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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

ENDLESS SUNSHINE ON A CLOUDY DAY – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Actor and screenwriter John Connors, who makes his directorial debut chronicling the devastating battle that Anthony McCann, his wife Kim, and their children, Jade and Eion, waged over the next two years to beat back his death from cancer, shows a deep empathy for his subjects as he unspools their story. Anthony and Kim are given ample time in this documentary (Eion seems to have chosen to remain largely out of the picture), but it is Jade whose story takes center stage.

Read more

SPOTLIGHT January 2022: Jacqueline Stewart, Film Scholar, Archivist, and Curator

As a deeply committed film scholar whose work is resurrecting forgotten figures—particularly African American artists—in cinematic history, Jacqueline Stewart is changing face of American culture. Her contributions as an educator, curator, archivist, author, and popular presenter will ensure that diversity both of narrators and narratives will enrich our culture for years to come.

Read more

WEST SIDE STORY – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

It’s hard to imagine what cinema would be like without remakes. From the lowliest programmers to the most bizarre arthouse films, no producer, director, or film star seems immune from thinking, “I wonder what I could do with that.” But taking on a remake of a film as beloved and revered as Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story (1961) is another matter.

Read more