Opening February 7- 14, 2022 – Margaret Barton-Fumo reports

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The Alliance of Women Film Journalists highlights movies made by and about women. With a vigilant eye toward current releases, we maintain an interactive record of films that are pertinent to our interests. Be they female-made or female-centric productions, they are films that represent a wide range of women’s stories and present complex female characters. As such, they are movies that will most likely be reviewed on AWFJ.org and will qualify for consideration for our annual EDA Awards, celebrating exceptional women working in film behind and in front of the camera. Our members are feature writers, columnists and regular contributors to a variety of media outlets and many of us publish regularly on the festival circuit. Our critical voices are widespread and diverse. We invite you to join us in tracking weekly releases of particular interest. And we welcome information about new films that will help us to keep our records updated and our critics alert. Below is a concise list of new releases set for the week of February 7 to 13th that are of particular interest:  

Tuesday, February 8 

  • Bite Me – Blue Firefly Films (VOD) – USA – Romantic comedy directed by Meredith Edwards, written by Naomi McDougall Jones. When Sarah, a real-life vampire, gets audited, the last thing she expects is a date. But an unlikely spark with IRS agent, James, forces two misfits to confront whether they have the courage to commit the radical act of falling in love.
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  • A Grand Romantic Gesture – Gravitas Ventures (VOD) – Canada – Comedy written and directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin. McKee is encouraged by her husband and daughter to take up cooking after she loses her job but instead, she signs up for a drama class where she falls in love with her Romeo.

Thursday, February 10 

  • Ballad of a White Cow – (Mubi) – Iran / France – Drama co-directed and co-written by Maryam Moghadam and Behtash Saneeha. Mina’s life is turned upside down when she learns that her husband was innocent of the crime for which he was executed, so she starts a silent battle against a cynical system for her own and her daughter’s sake.
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  • KIMI – (HBO Max) – USA – Thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh. An agoraphobic Seattle tech worker uncovers evidence of a crime. Starring Zoë Kravitz, Erika Christensen and Rita Wilson.
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  • Shapeless – XYZ Films (Cinemas, VOD) – USA – Drama directed by Samantha Aldana, adapted from a story by Kelly Murtagh. Ivy (Murtagh), a struggling singer trapped in the hidden underworld of her eating disorder, must face her addiction – or risk becoming a monster.
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  • Shut In – The Daily Wire (VOD) – USA – Thriller written by Melanie Toast, starring Rainey Qualley. A single mom does everything she can to save her children after she is held captive.

Friday, February 11 

  • A Week in Paradise – Screen Media Films (VOD) – UK – Romantic comedy written by Kate Wood, starring Connie Nielsen and Malin Akerman. An international film star’s world collapses when her film director husband is outed by the paparazzi as having a baby with his new young leading lady. Seeking solace and healing, she escapes to a Caribbean boutique hotel resort.
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  • Catch the Fair One – IFC Films (Cinemas, VOD) – USA – Thriller directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka, adapted from a story by star Kali Reis. A former champion boxer (Reis) embarks on the fight of her life when she goes in search of her missing sister.
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  • Here Before – Saban Films (Cinemas, VOD) – UK – Thriller starring Andrea Riseborough. When a new family moves in next door to Laura and her family, their young daughter, Megan, quickly captivates her, stirring up painful memories of her own daughter, Josie, who died several years previously.
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  • Marry Me – Universal / Peacock (Cinemas, Peacock) – USA – Romantic dramedy directed by Kat Coiro, starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson. Music superstars Kat Valdez and Bastian are getting married before a global audience of fans. But when Kat learns, seconds before her vows, that Bastian has been unfaithful, she decides to marry Charlie, a stranger in the crowd, instead.
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  • The Pact – Juno Films (Cinemas) – Denmark – Biographical drama. The intense friendship between Karen Blixen, the Danish author best known for her autobiographical novel Out of Africa, and Thorkild Bjørnvig, a young and promising poet.
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  • Playground – Film Movement (Film Forum in NYC) – Belgium – Drama written and directed by Laura Wandel. When Nora witnesses Abel being bullied by other kids, she rushes to protect him. But Abel forces her to remain silent. Caught in a conflict of loyalty, Nora tries to find her place, torn between children’s and adult’s worlds.
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  • The Sky is Everywhere – A24, Apple TV+ (Cinemas, Apple TV+) – USA – Drama directed by Josephine Decker, based on the novel and screenplay by Jandy Nelson. A shy, teenage musician tries to keep things together in the aftermath of her older, more outgoing sister’s death. Starring Jason Segel, Cherry Jones and Pico Alexander.
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  • Soumaya – IndiePix (VOD) – France – Drama. Soumaya, a practicing Muslim, is fired one day without explanation or warning. Later that night, she sees on TV that news outlets are linking her to jihadist circles.
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  • Tall Girl 2 – (Netflix) – USA – Teen dramedy (sequel) directed by Emily Ting. After Jodi Kreyman gains popularity, her miscommunications start causing rifts with those around her and now she really needs to ‘stand tall’.
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  • The Unmaking of a College – Zeitgeist Films (Cinemas) – USA – Documentary directed by Amy Goldstein that delves into the 2019 crisis at Hampshire College when students led a 75-day sit-in at the president’s office to thwart her attempt to give up the independence of one of the most experimenting colleges in the USA.

Recent Festival Releases Currently Streaming on Mubi: 

  • Black Medusa – Tunisia – Drama written and directed by Youssef Chebbi and Ismaël. Nada is a young woman leading a double life. During the daytime she’s quiet and reserved, but after dark she dives into the nightlife of Tunis and picks up men. She seduces them only to destroy them, like a modern-day Medusa.
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  • Honey Cigar – France / Algeria / Belgium – Drama co-written and directed by Kamir Aïnouz. Selma, 17, lives in a bourgeois and secular Berber family. When she meets Julien in college, she realizes for the first time the impact of patriarchal rules on her intimacy. Paralleling the personal with the political, the film probes the contradictions of a multicultural upbringing in 1990s Paris.
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  • Looking for Venera – Republic of Macedonia / Kosovo – Drama written and directed by Norika Sefa. Amid the brutish landscape of a remote Kosovan village, a teenage girl sows the seeds of defiance that dare to blossom against a stiflingly patriarchal community.
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  • Madalena – Brazil – Brazilian director Madiano Marcheti’s haunting debut is an oblique look at the aftermath of a murder when the body of Madalena, a trans woman, is found in a soybean field. Focusing on the ones left behind instead of solving the mystery, Madalena subtly reveals the nuances of societal intolerance and explores the political dimensions of personal grief.

Film descriptions are adapted from press releases. Titles highlighted in red have links to full revoews/ Stay tuned in for next week’s releases! Contact us if we’ve overlooked anything.

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Margaret Barton-Fumo

Based in New York, Margaret Barton-Fumo has contributed to Film Comment since 2006. Her monthly online column, “Deep Cuts,” focused on the intersection of film and music. She has interviewed such directors, actors, and musicians as Brian De Palma, James Gray, Harry Dean Stanton, and Paul Williams, and has additionally contributed to Senses of Cinema and Stop Smiling. She is the editor of Paul Verhoeven: Interviews, published by the University Press of Mississippi.