100 More Films Made By Women – Part Six

Firstly, forgive the delay in getting this 100 More Films Made By Women out into your eagerly-awaiting stratosphere. And these rare gems of varying film formats and subject matter are worth the wait. The piercing, essential themes of motherhood, sisterhood, girlhood are all exampled here in fine style. Glimpses of underwater love and loss, the breakable glue of adult relationships, the search for one’s freedom, fictionalizing an iconic British political figure. And documentaries, unmissable accounts exposing the horrific lifestyles of children, delving deep into the life a legendary singer, suffering mothers of the third world. Educate yourself some more with the following extraordinary film-making from women.

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Elena (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 (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 (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 (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 (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 @Al_Rob_1982

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Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids (Zana Briski)

Winning the 2004 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Born into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids is produced, written, and directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman. A documentary where Briski, a photographer, puts herself slap bang in the centre of a group of children (the title is pretty self-explanatory) and forms a bond with them as she shares and encourages her own passion for taking pictures. A shared education and compassion all around. Criticized, and causing quite a stir, with claims it broke the laws of ethical film-making and was somehow glorifying the illegal events it depicts (both notions something tons of documentaries have to accept each year). Briski took a brave step to force our eyes open, and keep them that way. We miss way too much of what really goes on in the world, so let’s not shoot the messenger, one who brings art and truth into the blind-spot reality. Watching the kids and Briski interact certainly has its fair share of emotive moments. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Everyone Else (Maren Ade)

A German couple take a break in Sardinia, introverted, moody Chris (Lars Eidinger), and quirky, carefree Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr) are an odd couple on the surface, that somehow fit. Maren Ade proves a talent for the casual, observational drama, while drip-feeding a true-sense of everyday comedy we all experience (something she received plaudits for with her recent Cannes entry Toni Erdmann). Adult relationship dynamics though are the main course here, and Ade has a deft touch at allowing us to see that the freedom of alone time and vacation can have its emotional pitfalls. Chris and Gitti’s casual banter demonstrates some romance, but also a more fragile bond after all, as they find natural ways to nit-pit at each other’s indiscretions. Fascinating to watch both excellent actors play out the greater significance of the smaller things between a loving couple, in particular Minichmayr who demonstrates that her character has the greater capacity to be noticeably affected by such events. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

What Happened, Miss Simone? (Liz Garbus)

What Happened, Miss Simone? by Liz Garbus is a wonder to behold. A master of documentary film-making, with a resume that includes the seminal works The Farm: Angola U.S.A., Girlhood, and Bobby Fisher Against the World, Garbus’ Miss Simone skillfully reflects on Nina Simone’s musical genius, her tumultuous journey from small town child prodigy to pop superstar, and her ongoing struggle with mental illness. The film shows Simone’s role as an outspoken civil rights advocate, and how in turn that makes her a showbiz outcast. Perhaps the most powerful moments in the film are when we hear Simone’s daughter talk about the mental and physical abuse that Nina both received and dished out. Filled with previously unseen interviews and musical performances, Garbus shows us the pitfalls of success, and just how close genius and madness oftentimes are. From a musical standpoint, the film highlights most of Simone’s most important works, and gives viewers unfamiliar with her work a great introduction to that unmistakable voice that was so full of pain and sadness and love and hate. Like all great works of art, What Happened, Miss Simone? stays with you long after you first encounter it. In the end it leaves you black and blue and with a dull ache and sadness as you discover that ultimately what drove Simone to be such a brilliant artist also brought her so much suffering. – – – Tim J. Krieg @FiveStarFlicks

The Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd)

So Meryl Streep finally got her Oscar. Her third, that is. The discussions around poor Viola Davis may still echo in the film world, but it is much more often than not difficult to argue against Streep. Phyllida Lloyd’s take on chapters of the life of Britain’s first Prime Minister is perhaps less grand than we perhaps anticipated, and far more bittersweet – that the iron lady of the title was in fact a human being who could fall to illnesses like dementia. We know a lot of the history like the back of our hand, so it might be refreshing to see the personal, later-life side of Thatcher, even if it is terribly sad at times. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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A Walk to Beautiful (Mary Olive Smith)

Mary Olive Smith’s awakening documentary A Walk to Beautiful (broadcast on television on NOVA on PBS) won an Emmy for Outstanding Informational Programming – Long Form. It’s a diamond amidst the rough. A heart-swirling take on five Ethiopian women not only having to suffer physical turmoil of childbirth injuries, but also facing being shut out by their families and community. Their medical conditions arise from the lack of heath care and the very real and extreme poverty they experience. Their spiritual and actual journey take them to the Fistula Hospital, where these extraordinary women can be treated. Accustomed to the conditions they could have only imagined are still tough to comprehend for them, so on the flip-side, when proper care and support is provided to these women in their physical conditions, their reactions hold an endearing apprehension. “I have come home cured. Share my joy.” one young woman says to her father as they embrace on her return. Wonderful. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

* * * * *

100 More Films Made By Women – So Far

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

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