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PRACTICE OF LOVE, THE
"A winning combination of sexual frankness and visual wit," wrote J. Hoberman in
The Village Voice
; "Funny, violent, sexual...It makes you reconsider what you and everyone else is doing in life and in art," said Amy Taubin in
Soho Weekly News
. Set in contemporary Vienna, Valie Export's controversial feature involves a photographer, Anna (Susanne Widl), who discovers that extra-terrestrial beings are colonizing the minds of her fellow citizens by raising the human aggression quotient. The outer world immediately becomes disjointed, but the inner world does too, as Anna and her love (Peter Weibel) try to hang onto their deteriorating relationship. A unique and totally original work by Austria's foremost filmmaker,
is at once philosophical and funny, psychologically revealing and sexually frank--"a witty and visually brilliant essay on gender and experience, culture and environment" (National Film Theatre, London). In German with English subtitles.
Valie Export---Austria---1977---112 mins.
"A dazzling cinematic tour-de-force, combining a thriller narrative with experimental images" (National Film Theatre, London). Judith, an investigative journalist, begins to unravel a murder mystery that implicates one of her current lovers. When she checks out a peep-show business on the seedy side of Hamburg as part of the investigation, she runs into a former boyfriend who used to be a psychiatrist but is now an arms dealer. Judith is lured back into his fold, cheating on her current lovers, one of whom is also a shrink. Despite her profession, or perhaps because of it, Judith tends to blend fantasy and reality, so small wonder she is attracted to psychoanalysts. But, two shrinks and a murder prove more than Judith can handle. Nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear at the 1985 Berlinale. In German with English subtitles.
Valie Export---West Germany/Austria---1984---90 mins.
Valie Export's daring film about relationships,
(loosely translated, "humanwomen"), focuses on Franz S., a journalist, and his relationship with four women: the kindergarten nurse Petra, the teacher Gertrude, barmaid Elisabeth and his wife Anna. Franz "doles out honorary pieces of himself to the 'human women' in his seraglio, whispers the same assurances. Eventually, everyone catches on and makes some effort toward independence" (
East Village Eye
). "A landmark film...Valie Export achieves in
what Godard strove for but failed in his
Every Man for Himself
--a human view of a woman's place in a man's world...From credits to close,
eludes conventional cinematic vision" (Seattle Film Festival). In German with English subtitles.
Valie Export---Austria---1980---100 mins.
ISA: THE PEOPLE'S DIVA
RICK OWENS AND OTHER FILMS BY JAN SHARP
Isa Kremer lived life to the fullest as the premier singer of authentic Yiddish songs. The first woman to perform Yiddish songs on the concert stage, she legitimized the language as a valid and vital part of Jewish culture. A classically trained opera star, Isa acted out these folk tunes using her voice, gestures, and mannerisms, offering emotional and dramatic interpretations. Using rare footage, hundreds of photos, and interviews with friends, family members, performers, and scholars,
Isa: The People’s Diva
chronicles Kremer’s life across five decades. Not only did her career parallel some of the 20th-century’s most tumultuous events--the Russian Revolution, the rise of Nazism, and the volatile politics of South America--her career was directly affected by their outcome. Despite personal trauma and political turmoil, Kremer never backed down from controversy, took the easy path, or surrendered to pressure to stop performing in Yiddish.
Isa: The People’s Diva
reclaims the legacy of this complex, passionate woman, who transcended both time and geographic borders, from the lost pages of history. “[Kremer] searches for hidden treasure in the realm of art. She sings with her voice, her body, her eyes, and she captivates with her charm” (
Los Angeles Times
, Dec. 19, 1924).
Ted Schillinger---USA---2000---56 mins.
In the touching portrait
Rick, Michele and Scarlett
, filmmaker Jan Sharp offers an inside look at the special relationship of cutting-edge fashion designer Rick Owens and fashion fixture Michele Lamy. Owens’s influential mix of goth and glamour begins in Los Angeles, where he prepares for a Paris showing that will make him an international fashion icon. At the same time, his partner Michele works to open Les Deux Cafe in the heart of L.A.’s gang territory. With the help of her daughter Scarlett, Michele’s daring venture blossoms into a cultural happening place. In their work and life, Rick, Michele and Scarlett embrace “the edge”--pushing into new artistic territories where no one has gone before. Jan Sharp captures their parallel stories with a great deal of intimacy and love. Two other documentaries complete this volume.
Beard: Pecking Order
tracks fashion photographer Peter Beard on location in Africa, shooting the legendary Pirelli calendar with the world’s top fashion models. In
Chasing the President
, Jan travels to East Timor, where President Jose Ramos-Horta tries to build peace in the remote border districts of Asia’s newest nation.
Jan Sharp---USA---2010---169 mins.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOUR EYES HAVE DONE TO ME
WOMAN OF THE PORT, THE
Deemed "The Empress of Tango", Ada Falcon's singing reputation was known throughout the world. But in 1942, she vanished from the public eye at the height of her career. Sixty years after Falcon's disappearance, filmmakers Lorena Munoz and Sergio Wolf set out to examine the enigmatic performer's fascinating life. Told in the style of a classic thriller, their film uses footage of Falcon's film appearances and voiceover narration to investigate her legacy. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Lorena Munoz/Sergio Wolf---Argentina---2003---64 mins.
A cowardly murder, a dark mystery, and an illicit romance combine in a dark and atmospheric melodrama that's also an all-time classic of Mexican cinema. After the death of her father and betrayal by her fiancee, a woman becomes a prostitute, living above a cabaret and working "to please the men who come from the sea." Her romance with a lonely sailor begins to blossom, but the revelation of a shocking secret shatters their only chance at happiness. Inspired by stories by Guy de Maupassant and Leo Tolstoy. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Arcady Boytler---Mexico---1933---76 mins.
focuses on three women--Fariba, Saloomeh, and Moluk--in a triptych of warm-hearted, interwoven stories set in contemporary Tehran. Fariba operates a cafe, while her alcoholic, unemployed husband sponges off her; Saloomeh debates whether to marry Ebi, whose one good deed doesn't make up for his mean, controlling streak; and Moluk, a middle-aged landlady, pines for a man who has problems of his own. Directed by talented newcomer Saman Moghadam (
). "Subtle, affectionately humorous and poignant...a classic woman's picture" (
Los Angeles Times
). In Persian with English subtitles.
Saman Moghadam---Iran---2005---102 mins.
VILLAGE ROMANCE, A
is the story of a delinquent girl who escapes from detention and hides out on a remote
, a Spanish American plantation. There she destroys a rigid, uptight family with her immoral scheming and feminine wiles. Despite being a neorealistic melodrama,
displays a surrealist's fascination with subversion, sexuality and illusory conventions. "...absurdities and contradictions indicate that the truly important work is taking place at a latent level beneath the surface of the story" (Tomas Perez Turrent,
). In Spanish with English subtitles.
Luis Bunuel---Mexico---1951---86 mins.
A documentary about two women who fall in love in a small Hungarian village, once a haven for the lesbian community. One lives in poverty, while the other is married to an abusive and alcoholic husband who threatens to take her to court when he finds out about her secret. Biding her time until he's out of the picture, she and her children are eventually able to move in with her female lover. In Hungarian with English subtitles.
Bodis Kriszia---Hungary---2006---50 mins.
An aging femme fatale and her talented daughter battle for control over the young girl's destiny in this coming-of-age story from Poland. Though the mother wants only the best for her daughter Marysia, she can't help but push the teenager into the career that Mom always wanted. In the meantime, Marysia dreams of becoming a ballerina. An award-winning melodrama loosely adapted from the Luchino Visconti classic,
is a sensitive tale of the special bond between mothers and daughters. In Polish with English subtitles.
Artur Urbanski---Poland---2001---65 mins.
EXTREME PRIVATE EROS LOVE SONG
MAPPING STEM CELL RESEARCH
The legend of Erendira tells of a brave young Indian woman who took up arms against the Spanish conquistadors during the 16th century. Though soon to be married, Erendira defies the patriarchal conventions of her people, the Purepecha, by stealing a horse, teaching herself to ride, and using her skill to fight the invading Spaniards. In doing so, Erendira became a potent icon of strength and rebellion for indigenous Mexican cultures.
brings this colorful legend to life with Ariel Award-nominated art direction, costume design, make-up, and special effects, courtesy of producer-writer-director Juan Mora Catlett. In Purepecha with English subtitles.
Juan Mora Catlett---Mexico---2007---107 mins.
In this intensely intimate documentary, filmmaker Kazuo Hara takes on a very difficult subject: his former lover, Takeda Miyuki. A feminist bisexual in 1970s Japan, Miyuki is a maverick in a rigid society driven by convention. As much a participant in this film as he is the filmmaker, Hara follows Miyuki to Okinawa and documents her uncommon life as his feelings unravel in front of the camera. As Hara himself confessed, "I like to make something happen and then shoot it." With its grainy black and white scenes and its out-of-synch sound,
Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974
creates the illusion of a home movie, but its intimacy pushed the bounds of the documentary cinema in Japan. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Kazuo Hara---Japan---1974---97 mins.
is a feature-length documentary that tells the story of Dr. Jack Kessler, current chair of Northwestern University's Department of Neurology and Clinical Neurological Sciences, and his daughter, Allison. Dr.Kessler's initial focus was on using stem cells to help cure diabetes. However, after Allison was injured in a skiing accident and paralyzed from the waist down, Kessler made the decision to change his research to utilizing embryonic stem cells in hopes of finding a cure for spinal cord injuries. "This excellent Kartemquin Films documentary is a multifaceted unpacking and demythification of a loaded subject" (Jonathan Rosenbaum,
The Chicago Reader
Maria Finitzo---USA---2007---83 mins.
WHO THE HELL IS JULIETTE?
DAUGHTERS OF THE SUN
Set in Chicago in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War, this disarming, intimate, even fun piece of cinema verite finds two nuns moving through the city's densely populated streets, asking the simple question: "Are you happy?" The film pushes beyond the issues of the times and allows its subjects to open their hearts and reveal themselves plainly and simply. "A profound and moving experience for the viewer" (
). Features music by Philip Glass.
Gordon Quinn/Gerald Temaner---USA---1968---66 mins.
In this "wildly original" (Stephen Holden,
) film, part documentary and part carefully constructed narrative, Cuban teenager Yuliet Ortega presents herself and her world proudly to the camera. Free-spirited, yet street-wise from her childhood in a Havana barrio, she knows how to use her sexual wiles and is unashamed about prostituting herself, which she sees simply as a matter of survival. A meeting with Mexican model Fabiola Quiroz might open doors to a new, and far more glamorous, life for her. Director Carlos Marcovich infuses this true-life story with plenty of visual pizazz and structural playfulness. Actress/model Salma Hayek also appears in the film. Won Silver Ariel awards for Best Editing and Best First Work. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Carlos Marcovich---Mexico---1997---91 mins.
Honored as Best First Feature at the Montreal Festival of World Cinema, Mariam Shahriar's debut shows an "unusual gift for expressive imagery" (Leslie Camhi,
The Village Voice
). It follows a young woman who disguises herself as a boy so that she can work long, hard hours in a carpet workshop to support her family. Her secret is complicated when a female co-worker falls in love with her. In Farsi with English subtitles.
Mariam Shahriar---Iran---2000---90 mins.
HOUSE IS BLACK, THE
While filming this minimalist epic, Lars von Trier claimed to be in psychic communication with the late Carl Theodor Dreyer (
The Passion of Joan of Arc
), on whose screenplay the film is based. This brilliantly original exploration of the dark passions of a woman scorned unfolds in shimmering North Sea marshlands and gloomy subterranean passageways. Shot on video for Danish television, von Trier's
is a haunting work of mythic realism, using available light and digital cameras to achieve a purposefully washed out, grainy aesthetic. "Exhilarating" (
). Loosely adapted from the play by Euripides. Udo Kier and Kirsten Olesen star. In Danish with English subtitles.
Lars von Trier---Denmark---1987---76 mins.
A young Catholic socialite from Buenos Aires falls in love and runs away with a young Jesuit priest. The two find temporary happiness in a small provincial village, but eventually they are recognized and face the wrath of their families, church and government officials of the De Rosas dictatorship of 19th century Argentina. An Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. "A bare outline fails to do justice to this powerful indictment of repression..." (
Faber Companion to Foreign Films
). In Spanish with English subtitles.
Maria Luisa Bemberg---Argentina/Spain---1984---105 mins.
A revelation of staggering force, lyrically composed by one of the 20th century's leading poets, Forough Farrokhzad. Her first and only film, it depicts the lives and bodies of people tragically deformed by leprosy. A film of stirring and powerful images, and a beautifully, tragically poetic narration that heavily influenced the modern Iranian cinema of Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who called it "the best Iranian film." It provides, in the film's own words, "a vision of pain no caring human being should ignore." In Farsi with English subtitles.
Forough Farrokhzad---Iran---1962---22 mins.
GIRLS FROM NOWOLIPKI
WHERE THE HEART ROAMS
Maria Luisa Bemberg (
) directs this stirring film about a woman (Luisina Brando) undergoing a drastic life change after leaving her family due to her husband's extramarital affairs. Deeply wounded emotionally, she struggles to adjust, but eventually finds a new job, new home and new lovers. Regardless, she is still torn between her old existence and her new, independent life. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Maria Luisa Bemberg---Argentina---1982---98 mins.
A postwar film version of Pola Gojawiczynska's novel. A lively picture of turn-of-the-century Warsaw as experienced by four young girls. The film begins as the heroines finish primary school and must begin adult life. With Maria Ciunelis, Izabella Drobowitz-Orkisz. In Polish with English subtitles.
Barbara Sass---Poland---1985---94 mins.
This documentary presents an inside look into the world of romance writers--their heroes, their heroines, and their 20 million American fans. A cross-country trip in search of the perfect romance novel with the people who create them, this film features bestselling authors Janet Dailey and Barbara Cartland, among others. "
Where the Heart Roams
is as much about barren lives as it is about living happily ever after, but Mr. Csicsery, using terrific restraint, never overstates the obvious" (
New York Times
George Csicsery---USA---1987---81 mins.
WOMAN DEMON HUMAN
NEW YEAR SACRIFICE
A young girl born into the world of the Beijing Opera Company follows her dreams and becomes a professional actress. Submerging herself in her roles to escape a personal life marred by trauma, she longs to play the major "male" roles, but is trapped by a culture that forbids it. The winner of two Chinese Academy Awards,
Woman Demon Human
is a stunning allegory of the struggle between modernity and tradition. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
Huang Shuqin---China---1987---115 mins.
In a mountain hamlet in eastern China, a poor woman faces trial after trial. Sold into marriage as a child, she is left a young widow and enslaved by her mother-in-law, who sells her to a poor peasant. Her second marriage turns out to be happy until fate takes away her husband and son. Now seen as a bearer of bad luck, she becomes a social outcast. When the New Year comes, can this poor woman find any hope in this society? Based on the short story by the prolific Chinese author Lu Xun. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
Sang Hu---China---1956---100 mins.
This expressionistic tale of sexual politics follows Rainbow, a mute yet musically gifted girl, whose arranged marriage to an impotent and crippled art teacher causes her eye to wander. Set against the historical background of China's bloody war with Japan in the 1930's, the bold colors and unique stylization of Gao Xiao-Song's film brings to mind both Zhang Yimou and Takashi Miike. With its Surrealistic imagery and classical-meets-heavy metal soundtrack,
offers a glimpse of a bright new talent on the Chinese cinema scene. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
Gao Xiao-Song---China---2004---91 mins.
END OF AUGUST AT THE HOTEL OZONE, THE
A beautifully filmed, yet very bleak, post-apocalyptic vision of the future, which finds a group of women reverting to primitive barbarity in order to survive. From Czech New Wave director Jan Schmidt. "A
directed by Andrei Tarkovsky" (
). In Czech with English subtitles.
Jan Schmidt---Czechoslovakia---1967---87 mins.
The only film directed by film critic and screenwriter Gavin Lambert (
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
Inside Daisy Clover
unfolds around a demure and prim governess who arrives in Marrakesh, Morocco to begin a new job as a paid companion to a wealthy English expatriate. As she explores her exotic surroundings, she is seduced by the men, music, and mystery of her new home. The dreamy black-and-white cinematography of Walter Lassally captures the steamy atmosphere of North Africa in the 1950s. "Hypnotic" (
Gavin Lambert---Great Britain---1954---86 mins.
A taut, gothic, Latin American romance, winner of the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Marie returns to a rundown Venezuelan house in the jungle where she spent summers as a child. Her return ignites memories of a summer when her adolescent sexual curiosity led to a surprising encounter. "An exotic
set in a jungle-choked hacienda" (
). With Doris Wells and Daniela Silverio. Spanish with English Subtitles.
Fina Torres---Venezuela---1991---92 mins.
HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA, THE
Based on the play by Federico Garcia Lorca, Mario Camus' film tells the story of a cold-blooded provincial widow and her five adult daughters. Bernarda (Irene Gutirrez Caba) rules her wealthy household with an iron fist. After the death of their father, Bernarda locks her daughters in the house for an eight-year mourning period, acquiescing only to the courtship of her eldest, Angustias (Enriqueta Caballeira), by Pepe el Romano, a mysterious nobleman. Because Pepe is the only eligible bachelor in town, the younger sisters fall in love with him as well, a fact that has tragic consequences for the entire family. Beautifully shot and acted, the film conveys both the claustrophobia and beauty of a sequestered household. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Mario Camus---Spain---1987---103 mins.
A fascinating documentary from Rakshan Bani-Etemad (
The May Lady
), the most outspoken and respected female director working in Iran today. Bani-Etemad's film focuses on the Iranian elections of 2002 and the role of women in Iranian society. The filmmaker follows a group of women who run for office and gradually narrows her view to the plight of one woman who attempts an heroic but unsuccessful run for the presidency. "An unforgettable picture of women in today's Iran" (
). In Farsi with English subtitles.
Rakhshan Bani-Etemad---Iran---2002---65 mins.
Karoly Makk's contemplative film about two unmarried sisters who cast wistful glances back at their lives, yet still believe in hope and love. Told in the form of an epistolary novel, and utilizing vivid images to convey the character's innermost thoughts, the film is a serious, stylistically daring, and deeply involving drama. As with Makk's previous international success,
, the director exhibits an extraordinary skill at drawing emotionally compelling performances from his talented female leads. In the end,
opposes the bleakness of the outside world with themes of passion, love, and loyalty. Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1974. In Hungarian with English subtitles.
Karoly Makk---Hungary---1972---98 mins.
MY NAME WAS SABINA SPIELREIN
Lili Darvas, the famed stage actress and widow of Ferenc Molnar, portrays a bed-ridden old woman in this emotionally precise drama. Her daughter-in-law, whose husband is in jail as a political prisoner, concocts a fictitious story about his life as a filmmaker in America and forges letters from him filled with Hollywood gossip, which the mother devours as she awaits her son's return. When he is finally sprung from prison, it is too late. In Hungarian with English subtitles.
Karoly Makk---Hungary---1971---84 mins.
In 1977, a surprising find in Switzerland led to the re-discovery of one of the most important female figures in the early history of psychoanalysis. The found diaries and letters revealed an extensive relationship between the unknown Russian-Jewish psychiatrist Sabina Spielrein and two founding fathers of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. The correspondence charted Spielrein's previously unknown influence on both men's lives and work, as well as her own unique contributions to the field of psychoanalysis. Through recreations and voice-over readings of Sabina's letters, the lost story comes alive and a true pioneer of psychoanalysis and child psychology gets the recognition she deserves. In German with English subtitles.
Elisabeth Marton---Sweden---2002---90 mins.
From the controversial director of
comes another tale of the clash between modernism and tradition in contemporary Iran. A progressive, recently widowed teacher and her conservative, controlling father-in-law fight for custody of her two small children. According to tradition, Fereshteh should remain in her father-in-law's home with her children, but she refuses. Afraid of losing custody of the boys, she decides to disappear with help from her women friends. Tahmineh Milani's film captures the tumult of a nation plagued by the conflicting philosophies of hard-line religious groups and an educated, cosmopolitan population. In Farsi with English subtitles.
Tahmineh Milani---Iran---2003---107 mins.
WAITING FOR THE MOON
Jill Godmilow's meditation on Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Linda Hunt plays Alice B. Toklas and Linda Bassett is Gertrude Stein, in a personal drama about the two remarkable women who were the focal point of Paris expatriate culture and society. "A life-affirming, love-affirming, joy affirming drama that's luminously filmed, smartly written and acted with great charm" (
Christian Science Monitor
Jill Godmilow---USA---1987---101 mins.
Set against a tumultuous backdrop of fear and violence, Haim Bouzaglo's acclaimed films tells of a Tel Aviv playwright who attempts to make sense of his country's carnage and his own tangled personal life by writing a new play. When writer's block sets in, Haim seeks a creative spark by hiring a private eye to trail his documentary filmmaker girlfriend. Bouzaglo brings an original mix of filmmaking styles to this potent and challenging drama about the malaise of contemporary life in Israel. In Hebrew with English subtitles.
Haim Bouzaglo---Israel/France---2005---103 mins.
The dreams and struggles of three generations of a Hungarian Jewish family are depicted in this award-winning drama. Against a backdrop of major 20th century events, director Frigyes Godros mixes humor and tragedy with realism and fantasy as his characters survive war, Nazi tyranny, communism, and economic hardship. Five years in the making,
is a remarkable historical epic that thrives on the intimacy of personal relationships. "An elegant, poetic fable... with a shimmering beauty" (
Los Angeles Times
). In Hungarian with English subtitles.
Frigyes Godros---Hungary---2000---110 mins.
A visionary feature film from Riri Riza that revolutionized the Indonesian film industry. Set against a pulsating backdrop of modern-day Jakarta, this electrifying drama tells the story of a woman from a small-town in West Sumatra who moves to the big city. Pulled between the old and the new, between tradition and rejuvenation, Eliana's mother and her childhood home keep popping back into her cosmopolitan life. "The same piquant energy as Wong Kar-Wai's
). In Indonesian with English subtitles.
Riri Riza---Indonesia---2002---86 mins.
First-time director Mania Akbari explores the heartbreak and joy of romantic relationships through the stories of seven couples searching for happiness. Comprising seven vignettes, the film features the same two actors in each episode, each time as different characters whose problems unfold in conversations, quarrels, and altercations. Some issues are universal--jealousy, adultery, abortion. Others reveal the personal hardships and political realities exclusive to modern-day Iran, and especially for women. Simultaneously wrenching and uplifting, private and universal,
reveals a director on the cutting edge of filmmaking in her country. Received the Cinema Digitale Award at the Venice International Film Festival. In Persian with English subtitles.
Mania Akbari---Iran---2004---72 mins.
The stunning feature debut of one of Mexico's leading female directors, Maria Novaro, offering a fresh perspective on motherhood, a prominent theme in Latin American cinema. Lola is a young mother abandoned by the rock singer who fathered her daughter. Lonely and trapped in a life she did not choose, Lola vacillates back and forth between guilty responsibility and careless denial. A Berlin International Film Festival winner,
is a dark, daring drama of great truth and insight. "A significant debut in contemporary cinema" (
). In Spanish with English subtitles.
Maria Novaro---Mexico---1990---93 mins.
MIRROR OF THE SOUL: FOROUGH FARROKHZAD
PIECE OF SKY, A
Contemporary Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad became a legend in her own time for her innovative and controversial writings. In this extensive, three-part documentary, Farrokhzad's life, work, and soul are laid bare. Director Nasser Saffarian deftly combines interviews with family members and peers with footage of Farrokhzad shot by Bernardo Bertolucci. Saffarian digs deep into her personal and professional life to uncover new information about this outspoken artist. Includes
The Green Cold
, a revealing look at her private world,
The Mirror of the Soul
, an exploration of her controversial, sometimes erotic poetry, and
Summit of the Wave
, an overview of her theater and film work.
Nasser Saffarian---Iran---2000-2004---152 mins.
Benedicte Lienard's visually inventive and socially conscious drama draws bold connections between a woman imprisoned for labor violence (Severine Caneele,
) and her co-workers at a large French factory. Lienard scrupulously documents the dehumanizing aspects of both worlds without letting her film descend into didacticism. "Visually dazzling" (
). Also known as
Une Part du Ciel
. In French with English subtitles.
Benedicte Lienard---France---2002---84 mins.
For her ambitious debut, documentary filmmaker Maria Finitzo followed five adolescent girls for two years, resulting in this authentic portrait of young women at a pivotal point in their lives. Unlike the media, which depicts most girls of this age as passive, powerless, or overly sexualized,
focuses on the positive ways they adapt to challenges in their lives by understanding their choices, resisting pervasive cultural messages, and believing in their own strengths. "The girls are all right" (
). Produced in association with Kartemquin Films.
Maria Finitzo---USA---2001---120 mins.
SUCH IS LIFE
HISTORY OF A SECRET
FAR FROM POLAND
Arturo Ripstein, one of Mexico's most outstanding filmmakers, updated the Greek tragedy
for this award-winning tale about women suffering in a man's world. Poor and uneducated, Julia lives in a seedy barrio in Mexico City where she practices homeopathic medicine and performs abortions to support her family. When her husband abandons her for another woman, Julia's world crumbles. She's thrown out of her apartment by her landlord--soon to be her husband's new father-in-law--and might lose her children. With the help of her godmother, she plans to take revenge on her low-life, opportunistic husband. Shot mostly on hand-held DV,
Such Is Life
Asi es la Vida
, is a timeless tale crafted in a contemporary style. "Innovative" (
). In Spanish with English subtitles.
Arturo Ripstein---Mexico---2000---98 mins.
When filmmaker Mariana Otero was a young child, her mother disappeared. The family told Mariana and her sister, Isabel, that she had gone to work in Paris and never returned. Twenty-five years later, Otero's father reveals the truth about her mother, confessing the secret he alone had carried for so long--her mother had died in a back-alley abortion.
History of a Secret
moves the viewer emotionally while simultaneously raising social and political questions. "Painfully honest" (Leslie Felperin,
). In French with optional English subtitles.
Mariana Otero---France---2003---95 mins.
A brilliant film. Denied a visa to shoot in Poland, director Jill Godmilow constructs a film over the bare bones of documentary footage while in New York, resulting in a deft dismemberment of the myth of "documentary truth." The film portrays the birth of the Solidarity movement at the Gdansk shipyards through moving personal testimony and a chilling look at the psychology of a censor. "...like the best of Godard, it is film criticism and social criticism at the same time" (
In These Times
Jill Godmilow---USA---1984---106 mins.
GERMANY, PALE MOTHER
FUTURE OF EMILY, THE
Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison was inspired by the true story of Margaret Garner in writing her novel
. Garner was a slave in pre-Civil War America who escaped and killed her own daughter rather than see her return to slavery. Morrison later wrote the libretto for
, an opera composed by Richard Danielpour and commissioned by the Michigan Opera Theatre, the Cincinnati Opera and the Opera Company of Philadelphia in 2005. By recounting Garner's tale in conjunction with the story behind this "black" opera and the harsh Washington upbringing of its mezzo soprano, Denyce Graves, the film
re-examines a tragic historical moment while addressing race issues that are still prevalent today.
Mustapha Hasnaoui---France---2006---52 mins.
A beautiful, painfully moving account of writer-director Helma Sanders-Brahms' childhood, made to show her own daughter a vision of Germany beyond Hitler and the Holocaust.
Deutschland Bleiche Mutter
traces the history of Germany from an extremely personal and distinctly feminist point of view. The film begins on the eve of the German invasion of Poland, as a newly-married young woman (Eva Mattes) sees her husband (Ernst Jacobi) sent off to the Eastern front. She and her daughter (Elisabeth Stepanek) struggle for survival throughout the war, only to face a husband who, when he returns, wreaks emotional havoc on the family. "Sanders-Brahms records life experiences which are gender-specific and typically absent from the male version of history" (Anton Kaes,
The Oxford History of World Cinema
. In German with English subtitles.
Helma Sanders-Brahms---West Germany---1980---123 mins.
Helma Sanders-Brahms (
Germany, Pale Mother
) wrote and directed this gripping family drama that focuses on three generations of women. Brigitte Fossey (
) is Isabelle, a successful film actress whose young daughter, Emily, is frequently cared for by Isabelle's parents (Hildegarde Knef and Ivan Desny) in Normandy while she's away working. After a production ends in Berlin, Isabelle returns to visit her daughter, but the rejoicing is short-lived. Her smitten costar (Herman Treusch) follows, and his presence sets off an intense clash between the self-centered thespian and her mother. "With sensitivity, imagination, control, and razor-sharp insight, Sanders-Brahms has delivered a multi-layered essay on life, art, parenthood, and the patterns of generations...a powerful, if more loving, cousin to Berman's
The Faber Companion to Foreign Films
). Cinematography by Sacha Vierny. In German with English subtitles.
Helma Sanders-Brahms---West Germany/France---1985---108 mins.
THOUSAND WOMEN LIKE ME, A
UNDER THE PAVEMENT LIES THE STRAND
LOVE FORGIVES ALL
Sharzad, a lawyer in modern-day Tehran, loses custody of her seven-year-old son after a divorce from a powerful businessman. Her ex-husband's obsession with work and lack of proper homemaking skills only makes her son's diabetes worse, forcing Sharzard to take matters into her own hands. Though a tightly wound family drama anyone can relate to,
Herazan Zan Mesle Man
also offers a first-hand look at how young sophisticates live in a severely patriarchal society. As the title suggests, Sharzad's case is hardly unique as institutions are clearly biased against women--even highly competent ones--a point made clear by the courtroom where separate entrances exist for men and women. A fascinating look at Iranian culture and politics. In Persian with English subtitles.
Reza Karimi---Iran---2000---108 mins.
The first feature from German filmmaker Helma Sanders-Brahms, this potent black-and-white drama deals with the aftermath of the 1968 student rebellions in Germany as experienced by two fervent participants. Though the country experienced sweeping reforms in the years following, two radicals-turned-successful Berlin stage actors and lovers (Grischa Huber and Heinrich Giskes) are grappling with their growing insignificance and the demands of adulthood. After a night of intense debate about the past and their future, the couple begins garnering support to fight a new abortion bill. However, their rekindled zeal is soon complicated by an unexpected pregnancy. "A cult film for the feminist movement" (
The Films of Helma Sanders-Brahms
). Giskes and Huber won German Film Awards for their performances. In German with English subtitles.
Helma Sanders-Brahms---West Germany---1975---106 mins.
A Polish film based on the life of the famous cabaret star of interwar Warsaw, Hanka Ordonowna. The film is set during WWII, with her husband fighting on the front and her serving as a nurse in North Africa. The narration flows backwards as she reminisces about her rise from poverty to chorus girl to movie actress, and recalls her trials with success and excess along the way. Starring Dorota Staliniska, Stanislawa Celinska, Bozena Dykiel, Piotr Fronczewski, and Piotr Garlicki. In Polish with English subtitles.
Janusz Rzeszewski---Poland---1981---108 mins.
LOVE CONQUERS ALL
LADY WITH THE DOG, THE
Filmmaker Tan Chui-mui won the Tiger Award at the 2007 Rotterdam Film Festival for directing this Malaysian indie drama about the foibles of modern romance as told from a distinctly female perspective. A pretty young woman (Ong Li Whei) leaves her boyfriend in rural Penang to work at her aunt's broken-down restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Amidst the hustle of big city life, she meets your archetypal bad boy (Stephen Chuah) and falls for him and his flashy lifestyle before a harsh reality sets in. Produced by Amir Muhammad (
The Big Durian
). In Malay, Mandarin, and Cantonese with English subtitles.
Tan Chui-mui---Malaysia---2006---90 mins.
From Kartemquin Films comes this "cautionary tale underscoring the harm wrought by ignorance" (
). More specifically, it's a documentary about the mothers of children with autism, who, during the fifties and sixties, were blamed for their youngsters' atypical behavior, accused of frigid mothering by the medical establishment. A portrait emerges of these "refrigerator mothers"--ridiculed, alienated, and vilified in an instance when reason evaded science. An "Editor's Choice" by
David E. Simpson---USA---2003---60 mins.
Based on the Chekhov short story of the same name,
The Lady with the Dog
Dama s sobachkoy
) is a forgotten masterpiece from a tense period during the Khrushchev thaw. Told with little dialogue and minimal action, this romantic drama is a bittersweet portrait of a doomed love affair between Dmitri, a bank official, and Anna, a well-to-do young woman. The two fall in love while on vacation in Yalta around the turn of the century, but because each is already married, they can only see one another once a year. Director Iosif Heifitz not only adapts the events of the Chekhov story but captures the legendary writer's restrained tone and atmosphere of desperation. Nominated for the Golden Palm at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. In Russian with English subtitles.
Josef Heifitz---USSR---1960---89 mins.
PART-TIME WORK OF A DOMESTIC SLAVE
The sixth feature film by Alexander Kluge, architect of the New German Cinema, is also one of his most remarkable. Once again, Kluge works with Godardian distanciation devices (voiceover commentary, intertitles) to playfully examine a social problem, specifically women's liberation. The director's sister, Alexandra, plays the titular domestic slave, a young housewife, mother, part-time abortionist, and would-be labor activist who is repressed by the strictures of family, society, and history. "It's hard to think of another film that's as honest, relevant and yet not disillusioned as this" (
Time Out Film Guide
). Also known as
Occasional Work of a Female Slave
. In German with English subtitles.
Alexander Kluge---West Germany---1973---91 mins.
, from another Pirandello tale, explores the dynamics of a fragile fin de siecle Italian family when a nursemaid is hired...nuanced, deeply mysterious, and possessed of some of the most beautiful deep-shadow, natural-light cinematography (by longtime Bellocchio partner in crime Giuseppe Lanci) executed anywhere in recent years" (Michael Atkinson,
). Nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes. In Italian with English subtitles.
Marco Bellocchio---Italy---1999---106 mins.
An artistic representation of the mystical life led by the first saint of the new millennium, Sister Faustina Kowalska, based upon experiences recorded in her spiritual diary. With Danuta Segda, Danuta Szaflarska and Stanislawa Celinska. Winner of the Best Feature Award at the 1995 Catholic Film Festival. In Polish with English subtitles.
Jerzy Lukasiewicz---Poland---1995---84 mins.