SPOTLIGHT December 2018: Shelley Stamp, Film Historian, Curator and Educator

This month marks the release of the new six-DVD set “Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers” presented by Kino Lorber and Library of Congress. Author and film historian Shelley Stamp curated this ambitious compilation of works by women directors — some well-known; many unknown — with a focus on American films from 1911-1929. Spanning every genre and style, this collection is a revelation — which is why Stamp deserves this month’s Spotlight.

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CAPERNAUM — Review by Loren King

Nadine Labaki’s extraordinary neorealist film left me gutted, and grateful to be allowed such an emotional response. The film opens with 12-year-old Zain (a stunning Zain Al Rafeea, offering one of the best juvenile performances ever) in court for stabbing, as he puts it, “a sonofabitch.”

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PIONEERS: FIRST WOMEN FILMMAKERS – Review by Loren King

There are many reasons to love Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers, the six-DVD set from Kino Lorber. This collection of films by women directors with a focus on American films from 1911-1929 is nothing short of amazing. These sophisticated silent films span all genres — drama, comedy, action, romance — and are themselves a revelation for their style and innovation. But producer Bret Wood has also included several short documentaries that feature a stellar cast of film experts, mostly women, who shed light on the films’ importance to cinema and to American culture.

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BECOMING ASTRID – Review by Loren King

Whether you are a fan of the beloved Pippi Longstocking tales, or know nothing about them or their author, Astrid Lindgren, Becoming Astrid is a welcome introduction. Danish director Pernille Fischer Christensen crafts an incisive, engaging portrait of the artist as a young woman, focusing on her formative years before she became an acclaimed children’s author.

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HERE AND NOW – Review by Loren King

How would a day unfold when it starts with a doctor delivering a grim diagnosis? That’s the premise of Here and Now, a modest but affecting drama written by playwright and House of Cards scribe Laura Eason. It’s an intimate character study that rests on the lead performance from Sarah Jessica Parker.

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WHAT THEY HAD – Review by Loren King

Pangs of authenticity fill Elizabeth Chomko‘s debut feature What They Had and with good reason. Chomko based her film on her own experience with her grandmother’s dementia and the home movies we see in this tender family drama belong to her. The family dynamics and emotional push-pull in Chomko’s story of how various family members deal with the reality of Alzheimer’s Disease has a truthfulness that feels earned.

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LIYANA – Review by Loren King

Liyana is an innovative blend of documentary and animation that tells a moving story of resiliency and the power of imagination. Directors Aaron and Amanda Kopp follow orphaned children in Swaziland, who’ve suffered traumas from abduction to assault; and most have lost parents to AIDS (Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world). Well-known South African actress, activist and storyteller Gina Mhlophe leads the kids in storytelling sessions that are therapeutic.

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TIFF18 Review: WOMEN MAKE FILM: A NEW ROAD MOVIE THROUGH CINEMA – Loren King

Taken as a whole, the scope and breadth of the films represented in the documentary is likely to make one wonder, as I did, why aren’t Muratova, Zhelyazkova, Reiniger, Lois Weber and Barbara Loden as famous in the film canon as Scorsese, Orson Welles, John Cassavetes and on and on? We know why. Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema goes a long way toward correcting a glaring omission.

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