MOVIE OF THE WEEK Sept 30, 2022: MONA LISA AND THE BLOOD MOON

To the pulsing beat of an EDM soundtrack, a young woman desperate for agency and connection makes her way through the chaotic streets of New Orleans in Ana Lily Amirpour’s compelling Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon. The fact that she’s just escaped from the asylum where she’s been kept under lock and key for years due to her ability to control others with her mind means that she should play it safe — but it turns out that safe is not her strong suit.

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HOLD ME TIGHT – Review by Diane Carson

From the opening moments of Hold Me Tight (Serre moi fort), French director Mathieu Amalric invites us to put assorted jigsaw puzzle pieces together. Soon revealed as the mother of son Paul and daughter Lucie, Clarisse sits before a dozen face down photos which she turns up and then back to face down, repeating angrily, Let’s start again.

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MONA LISA AND THE BLOOD MOON – Review by Jennifer Merin

Ana Lily Amirpour’s thrilling fourth feature film, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, is set in trippy New Orleans. The film’s opening sequence sees a young woman — the titular Mona Lisa Lee (Jeon Jong-seo) — using her extraordinary power of psychokinesis to escape from the padded cell where she’s been warehoused since her early childhood. The film requires your suspension of disbelief. Go along for the ride and be thoroughly entertained by Mona Lisa’s story which delivers all the tantalizing empathy-laced twists, quirks and oddities we’ve come to expect from Ana Lily Amirpour, and for which we adore her work. Stunning cinematography, sound design, costumes and set decor conspire to make Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon another singularly impressive work of cinematic art from the brilliant Ana Lily Amirpour.

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MONA LISA AND THE BLOOD MOON – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour delivers a tasty walk on the wild side with her fourth feature, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon. The film opens in a dark boggy terrain with the sounds of croaking frogs and other creatures as the song made famous by Nat King Cole is heard in the background.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 23, 2022: THE WOMAN KING

In the African kingdom of Dahomey, now a part of Benin, an elite all-female military regiment of warriors called the Agojie guarded the king and his subjects from the 1600s through the 1800s. By the mid-19th century, they accounted for a third of the entire Dahomey army. That’s history, and the inspiration for director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical epic The Woman King, starring Viola Davis, one of the few studio films releasing in 2022 directed by a female filmmaker.

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Gina Prince-Bythewood on Cast, Action and Camera in THE WOMAN KING – Leslie Combemale interviews

With the new historical epic The Woman King, Gina Prince-Bythewood has added yet another winner to her impressive filmography. Based on historical events, the film is centered on a cast of Black women portraying members of the Agojie, a legion of female warriors who protected the Kingdom of Dahomey (now part of Benin) in 1800s Africa. Full of action, the performers in The Woman King do nearly all their own stunts, and every actor portraying a member of the Agojie plays a powerful, fully-formed, three dimensional character. Prince-Bythewood chats about her cast, her collaborators above and below the line, and how The Woman King has changed her as a director.

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Terilyn Shropshire on Gina Prince-Bythewood, Evolutional Editing and THE WOMAN KING – Leslie Combemale interviews

Terilyn Shropshire has been building a career as a film and television editor in Hollywood for over 30 years, working with some of the best directors in the business. Her ongoing collaboration with Gina Prince-Bythewood began in 2000 with the director’s now classic Love and Basketball. Now Shropshire is in the spotlight for her work with Prince-Bythewood on the new and critically acclaimed release The Woman King. AWFJ.org’s Leslie Combems;le spoke with Shropshire about her process, and the joy of a project that highlights powerful Black women in a positive and dynamic way never done before onscreen.

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THE WOMAN KING – Review by Sherin Nicole

It’s been a long time coming but The Woman King has arrived and, damn, it’s amazing. The story focuses on Nanisca (Viola Davis), the general of The Agojie under the reign of King Ghezo (John Boyega). Of course, something or someone has to shake things up. Say hello to Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), our POV character who is as young, brash, rash, and reckless as you want her to be. But she isn’t Nanisca’s only problem. How can a girlie win? Gina Prince-Bythewood’s epic is about to let us know if she can.

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THE WOMAN KING – Review by Loren King

One of the most goosebump-inducing scenes in any big release this fall is the moment in The Woman King when an army of women warriors led by the fierce and radiant Viola Davis rise up in unison from the tall grass and run into battle. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who proved she could tackle the action genre last year with Netflix’s The Old Guard, has crafted a crowd pleaser that blends the historical epics of David Lean; recent action adventures with relevant themes such as Black Panther and Wonder Woman; and intimate, visceral drama about sisterhood, trauma and empowerment.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 16, 2022: THE SILENT TWINS

As the saying goes, truth is often stranger than fiction — though in the case of Jennifer and June Gibbons, both their truth and their fiction were pretty out there. In The Silent Twins, director Agnieszka Smoczynska tells the fascinating story of the real-life identical twin sisters who grew up in Wales in the 1960s and ’70s, speaking only to each other and spinning elaborate fantasies both via felt dolls and through their prolific writing.

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