100 More Films Made By Women – Part Nine

Well, here we are then, the penultimate ten of yet more films made by women. And you know what, we can do 100 more. Before we take a huge, well-earned breather from these dynamic femmes, dig into the following ten and as always you are implored to seek them out and watch them at your next convenience. Here we bring back our childhood, stand strong for the people of our country, explore immediate family ties, as well as developing new romantic bonds.

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Sierra (Chelsea Christer)

A project extremely close to the heart of the film-maker, Sierra was the name of Chelsea Christer’s horse, for which this delicate, emotional little drama is in honor of. Nicole Renee Jones’ Charlie, a city girl forced to reflect, rediscover, and reconnect with her family and childhood, echoes the director herself through this biographical effort – the love of horses, the blue hair, the black & white leggings are also exhibitive. Back on the ranch after a long time away in the hustle bustle of city life, Charlie has to plow through the literal change of scenery, adapting to her former way of living. The parents too, though, have to accept who she is now – a grown up woman with tattoos. The heartbreak of saying goodbye to her horse is what brings it all back to her, a kind of familiar comfort derived from forlorn circumstances. Supported gracefully by the music of Jonathan Haidle and photography of Patrick Lawler, Christer’s filmic scope, character mold, and eye for the sweeping beauty on screen, make the whole journey a poignant one. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller)

Bold and alive in its storytelling and depiction, Heller’s directorial debut is a rare film of its kind. Rare for subject matter and the way it has been dealt with in this wonderful gem. Portrayal of female experience, sexuality, growing up, turbulent and crucial age. Neither judging the central character nor defining her by the mistakes she makes on her way to self-discovery and learning. Not only that but the film truly leaves a mark for giving the character a voice of her own. So much so that she feels real. Her observations, urges, desires, be it her insecurities or basic outlook on life and her surrounding. True to its title, a frank and immensely personal account of 15-year-old Minnie Goetze. Her life, her voice, her diary. Featuring Bel Powley’s strong performance along with a competent supporting cast, it is pleasing on other technical and aesthetic fronts. Heller is a sensation to watch out for. – – – Asif Khan @KHAN2705

The Second Mother (Anna Muylaert)

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival last year, The Second Mother is a Brazilian comedy / drama written and directed by Anna Muylaert. The genre blend comes from what is on the outset a collection of tough themes – estranged daughters, class divides – but executed in a manner that is boisterous and true. The mother of the title, Val (Regina Casé), is a live-in housemaid for a wealthy family in São Paulo, whose long-unseen daughter Jéssica (Camila Márdila) comes to stay in an attempt to get into university. Jéssica does not conform to the “proper” standards od such a household and tensions ensue. Muylaert’s film is quick-witted, penetrating, and smart, Casé and Márdila also nail the chemistry of a mother-daughter under strain. The Second Mother was not nominated for Best Foreign Language Film with the Academy Awards for 2015, but had I seen this earlier it would have figured somewhere in my end of year honors list. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston)

Livingston’s 1990 documentary is a vibrant, celebratory look at the New York’s ballroom subculture during the 1980’s among the African-American and Hispanic gays, transgender women and drag queens. Both insightful, vivid, boosting the energy as well as sobering because of harsh realities these people face. Marginalized from a society that won’t accept who they are. Won’t include them and certainly won’t join them. Competing in competitions, judged for how well they sport a look or dance, a sense of community, family and belonging. Stylish as it is, witty as it may be, the reality of their lives gets to you. Participants give personal interviews, putting their lives right in front of us. Everything they have faced and continue to deal with every single day. Poignant and informative without reducing its subjects down to a mere surface fascination or things to be studied. The film is fiercely human and compelling in its representation. Livingston wants to know them, she listens to them and by the end, you have found a piece of yourself within these people. We all want to live the way we want to. Love who we want to. Our dreams and hopes, we all strive for them every day. We share that. – – – Asif Khan @KHAN2705

Aiste Dirziute and Julija Steponaityte in Summer of Sangaile

The Summer of Sangailė (Alanté Kavaïté)

The framing The Summer of Sangailė is immaculate, mixing beautifully lit landscape shots, off-center close-ups, a whole host of photographic depths throughout. You’d call it dreamy if it did not feel so very real. The Lithuanian-language film, written and directed by Alantė Kavaitė, depicts a level of anxiety as well as a spontaneous, flourishing romance as the title girl is encouraged to gloss over her own self-harm when she is wooed by another. Actresses Aisté Dirziute and Julija Steponaityte (Sangailė) have an electric chemistry portraying the strong mutual attraction, their bliss is simply poetic. Kavaitė directs with a gentle, calming allure, the lingering absence of words speaks as loud as the sparse, effective dialogue. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

W.E. (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 (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_1982

The Square (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 (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

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My Skinny Sister (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

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