JOY WOMACK: THE WHITE SWAN – Review by Lois Alter Mark

If you want to be inspired by a story of unrelenting persistence, do yourself a favor and spend an hour and a half watching Joy Womack: White Swan. This documentary about the first American woman to sign a contract with the Bolshoi Ballet (she was also the first American to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy’s main training program) is riveting as it reveals what it takes to reach a seemingly impossible goal and exposes what really goes on behind the velvet curtains of the ballet. Spoiler: it’s a far cry from the beauty and grace seen onstage.

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ADRIENNE – Review by Lois Alter Mark

Adrienne is Andy Ostroy’s tribute to the beloved filmmaker Adrienne Shelly – who happens to be his late wife – and his effort to keep her memory and important contributions to the industry alive. Early in the film, Ostroy asks theatergoers waiting on line for Waitress, the musical, if they’ve heard of Adrienne Shelly. Despite the fact that her name is prominent on the marquee, none of them have. This movie, along with the foundation Ostroy created in Shelly’s name to support women filmmakers, will go a long way toward changing that.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK Nov 26, 2021: WRITING WITH FIRE

Feminism meets the fourth estate in Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas‘ powerful documentary Writing With Fire. As it tells the story of Khabar Lahariya, India’s only female-run news outlet, it both examines the media’s critical role in supporting democracy and celebrates the women who won’t let anything get in the way of telling the truth. Armed with smartphones and determination, they shed light on those whose stories are far too often kept hidden in the dark.

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MAYOR PETE – Review by Martha K Baker

Video-recording a modern campaign for President of the United States requires agility. The campaign itself, of necessity, demands consistency and, thus, repetition — not always the making of a vibrant documentary. The filmmaker and editor have to select reportage that engages. The same for the candidates themselves. Mayor Pete presents the candidate, Pete Buttigieg from beginning to end of that 2020 campaign. Instead of being the report of a man now in the White House, it is the biography of a political career in its adolescence, heading nicely toward greater success.

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WRITING WITH FIRE – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

We are told early on in the documentary Writing With Fire that Uttar Pradesh, in north India, suffers from endemic levels of violence against women and Dalits – a group once known as “the untouchables” — that is so low in the existing caste system that they aren’t even part of it. But in 2002, a group of Dalit woman in the region decided to launch their own newspaper. They were expected to fail, but instead they created a revolution with an all-female staff that sought to improve their country by pressing authority figures to protect and serve their citizenry.

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WRITING WITH FIRE – Review by Leslie Combemale

At the beginning, everyone said a newspaper run by women in the lowest caste would never work. Now KL has a staff of 29, hundreds of millions of hits on their YouTube channel, and has succeeded in a landscape that is still dominated by men. This is a story of women taking their destiny into their own hands, changing how the world sees them, how they see themselves, and literally changing the world at the same time. Writing with Fire shows them doing so, all while entertaining and educating its audience.

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WRITING WITH FIRE – Review by Liz Whittemore

In Writing With Fire, the all-female staff writers fight to keep journalism alive. After 14 years of successful print, they decide to shift to digital. Their goal? Continue to push boundaries and report the truth. Featured journalist Meera is saving lives by putting her own in danger. By doing her job, she is exposing the corruption that freely occurs in India. She and the rest of the writers are heroes. As we watch the media in chaos in the US, we understand how fearless these specific female journalists are. Writing With Fire highlights how violence is commonplace. We hear the terms “murder” and “kill” at every turn.

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CHOCOLATE ROAD – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

If you think chocolate is its own marvelous food group, a trip along Chocolate Road will give you a better appreciation of your favorite treat. Chocolate Road proves to be an immersive journey behind what Friis-Holm calls “a luxury product that the world doesn’t need, but it makes people happy.” It definitely offers food for thought along with tempting the palate.

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Betsy West and Julie Cohen on JULIA, Julia Child and Collaborating – Leslie Combemale interviews

There’s so much to recommend about Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s documentary Julia, about the history-making trailblazing cook Julia Child, that AWFJ selected it to be our Movie of the Week. What stands out beyond new footage, never-before-heard letters and never-before-seen photos is the sheer joy of the film. It really captures Julia’s love of life and food. I spoke to West and Cohen about their work as filmmakers, about Julia the film and Julia Child, the icon.

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KING CORN – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

Aaron Woolf’s documentary reveals that the majority of Americans eat mostly corn–or, to be more specific, food products derived from or containing corn. In King Corn, Woolf follows young eco-activists Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis–who met and became investigative cohorts while undergrads at Yale–as they return to the scene of their coincidentally similar family roots in rural Greene, Iowa, to plant and harvest an acre’s worth of corn, and then to trace their crop as it is processed into the food products that nurture the increasingly obese and unhealthy–and always hungry–American population.

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