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100 More Films Made By Women – Part 18 of 20

Young siblings pop up again, but with more than just rivalry on their plates. There’s 2 more fascinating documentaries, as well as 2 ‘based on real events’ fiction features. Let’s start with a pop star:


W.E. (2011) – Madonna

A seven-time Grammy Award winner, Madonna is known for her pop hits and superstar tours, but this singer/actress has ambitions to direct. In 2011, she finally made her directorial debut with W.E., a film about the affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, which led to Edward abdicating the throne. The film also featured a contemporary story-line of a romance, which was supposed to be a modern day parallel to Edward and Wallis’ love story, between a married woman and a Russian security guard. W.E. received poor reviews, but the film won a Golden Globe for Best Song for Madonna’s “Masterpiece”. Madonna isn’t letting W.E.‘s failure at the box office stop her from returning to the director’s chair. She is planning to adapt Ade: A Love Story from the novel of the same name by Rebecca Walker. The book is about a pair of U.S. students traveling in Kenya, one of whom falls in love with a local man, adopts an Arabic name, and tries to adapt to her new life in unfamiliar surroundings. – – – Lauren Byrd @laurencbyrd14

The 33 (2015) – Patricia Riggen

“I’m gonna do things my way!” This is what “Super” Mario says when told that there is no way out. The same can be said for director Patricia Riggen and The 33, a film about the 2010 Copiapó mining accident that trapped 33 miners 2,300 feet deep inside a mine. At times it feels suffocating, and you feel that sense of dread that comes over the miners as they struggle to cope with the idea that no one is coming to rescue them. Well, as we now know, that changed. Once the world found out, there was no way the Chilean government was going to let them die. It was very interesting to see how they managed to stay sane when they had to continue to be trapped for another 3 months after the drilling started. I think director Patricia Riggen did a wonderful job in instructing all these men on how to portray these real people, and the way we see the balance between being with the men in the mine and their families hoping and praying that they would make it out alive. She made a thrilling film about a simple story, and was able to stir up the right emotions when we see the survivors coming together in the end. – – – Al Robinson @Al_Rob_1982l

The Square (2013) – Jehane Noujaim

Tahrir Square, of Cairo, is the location in the film title The Square, Jehane Noujaim’s documentary highlighting the rebellious efforts of the Egyptian people. Attempting to overthrown government, there was bedlam in Cairo, a chunk of history viewed with wide eyes, and ears. Noujaim, who made a similarly impacting account with the Iraq media war film Control Room in 2004, captures the revolutionary politics in Egypt with grounded accuracy. So much handheld footage make this raw and engaging all the more, with extensive birdseye views of Tahrir Square, and on-the-ground viewpoints from those involved. The director has also had to, or chose to, revisit the editing room several times due to the altering of events. – – – Robin Write@WriteoutofLA

Elvis & Nixon (2016) – Liza Johnson

In one of the strangest moments to ever happen at the White House, on December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley had a meeting with President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office to discuss Elvis becoming deputized as a “Federal Agent at Large”. Elvis had a crazy idea that he was going to help wipe out drug use and other nefarious behaviors of the youth in America. He planned to go undercover and arrest drug pushers and users. When he showed up at the gates of the White House, he was of course sent away. When the White House staff asked the President if he’d be willing to meet with Elvis, the President scoffed and said no. In the end the meeting took place, and it ended up being an eventful moment. What’s great about the film is that director Liza Johnson made this story approachable for any viewer, and didn’t preach or politicize. She just made a hell of an entertaining film, filled with great performances from Michael Shannon as Elvis Presley, Kevin Spacey as President Richard Nixon, and various other supporting actors. One of the best moments in the film is when the secret service was asking Elvis to remove all of his firearms. The fact that this all happened in real life just makes it so scandalous, but that it is now immortalized in film makes it priceless. – – – Al Robinson @Al_Rob_1982


My Skinny Sister (2015) – Sanna Lenken

Swedish film My Skinny Sister marks the directorial debut for Sanna Lenken, a beautifully shot, crafted drama of adolescence, anorexia, and coming-of-age. The director transfers her own anorexia history into older sister Katja, but effectively tells the story from the point of view of the concerned, observant little sister Stella. Lenken directs like a comforting breeze, in spite of the tough subject matter of eating disorders. My Skinny Sister though is ultimately a film about sisterhood, the magnetic, poignant sibling bond between Stella and Katja is apparent and affecting from the off, and is never in doubt even in their darkest cross-words. What is also refreshing is that it is the two youngsters, leads here, that get first billing on the cast list. Rightly so, this is their film, two very different but captivating, excellent performances by Rebecka Josephson and Amy Deasismont. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Originally published in August 2016.


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