WRITING WITH FIRE – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

We are told early on in the documentary Writing With Fire that Uttar Pradesh, in north India, suffers from endemic levels of violence against women and Dalits – a group once known as “the untouchables” — that is so low in the existing caste system that they aren’t even part of it. But in 2002, a group of Dalit woman in the region decided to launch their own newspaper. They were expected to fail, but instead they created a revolution with an all-female staff that sought to improve their country by pressing authority figures to protect and serve their citizenry.

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LADY BUDS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

I was never a person who enjoyed smoking pot. First, it made me dizzy. Second, it gave me the munchies. Third, it made me fall asleep. But after watching the new documentary Lady Buds, I have a renewed appreciation for what cannabis can do for those who suffer from pain (full disclosure: I take CBD gummies daily for my own aches these days) and also for longtime farmers who benefited financially by harvesting crops over the years in Northern California despite illegalities.

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JULIA – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

One probably should not watch this doc on an empty stomach, given how West and Cohen recreate Child’s famous dishes, including a delectable succulent chicken laid out like a centerfold that might just require an X rating, delicate filets of sole drenched in butter and a delicious example of beef bourguignon, whose aroma seems to virtually waft from the screen.

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BERGMAN ISLAND – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

The main focus of director-screenwriter Mia Hansen-Love’s meditative comedy-drama is Tony (Tim Roth) and Chris (Vicky Krieps), a couple who are both director-writers and parents of a young girl. Both are hoping find inspiration by soaking up the genius vibes of a master of cinema known for exploring the often dour circumstances of the human condition. They even rent the cottage and sleep in the double bed used for Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 divorce drama Scenes From a Marriage.

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ASCENSION – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Early on, the documentary Ascension points its lens at a sign on that refers to the Chinese dream as opposed to an American one when it comes to capitalistic enterprises. Part Konyaaisqati, part Ron Popeil infomercial, Jessica Kingdon’s debut feature eschews any narration while allowing viewers to immerse themselves in an amusing, sometimes upsetting and often fascinating look at what this Asian powerhouse’s idea of commerce in the 21st century.

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STOP AND GO – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

It takes some mega moxie to put the pedal to the metal for a road-trip comedy set during the scary early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. But somehow Stop and Go, whose unfortunate too-on-the nose original title was Recovery, delivers just enough relatable amusement and zesty fun thanks to its leading ladies and screenwriters, Whitney Call and Mallory Everton, who co-directs with Stephen Meek.

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EL PLANETA – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

El Planeta is a pleasantly quirky amuse bouche of a dark comedy shot in black and white that takes place in post-recession Spain. First-time feature director and writer Amalia Ulman and her real-life mother Ale, star as daughter Leo and matriarch Maria, who are living on borrowed time in a small apartment that they no longer can afford.

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STORM LAKE – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Art Cullen made a name for himself and the Storm Lake Times when he won a 2017 Pulitzer Prize for exposing dark money among local county officials involved in corporate agriculture.Sadly, a stat shown during the doc reveals that one in four newspapers have shut down over the last 15 years in the U.S. More and more in a time when some news outlets engage in spreading harmful lies, we need such homespun honesty in order to simply survive these days. When a newspaper is local in scope, it lives and breathes along with its customers and has a duty to serve them.

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I’M YOUR MAN – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

I’m Your Man, directed by Maria Schrader, revolves around a robotic dreamboat who is part of a study involving companions who are tailored-made for one human’s personality and emotional needs. In the case of middle-aged academic Alma (Maren Eggert) — who just broke up with a co-worker — she signs on to the three-week experiment in order to fund her own research project. That requires her to live with non-human Tom (Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame, the most valuable player in the cast who constantly ups the humor ante with much aplomb. And take a moment to consider that this English actor had to learn German for his role).

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LANGUAGE LESSONS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

At a time when so much of our country is filled with divisive politics and ugly, stupid and false rhetoric while selfish anti-vaxers and anti-maskers refuse to do the right thing, here comes along a charming balm of a two-hander in the form of director Natalie Morales’s Language Lessons, which she wrote with her co-star, Mark Duplass. It provides a perfect oasis of sorts from all the pain and agony of the news headlines of late. It also might be the best Zoom meeting you will ever experience as well.

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