SPOTLIGHT October 2021: Kinuyo Tanaka, Japanese Golden Age Actor, Director, and Lumière Honoree

2021 was the year the film world rediscovered Japanese actor and director Kinuyo Tanaka. Tanaka acted in more than 200 films for some of the greatest directors Japan ever produced during a career that spanned from 1924 through 1976—just a year before her death. Her work as a director, however, is largely unknown, but thanks to the restoration of some of her films by The Japan Foundation, audiences are gaining access to her ground-breaking work.

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FALLING FOR FIGARO – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

One notable effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is the massive reassessment many people have made about how they are spending their precious time on earth. The large number of people who have told their employers to “take this job and shove it” has been both a shock to the capitalist class and an inspiration to those who want to live more fulfilling, humane lives. Ben Lewin’s winning romcom, Falling for Figaro, takes on this phenomenon with humor and heart, aided mightily by its star, Danielle Macdonald.

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LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Jeremy Workman’s charming and inspiring documentary, Lily Topples the World, focuses on Lily Hevesh, a 20-year-old woman who is a celebrity in a community few older people know anything about—the YouTube world of domino art. Known by her millions of YouTube fans as Hevesh5, Lily is pursuing a career that involves setting up colored tiles in intricate patterns and structures and knocking them down in precise, mesmerizing order. Is it art? Absolutely, in the same manner as sand paintings are—ephemeral, but the product of infinite care and devotion.

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AILEY – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Filmmaker Jamila Wignot has such command of her art that she’s been able to make a documentary in such sympathy with its subject, Alvin Ailey, that we feel as though we understand him from the inside out. This quasi-experimental film that pieces together historical footage, archival footage of Ailey’s works and press interviews, reminiscences of people in his life, and a present-day dance in the making presents a biography unlike any I have ever seen.

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SHE HAD TO SAY YES (1933) – Retroview by Marilyn Ferdinand

With misogyny and sexual violence back in the headlines, now seems to be the perfect time to reflect on how ancient these related practices are with a viewing of the nearly 90-year-old pre-Coder She Had to Say Yes. The directorial debut of both Busby Berkeley and the film’s editor, George Amy, She Had to Say Yes is without a doubt the most degenerate pre-Code film I have ever seen.

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GROOMED – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

To look at Gwen van de Pas’ enviable life as a business consultant based in San Francisco who has a successful, supportive boyfriend and a loving family in The Netherlands, you’d think she hadn’t a care in the world. She thought so, too, until she started thinking about having children and began having frightening dreams about following a man across a swimming pool deck and into a private shower where blood starts appearing everywhere.

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MIU MIU WOMEN’S TALES – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

For roughly the past decade, Italian high-fashion brand Miu Miu, a subsidiary of Prada, has been commissioning and releasing short films from some of the world’s most renowned women directors. As long as the films include Miu Miu fashions and accessories, the directors have been free to express their own creative impulses and personalities. Within the series, film fans will recognize signature flourishes along with great invention.

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MR. SOUL! – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

I knew nothing about Soul! or the estimable Ellis Haizlip before watching this documentary. I am so happy to have been introduced to both, and I hope that one day soon a show as intelligent, exciting, and unapologetic as Soul! was will return to the airwaves. Meanwhile, I’m very glad we have this documentary.

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SPOTLIGHT January 2020: Ava Duvernay, Filmmaker and Cinema Crusader

It’s hard to think of a more galvanizing, charismatic woman in film than Ava DuVernay. The 47-year-old producer, director, writer, distributor, and crusader for social justice has broken through boundaries and expanded professional and personal possibilities for women — especially women of color — working in film, and everywhere else. DuVernay has our greatest respect for her artistry, her dedication to freedom and equality for all people, and her innovative leadership by example.

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