AWFJ Presents: QUEEN OF HEARTS: AUDREY FLACK – Review by Liz Braun

Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack is a love letter to the artist and a mini-lesson in 20th Century gender politics and American art history. Directors Deborah Schaffer and Rachel Reichman trace the career of the now-91-year-old Flack by letting her do most of the talking. From Josef Albers getting handsy with her while she attended Yale to the exigencies of being a single mother and somehow finding time to paint, Flack’s history as a painter is also history of second wave feminism, entailing general survival in a male-dominated society and specific work in a milieu where women were barely acknowledged.

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80 FOR BRADY – Review by T.J. Callahan

At least Tom Brady has something to look forward to this February. Welcome to AARP Theater. When the median age of the four female stars of a movie is 84, expect a lot of old timer jokes along with flirting, fumbling and finally inspiration. That’s exactly what you get if your game plan includes 80 For Brady, the inspired by true events story of four New England Patriot fans who decide to go to Super Bowl 51 in Houston to see their beloved Tom Brady play in person.

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BODY PARTS – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Kristy Guevara-Flanagan’s documentary Body Parts zeroes in on how the sex that sells gets onto big and small screens, often at the expense of the actors who must depict it. Guevara-Flanagan takes us from the early days of cinema, when a large number of female screenwriters were able to create fully human women characters, through the repressive years of the Production Code and post-World War II workplace that kicked women out of the script room and turned them into sexual eunuchs and hausfraus on screen, and on into the sexually liberated ’60s and ’70s that forced female nudity to proliferate in the movies.

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ALIVE – Review by Beth Accomando

The film marks the feature debut of writer-director David Marantz and producer-editor Annie Rachel Hillman. They are working with an obviously limited budget. Much if not all of the sound seems looped or replaced with foley work, and the effects are erratic. Making a zombie film always invites comparison because there are so many entries in the genre and therefore so many films to compete with. Sorry to report that Alive doesn’t have anything to make it stand out amongst the reanimated corpses.

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LIFE UPSIDE DOWN – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The drama Life Upside Down taps into those feelings that gripped so many during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. Inertia, ennui, limbo, and isolation. The restlessness of trying to better ourselves, stay centered, or at least sane. And for some, noticing how quarantining revealed more than a few cracks in a relationship.

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FANCY DANCE (Sundance FF2023) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Indigeneous filmmaker Erica Tremblay’s Fancy Dance, still seeking distribution, is so good it has me checking the Sundance Film Festival acquisition news every few hours like a mom of someone hoping to get drafted into the NFL. It has everything an award-winning movie needs: a plot with high stakes, strong performances, good character development and interaction, deeper cultural significance, and solid entertainment value. Fancy Dance also features BIPOC female creatives both in front and behind the camera, including the use of music by Choctaw composer Samantha Crain, and cinematography by Latinx filmmaker Carolina Costa.

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THE GIRL WHO WAS CURSED (Slamdance 2023) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

The brainchild of writer/director Zara Dwinger, the film follows the eponymous Gizem (Sinem Kavus), a Turkish-Dutch stoner who has let pretty much her whole damned life go to seed after quitting music school and losing interest in everything except for getting high and spying on her neighbours from her apartment through her trusty binoculars. The Girl Who Was Cursed is an elegant, eloquent micro-noir with a dark comic flavor, the perfect US calling card for both Dwinger and Kavus who are very much names to watch.

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AURORA’S SUNRISE – Review by Nadine Whitney

In 1919 a silent film called alternatively Ravished Armenia or Auction of Souls premiered in America. The film, the story of Aurora Mardiganian whose non-anglicised name is Arshaluys Mardigian – a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. The film was a hit and propelled the teen whose experiences were the basis of the film and also the star of the film, to a small amount of fame. Immediately, however, director Inna Sahakyan informs the viewer that her documentary Aurora’s Sunrise is not about a meteoric rise to stardom, but about a survivor of unimaginable horrors.

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GIRL (Sundance FF2023) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Writer/driector Adura Onashile’s lyrical drama Girl is a beautiful study in mother/daughter love, even as it explores the impact of trauma and its potentially destructive influence on motherhood. This emotional and tender story anchors itself in one very specific example in which race, class, and gender all play a very important role. It is in its specificity that Girl finds a universality that will connect with nearly everyone. That’s quite something for a feature film debut.

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THE UNDERBUG (Slamdance 2023) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

It’s the evening before Independence Day in India, an event that plays a significant although subtle backdrop to the events that unfold in Shujaat Saudagar’s gripping supernatural chamber piece The Underbug. While the radio talkback shows that pepper the film in the background feature a steady flow of callers chatting with the host about what “freedom” means to them, we have already, at the outset of the film, learned that not everyone is feeling so celebratory. Riots have broken out with terrifying violence permeating some areas, and people are warned to stay indoors.

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