MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 11, 2021: HOLLER

The American Dream feels almost as far out of reach as the moon in Nicole Riegel’s compelling feature debut, Holler, which follows an enterprising teenager named Ruth (Jessica Barden) who would do just about anything to escape her inevitably bleak future in a dying Southern Ohio town. She’s smart, and college could be her ticket out, but paying for it means taking dangerous chances with a not-exactly-legal scrap-metal scavenging crew.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 28, 2021: AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Just as Curve has been more than simply a magazine for the lesbian community since it was founded by Franco Stevens in the early 1990s, Jen Rainin and Rivkah Beth Medow’s spirited documentary Ahead of the Curve is much more than simply a film about the history of that magazine. It’s an engaging look at the progress of the lesbian movement over the last 30 years — and where it’s headed in the future.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 21, 2021: WHEN HITLER STOLE PINK RABBIT

Based on the popular children’s book by Judith Kerr — which itself was based on her own experiences as a child — Caroline Link’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is the story of the Kemper family, German Jews who fled Berlin in the early 1930s as Hitler was coming to power. Told primarily through the perspective of young Anna (Riva Krymalowski), it’s a compelling drama about family and finding your place in the world.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 7, 2021: KNOTS: A FORCED MARRIAGE STORY

Ultra-conservative religious sects. Girls prevented from getting an education and learning practical skills. Forced marriage between teen girls and abusive men far older than their reluctant brides. No, this isn’t The Handmaid’s Tale; it’s daily life in the United States right now for thousands of underage girls forced into marriages they aren’t ready for and don’t want. And as Kate Brewer’s Knots: A Forced Marriage Story makes abundantly clear, it needs to stop now.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 23, 2021: TOGETHER TOGETHER

The romantic comedy gets a power up in Nikole Beckwith’s effortlessly charming Together Together. Ed Helms is surprisingly lovable and charming as Matt, a single 40-something ready to take the next step in his life: fatherhood. Rather than keep searching for the perfect someone, he opts to go at it alone with the help of a surrogate. Enter Anna, Patti Harrison, a young woman looking to get her life back on tack and she sees surrogacy as a way to get there. What begins as a transactional relationship soon turns into a beautiful and all too real story of friendship and sacrifice. Beckwith’s script is smart and often drifts into too-close-for-comfort reality and its gorgeously brought to life by Helms and Harrison.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 2, 2021: SUGAR DADDY

Stylish and original, director Wendy Morgan’s drama Sugar Daddy is a film that demands your attention. Much like its central character, Darren (Kelly McCormack, who also wrote the screenplay), it’s never gentle, yielding, or meek — rather, it’s bold, complicated, and confident in its artistry. It’s not always easy to watch, but it’s never less than compelling.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 26, 2021: GROOMED

Both heartbreaking and immensely informative, Gwen van de Pas’ documentary Groomed details the trauma inflicted on her as a child by a trusted adult who betrayed that trust in the most heinous way possible. Decades later, when the long-buried memories of the sexual abuse and rape she suffered resurface as nightmares and panic attacks, she uses filmmaking as a way to process the experience and figure out how to move on.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 12, 2021: MOXIE

Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and David Hogg notwithstanding, not every teen is ready to fight for justice and equality on a national — or international — scale. Director Amy Poehler’s charming Moxie, based on the YA novel by Jennifer Mathieu, will speak to the kids who want to make a difference but aren’t quite sure they’re meant for the spotlight.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 5, 2021: THE ORPHANAGE

Filmed with an intimate realism that feels as authentic as any documentary, Shahrbanoo Sadat’s The Orphanage is a compelling drama about life in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, near the end of the country’s Soviet era. Like Sadat’s first feature, Wolf and Sheep, it’s based on the unpublished diaries of Anwar Hashimi, and it offers a closely observed portrait of real teen life in this specific time and place.

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Women’s History Month Watch List: REAL REEL WOMEN

Throughout cinema history, films by and about women have enthralled audiences, accrued awards and honors worldwide and scored at the box office while influencing out social social mores and enriching our cultural conversation. Although some Hollywood honchos and haters assert that female-centric movies are less likely to be commercial successes, our list proves them wrong. Movies that tell women’s stories have legs. Released to celebrate Women’s History Month, AWFJ’s REAL REEL WOMEN List is an annotated roster of 50 fascinating real women whose remarkable true stories have been told in narrative features since the earliest days of moviemaking.

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