Women On Film – Women Directors in MoMA’s 2009 Global Lens Series – Jennifer Merin comments

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Conceived to encourage filmmaking in countries with developing film communities, the annual Global Lens series is a collaboration between MoMA and the Global Film Initiative (GFI), a San-Francisco based nonprofit that provides seed money to selected projects. The annual ten-film series has been screened at MoMA since 2003. The program’s mandate has no specific gender equality clause, but this year half of the films are directed by women. Bravo, Global lens!

Collectively, this important and enlightening series of ten selected films represents a concise survey of contemporary filmmaking from areas where local economic realities make any such expensive and technology-driven endeavors particularly challenging. Accomplished, entertaining, and thought-provoking, the films are genuine expressions of the social, cultural and political realities of the countries in which their creators live and set their stories.

The 2009 Global Lens features directed by women are:

  • Terra Sonâmbula (Sleepwalking Land) (2007), Mozambique. Directed by Teresa Prata. Screenplay by Teresa Prata, based on a story by Mia Couto. In the midst of Mozambique’s devastating civil war, an orphaned refugee boy happens upon a dead man’s diary. Reading the diary to the elderly man who’s adopted him as a traveling companion along the rocky road to survival, the boy learns of a woman who is searching for her son, and becomes convinced that he’s the lost son she seeks. The boy and old man search for the woman, but always find themselves circling back to the same spot, where the stories of the boy’s journey and diary’s tale eventually become one. Featuring remarkable, unsentimental performances by Nick Lauro Teresa, Aladino Jasse, Hélio Fumo and Ilda Gonzalez, Prata’s profoundly moving and provocative film contrasts the humane qualities of compassion, resilience and imagination with the horrors and desperation of war. In Portuguese; English subtitles. 97 min.
  • Mutum (2007), Brazil. Directed by Sandra Kogut. Screenplay by Kogut, Ana Luiza Martins Costa, from a novel by J. Guimarães Rosa. On a dirt poor farm in the Brazilian outback, a boy struggles to survive–and understand–the physical and emotional abuse heaped upon him and his desperately unhappy mother and siblings by his hot-tempered bully of a father. Kogut uses natural light and sound to deliver a starkly effective and unquestionably authentic sense of place, and she guides actors Thiago da Silva Mariz, Wallison Felipe Leal Barroso, João Miquel and Izadora Cristiani Fernandes Silveira through memorable, effecting performances. In Portuguese; English subtitles. 86 min.
  • Las Vidas Posibles (Possible Lives) (2007), Argentina. Directed by Sandra Gugliotta. Screenplay by Gugliotta, Pablo Fendrik. A woman travels to remote Patagonia to try to find her husband who’s disappeared, and meets a mysterious man with an unsettling resemblance to her missing husband, but with a different name and another wife. While trying to solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearance, the women becomes obsessed with her husband’s look alike and his inexplicably sad spouse. With Patagonia’s majestic vistas as backdrop, Gugliotta’s drama unfolds like a visually thrilling dream. replete with moody, haunting moments of grief and recovery. With Germán Palacios, Ana Celentano, Natalia Oreiro. In Spanish; English subtitles. 80 min.
  • The Photograph (2007), Indonesia. Written and directed by Nan Triveni Achnas. Capturing the texture of daily life in rural Indonesia, Achenas tells the story of a beautiful and alluring young woman who sends everything she earns as a prostitute in a local brothel to her daughter and ailing grandmother in her home town. Constantly threatened by her pimp, she convinces a reluctant portrait photographer to rent her a room of her own and the two develop a gentle bond of friendship that forms the core of the film’s character-driven story. With Shanty, Lim Kay Tong, Lukman Sardi.In Indonesian; English subtitles. 98 min.
  • Jas Sum Od Titov Veles (I Am from Titov Veles) (2007), Macedonia. Written and directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska, this drama is laced with Chekhovian references. In the scarred post-communist Macedonian town of Veles, a community dependent on a lead factory that exudes life-threatening toxic dust into the environment, three sisters dream of finding new and hopeful lives. Afrodita, the youngest sister, narrates the stories of her two sisters’ escape fantasies—one is looking for a visa, the other for a rich husband—and her own naive hopes of finding true love and unhealthy obsession with the idea of becoming a mother. With strong performances by Labina Mitevska, Ana Kostovska and Nikolina Kujaca, Mitevska’s feature presents a disturbing picture of modern life in the Balkans. In Macedonian; English subtitles. 102 min.

Global Lens 2009 runs at MoMA from January 14 to 31.

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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).