The next 5 films provide yet another eclectic mix of both narrative and non-fiction films, with the women standing firm behind the camera and the story creations. Perceptions, what it is like to be a girl, to perform a dance, or children of varied cultures. You may recognize one short film as a Super Bowl commercial. Dig in as always, fire your comments at me, and also buzz me if you want to know how to find and watch these enticing efforts.
Five (2015) – Katina Mercadante
Spanning five glorious religions (Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian) across India, South Africa, Japan, and United States, the aptly titled Five follows five absolute gems, namely children (I’m guessing they are five years-old), as they start their day, have breakfast, put on their clothes, head off to their places of worship. This should be mundane and simple, but it is anything but. A rich, magnetic and stunning account in its religious expression and depiction of little human life. It’s a jewel of pure worldly insight in its very basis, minimal form, but still feels as refreshing and new as a splash of water. While beautifully shot and lit (by the director’s husband Daniel Mercadante) it still naturally reflects the respected cultures and environment. You would struggle to find a frame you would not want to hang on your wall and long for a lingering summer’s day. The editing is near-perfection, some shots collide walking feet or tracking children walking, some just flow from one vivid image to the next. The close up of the children’s eyes opening and closing is a poignant way to finish. Wonderful, innocent children, untainted by other parts of the world – and for these few moments we can hope it stays that way. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
#likeagirl (2014) – Lauren Greenfield
Lauren Greenfield’s senior thesis photography project on the French Aristocracy helped to start her career. She interned for National Geographic and received a grant from them to support her debut monograph. Greenfield enjoys exploring anthropology and culture through her photographs and films. In 2006, her feature-length documentary THIN was selected for the Sundance Film Festival. kids+money was her follow-up short film, which examined Los Angeles teenagers’ views on money and how it affects them. Greenfield spent several years filming and developing her documentary, Queen of Versailles, for which she received the Sundance Film Festival’s Directing Award in 2012. In 2014, Greenfield directed a commercial spot for Always called #likeagirl, which became a viral sensation, having been viewed 58 million times in the U.S. Her photographs have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Vanity Fair, and National Geographic, among others, and her work has been in many major collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and the International Center of Photography. – – – Lauren Byrd @laurencbyrd14
In Between (2011) – Elizabeth Gracen
Elizabeth Gracen may or may not be known for winning the title of Miss America in 1982, or as American actress in the Highlander TV series. Gracen is also a film director, and has a few short films under belt. In Between is a kind of fleeting elegance, the short film clocks in at less than 4 minutes, and is essentially a solo dance. Opening with the sounds of multiple women’s voices, which seem to suggest borderline despair and euphoria. Set against a black background, the performer (choreographer Hilary Thomas) is also in black, and she almost vanishes in the scene – arms, legs, and head gracefully flow with the motion of the dance sequence. Moments from the end the visuals switch to a bright, vivid image before the titles roll. Claimed to be an experimental dance piece which “explores our willingness to let go of the fear associated with change, the unknown and death.”. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go (2007) – Kim Longinotto
Kim Longinotto is British documentary film-maker (of Italian descent) who has crammed her impressive résume with observational, enlightening projects focusing on the plights of women, girls, showing them as inspiring amidst the hardships. Children too can follow similar life arcs, as demonstrated in Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go, a documentary which visits the Mulberry Bush School in Oxford. The school is a kind of last chance saloon for many “problem kids”, and Longinotto’s exposing film simply sits back and watches the potential young redemption unfold. There’s examples of truly bad behavior here from some of these children, and also some rewarding moments in all, making this often touching and poignant in its devotion to a young chapter of social anthropology in the broad and essential discourse of education. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Wanda (1970) – Barbara Loden
Loden, who directed, wrote and starred in the titular role wasn’t able to direct another film because of her death by cancer. This was released in 1970, shown at Venice Film Festival to acclaim but wasn’t given much attention back home. She made this film with a crew of four, largely non-actors, two professional actors including herself and much of it resulted because of the improvisation between the two. Wanda is shot and edited in a cinema verite style, the subject drifting through a very harsh reality that is her life. An abused woman at every turn without anything or anyone to fight back against. She is treated as an object at her home which she leaves, on the run, robbed, assaulted, beaten. Ambiguous in nature, a more observant, visceral and sharply edited depiction that defies easy terms upon which to filter the narrative or its characters. The naturalism, stark and sometimes savagely comical, brutal blow of a film will undoubtedly leave many of you divided but the titular Wanda… you won’t forget her. – – – Asif Khan@KHAN2705
Originally published in August 2016.