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100 More Films Made By Women – Part Eight

The despairs or romances of film-making are explored in this selection, as are deep, dark, damaging secrets, and dramatic shift of landscapes, actually and culturally, with a wedge of unrequited love and heart-led temptation thrown in. Here are ten more marvelous women and examples of their strong work.

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My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Liv Corfixen)

Danish film-maker Nicolas Winding Refn receives some advice at the opening of his wife’s documentary, that he was not thinking about success before Drive, but afterwards he was, and this can change your creativity. Liv Corfixen wanted a family man, for her and the children – there are a couple of candid discussions between the couple, that she takes care of the home and he is working all the time. Refn goes on to describe arranging his pre-production scenes for Only God Forgives like a game of chess. We later watch Refn as Ryan Gosling plays with his children. He’s not a bad husband or father, more a dedicated film director. What else is fascinating here is that although his movies tend to export a sense of over-confidence and swagger, as the shooting for Only God Forgives begins Refn has some clear concerns about his own method. We know now the diverse the movie took some critical pounding in places, so those worries have greater significance now. Corfixen’s inquisitive voice then may well echo through, suggesting Refn’s creativity was indeed hindered by his lack of confidence in his own work following the overwhelming success of Drive. At under an hour you can’t help feeling the director, and wife, could have pushed her own creativity and gone for the two-hour-plus mark with this insightful behind the scenes visual account. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Speak (Jessica Sharzer)

Based on the award-winning novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak takes full hold of the repressed anguish suffered silently by a rape victim. Delicately directed, but never coy, by Jessica Sharzer, the high school movie with a purpose is fascinating in it’s layered execution, bringing the aftermath of such a horrid event to the surface. Back when she was 14 years-old, Kristen Stewart, who got some stick later for the Twilight movies as an actress who appears awkward and uncomfortable, makes painful alienation an art form here. Surrounded by outspoken and big-mouth teenagers – and teachers of course – Stewart’s Melinda is verbally bullied and outcast, on top of her enclosed torment, and the actress shows the doubters that she has some real talent in depth – a potential she has fulfilled in recent roles. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Anatomy of a Love Seen (Marina Rice Bader)

Marina Rice Bader’s Anatomy of a Love Seen is slow, tender, and at times somewhat tortuous. It is one of those films in which nothing really seems to happen, and yet you walk away feeling emotionally wrung out. Anatomy tells the story of two queer actresses, Zoe and Mal, who began a brief but passionate love affair while shooting a film about a lesbian couple. In the intervening months between the end of that film and the beginning of this one – the one we are watching – the two women have gone through a bitter breakup from which both are still reeling. The film’s action all takes place in a single day, as the two estranged lovers are brought together to re-shoot the film’s central love scene for broadcast distribution. While it is far from a perfect movie, Anatomy has two specific pleasures to offer film fans: a movie about making movies and a lesbian romance drama that isn’t trite. The latter is clearly the more important of the film’s triumphs, and I can’t help but feel as though Bader’s decision to frame it within a metacinematic narrative is itself a comment on the paucity of good lesbian stories being filmed these days. – – – Desirae Embree @ZeeSayre

Nowhere in Africa (Caroline Link)

Written and directed by Caroline Link, adapted from the autobiographical novel by Stefanie Zweig, Nowhere in Africa is a sprawling family drama. Opening in 1938, Link really takes her time, commanding a thorough story-telling navigation, as we embark with the central Redlich family who flee Nazi Germany to a farm in Kenya. They struggle in varying ways to settle in this vast new landscape (the daughter in particular), but also gain encouragement from the African community. Link handles the themes of the pre-war Jewish status in the Kenyan setting comfortably, managing to tell a rich, enduring human story. Nowhere in Africa took the Foreign Language Film prize at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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Sand Dollars (Laura Amelia Guzmán)

Sand Dollars (Dólares de Arena) is set around the night dance scene and the gorgeous daytime shores of the Dominican Republic, a contrasting landscape that transfers too into the relationship of the two main characters. Noeli (Yanet Mojica) is a young woman “entertaining” tourists for money, who is in a loving relationship with the much older French woman Anne (Geraldine Chaplin). Their longings are different, Noeli using Anne as a platform to a better world, whereas Anne genuinely loves this girl. Directed by Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas, they explore beautifully the tormenting themes of fear of abandonment, unrequited love, and misplaced affection. Guzmán has stated she wants to make a sequel called Noelí Overseas. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger)

The oldest surviving animated film in the history is a breathtaking, truly adventurous and sensuous feast for all senses. Released in 1926, it took several years and thousands of frames to make this gem by German filmmaker Lotte Reiniger, a pioneer. Several avant-garde animators of the time worked with her on this painstaking project, most prominently her husband Carl Koch who photographed it. As the title suggests, this is based on stories from the “One Thousand and One Nights”. Made using the silhouette animation technique which Reiniger herself invented, it involved cardboard cutouts manipulated under a camera. And what fantastic cutouts. Sheer cinematic, expressive storytelling. The magical wonder and awe, the romance, tale of witches and monsters of kings and magicians. It encapsulates the rich essence of its source and the medium itself. Be it film, animation or literature. The energy is well intact, it doesn’t seem least bit aged, in fact more new and wondrous than ever. Seek out this animation masterpiece which has influenced so many others. – – – Asif Khan @KHAN2705

Hounddog (Deborah Kampmeier)

While what lies beneath and beyond the surface of Deborah Kampmeier’s Hounddog (writer, director, producer) is a gritty, spirited coming-of-age drama, the film has been dragging its feet in the mud ever since the over-the-top reaction to the rape scene which came out of its screening at the Sundance Film Festival. The scene in question is horrific even in its briefness, and was certainly a sucker punch, but more suggestive than graphic, and Kampmeier is careful in her framing and execution. There is a lot more to this movie, namely the then 12 year-old Dakota Fanning, playing a girl who finds comfort and inspiration in the songs of Elvis Presley during her particularly struggle-some adolescence. Hounddog was a terrific platform for Fanning, an actress with so much promise, she gives everything she has here while remaining spirited and full of poise. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Afghan Star (Havana Marking)

Astute and candid, Havana Marking directs the documentary Afghan Star, which blends together the well-known elements of the troubles in Afghanistan and the reality TV song contest culture (The Taliban remember banned music during their rule). The film follows four such contestants (Afghan Star being the show’s name), Hameed, Setara, Rafi, and Lema – two men and a more unprecedented two women. Halfway through the insightful, awakening documentary we witness Setara eliminated from the contest, and she proceeds in her farewell song to not only dance freely, hips and all, but allows her hijab (Muslim head scarf) to fall. There are actual gasps from those watching backstage, and for her open-minded encouragement and free spirit Setara’s reward is to receive death threats and be evicted from her home. The documentary’s key message is also poignantly displayed in the opening scene, where a blind Afghan boy sings a song before gleefully declaring he feels happy when he listens to music. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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In Bloom (Nana Ekvtimishvili)

Violence as a virus in post-Communist Georgia. Eka and Natia must navigate their adolescence in a society that has already abandoned them. Their generation lives a disconnected existence: from their elders, their responsibilities, even each other. Eka’s disconnect is double, as she is confronted with the burden of acknowledging alone the challenges this generation faces, as her peers fall unaware into pre-destined roles. As societal strictures cut through what menial advancements these two are capable of exacting, an unspoken, unavoidable struggle is born between past and future, what one is bound to do and what one endeavours to do. Nana Ekvtimishvili leaves us unsure if Eka and Natia will ever be capable of making these advancements, in a country still clinging to its past. But while it accepts its violence and abuse, it cannot ignore their repercussions, as characters mete out vengeance on others, paying forward crimes committed against them. Our passive and impassive protagonist becomes more reactionary as she is delegated responsibilities of her own, by adults who seem to expect her to be both obedient child and independent adult, and by Natia, whose questionable influence makes for the greatest adjustment. How she elects to apply her new, self-imposed duties as a mature individual forms the foundation for much of In Bloom‘s drama and tension, and it’s riveting as a result. – – – Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen

Last Night (Massy Tadjedin)

Last Night spawns the potential for heavy drama through the story-line’s injection of romance. It is misplaced romance though, or rather forbidden. Joanna (Keira Knightley) is married to Michael (Sam Worthington), and she suspects he is cheating on her with his colleague Laura (Eva Mendes), with whom he is about to embark on yet another business trip. In that time Joanna meets up with Alex (Guillaume Canet), an old flame where the fire has certainly not burned out. There are kisses, embraces, more significantly the lure and temptation to enter that emotional danger-zone. Last Night is not just pure jealousy, but also the suspicion and instinct, that sixth sense about what you fear has happened, or will. There’s a whiff of Eyes Wide Shut in it’s set up, but writer-director Massy Tadjedin makes this her own, with a steady, appropriate, and affecting pace, as well as a true intrigue into the kinetics of these over-lapping adult relationships. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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What You May Have Missed So Far:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

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