MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 1, 2024: SHAYDA

Trauma and abuse fuel a Persian woman’s determination to change her life — and that of her young daughter — in writer/director Noora Niasari’s compelling feature drama debut Shayda. Thanks to Niasari’s sensitive script and empathetic direction and star Zar Amir Ebrahimi’s excellent performance, the result is a film that’s likely to leave viewers feeling both rage at misogynistic traditions and hope for the possibility of change, transformation, and renewal.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 23, 2024: SEAGRASS

Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Growing up is hard. Losing a parent is hard. These human truths are at the heart of Japanese Canadian writer/director Meredith Hama-Brown’s directorial debut, Seagrass. The moody, introspective drama centers on a family that comes to a significant crossroads during their time at a self-development retreat on the rugged British Columbia coast, raising and grappling with complex questions related to identity, connection, and self-esteem.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 16, 2024: IMPERFECT

The entertainment industry has a long history of either ignoring or tokenizing disabled performers and characters, missing opportunities for inclusive, authentic casting and failing to reflect the full diversity of the world we all live in. As it goes behind the scenes of an all-disabled production of the musical Chicago in 2019, Regan Linton and Brian Malone’s moving, rousing documentary Imperfect drives home what a shortsighted, ignorant mistake that is. Linton is in charge both behind and in front of the camera: As the artistic director of Denver’s Phamaly (Physically Handicapped Actors & Musical Artists League) Theatre Company, she leads the company through every step in the production process, from auditions and callbacks to tech rehearsal and opening night. Everyone involved has a physical or cognitive disability, from limb differences and Parkinson’s Disease to autism and traumatic brain injury. And the last thing they want is to be seen as “brave” or “inspirational” — what they want is to be allowed to be actors, to get to do something that brings them joy and fulfillment.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, FEBRUARY 9, 2024: THE TASTE OF THINGS

Food is truly the love language of the main characters in writer-director Anh Hung Tran’s luscious romantic drama The Taste of Things, which he adapted from Marcel Rouff’s novel. Starring Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel as gourmet collaborators in late-1800s France whose chemistry is powerful in the kitchen and beyond, it’s one of those movies that will leave you utterly dissatisfied with your own pantry and longing for a 5-star French menu.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 2, 2024: FITTING IN

It’s unusual (and therefore always appreciated) to see teens portrayed authentically in the movies. Too often, the slang is all wrong, the references are outdated, and the situations are enough to make a real-life teen roll their eyes hard. That’s a significant part of why Molly McGlynn’s empathetic drama Fitting In succeeds: As it tells the story of high schooler Lindy (Maddie Ziegler) and her journey to accepting the differences that set her apart from her peers, it always feels real.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 26, 2024: TOTEM

The warm, realistic chaos at the center of Lila Avilés’ drama Totem is both charming and poignant, drawing viewers into the hustle and bustle of a large Mexican family preparing for a big party while making it clear that the reason for their celebration is a hard one. Watching it all is seven-year-old Sol (impressive newcomer Naíma Sentíes), who knows that something difficult is coming but doesn’t want to believe or accept it.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 19, 2024: ORIGIN

Making a dramatic feature based on a nonfiction book can be a tricky proposition, but Ava DuVernay does it adeptly with her thought-provoking, powerfully moving Origin. Inspired by journalist Isabel Wilkerson’s best-selling 2020 book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, the film combines the book’s arguments with Wilkerson’s experiences researching and writing it; the end result is a compelling look at trauma, grief, and the absolute tragedy of dehumanizing certain groups of people.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Best 2023 Awards Contenders

2023 has been a brilliant year for movies and an astonishing number of outstanding films representing all genres are now vying for awards consideration. There are so many top titles that if you were to watch movies from dawn to dusk for this quiet week between Christmas and New Year’s Day — without taking a break — you probably couldn’t manage to view all of the serious awards contenders. So, with this week’s Movie of the Week feature, we are recommending titles picked by Team MOTW members — titles that they say must be seen before the awards shows so you will be prepared to enjoy all of the awards season’s buzz and shine in social media opining and chatter around the watercooler. These are our must see films and we’ll wager that once you see them you will want to see them again. Happy holiday week viewing!!!

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 22, 2023: Best MOTWs of 2023

Team #MOTW looks back at the films we featured during 2023 and highlights our favorites. There are many things about 2023 that we want to forget, but these femme-helmed/femme centric films that brought inspiration, understanding, compassion, and respite replete with laughter are not among them — and they must not slip into oblivion. Their themes, topics and genres are diverse, and each one of them is a gem. Add them to your watch list. Share the titles with friends. To find out more about each of the selected films, click on the titles for links to our full #MOTW coverage. Enjoy all of AWFJ’s Best #MOTWs of 2023.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 15, 2023: HO HO HOLIDAY VIEWING

December — and especially this December — is a very good time to seek a bit of seasonal levity in the form of favorite flicks for a bit of respite from the world’s worries. And so we present for your enjoyment AWFJ’s wonderfully varied list of recommended movies for your ho ho holiday viewing. The roster features romance, comedy, thrills and lots of food. Team MOTW has selected films that are upbeat, inspiring and spirited, although not all are directly connected to traditional celebrations. Wonder what’s in store?

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