EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH (L’employée du mois) – Review by Justina Walford

Véronique Jadin’s Employee Of The Month (L’employée du mois) is an office comedy with a bloody twist seen through the eyes of long-suffering EcoClean office manager Ines and the new intern Melody. The film starts with a pan of the EcoClean office: a generic set up of old desks, shelves of product perfectly lined up, and all the clues of an organized office manager keeping it spotless and character-less except for a fish – a solitary, silent fish.

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AWFJ Presents: ELECTRIC SHADOWS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Set during China’s Cultural Revolution, female director Xiao Jiang’s 2004 feature debut, Electric Shadows, is akin to Italy’s 1989’s Oscar-winning Cinema Paradiso as it focuses on how a makeshift outdoor theater brings together a village of cinema lovers. When we first meet film addict Mao (Xia Yu), he is footloose and fancy free. He earns a living by toting water jugs from place to place on his bike. He especially loves action movies, as an image of a Blade Runner poster with Harrison Ford’s face materializes on screen. But by accident, he tumbles into a wall of bricks and is conked on the head with a brick by an angry woman named Ling-Ling (Qi Zhongyang). When she gets arrested, she gives Mao the keys to her apartment and tells him to feed her fish.

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AWFJ Presents: REVOLUTION: NEW ART FOR A NEW WORLD – Review by Nell Minow

“Victims or vanguards?” That is the challenge faced by the artists in Revolution: New Art for a New World, a documentary about the freedom-seeking artists who helped overthrow Russia’s repressive tsarist regime, only to find themselves repressed by its totalitarian replacement, Stalin. And the answer, sadly, was both. Down with abstraction. Up with realist monuments to revolutionary leaders, “monumental propaganda.” An artist who capitulated found one kind of success. A copy of his portrait of Lenin was hung in every Soviet schoolroom. Another ended up designing textiles for tractors.

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AWFJ Presents: DEAD PIGS – Review by Margaret Barton Fumo

Cathy Yan’s 2018 film Dead Pigs is a dazzling debut ahead of her better-known followup, the blockbuster superhero film Birds of Prey (2020). Dead Pigs premiered at Sundance, where it won a Special Jury Award, but it wasn’t released in the US until February of 2021. It’s a shame the film has received limited exposure because it is a delightful comedy that appeals to a wide audience. There is something to be said for Yan’s ability to incorporate serious, sweeping topics into a lighthearted film. Unbeknownst to the audience from the start of the film, the characters in Dead Pigs are acting in an ensemble, linked together by a rickety family tree.

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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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AWFJ Presents: BURN BURN BURN – Review by Sherin Nicole

The sudden death of a loved one has a way of exposing our secrets—everything we’ve held on to comes pouring out. In grief, we are as vulnerable as when faced with our mortality and that need for healing makes us honest. Chanya Button’s Burn Burn Burn (2015) dissects human vanities and the dishonesties that block us from connecting, and it does it through an entirely preposterous pair of leading ladies, who only truly see themselves through the lens of their dead friend’s video messages.

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AWFJ Presents ARRANGED – Review by Sandie Angulo Chen

Directors Diane Crespo and Stefan C. Schaefer’s short-and-sweet film captures the joy of the two women bonding against the odds. Their blossoming friendship overcomes obstacles, including their parents’ cringe-worthy reactions to the co-workers socializing outside of school. Even at school they can’t escape narrow-minded (and laughably inappropriate) comments from the secular Jewish Principal, who is so uncomfortable with their modesty that she accuses them of being indoctrinated and offers them cash to buy something trendy to wear.

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AWFJ Presents: XXY – Review by Beth Accomando

Lucia Puenzo’s directing debut is a coming of age film with a twist. XXY is about a teenager who was born with both male and female genitalia. Alex has been raised as a girl but at fifteen, she’s starting to question that identity. Puenzo’s film questions the way society has decided that there are only two ways to define sexual identity. Released in 2007, it remains is one of the few films to look to an intersex individual with genuine compassion and sensitivity in order to foster empathy and understanding.

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AWFJ Presents OH LUCY – Review by Liz Whittemore

At the suggestion of her niece, lonely middle-aged Setsuko takes English lessons. When her plucky teacher John goes missing, Setsuko gets on a plane to California in search of love and a life-changing adventure. Atsuko Hirayanagi’s film explores hidden sadness and uncertainty through spontaneous and irrational behavior. Oh Lucy! underscores the lengths we’ll go to feel whole.

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AWFJ PRESENTS: ANTONIA’S LINE – Review by Leslie Combemale

With Antonia’s Line, writer/director Marleen Gorris created a film that is a celebration of life and an unflinching look at the challenges intergenerational women faced throughout the 20th century. The feminist filmmaker achieved what many great female directors before her could not: Antonia’s Line (1994) is the first foreign-language film by a female filmmaker to win an Oscar. That’s almost 40 years after the introduction of the foreign language category. Given the Oscars’ rather spotty history in terms of truly rewarding the best films, the question is, “Is Antonia’s Line really that good?” The answer is a resounding yes.

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