Opening June 10 – 16, 2024 – Margaret Barton-Fumo reports

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists highlights movies made by and about women. With a vigilant eye toward current releases, we maintain an interactive record of films that are pertinent to our interests. Be they female-made or female-centric productions, they are films that represent a wide range of women’s stories and present complex female characters. As such, they are movies that will most likely be reviewed on AWFJ.org and will qualify for consideration for our annual EDA Awards, celebrating exceptional women working in film behind and in front of the camera.

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LATE BLOOMERS – Review by Cate Marquis

The indie film Late Bloomers is an odd couple dramedy starring Karen Gillan as a 28-year-old, Louise, who is stuck in a post-collegiate mode, denying her depression, and still not over being dumped by her long-term boyfriend a year ago, and Margaret Sophie Stein (aka Malgorzata Zajaczkowska in her native Poland) as Antonina, an angry, strong-willed older woman who speaks only Polish. The two women who form a wildly unlikely friendship after meeting in a hospital, Along with the insightful performances, Late Bloomers evolves to a surprisingly funny, charming dramedy that touches on issues of loneliness, aging, compassion and facing life and its changes.

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THE COMMANDANT’S SHADOW – Review by Loren King

By focusing on the specific stories of several individuals, director Daniela Volker’s The Commandant’s Shadow explores universal issues about generational trauma related to the Holocaust. It’s a moving and profound journey that we take with the son, daughter, and grandson of notorious Auschwitz commander Rudolf Hoss, the Nazi responsible for the systematic murder of millions and the subject of Jonathan Glazer’s Oscar-winning film The Zone of Interest.

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BLAGA’S LESSONS – Review by Nadine Whitney

In Blaga’s Lessons, director Stephan Komandarev crafts not only a crime thriller but also a lesson about Bulgaria itself. Blaga’s Lessons is an angry film about not only a woman, but also a country, trying to find some kind of dignity. The film is rooted in the harsh reality that there are large areas of the Balkans which are blind spots to the rest of Europe. They are the sites of widespread corruption, crime, and despite being part of the European Union they see little of the benefits that come to other “westernised” countries. Once being essentially a satellite state of the USSR, Bulgaria has not been able to easily adjust to free market capitalism. Blaga is one woman but she is representative of many. A former teaching colleague is now a supermarket cashier and grateful for her job where she is humiliated by her boss.

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CHILE ’76 – Review by Cate Marquis

Set in Chile during the brutal, oppressive Pinochet dictatorship, Chile ’76 is a film that sneaks up on you, starting like a quiet drama about a wealthy woman who is satisfied with her settled life, but gradually morphing into a white-knuckle thriller about life under Pinochet. Aline Kuppenheim’s sensitive yet striking performance drives this thriller, as we are drawn into her world and her changing feelings. An impressive debut by a actor-turned-director Manuela Martelli, Chile ’76 is a chilling, powerful political thriller as a woman’s view of the world around her is shaken to its foundations in the film’s devastating conclusion.

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THE WORST ONES – Review by Jennifer Merin

The Worst Ones (Le Pire) is a compelling coming of age drama written and directed by French filmmakers Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret. The narrative involves the making of a feature movie with non-actor kids who are cast as whose fictional characters whose personalities roughly resemble their own and whose rough circumstances are similar to the real lives of those who are cast. They are the toughest kids in their on-the-dole community of Boulogne-sur-Mer, one of the poorest cities in France, and they are recruited by a film production company to act in a movie that’s set in their hood.

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Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts – MiniViews by Diane Carson

Oscar Shorts – Animation Selections inspire and delight. The Oscar nominated shorts programs are always a mixed bag, but never more than this year. The five candidates include two based on actual experiences and three of fanciful animation. The most surprising true story, The Flying Sailor, imagines in both two dimensional, drawn animation and computer generated images a seaman’s life flashing before his eyes.

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CINEMA SABAYA – Review by Cate Marquis

​At the beginning of the documentary-like Israeli drama Cinema Sabaya, we learn that the word “sabaya” pronounced correctly in Arabic means a group of women but mispronounced it means “women prisoners of war.” It was a term ISIS used to describe the Yazidi women they held captive 2014 and can even imply “sex slave.” It is an interesting start to Orit Fouks Rotem’s slow-burn but ultimately powerful drama, one that touches on cross-cultural issues as well as on what shared aspects in women’s lives.

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BREAKING – Review by Loren King

Breaking is a spare and lean film with a stellar, racially diverse cast that gives the film’s depiction of working people authenticity. John Boyega is flat-out terrific as beaten down war veteran Brian Brown-Easley who, in an act of desperation, holds two women employees hostage in an Atlanta bank as he demands that the VA funds that are owed to him are paid.

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BREAKING – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Filmmaker Abi Damaris Corbin’s Breaking is a military take on 1975’s Dog Day Afternoon. In that film, Al Pacino’s bank robber committed a crime so he could pay for his male lover’s sex-change operation, which back in that era felt rather farcical given that LBTQ community was not exactly embraced back then. That stick-up job was based on a true story and so is this one. But the mood here is different — as it portrays how war vets aren’t given support they need to resume life as a civilian.

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