BEING BEBE – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

BeBe Zahara Benet, the first winner of the reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race, is a boisterous drag performer who doesn’t always like the word drag. “I like ‘the whole female illusion,’” says BeBe in the documentary Being BeBe, an intimate portrait that introduces viewers both to her and her offstage alter ego, Nea Marshall Kudi.

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WATCHER – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Watcher is a dark, smart treasure of a film, with the collaborative energy of director Chloe Okuno and Maika Monroe very much at the heart of what makes it such a compelling viewing experience. The decision to not use subtitles for the Romanian language dialogue in the film is a canny creative decision, adding further to our alignment with the main character as both she and we (assuming we are not familiar with the language) are excluded from what may or may not be important conversations.

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THE VALET – Review by Martha K Baker

Sometimes, you just have to take a break from Meaningful Films. You want to stop thinking, to laugh and mentally meander. So you select a movie that looks like film fluff. You pick The Valet and sit back to be brainlessly entertained. And, yet, even The Valet makes a solid point throughout. It’s about class. The Valet is predictable, delightful, and political, sweet and silly in just the right proportions.

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NEPTUNE FROST – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

It’s sadly unsurprising that the Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman co-directed Neptune Frost finds Uzeyman’s name oft deleted in casting sole authorship of the film to the acclaimed, multi-talented Williams. But considering the aesthetic, philosophical and ideological aggression which propels rthe sci fi musical from its opening moments, there’s something of a depressing irony surrounding Uzeyman’s common erasure as a key co-author of the film, often (at best) reduced to a footnote, if she’s mentioned at all.

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INDEBTED TO ALL WOMEN – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Because she lost consciousness, Teodora Vásquez doesn’t remember the details of her baby’s birth. She remembers bleeding and calling for paramedics. Being taken to a police station and handcuffed. Waking in a hospital to learn she’d been charged with killing her baby—and later sentenced to thirty years in prison. Hers is just one of the stories highlighted in the documentary En deuda con todas (Indebted to All Women), which explores the draconian law against abortion in El Salvador.

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DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA – Review by Susan Granger

If you’re an avid fan of the PBS series and followed the franchise onto the big screen, you should relish this reunion with the inhabitants of the Crawley’s stately country house who have become so familiar. But if you’re not acquainted with their backstories, this sequel may be a bit bewildering. Written once again by series creator Julian Fellowes and directed by Simon Curtis, the period drama, set circa 1929, veers between Yorkshire and the South of France and is fraught with emotional complications.

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THE JANES – Review by Leslie Combemale

Co-directors Tia Lessin and Ema Pildes remind viewers of the importance of knowing our collective history in their timely new documentary The Janes. The film profiles the Jane Collective, a fearless, radical group of underground activists that believed in reproductive freedom, and came together to aid women of the pre-Roe V. Wade era in getting safe abortions. Between 1968 and 1973, they were able to make 11,000 safe abortions happen, when, without them, long term negative consequences or death was a distinct possibility for those who sought to end their pregnancies.

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AWFJ Presents: I AM NOT A WITCH – Review by Jennifer Merin

I Am Not A Witch is the beautifully crafted, profoundly provocative first feature from writer/director Rungaro Nyoni. The movie is set in rural Zambia, where Shula, a naive eight year old orphaned girl, is found guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to live in a witch camp. Masterfully bewitching storytelling, superb performances by first-time actor Maggie Mulubwa and a fine ensemble cast, exquisite cinematography that reveals nuanced emotions in close ups and captures broad sweeps of the arid landscape, and outstanding editing skills that balance satire and serious social commentary brought I Am Not A Witch numerous awards. Rungano Nyoni’s cinematic style is unique and fascinating. I Am Not A Witch is a must see that warrants a second watch, as well.

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18½ – Review by April Neale

Looking backward and rewriting actual historical events are the order for director Dan Mirvish’s 18½. This film is a thriller laced with enough comedy to keep it off-kilter, as the premise toys with what might have happened back in 1974 when a White House transcriber named Connie (Willa Fitzgerald) with a GS2 clearance finds herself in the middle of the Watergate scandal. She has access to the “missing tape,” an 18½ minute gap in Nixon’s recorded tapes, but it conveniently disappeared. Co-writers Daniel Moya and Mirvish’s rendering of Watergate events manages to be both a fun watch, food for thought, and subtly comedically brilliant effort in its alt-historical premise.

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A NEW OLD PLAY – Review by Diane Carson

A New Old Play provides a dense Chinese political and cultural history. At three hours running time, director Qiu Jiongjiong’s A New Old Play demands and rewards patience with a chronicle of Chinese history from the 1920s through the 1980s. The more knowledgeable the viewer, the better for understanding the numerous cultural and historical landmarks. Strikingly unusual, the story is presented in the stylized, theatrical manner of Chinese opera.

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