 2007 include

Lauren Thierry‘s short documentary, AUTISM EVERY DAY (USA), is a gritty, truthful insider view of the lives of families struggling to raise children with autism, overcoming heartbreaking circumstances with uncompromising hope and unconditional love.

Sarah Polley‘s AWAY FROM HER (Canada) is about Grant and Fiona, happily married for 50 years, forced to come to grips with her frequent memory lapses caused by Alzeimer’s disease, stretching their love and loyalty to the limits.

BROKEN ENGLISH (USA) is Zoe Cassavetes tale of a thirty-something woman who’s surrounded by friends who’re married, in relationships or with children and unexpectedly meets a quirky Frenchman who opens her eyes to a lot more than love.

Alejandra Sanchez‘s documentary, BAJO JUAREZ, THE CITY DEVOURING ITS DAUGHTERS (Mexico), investigates a Mexican industrial town near the US border, where hundreds of women have been sexually abused and murdered, and untangles a web of corruption that reaches the highest levels of Mexican society

BLAME IT ON FIDEL (LA FAUTE A FIDEL, France), by Julie Gavras, shows how a 9- year-old girl weathers big changes in her household as her parents become radical political activists in 1970-71 Paris.

In Lilah Vandenburgh‘s short, BITCH (USA), a tough girl with a predilection for quality vinyl and a hard jab soon finds herself falling for a jerk with poor social skills and bad taste in music.

Cherie Nowlan helms CLUBLAND (Australia): Tim has a new girlfriend. It should be the perfect romance but something’s holding him back. He has a secret…his parents are “Entertainers”! There are never just two people in a family love story.

Uli Gaulke‘s documentary, COMRADS IN DREAMS (Germany) unites four pople from the far ends of the globe through their shared passion for cinema and their quest to bring silver screen magic to everyday lives of those who most need it.

In Nanobah Becker‘s short, CONVERSION, Christian missionaries make a catastrophic visit to a Navajo family.

THE DAWN CHORUS (USA) is Hope Dickson Leach‘s short about Bonnie and Lloyd’s ongoing search for answers regarding the plane crash that killed their parents seven years ago.

DESTINY MANIFESTO (USA) is Martha Colburn‘s animated short, an exploration of the visual and psychological parallels between the American western frontier and the conflict in the Middle East

In DREAMS AND DESIRES – FAMILY TIES (UK, short), Joanna Quinn follows Beryl who, acquiring a digital video camers, becomes obsessed with filmmaking process, experssing her dreams and desires in a video diary with disastrous results.

Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern’s THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK (USA) is a documentary exposing the genocide raging in Darfur, Sudan as seen through the eyes of a former U.S. marine who returns home to make the story public.

In ENEMIES OF HAPPINESS (VORES LYKKES FJENDER, Denmark), documentarians Eva Mulvad and Anja Al Erhayem tell the story of Malalai Joya, a 28-year-old Afghani woman who redefines the role of women and elected officials in her county with her historic 2005 victory in Afghanistan’s first democratic parliamentary election in over 30 years

The documentary, EVERYTHING’S COOL (USA), is Judith Helfand and Daniel B.Gold’s take on a group that’s warning about global warming trying to find iconic images, proper language and points of leverage to move the an increasingly aware public from simply acknowledging the problem to adopting an alternative energy economy.

In THE FIGHTING CHOLITAS (USA, documentary short), Mariam Jobrani, Kenny Krauss and Teresa Deskins show a group of bold, female, Bolivian wrestlers pushing the limits of their culture by performing the acrobatic maneuvers of Lucha Libre every Sunday.

Tara ‘s short, SWIM WITH THE FISH, is the story of a child who believes her mother has relocated (literally) to the Gulf of Mexico, and skips school to pay her mother a birthday visit.

Andrea Staka‘s FRAULEIN (Switzerland) is about a hardened Zurich restaurant owner from Yugoslavia who finds her detachment from her past disrupted by the arrival of a younger, free-spirited woman seeking a better life after the Balkan War.

FLYING-CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN (Denmark/USA) is Jennifer Fox‘s ground breaking documentary, is a 6-hour, sexy, often humorous, personal account of one woman’s four year investigation of her own life and the lives of other women around the globe-to discover what it means to be a woman today.

In Cynthia Wade‘s FREEHELD (USA, documentary short), Lieutenant Laurel Hester, in the last weeks of her life, has one goal: to leave her hard-earned pension to her life partner Stacie.

In GOD PROVIDES (USA, documentary short), Brian Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky take a look at the varied and unexpected responses to natural disaster.

GHOSTS OF ABU GHRAIB (USA), Rory Kennedy‘s documentary, looks at the abuses that occurred at the infamous Iraqi prison in the fall of 2003, uses direct, personal narratives of perpetrators, witnesses, and victims to probe the effects of the abuses on all involved.

GRACELAND (Thailand) is Anocha Suwichakornpong‘s look at a one night in Bangkok, where Jon and a mysterious women embark on a journey to a foreign land – the human heart.

In Sophie Barthes‘ HAPPINESS (USA, short), one evening after work, Iwona buys a box of happiness in a strange discount store and has to decide what to do with it

HEAR AND NOW (USA) is Irene Taylor Brodsky‘s deeply personal story about her deaf parents, and their radical decision-after 65 years of silence-to undergo cochlear implant surgery, a complex procedure that could give them the ability to hear..

Deborah Kampmeier sets HOUNDDOG (USA) in late 1950s Alabama, where a precocious, troubled girl finds her angel in the Blues.

Annmarie Morais‘ screenplay for HOW SHE MOVE (Canada) is about a high schooler who, following her sister’s drug-related death, is forced to leave her private school and return to her old, crime-filled neighborhood where she re-kindles an unlikely passion for the competitive world of “Step” dancing.

In Lilli Carre‘s short, HOW SHE SLEPT AT NIGHT, a man tries to remember his wife, but only comes up with scant details as his memory starts to stray..

Dominique Wirtschafter helms IF I HAD KNOWN I WAS A GENIUS (USA), about a young African-American man recounting his life– when he finds out he has a high IQ, he struggles to fit in somewhere, while also battling with his dysfunctional family..INFINITE DELAY (USA) is Lisa Kadet Kuhne‘s strange tale of a restrained subject surrenders herself to a sublime state of waiting in a mysterious underwater world.

In LA MISMA LUNA (THE SAME MOON, USA), Patricia Riggen directs Ligiah Villalobos’ script about a young Mexican boy who, when his grandmother dies, tried to cross the border to reunite with his mother, who is working hard in Los Angeles to create a better life for the family.

Jennifer Reeves‘ experimental short, LIGHT WORK I binds together found images from 20th century educational films with melted down pharmaceuticals affixed directly to the film, forming a concentrated fusion with pulsating electronic sounds, bass clarinet and organ.

In MAGNETIC POLES (USA, short) Maria Rosenblum follows a waitress who tries to reattract her boyfriend’s waning interest with a bizarre trip to a magnetic hill.

MAKE A WISH (Israel) is Cherien Dabis‘s short about a Palestinian girl will do anything it takes to buy a birthday cake..

Jennifer Baichwal‘s MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES (Canada) is a visually stunning documentary providing the unique perspective of photographer Edward Burtynsky, chronicler of the world’s transforming landscape due to industrial work and manufacturing.

Marjan Alizadeh‘s MEN UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER BETTER (Iran, short) is about a man who gets a call from a friend seeking comfort when his wife hasn’t arrived back home.

Alex Mack & Diana Montero follow mothers addicted to methamphetamines in MOTHER SUPERIOR (USA, short).

NEVER FOREVER (USA) is Gina Kim‘s film about how a women begins a clandestine relationship with a stranger in a desperate attempt to save her marriage.

Nina Menkes‘ PHANTOM LOVE (USA) is a surreal drama about a woman trapped within an enmeshed family, and her slow process of personal liberation. Set in Los Angeles and Rishikesh, India, the film combines fairy-tale elements with brutal black and white photography to create a powerful testament about inner transformation.

PHANTOM CANYON (USA) is Stacey Steers‘s short about a curious woman who encounters enormous insects and an alluring man with bat wings in a surreal recollection of a pivotal journey..

In PEACE TALK (Sweden, short) Jenifer Malmqvist presents Little Jonna and her friend Emilie playing at being soldiers, but Jonna’s mother doesn’t approve of the course their game takes

Jessica Yu‘s PROTAGONIST explores the organic relationship between human life and Euripidean dramatic structure by weaving together the stories of four men-a German terrorist, a bank robber, an “ex-gay” evangelist, and a martial arts student.

In RED ROAD (UK), Andrea Arnold shows what happens when a staid and conventional Glaswegian women reencounters a man she never wanted to see again, and has to confront him.

Tamara Jenkins‘ THE SAVAGES (USA), an irreverent story about life, love and mortaity, is a comic-drama about a pair of adult siblings who are suddenly plucked from their self-absorbed lives when they’re forced to care for their estranged and elderly father who never cared for them.

In Birgitte Stærmose‘s short, SOPHIE (Denmark), a pregnant wife’s questions her husband about whether he’s ever been with a prostitute.

Lynn Hershman Leeson‘s documentary, STRANGE CULTURE (U.S.A) shows artist and college professor Steve Kurtz awakening to realize his wife of 27 years has died in her sleep. A surreal sequence of events ensues, leading to his being held as a suspected terrorist. Nearly three years later the charges have not been dropped. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN (USA) is Mitch McCabe‘s short about a photographer chronicling her life over five years of political events, comically

interweaving protest footage with her photographic diary of self-portraits to tell a modern tale about art, change, hope, and futility.

Laura Dunn‘s documentary, THE UNFORESEEN (USA), shows how an environmental movement rises up to fight against a west Texas farm boy’s efforts to develops pristine hill country into large-scale subdivisions, thereby threatening a fragile limestone aquifer, and poses hard questions for future development in America.

Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine‘s WAR DANCE (USA), set against the backdrop of Uganda’s 20 year civil war, is a documentary about three children who make an historic journey from their school in the Patongo IDP camp to compete in Uganda’s national must and dance festival.

Jennifer Merin

Thelma Adams

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).