WRITING WITH FIRE – Review by Leslie Combemale

At the beginning, everyone said a newspaper run by women in the lowest caste would never work. Now KL has a staff of 29, hundreds of millions of hits on their YouTube channel, and has succeeded in a landscape that is still dominated by men. This is a story of women taking their destiny into their own hands, changing how the world sees them, how they see themselves, and literally changing the world at the same time. Writing with Fire shows them doing so, all while entertaining and educating its audience.

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Betsy West and Julie Cohen on JULIA, Julia Child and Collaborating – Leslie Combemale interviews

There’s so much to recommend about Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s documentary Julia, about the history-making trailblazing cook Julia Child, that AWFJ selected it to be our Movie of the Week. What stands out beyond new footage, never-before-heard letters and never-before-seen photos is the sheer joy of the film. It really captures Julia’s love of life and food. I spoke to West and Cohen about their work as filmmakers, about Julia the film and Julia Child, the icon.

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Blerta Basholli Celebrates HIVE in DC – Leslie Combemale reports

There’s a dream every female filmmaker must have of their projects getting support on a grand scale, as amplification from studios and outside sources with influence can make all the difference to a film’s success. That being true, writer/director Blerta Basholi must be over the moon after November 9th’s screening of her award-winning film Hive in Washington, DC. Not only were Basholli and Hive’s star, Yllka Gashi in attendance, but so were the president of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani, who is only the second female president in Kosovo’s history, and AMA, MTV, and Grammy-winning musician, supermodel, and activist Dua Lipa.

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BEANS – Review by Leslie Combemale

Framed by a challenging era in Canadian history, Beans is a good film for mothers and daughters to watch and discuss. Friendship, family, and standing your ground, as complicated as that can, are amplified from a female lens, and from the voice of a woman director who knows the story from personal experience. We could use more of these films to help guide girls through their self discovery, and help families support them on their journey.

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Rosario Dawson on DOPESICK, the Opioid Crisis and Representing – Leslie Combemale interviews.

Cast as a crusading DEA Agent in Dopestick, Rosario Dawson comments on the opioid crisis: I think this show, and why we’re in DC pushing it, is about the fact that we are not just trying to entertain people. We want this to be something that profoundly changes the game. You could feel it from every single person in the crew, because I have family and friends who have succumbed to the opioid crisis. 2020 had a record high of overdoses, and 75% of those overdoses were opioids. So we need to do something about it, and hopefully the show motivates people to do just that.

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Ann Dowd on MASS, Forgiveness and Motherhood – Leslie Combemale interviews

Ann Dowd is one of four in the ensemble cast of the new film Mass, written and directed by Fran Kranz. In it, two couples, Gail and Jay (played by Martha Plimpton and Jason Isaacs) meet with Linda and Richard (Dowd and renowned stage actor Reed Birney) and talk about their sons, both of whom died as the result a school shooting. Linda and Richard’s son was the shooter. Their meeting, which in Mass unfolds in real time, reveals their shared grief and complicated emotions. As parents, guilt looms large, and forgiveness, of each other and of themselves, may or may not happen as part of the proceedings.

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CAT DADDIES – Review by Leslie Combemale

At a time when many documentary and narrative feature releases darkly reflect the challenges, heartache, and cynicism resulting from a worldwide pandemic, Cat Daddies is as much a balm for the soul as a purring kitten burrowing into your hip. The film is a heartwarming charmer that shows men of diverse interests and backgrounds celebrating the unconditional love they have for their furry friends.

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AWARE: GLIMPSES OF CONSCIOUSNESS – Review by Leslie Combemale

Are plants aware, and what does that even mean? Is it true using psilocybin in a controlled environment can actually alter understanding of self permanently? What is left of us, of our consciousness, when we die? These are just a few of the universal subjects being examined in the documentary Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness, from filmmaking collaborators Frauke Sandig and Eric Black. The film follows six researchers into consciousness coming at the big questions from very different perspectives, while interspersing the dialogue with meditative, naturalistic footage relating to the discussion. The result is a fascinating look at who we are, and how we fit into the cosmos and life’s continuum.

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SILENT NIGHT (TIFF2021) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Can you remember the first time you really knew you were going to die? You know, when you learned that every human and living being on the planet has an expiration date, including you? What if that date was Christmas, and everyone else was going to die, too? That’s the premise for writer/director Camille Griffin’s film Silent Night. The film is terrifying and as dark as a starless sky, not because of the premise itself, but because of how the story unfolds. Absolutely not for children, and not even for adults who avoid movies with children in peril, this is decidedly not a Christmas movie.

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