CARMEN – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Natascha McElhone plays Carmen, the put-upon sister of a priest who was forced to sacrifice her own life and happiness to meet his needs and the expectations of her family. Gray-haired, dressed in black, unsmiling, and silent, Carmen manages the rectory, cleans up in the church, and snaps to her brother’s commands like a dog. When he dies unexpectedly, she is unceremoniously thrown out of her home as the new sister to the new priest takes over. With no job, no home, no money, and nothing but the monsignor’s assurance that she will find paradise after she dies, Carmen must use her wits and divine providence in the form of a pigeon to remake her life.

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SPOTLIGHT September 2022: Ayoka Chenzira, filmmaker, educator, transmedia storyteller

Ayoka Chenzira is a pioneering Black filmmaker who has pushed the boundaries of where cinema can go. As an educator, she has encouraged new generations of women to find and raise their voices as they pursue careers in the liberal arts. Her dedication to ensuring that authentic African American experiences find their way into the mainstream of American society enriches us all.

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ALMA’S RAINBOW – Reviewed by Marilyn Ferdinand

While all Black filmmakers need more recognition, the award-winning independent producer, director, animator, Ayoka Chenzira has been particularly in need of rediscovery. Visual media have been made richer by her focus on developing stories of Black life and educating the next generation of Black filmmakers, including her daughter HaJ, her collaborator on HERadventure, an online, interactive fantasy film posted on Chenzira’s website and YouTube channel. Now, Academy Film Archive, The Film Foundation, and Milestone Films have produced a 4K restoration of her only feature film, Alma’s Rainbow (1994), in which a teenage girl, her mother, and her aunt all come of age in different ways.

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LOVING HIGHSMITH – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Social-climbing killer Tom Ripley is one of the most memorable characters in all of fiction, one who has been memorialized on the silver screen several times. The genius behind his creation, Patricia Highsmith, was a well-known, successful writer at the very beginning of her career, when her debut novel, Strangers on a Train (1950), was optioned by Alfred Hitchcock for his masterful 1951 film of the same name.

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TO A MORE PERFECT UNION: U.S. V. WINDSOR – Reviewed by Marilyn Ferdinand

At this scary moment during which ultraconservative Americans in positions of power have our civil and constitutional rights in their crosshairs, it is vital that we remember the battles of the past as guideposts to help us secure our future. In To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor, documentary producer and director Donna Vaccaro takes us back to 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, paving the way for legal same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

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A MAN’S PLACE – Reviewed by Marilyn Ferdinand

In her documentary feature debut, French director and screenwriter Coline Grando examines what a man’s place is with regard to abortion. In a featureless room, Grando interviews five French-speaking Belgian men between the ages of 20 and 40 who all had to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. All five were reluctant to talk about their experience and probably were persuaded to do so only because their interviewer was a woman. It’s not something men talk to each other about, one of her subjects says.

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RUTH STONE’S VAST LIBRARY OF THE FEMALE MIND – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Most people have no idea who Ruth Stone is. Our modern society is too prosaic and lacking in subtle feeling to pay attention to poetry and the people who write it. Stone herself didn’t know how to promote her work, dooming her to become a “poet’s poet” whose works the wider world never found. Yet, in a short 77 minutes, Jacobson not only tells us who Ruth Stone was, but also why we should pay attention to her and her poetry.

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JAZZ FEST: A NEW ORLEANS STORY – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Jazz, America’s great musical invention, has won enthusiastic fans the world over, but none moreso than those who rocked its cradle in the place of its birth—New Orleans. The annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival draws more than 100,000 people each of its seven days to hear jazz and its many musical offshoots on more than a dozen stages, eat arguably the best food on the planet, enjoy crafts booths and exhibits, and absorb the unique energy and spirit that any visitor to the Crescent City feels the moment their feet hit the ground.

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SKIES OF LEBANON – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Most of us strive for happy lives that are filled with loving partners and family, satisfying work, and pleasant surroundings that meet our needs. Many of us achieve these goals, but unimagined forces can bring the fulfilling lives we work to achieve crashing down around us. It is this erosion of normal lives and social connections that French Lebanese director and co-screenwriter Chloé Mazlo explores in her tribute to her parents and their home country in Skies of Lebanon.

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FIRE OF LOVE – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

With Fire of Love, director Sara Dosa pays tribute to the pioneering work of Alsatian vulcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, a married couple—scientists who got as close as possible to upwards of 200 active volcanoes, photographing and filming eruptions, taking samples and readings of lava and gases, and creating books and movies to pay the bills and spread information to lay audiences and scientists alike. Much of the film is composed of the footage they shot themselves. The Kraffts chose their isolated, dangerous life and lived most fully on the lips of the volcanoes that finally gave them the kiss of death.

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