THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Some tattoos have such design and craftsmanship, they’re works of art. But what happens when a tattoo transforms someone into living artwork, effectively dehumanizing them? The Man Who Sold His Skin, an Oscar-nominee for Best International Feature Film, puts this dilemma on display through Sam, a Syrian refugee who consents to a full-back tattoo of a visa, then finds that this literal stamp of freedom confines him in other ways.

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SHIVA BABY – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Watching college student Danielle endure a shiva that becomes her personal hell in the comedic drama Shiva Baby will trigger sparks of recognition in anyone who’s lived through similar gauntlets. Weddings, reunions, and even funerals often have that surface interaction with people we haven’t seen in ages and various insecurities underneath.

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I’M FINE (THANKS FOR ASKING) (SXSW 21) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the crux of the story in I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking), but it adds a relatable layer to this endearing feature about a single mom’s daylong hustle to earn cash for an apartment. A small story with large stakes for its main character, I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) reminds us there’s a lot going on in someone’s life, even when they insist all’s well. It’s an appeal for empathy with a lot of heart.

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LUDI (SXSW 21) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Ludi immerses viewers in one day in the life of a weary immigrant working for her slice of the American dream. But like its exhausted protagonist, the narrative ultimately runs out of steam. Ludi’s struggles and weariness are relatable, and Mompremier is so likeable that when Ludi finally reaches her limits, we can’t help but feel sympathy. Ludi eventually learns that she needs to care for herself as well as others, but the film’s momentum unfortunately needs TLC.

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LUCHADORAS (SXSW 21) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The female wrestlers of the documentary Luchadoras have more to battle than just opponents in the ring. In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where they live and work, it’s an achievement for women to stay alive. That’s no exaggeration, as directors Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim, make clear in the opening moments. Luchadora Lady Candy recalls harrowing tales her grandmother told of bus drivers taking women the wrong way and raping or killing them. So many women’s remains have turned up in the desert.

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SILENCE OF THE LAMBS at 30: Giving Clarice a Voice – Valerie Kalfrin comments

Silence of the Lambs is a curious film. The first horror film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture and the rare one to sweep four of the Oscars’ top categories, it has suspense and atmosphere that still enthrall even after 30 years. It also has rich characters, like FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who finds her courage tested yet navigates a world that seems stacked against her. The problem is, the movie is stacked against her, too.

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Female Filmmakers at SXSW 2021 Preview – Valerie Kalfrin reports

Although the ongoing coronavirus pandemic prevents filmmakers and audiences from gathering in person, SXSW Online spotlights 75 feature films, including about 40 from women directors. Its special events include a keynote address from political leader and bestselling author Stacey Abrams in conversation with bestselling author N.K. Jemisin. The online pivot revives the film, tech, and music festival, which shuttered its doors in 2020 for the first time in 34 years because of health concerns about COVID-19. This year’s lineup promises a “fantastic treasure trove of programming … that everyone can access on their laptops, phones, and TVs,” Janet Pierson, the festival’s director of film, has said.

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THE HOUSE THAT ROB BUILT – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The House That Rob Built, released this month at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, pays loving tribute to retired University of Montana women’s basketball coach Robin Selvig. Fans of women’s basketball – and the university’s Lady Griz in particular – no doubt will enjoy the plunge into history. But other viewers might find that the accomplishments of Selvig and the women he coached bounce by too fast to absorb the emotional impact.

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SPOTLIGHT February 2021: Carey Mulligan, Actress and Character Champion

Carey Mulligan consistently and deliberately plays women who defy expectations. She likes the unpredictable story, pushing back against characters who look, move, or speak the way that female characters often have. Now after challenging herself as an artist and audiences, she’s asked critics to raise the bar as well, going beyond physicality when examining a film and what makes it work. As creatives strive to see the full spectrum of women represented onscreen, being honest yet constructive in our assessments – just as Mulligan is honest in her performances – is vital to moving forward.

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MY LITTLE SISTER -Review by Valerie Kalfrin

My Little Sister, Switzerland’s entry for the foreign language Oscar category, ostensibly lets audiences peek inside the complex relationship between fraternal twins as one struggles with cancer. While that’s a poignant part of this tender drama, the film’s underlying story is more about how much the titular sister gives to everyone but herself.

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