HERSELF – Review by Leslie Combemale

It’s a good thing Phyllida Lloyd felt it was high time to helm a small indie film, casting Clare Dunne and Harriet Walter, the first a little-known but extremely talented actress from Dublin, the other, one of the most acclaimed and awarded performers in Britain in Herself. When Dunne penned a screenplay about a woman breaking the cycle of abuse and rebuilding her life through building her own house, she sent it to Lloyd for feedback. And now we have a superb film.

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SPOTLIGHT January 2021: Keri Putnam, Sundance Executive Director and Activist

With consistent commitment, creativity and compassion, Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam opens opportunities for diverse voices in moviemaking. She has built industry-wide alliances that advocate and enact change. Numbers don’t lie. The Sundance fest 2021 program boasts 50% female filmmakers. Sundance grants fund films that Hollywood would deny. When, at some point in the future, we all see ourselves represented onscreen and in the credits, we can thank Keri Putnam Putnam for moving the needle forward to make it happen.

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CALAMITY, A CHILDHOOD OF MARTHA JANE CANNARY – Review by Leslie Combemale

Animator extraordinaire Rémi Chayé’s Calamity, A Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary won Annecy Festival’s coveted Cristal Best Feature Award at Annecy Festival. Annancy fest’s highest honor. The colorful and arty film broadly imagines the pre-teen adventures of the girl who would grow up to be Calamity Jane, following her on her journey into the West, as she starts out on a wagon train with her father and siblings, gets herself into all sorts of trouble, and discovers herself and a few of her singular talents in the process.

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Phyllida Lloyd on HERSELF, Domestic Violence and Boosting Women In Film – Leslie Combemale interviews

Phyllida Lloyd has long been committed to supporting and promoting women in film, theater, and opera. From early in her career, she has placed women in traditionally male-centered stories or focused on the female perspective, creating conversation about women’s place in the power positions of history and literature. Lloyd’s new film Herself is by far the smallest, lowest budgeted film she’s ever worked on. As part of directing the indie film, she required Clare Dunne, the film’s screenwriter, with whom she had worked many times before onstage, would be the star of the film she penned.

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PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN – Review by Leslie Combemale

Promising Young Woman turbocharges the female gaze in a way that will make some traditional film fans and the white male execs who make mainstream Hollywood fare for them very uncomfortable. Too bad. Lots of female filmgoers are desperate for more films that examine the experience of women in a world where permission for rage, complexity, and antiheroic action is given almost exclusively to men. However this film makes you feel, finally, that Mulligan’s Cassie projects all that rage and complexity onto the big screen.

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ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI – Review by Leslie Combemale

It has been clear for a while that Regina King was headed for feature film direction, and she found a great and compelling subject in the historic night in 1964 when Cassius Clay (soon to be Mohammad Ali), Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown spent the evening together after Clay defeated Sonny Liston at the Miami Convention Hall. Screenwriter and playwright Kemp Powers adapted his award-winning play and King populated her film with a powerhouse cast that shines both individually and as an ensemble.

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FAREWELL AMOR – Review by Leslie Combemale

It’s quite the achievement to create a movie that feels as fluid as a dance. Writer/director Ewa Msangi achieves just that with Farewell Amor, a film that tackles the challenge of articulating reintroduction, second chances, and the risks and rewards of chosen intimacy for a family reuniting after 17 years. In her feature directorial debut, Msangi reveals herself to be a filmmaker with a deft and nuanced hand, and one to watch.

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FREAKY – Review by Leslie Combemale

The new horror comedy Freaky lands in time to splash cinematic blood all over Thanksgiving, and there will be lots of homebound horror fans who will be 100% there for it. Directed by Christopher Landon, the film is a twist on Freaky Friday, with the supernatural switch happening not between mother and daughter, but middle-aged serial killer and grieving high school cheerleader.

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QUEEN OF HEARTS: AUDREY FLACK – Review by Leslie Combemale

Co-directors Deborah Shaffer and Rachel Reichman’s film Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack is a fascinating examination of a singular artist, a woman who thrived in the nearly completely male-dominated art world of the 50s, changing the demographic and cultural landscape of 20th century art. Anyone interested in the first hand experience of a woman breaking the artistic glass ceiling will find the film compelling, not least because her story comes directly from the source.

Anyone who is interested in hearing and seeing first hand the experience of a woman breaking the artistic glass ceiling will find the film compelling, not least because her story comes directly from the source.

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CODED BIAS – Review by Leslie Combemale

Director Shalini Kantayya brings us Coded Bias, a documentary that rightly feeds fears on a subject many have blithely ignored, the increasing control technology is having over the world, and in every aspect of life. Worse, it is pervasively anchored in bias, expanding disparity in wealth, education, health, safety, and so much more. The film is an eye-opening examination of just how little the public is aware of how and when they are being watched, categorized, pigeonholed, and discarded, often because of their gender, race, or background, more often than not erroneously.

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