AWFJ Presents: OUR TIMES – Review by Loren King

Director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s verite documentary starts out as a look at how Iran’s young people, especially girls that include the director’s daughter, organized in support of reformist candidate for president Mohammad Khatami in 2001. But Bani-Etemad discovers that many women are also running, despite the restrictions placed on women’s autonomy in Iranian society and with little recognition or chance of winning. She begins to explore why these women wanted to make their voices heard. Her film soon focuses on one in particular, the quietly fierce Arezoo Bayat, a 25-year-old divorced mother who cares for her young daughter and blind mother.

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THE WOMAN KING – Review by Loren King

One of the most goosebump-inducing scenes in any big release this fall is the moment in The Woman King when an army of women warriors led by the fierce and radiant Viola Davis rise up in unison from the tall grass and run into battle. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who proved she could tackle the action genre last year with Netflix’s The Old Guard, has crafted a crowd pleaser that blends the historical epics of David Lean; recent action adventures with relevant themes such as Black Panther and Wonder Woman; and intimate, visceral drama about sisterhood, trauma and empowerment.

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BREAKING – Review by Loren King

Breaking is a spare and lean film with a stellar, racially diverse cast that gives the film’s depiction of working people authenticity. John Boyega is flat-out terrific as beaten down war veteran Brian Brown-Easley who, in an act of desperation, holds two women employees hostage in an Atlanta bank as he demands that the VA funds that are owed to him are paid.

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EMILY THE CRIMINAL – Review by Loren King

Even admirers of the always solid work from Aubrey Plaza over the years will be stunned by her riveting, nuanced performance in this taut thriller/character study about a young woman who, for complicated reasons, is trapped by her circumstances and turns to a life of crime. That’s the power of both John Patton Ford’s razor sharp debut and Plaza’s coiled but controlled performance.

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GABBY GIFFORDS WON’T BACK DOWN – Review by Loren King

No matter how much you think you know about Gabby Giffords, this moving film from directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West is eye-opening, urgent and revelatory. It traces how Giffords, a charismatic and impassioned moderate Arizona Congresswoman with a bright political future, was shot through the head while meeting with her constituents on a January morning in 2011. Giffords miraculously survived but eight others, including a nine year old girl, were killed in the assignation attempt. We get to witness Giffords’ determined, difficult battle to recover her speech and mobility

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CLARA SOLA – Review by Loren King

The unique and wholly original Clara Sola is a gorgeous, finely etched character study about the title character, a mature woman with physical and mental limitations who rebels against repression by her mother and her environment, a lush and mysterious Costa Rican forest. The magnificent Wendy Chinchilla Araya, making her movie debut, plays the childlike Clara who lives with her niece María (Ana Julia Porras Espinoza) and her religious mother Fresia (Flor María Vargas Chaves).

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GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE – Review by Loren King

Nudity and sex may bring the curious to Good Luck to You, Leo Grande but many viewers will be surprised to be moved more by the touching emotional journey that the characters take. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, about a middle aged woman’s sexual awakening, rests entirely on the performances of its two leads who elevate the premise to a tender tale of affirmation and self-acceptance. Daryl McCormack as Leo, a hunky sex worker and, especially, Emma Thompson as Nancy, the uptight widow who pays for his services, bring more introspection and nuance to the frisky material than one might expect

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FANNY: THE RIGHT TO ROCK – Review by Loren King

Not only is Bobbi Jo Hart’s documentary Fanny: The Right to Rock an entertaining eye opener about the seminal, ceiling-cracking all-women band, it’s up-to-the-moment contemporary history about how these rock and roll women are still setting a living example and influencing new generations of women musicians.

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PETITE MAMAN – Review by Loren King

A fairytale, a ghost story, a spare meditation on grief, loss, motherhood and the delicate mysteries of childhood — Celine Sciamma’s Petite Maman is all these things adding up to a deeply moving, spellbinding film that evokes tenderness and heartbreak in delving into what children can never know about a parent and what a gift it is to imagine glimpsing that precious unknowable, even for a moment.

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