Into the second half of the 100 More Films Made By Women I have to confess that this is a terrific experience projecting these filmmakers into your eagerly-awaiting stratosphere. And these rare gems of varying film formats and subject matter are worth the wait. The next two parts, piercing, essential themes of motherhood, sisterhood, girlhood, glimpses of underwater love and loss, are all exampled here in fine style.
Elena (2013) – Petra Costa
Documentary films have an abundance of ammo to which they can execute something truly persuasive or informative, or even enlighten and engage an audience. Elena is a fascinating, visual feast, a beautiful document of grief, pain, despair, that incorporates many formats and tools without appearing to pander or sentimentalize. Brazilian film-maker Petra Costa has the ambient melancholy of her late sister Elena’s woes and potential safely in her hands, cradling them with all the love and loss one can embrace. Blending through audio tracks, letters, grainy home video footage, childhood photos, current serene images of Petra, accompanied by poignant music and gorgeous cinematography, Elena is a rich mosaic of a sister’s memories and mourning. It’s an extremely personal journey then, blissful and sorrowful, crafting dreamy imagery and a poetic expression, the story of depression and squashed ambition is somehow alluring, both visually and in its story-telling. Even the unforgettable sight of the women floating through shimmering waters is a thing of beauty as well as sadness. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Advantageous (2015) – Jennifer Phang
Written, directed, and cast almost entirely of non-white women, Advantageous is a futuristic dystopia in which human labor has been almost completely replaced by tech. Society’s answer is, of course, to try and maneuver women back into the home, thus freeing up remaining jobs for men. The result is that being a single woman – or worse, being a single mother – is nearly impossible. Advantageous taps into a range of feminist issues including aging, beauty labor, motherhood, personhood, and class in a way that’s both timely and otherworldly. Visually, the film is stunning in its ability to depict a world that is uncannily familiar and yet futuristically strange, a delicate balance that only the best sci-fi is able to strike. Lead actress Jacqueline Kim, who co-authored the screenplay with director Jennifer Phang, communicates her character’s frustration and sadness with elegant honesty that is accentuated to perfection by the sparse soundtrack. Overall, Advantageous only proves the point being constantly voiced by women in the industry: it is important for the quality of cinema going forward that diversity in film-making be the rule and not the exception. – – – Desirae Embree @ZeeSayre
Clear Blue (2010) – Lindsay MacKay
Writer-director Lindsay MacKay has been to the Toronto International Film Festival, the South by Southwest festival, AFI Fest, and has made finalist at the Zoetrope Screenwriting Competition. Envious. Her various accolades include her college graduate thesis, the short film Clear Blue – which won the College Television Award. Like undisturbed water, visually, Clear Blue has a calming, slow-moving pallet, it has you drifting into its story space, and engulfing you in the small wonder. Only 20 minutes in length, it plunges gently to many depths, following a young lifeguard of a swimming baths, intrigued by the old lady who submerges under the water. His temptation is too much, and he finds himself under water with her, only a much younger woman. What follows is an ebb and flow of the senses, building gently towards the unexpected climax. It’s a fine short, well directed and acted, crammed with crisp clear sound design, and some enticing photography. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Me Without You (2001) – Sandra Goldbacher
Films about female companionship have over the decades bounced around the dramatic, the sentimental, and the comic – Me Without You delivers heavy on the raw, revealing ventures of two girls growing up from young girls into flourishing adults. This is certainly not all hop-scotch and hair-braiding from British writer-director Sandra Goldbacher, who has her leading ladies exude brutal honesty, bags of dodgy loyalty, but a true sense of unbreakable, though dentable, friendship. Goldbacher’s visual style is evident too, of both era accuracy and emotional impact, also not shying away from the swearing and the nudity. A hell of a lot of credit though goes to Michelle Williams and Anna Friel, both excelling in all scenarios, two terrific, accomplished performers chewing up all the dialogue and scenery they can get. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Brave (2012) – Brenda Chapman
Brave is a film created by Pixar, that for the first time had a female lead character, and a female director, Brenda Chapman (co-directed by Mark Andrews). Brave is the story of Merida (voiced wonderfully by Kelly Macdonald) who is a princess during the time when Braveheart took place. Her parents are forcing her to choose a husband between 3 dopey guys. She’s not interested in getting married, and runs off. She discovers a witch, who ends up giving her a spell to put on her mother so she would change. Once her mother comes under the spell it turns her into a bear. They spend the rest of the film trying to figure out how to get her to turn back into a human, and in turn learn about each other and become closer as mother-and-daughter. It’s a cute story, and the animation is wonderful. I think that Brenda Chapman as director gave it the touch it needed that a male director by himself would not have been able to give it. It’s a good morality tale, and an enjoyable film. – – – Al Robinson @AlRob_MN
Originally published in July 2016.