LANGUAGE LESSONS (SXSW 21) – Review by Jennifer Merin

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The pandemic’s challenge to the movie industry has certainly pushed the envelope on cinematic creativity. When scheduled productions large and small, studio and indie, were simply shut down or delayed, cinema creatives who work above and below the line were left with a frustrating dearth of work and angst galore.

But, to quote that old saw, necessity is the mother of invention and talented filmmakers began developing new projects with adjusted production strategies and methodology so they could bring new and engaging stories to screens. There has been so much inventive production that has resulted in so many — mostly small and indie — movie that we might site ‘pandemic production’ as a new moving image genre.

Language Lessons, which had its US premier at SXSW 2021 Online, is a fine example of pandemic moviemaking at its best. Its conceit is simple, believable and appealing. There is nothing gimmicky about the production. Almost all of the action takes place via the internet — so there’s no need for social distancing and any inherent concern about or danger of contagion is eliminated.

Language Lessons is essentially a tale of two characters who meet serendipitously on the internet. The story begins with their first encounter and follows their developing relationship as they find in and for each other the kind of compassion that’s the foundation of true friendship. From afar and via the internet they offer each other support during harrowingly emotional experiences. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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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 also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).