MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 22, 2021: IDENTIFYING FEATURES

Heartbreaking and quietly powerful, writer/director Fernanda Valadez’ debut drama Identifying Features shines a light on the complex, tragic realities of what can happen when undocumented immigrants set out to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. It is a truly heartbreaking film that puts a very human face on a humanitarian crisis, sparking both empathy and outrage.

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IDENTIFYING FEATURES – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

With Identifying Features, first-time director Fernanda Valadez valiantly avoids the usual drug-wars action thriller. Instead, she has delivered a harrowing drama about the migration crisis at the U.S. southern border that is far more intimate and poignant as it focuses the lives of people looking for a better life and the danger involved in doing so.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 15, 2021: ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY

The United States has never truly been a democracy, because it has never fully supported voting rights for all of its citizens. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for the future. By focusing specifically on Stacey Abrams’ work and experiences in Georgia, All In reveals the path to true democracy — and, guess what? It works, but it’s hard.

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ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI – Review by Diane Carson

One Night in Miami dramatizes four Black men’s extraordinary interaction

Imagine February 25, 1964, and four extraordinary Black men coming together for an evening of camaraderie. Then imagine these amazing men are Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, Cassius Clay, and Malcolm X. This is exactly what director Regina King’s One Night in Miami spectacularly presents as this remarkable foursome talks, laughs, argues, and probes the most significant issues of Black America.

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ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY – Review by Loren King

All In: The Fight for Democracy puts voter suppression and its attendant racism into historical context as the film traces its origins from Reconstruction to Jim Crow. The film cogently lays out, with fascinating historical footage and insightful interviews, how methods such as poll taxes, impassable “literacy” tests, gerrymandering and voter ID laws, right up to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 by the US Supreme Court, systematically disenfranchised vulnerable voters around the country but especially in the South.

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ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Why is the United States, that supposed bastion of freedom and democracy, such an unfree, undemocratic mess? Haha and *LOLsob*. This is a trick question: there are many reasons for the sorry state of American affairs. But a really big one is the ongoing campaign to suppress the vote. And by “ongoing,” I mean basically since the founding of the nation.

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ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI – Review by Susan Granger

Oscar-and-Emmy-winning actress-turned-director Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk, Watchmen) is determined to tell powerful stories that haven’t been heard – like this fictionalized meeting of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, NFL star James Brown and singer Sam Cooke in 1964.

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ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY – Review by Liz Whittemore

Directors Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus have presented audiences with a history lesson in a non-preachy, inspirational way. The immediate relevance of this film is palpable as our democracy is literally on the brink. It’s a doc that needs to be shown in every history class. It’s a doc that needs to be streamed to the country on loop, right now.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 8, 2021 – Team #MOTW’s Best of 2020

We’re saying a final farewell to 2020, a year that has but few fond memories for most folks. But, among the good remembrances are fine films that sustained us not only by providing stress respite, but also by opening minds to much-needed contemplation about the way we live, and by energizing heartfelt aspirations for change for the better. Throughout the year, AWFJ’s #MOTW feature served as a beacon, a guiding light for moviegoers seeking excellent and inspiring entertainment.

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