100 More Films Made By Women – Part Seven

The next ten 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 be a vampire, to perform a dance, to be a troubled child, or children of varied cultures. There’s a clay animation thrown in for good measure, and 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.

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Five (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 (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 (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 (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

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Wanda (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

Tallulah (Sian Heder)

Following a couple of short films and writing credits for Orange Is the New Black (Uzo Aduba has a cunning cameo here), Sian Heder writes and directs her first feature – essentially a three-fold drama depiction of the darker side of motherhood. Heder herself was heavily pregnant when the production began with her second child, so who knows how much of her hormones shone through in her directorial execution. Tallulah is surprisingly low-key on emotive push, rather this just tells it straight, giving little exploration into the way characters roll off each other in somewhat knock-on fashion. Heder is more interested in the motherly dynamic than wanting to make your heart strings tremor, with three very different women brought together, and it is the audience, us, that are given free reign to make judgments on them and their often detrimental choices. A film with ample themes of human interest, it is the actresses that stand out. Ellen Page is fine, and Allison Janney tends to be first-rate in her sleep, while it is Tammy Blanchard who gulps up the majority of the film’s emotional gravity. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

The Lights and Then the Noise (Fran Broadhurst)

Distinguished immediately by the crisp, clear black and white, The Lights and Then the Noise kicks into the sensations in both visual and audio aspects – both lights and noise are soaked in the senses, almost re-awakening them. The humming and crackling and faint music of the mundane everyday is anything but dull here. Actress Emily Taaffe expresses the awe of such taken-for-granted wonders in this very short film that aligns us with the lights and noises that bring us euphoria through seeing a band play live (No Age in this instance). Fran Broadhurst collaborates with her partner Mathy Tremewan to direct and write this 4 minute film, wanting to encapsulate some elements of the feelings from that first gig, while taking it to a place beyond the mere concrete, and tuning in to the fascinating abstract. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Vanishing Waves (Kristina Buozyte)

Easy as it is to categorize Vanishing Waves, it’d be detrimental to your appreciation of the film. The point is not the elaborate visual effects, stylish art direction and scientific psychobabble. The point is the throbbing, tempestuous relationship at this film’s heart. It is, above all else, a romance, and how smart to encase this romance in the trappings of sci-fi. A romance that takes place inside the mind and only there, as is that not where all romances take place? A startlingly sensual romance too, as is the mind not also where all sensory apprehension takes place? What gloriously sensual imagery Kristina Buozyte devises, what stirring ambiance she creates for these dreamscapes, expressing the purity and intensity of sense and emotion within the brain, and the full breadth and depth of every aspect of every feeling that is awoken in the core of such absolute love. If it sounds like it’ll touch every sore spot in your psyche, don’t bother. Don’t bother with a film that features a sequence of modern dance, in the nude, in a building on a beach, inside the mind of a comatose woman. But in a dark room, late at night, on my own, I was as exhilarated by Buozyte’s vision as Lukas is, emerging from his first experience of entering someone else’s mind. – – – Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen

$9.99 (Tatia Rosenthal)

It is not every day you come across an Israel-Australia collaborated animation feature. $9.99 is an effectively rough around the edges clay animation that makes for some gritty realism, the rendering of such stop-motion animation is so good here it often surpasses the contentment of the engagement in its story and characters. There’s nothing wrong with the narrative or character development, mind, an inner-apartment ensemble, almost a non-live-action kind of soap opera. Director Tatia Rosenthal injects some compelling adult conformism (which includes some full nudity) as well as a good share of wit and melancholy. You might often get a whiff of the much later Anomalisa. There’s an array of recognizable voices working here too, including Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia, Joel Edgerton, and Ben Mendelsohn. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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Kiss of the Damned (Xan Cassavetes)

Kiss of the Damned is in some ways your typical vampire flick, and we don’t mind that because the infectious ethos of the vampire is a captivating concept from the outset for many. Written and directed by John Cassavetes’ daughter Alexandra “Xan” Cassavetes, this particularly retro blood-thirsty tale throws Paolo at the loving mercy of Djuna (rather easily it seems), to share her vampire status as well as her affection. Chaos ensues when the recalcitrant Mimi turns up, taking blood whenever she feels like it – perhaps making this an alternative version of Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive. Cassevetes shamelessly pays as a kind of personal homage to the vampire film culture with this, a film so stylized and slick, yet has the feel of a horror film from the 1970s. The likes of Bellucci, Argento, Roeg, Carpenter, are all on Cassevetes’ fan-list. Cassevetes demonstrates a yearning to encapsulate loneliness over horror too, and although the surreal Kiss of the Damned has its flaws, it still captures a melancholic bite, dangerous sexual appetite, and a hunger you can almost taste. – – –Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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