THE WHITE FORTRESS – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

“This feels weird, like we’re characters in some fairy tale,” says Mona. “It’s more like the beginning of a horror movie,” Faruk counters. The thing is that Mona and Faruk, the central characters in director/screenwriter Igor Drljača’s story of fleeting love among the ruined, are both correct.

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PETITE MAMAN – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

It is sheer genius for director Celine Sciamma, who also wrote the screenplay, to level the playing field by bringing mother and daughter together as peers to talk about the things that really matter to them—young Marion’s fear of an operation she is to undergo in three days’ time and Nelly’s worry that she is the cause of her mother’s melancholy (young Marion reassures her as only the honesty of a child can that “you didn’t invent my sadness.”) Nelly, who confesses to her older mother that she wishes she had given her grandmother a proper good-bye, gets a chance at a do-over, albeit with a younger version.

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SPOTLIGHT April 2022: Maya Cade, Journalist and Curator

Maya Cade is an accomplished, articulate communicator whose invaluable resource and audience development work broaden our understanding of the Black experience and film culture. Her Black Film Archive not only reveals white representations of Blackness, but also how the Black community has seen itself in feature films, shorts, documentaries, and other media. We believe this greater understanding will result in more nuanced, informed films that can help hasten the cause of equality for all people.

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I’VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing is very sweet and very funny. Patricia Rozema, who wrote the screenplay and directed, pokes at the pretensions of the 1980s art establishment. A highlight: Gallery owner Gabrielle and a museum curator go through her gallery commenting in the most abstract language on the work of an up-and-coming painter—a skewering vision of people talking themselves into assigning values to a static image when an emotional response is called for.

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PHANTOM LOVE – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Phantom Love weds director Nina Menkes’ intrapsychic world with the formal innovations pioneered by surrealist artists and filmmakers of the first part of the 20th century, particularly the films of Luis Buñuel. Like Buñuel. Menkes populates her film with a variety of animals—an ant, bees, an octopus, some tetras, two Great Danes, a cat—but not in the absurd ways employed by the Spanish-Mexican director. Rather, Menkes has said that the images came to her while working with a psychic healer, and her familiarity with Jungian psychotherapy helped her accept and integrate the irrational elements of her unconscious into a film that reaches beyond mere character development.

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THE WILLMAR 8 – Retroview by Marilyn Ferdinand

The first and perhaps most impactful documentary that filmmaker Lee Grant made is The Willmar 8 (1981). Now little more than a vague memory or a footnote in labor history, the strike of eight women in the small town of Willmar, Minnesota, against Citizens National Bank for sex discrimination was a watershed moment in U.S. labor relations that led to a widespread investigation of unfair labor practices in the banking industry.

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Suzanne Bauman (1945-2022): A Life in Film – Profile by Marilyn Ferdinand

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists mourns the passing of Suzanne Bauman, a producer, director, and writer of more than 80 documentary and feature films, as well as a teacher of documentary filmmaking. Bauman succumbed to cancer on January 2, 2022, surrounded by family in her home in Wrightwood, California.

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BETTY: THEY SAY I’M DIFFERENT – Retroview by Marilyn Ferdinand

On February 9, 2022, pioneering funk singer/songwriter Betty Davis died at the age of 77. During her heyday in the early through the mid 1970s, Davis shattered the image of respectability the African American community embraced following the civil rights era with her sexually charged songs and image. Barred from radio stations due to protests from religious groups and the NAACP, Davis’ records did poorly. Pushed by record producers to change her style, Davis turned her back on the industry and, in a word, disappeared.

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THE BLOOD OF JESUS (1941) – Retroview by Marilyn Ferdinand

Among the creators of the race films that brought stories by and about African Americans to segregated Black audiences from the 1920s through the 1940s, Spencer Williams holds a prominent place. He acted in 33 films, including the 13 films he directed, and made the most of his low budgets and largely unskilled actors, showing impressive growth in technique, storytelling, and versatility as he worked. The Blood of Jesus was the first feature film he directed and shows what a formidable talent he was.

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BRAINWASHED: SEX-CAMERA-POWER (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Through the use of film clips, filmmaker Nina Menkes shows how a male-perspective-based film vocabulary has formed and hardened into accepted practice—one used even by women filmmakers. It is Menkes’ contention that these internalized norms of film construction influence how men and women behave in the real world. If women cannot be heard in a film, it’s only a short leap to silencing them in workplaces, public spaces, and relationships. If women are sexualized and give in to men’s sexual demands with pleasure in the movies without negative consequences, then sexually harassing and raping them in real life won’t seem so wrong.

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