AWFJ PRESENTS: Inaugural curated film series on KinoMarquee – Jennifer Merin reports

AWFJ PRESENTS, a curated film series that offers movie lovers access to great films by some of the world’s finest women directors, is streaming on demand on Kino Lorber’s digital platform KinoMarquee. Selected by a curatorial team of AWFJ members from Kino Lorber’s vast catalog of hundreds of important titles, the inaugural selections include exceptionally entertaining and relevant films by women directors.

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Women Filmmakers Score at HOT DOCS 2021- Barbara Goslawski reports

In its second pandemic digital edition, the 2021 Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival generated a lot of healthy, happy buzz, especially for women filmmakers. With a slate that presented 222 films from all over the world, 50 per cent of the directors in the festival program were female. But not only were women present in equal numbers; their films dominated the conversation, showing that women helmers are digging deep into the real struggles that affect us all. That is perhaps the most fascinating thing about gender parity at the Hot Docs Canadian International or any other festival.

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Stacey Gregg and Andrea Riseborough on HERE BEFORE (SXSW 2021) – Leslie Combemale interviews

Stacey Gregg makes her narrative feature debut with Here Before, which takes place in a small town in Northern Ireland, and is about a grieving mother Laura (Andrea Riseborough) who finds in her neighbor’s daughter echoes of her own child Josie, who died in a car accident. Megan and Laura begin a complicated relationship filled with awkward, unsettling conversations and inappropriate attachments. All the characters in the film make questionable choices, for reasons that become clear as this slow burn story packs lots of surprises and keeps you in thrall to the last scene.

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15th Annual African Film Festival – Diane Carson reports

Washington University’s 15th annual African Film Festival runs March 26 through 28 with a short subject plus a feature each evening, offering a rich world of African shorts and features. This immensely rewarding African Film Festival achieves its goal to enhance awareness of the diversity of the African continent through visually appealing stories.

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Intersectionality at SXSW 2021 – Leslie Combemale reports

This year at SXSW there are a number of powerful female filmmakers of color who are shining a light on important social issues both through narrative and documentary films, employing women of color in front of and behind the camera. They are an inspiration not only for their commitment to diverse voices, but also for creating great content worthy of our attention. Here are some of the best offerings at the fest you can see right now.

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UNDER THE VOLCANO (SXSW21) – Review by Rachel West

Director Gracie Otto’s documentary Under The Volcano isn’t just a deep dive into famed music producer George Martin’s legacy through his groundbreaking AIR recording studio in the West Indies, it’s a love letter to the people of Montserrat. Bookended with present-day footage of Montserrat and AIR which was devastated by the 1995 volcanic eruption, Under The Volcano ends on a high note of resilience, love, and affection for not just the past, but the island’s future.

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LANGUAGE LESSONS (SXSW 21) – Review by Jennifer Merin

Language Lessons is a fine example of pandemic moviemaking at its best. Its conceit is simple, believable and appealing. There is nothing gimmicky about the production. Almost all of the action takes place via the internet — so there’s no need for social distancing and any inherent concern about or danger of contagion is eliminated. The story, essentially a tale of two characters who meet serendipitously on the internet, begins with their first encounter and follows their developing relationship as they, from afar and via the internet, offer each other support during harrowingly emotional experiences.

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SUBJECTS OF DESIRE (SXSW 21) – Review by Leslie Combemale

A feature documentary debut from Canadian writer/director Jennifer Holness, Subjects of Desire examines the history of beauty for women in the Black community both culturally and aesthetically, and what kinds of impacts that perception of beauty has had on the Black women of today’s America. Fascinating, educational, and insightful, Subjects of Desire should be seen widely and considered thoughtfully by people of all colors, not least to make small inroads in reframing the weight placed on Black women to contort themselves into what is expected of them. They deserve to celebrate themselves completely free of a societal judgment which is seated in hundreds of years of racism.

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Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina on I’M FINE (THANKS FOR ASKING) and Pandemic Production – Leslie Combemale interviews

At the height of the pandemic, and frustrated by inactivity, filmmaker Kelley Kali decided to make a film, and engaged USC film school buddies Angelique Molina, and Roma Kong to write and produce it, and Angelique to co-direct it. The dangers of Covid and a non-existent budget meant they also had to use crew members for the cast, and find locations that were free and worked for their plot. Of all the issues folks were and are facing, the threat of not being able to pay rent and become houseless hit home to the writing and production team, so I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) was born.

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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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