ABOVE THE SHADOWS – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

The protagonist in Claudia Myers’ drama Above the Shadows is not only invisible, but also unheard. She started fading at the age of 10, just after her mother died, and is unremembered by her family. Myers challenges us to look at ourselves through the eyes of others and drop our self-centered grievances long enough to see what other people may be going through. Myers’ script is ingenious and her direction of her actors masterful in making scenes with a supposedly invisible character work.

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OPHELIA – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

The genius of William Shakespeare has been a bottomless well of inspiration for creators down through the ages—flexible enough to absorb all manner of revision, from modern dress to modern English, and timeless enough to speak to successive generations with the common language of the human heart. Novelist Lisa Klein published Ophelia, her revisionist take on Hamlet in 2006, and now director Claire McCarthy and screenwriter Semi Chellas have brought her vision to the screen.

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MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Angelou was a certified renaissance woman whose one long lifetime ranged farther and higher than most people of any race or class, let alone an African-American woman from a broken home who was dropped into Jim Crow Arkansas following several years in more permissive California and then experienced the racial tumult of every decade to the present. As the directors of And Still I Rise put it, “An eloquent poet, writer and performer, Maya Angelou’s life intersected with the civil rights struggle, the Harlem Writers Guild, the New Africa movement, the women’s movement and the cultural and political realignments of the 1970s and ’80s.”

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ASK FOR JANE – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

As a legal showdown over the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion looms, a modest, low-budget film from a first-time director reminds us of what life was like before Roe v. Wade. Ask for Jane tells the story of the Jane Collective, a Chicago-based abortion service that operated in the shadows from 1969 to 1973 to provide safe abortions to women before Roe made their work unnecessary.

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HEATHER BOOTH: CHANGING THE WORLD – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

The sheer volume of Booth’s activities would be a challenge to any documentarian, but director Lilly Rivlin takes us through Booth’s life and career economically through the use of Booth’s audio diary, begun in September 2015, and interviews in which Booth recounts her personal history. What emerges is an inspiring portrait of a highly effective activist who has accomplished a great deal in her 70+ years on this planet.

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SPOTLIGHT May 2019: Margarethe von Trotta, Director, Actress, Leading Force of the New German Cinema

After 50 years of fearless determination as a director working largely in the German film industry, Margarethe von Trotta is set to receive a lifetime achievement honor on May 3 at the 2019 German Film Awards in Berlin. Announcing the decision to recognize her, German Film Academy president Ulrich Matthes said, “In a time when women were rarely allowed to direct, Margarethe von Trotta said, ‘I can do that! In all these years she’s given us some of the most intense female figures in German cinema.”

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Pamela B. Green on BE NATURAL and Alice Guy Blache’s Untold Story – Marilyn Ferdinand interviews

What would induce a woman with a successful entertainment and motion graphic design business to put it all on the back burner and become, in her words, “an official poor documentarian?” For Pamela B. Green, who produced titles and graphics for major motion pictures and the Academy Awards, it was a television show that included some information about a woman who would come to dominate her life for more than a decade—Alice Guy-Blaché.

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VAGABOND (Sans toit ni loi, 1985) – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

In her 2000 documentary, The Gleaners & I, Agnes Varda examines the historical practice of gleaning the remains of harvests from the fields where they fell and then broadens it to include the salvaging of any refuse. Going back 15 years from this diverting, meditative documentary is Varda’s documentary-like masterwork about another type of refuse, the mysterious and sad Vagabond, a young social castoff named Mona.

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ROLL RED ROLL – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Any time I forget how so many people could vote for a candidate who was caught on tape describing how sexual assault is part of his nature, all I’ll have to do is watch Roll Red Roll again. Here, in graphic detail, is a portrait of rape culture in Steubenville, Ohio, a community like so many across the country and around the world that prizes feeling like a winner above all else.

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