AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

5/31/08

Vanaja Movie Review: Is The US Really More Sexually Enlightened Than India?

Filmed in rural India with nonactors by first time director and Columbia University graduate Rajnesh Domalpalli, who counts both countries as his home, Vanaja is immersed in elemental, vivacious Indian cultural textures, music and flavor. In contrast, the drama feels sketchy and contrived, without a clear sense of character beyond conceptualized stick figures.

Vanaja (Mamatha Bhukya) is an outspoken and ambitious fourteen year old born into poverty and living with her widowed alcoholic father. To make ends meet and also learn traditional Kuchipudi dance, Vanaja seeks work as a servant at the home of a crabby wealthy landowner. There she attracts the attention and desire of the woman's handsome aspiring politician adult son Shekhar (Karan Singh), who rapes her.

After hiding Vanaja in a neighbor's house until the child is born when Vanaja refuses an abortion, the father and daughter arrange to sell the infant boy back to the landowner. But Vanaja begins to miss her son, and returns to the estate so she can be near him. And though this despicable male with pedophilia tendencies continues to behave abusively and with intimidation towards Vanaja, she demands that her rapist marry her.

When he refuses, Vanaja concocts other schemes, such as getting together with her father to write a threatening note to the landowner demanding they recognize Vanaja as the child's rightful mother (the landowner had claimed the mother was deceased) or else they'll expose Shekhar and ruin his political career as an opposition leader (and we never learn in opposition to what). And Shekhar in turn beats Vanaja's elderly father. Vanaja also attempts to goad the local postman in return for sex, into lying that he heard Shekhar admit to their parental relationship. But he soon retracts his accusation under pressure from the landowner.

Vanaja eventually gives up her personal hopes for a happy ending to her dire situation. And defeated but unbroken, she settles for a half-dream of a vague promise from the landowner that the child will be allowed to visit her when he's much older. She then rides off into the sunset, so to speak, with a girlfriend atop a pet elephant.

There's loads of atmosphere and charm to this tale, but little that feels compelling or heartfelt to the drama. Not to mention that this is the second movie this year, following The Other Boleyn Girl, where a female yearns to marry her rapist. And yet one more in a series of deplorable films in which women fall in love with their rapists and/or are more often than not happily subjected to mandatory motherhood.

The notion of limited options for females in India is certainly a valid theme. But a little ironic when considering that India has already long accepted women as leaders of their country, and relegated to the highest office of the land, while the presumably more enlightened and advanced United States has reacted to such an idea (at least the male half of this country), with the most despicable reactionary misogynist revulsion and ridicule more associated paradoxically, with an implicit homegrown sexual caste system.

Prairie Miller

5/29/08

My Father My Lord;

My Father My Lord
David Volach

Plot: This film tells the story of an Orthodox Jewish family, with detailed depiction of the interrelationship amongst the Rabbi (Assi Dayan) his wife (Sharon Hacohen Bar) their only child Menachem(Elan Griff) and God.

It isn't often movie goers get a look into the fine details of a religious education. But with My Father My Lord a code of silent secrecy appears to have been broken and viewers are dealt an emotional blow as they watch the unfolding of this tragic hell, the Ultra Orthodox Judaic teachings.

Any religion that is extreme is, in a broad sense of the word, a cult, with rules and ideas far different from main stream community life. This film, My Father My Lord shows how the religious dictates triumph over the ordinary needs for the expression and nurturing of the young whom they cherish as the source of their immediate enjoyment of life and of their future: the continuance of their extreme understanding of God, of the Torah, of a way of life alien to rest of human kind.


The suffering of the Women in this religious sect, the way they are not allowed to have free access to their children, their secondary role in the Temple and in the intellectual rearing of their children is just a hint of what women in many cultures, and for thousands of years had have to endure.

The detail, the gentle yet persistent depiction of this way of life, where God triumphs over the human needs of the young and men rule is so compelling that this film My Father My God will stay with you long after you see it.

It is an experience well worth the price of the admission.

Linda Z
WBAI Women's Collective

5/28/08

Sex and The City: Before it opens in theaters, everywhere!

Michael Patrick King

The world could be on the verge of collapse, war proliferating at an accelerating pace, the price of oil, of food could sky racket out of control and with empty bellies and no where to go that isn't too expensive to the starving millions, we will go to great lengths to see, "Sex in the City" or at least that is what the film industry and Michael Patrick King are hoping for.


Who would have imagined the day when writing a film review did not need the release of the film or a preview look at its content to offer an analysis of the hype to the interested and uninterested parties of the theatrical event. Content be damn.

Here we are days before the film's release and Sex in the
City is everywhere:. the billboards, the prime time 11 p.m. "news" along with the regular costly publicity the studios purchase for our "edification".

What can be said? Many are hoping, with tangible uncertainty for the film's success. "I hope it is a good film" is not an uncommon comment to herald this "great" earth shaking event.

It is a feature length film about women, that uses the tantalizing word "sex' with the assurance that this word will bring millions of dollars to those who are involved in putting sex into our everyday lives and what better concept to unite with sex than the money hungry,center of the world, the city..
The city is, of course, New York.

What a combination New York City and Sex.

Interesting to note is the movement over time from the "Golden Girls" to the"Desperate Housewives" and now onto the real deal, women and sex.

Women read books and they like to look at other women. Women as the subject will soon be more lucrative than men in sports, men starring in violent action flicks, men in politics. Men in dark suits with a drip of color around the neck don't turn me on either.

So, here we are. Sex and women linked as the big attraction.
Even if I don't see this film I applaud it.


LindaZ
WBAI Women's Collective

5/20/08

The Mother of Tears: Dario Argento

Plot: An Urn uncovered after centuries of being buried, contains the tunic and artifacts( of three figures (in reference to the Trinity) that set the chase between the adolescent acting daughter of the Good White Witch, Sarah (Asia Argebnto) and the beautiful mature, enticing and evil Mother Of Tears (Moran Atias).

If you like thrillers, if you like blood and horror, if you like reality interspersed with fantasy, if you enjoy the subtlety of the Trinity transposed into three witches and chase scenes with screaming women running endlessly away from the very horror of which they are the creators.

If you enjoy seeing skin peeled off the human body, our organs gushing forth in vivid depiction accompanied by powerful, creative musical scores that are meant to augment but become center stage.

If you enjoy seeing eyes repeatedly pierced and an up front detailed view of what an eye looks like, as an isolated entity enlarged like the face of an actor filling an over large screen,

If you like to see good mother and bad mother portrayed and women treated not with dignity but with the raw ingredients that make for our machismo society, then this film The Mother of Tears is for you.

In Rome this is a sought after experience, with the impact of centuries of religion and civilizations under the very ground upon which the City is built giving extra everyday experiential meaning to the script. But in America I think the significance of this reality is not even a subliminal connection.

If you are brave and a little desperate, see the film and laugh or be "grossed out" by this creative, comedic triller/horror film.


Linda Z
WBAI women’s Collective

5/19/08

How The Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer: Rocky Road Of Latina Female Desire

By Prairie Miller

A tenderly spun tale of female sexual desire traversing three generations of Latina women in an Arizona border town, How The Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer is crafted glowingly from a woman's point of view, and with supreme sensitivity, dignity, warmth, sadness and humor. Writer/director Georgina Garcia Reidel has woven together intimate homespun memories of the quirky and joyful Chicano culture surrounding her grandmother's home in rural Somerton, that takes everyone to task for their very human flaws. But nearly always with enormous affection and understanding, and turning the tables on redefining what is most erotic in a man that may have nothing at all to do with how good he looks.

Elizabeth Pena is Lolita Garcia, a lonely and frustrated, heavy drinker working mom. She lives with her hormone-challenged teenage daughter Blanca (America Ferrera), after divorcing a worthless spouse with 'the stink of women all over him.' Lolita also fusses over her seventy year old widowed mom Genoveva (Lucy Gallardo), who lives alone nearby. And she has her own eye on the neighborhood gardener, who has offered to teach her how to drive her new car, though she's never driven one in her life.

And while Lolita toils away miserably in the local butcher shop owned by a one handed butcher smitten with her, she is barely able to resist the advances of the town's notorious married hunk, Victor (Steven Bauer). Meanwhile Blanca wanders aimlessly around town with her girlfriends, dreaming about being sexually devoured by knights in shining armor, but settling for far less.

All these various romantic and lusty intrigues, including Lolita's special relationship with the vibrator tucked away in her bedroom dresser drawer, come to a head in spicy revelations exposing each of them, with more than a little help from gossip about this talk of the town trio. Eventually the three distraught females go their separate ways at one point, but end up hilariously in the same place, spilling out their respective sexual guilt in the church confession booths, including Lolita's request for forgiveness from the priest, about that vibrator.

And the nonstop satirical mischief includes a scruffy park bench Greek chorus of elderly gents. These still macho studs in their own minds - one nearly on life support as he clutches a portable oxygen tank - dispense questionable advice about the art of female seduction to one another, local slackers hanging out all day talking mostly cars and women, and often confusing their obsession about the two.

How The Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer is filled with a generous compassion for its characters. And at the same time a critical eye cast upon these females in their most private moments that is always caring and respectful, even when they engage in the most outrageous behavior imaginable. A euphoric journey into the soul, heart and sensibility of north-of-the-border Latino culture.

Maya Releasing
3 1/2 stars

Prairie Miller
TheRadioGoddess@gmail.com

5/14/08

Sex and the City: Will it be the Biggest Women's Movie Ever?

By Melissa Silverstein

Building on this thread over at cinematical Will 'Sex and the City' Quietly Become Summer's Biggest Hit?, I must respectful disagree about the word quiet. There is nothing quiet about this movie. People are going nuts. (Update- heard from the folks at Fandango and Sex is the top selling film, selling more tickets than Indiana Jones -- which comes out earlier -- and is the most visited page on the site.) In fact, they've been going nuts since the film was shot, where people were lining the streets during the shoot.

The only thing that's been quiet is the fact that none of the plot details have been revealed. I'm on the internet all day long and I have found nothing. I've never seen anything like it for a film about women. It's like people actually want this film to succeed. Writers like ones in the NY Post and the NY Daily News have written reviews without revealing anything; bloggers and who are usually so keen on breaking news about plots are not writing anything either. I bet that part of it is that the guy bloggers who are usually the news breakers really don't care much about the film film because it is well, about women.

The film is ironically being released by New Line which is going out of business and will be subsumed (after the requisite job losses) by Warner Brothers run by Hollywood's resident admitted sexist, Jeff Robinov (see my earlier posts on him: Do Women Matter to Hollywood?)

So I'm thinking, can this be the biggest women's film ever?

What's interesting to note is that in the summer one really big film opens on each weekend. Women's films are never considered really big, but this film is, because there is no real competition opening on its weekend. Granted, Indiana Jones opens the week before and there will be many people still wanting to see that film, but Sex and the City has its own weekend. That is a story in itself.

I've looked at the numbers of how other women's films have opened and I really think this movie can break the records. I think that the film (depending on how many screens it opens on) can open with 50 m.

The top grossing opening weekends of movies starring women are:

* Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - 47 m (Angelina Jolie)
* Charlie's Angels- 40 m (Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Lui)
* Sweet Home Alabama- 35 m (Reese Witherspoon)
* Panic Room- 30 m (Jodie Foster)
* The Devil Wears Prada- 27 m (Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway)
* Erin Brockovich- 28 m (Julia Roberts)
* V for Vendetta- 25 m (Natalie Portman)
* Flightplan - 24 m (Jodie Foster)
* Mean Girls- 24 m (Lindsay Lohan)
* Double Jeopardy- 23 m (Ashley Judd)
* 27 Dresses- 23m (Katherine Heigl)
* Princess Diaries- 22 m (Anne Hathaway)
* Freaky Friday- 22 m (Lindsay Lohan, Jamie Lee Curtis)

So, as Oprah said on her lovefest for the film last week, (and she also said that she has never not shown the ending of the film to the audience) take your girlfriends and head to the theatres on May 30th.

Women will make or break this film. Because of the big buzz and hype this film can be a changemaker. We have the added bonus in that the film is supposedly really good.

I am psyched, a movie about women, the celebrates women, that's actually a good movie. Can't wait.


Stay tuned for part 2 - a discussion of Sex and the City and feminism

Melissa Silverstein is a member of the Women Film Critics Circle.

Melissa Silverstein
Women And Hollywood
Womenandhollywood.blogspot.com

5/11/08

VIVA; A SECOND REVIEW

Anna Biller


In light of an on going discussions with Anna Biller re: Viva, I have written a second review to reflect the exchange of ideas that have come to the fore.

The sexual revolution is the popularized phrase that denotes the emergence of women in the more wildly referenced women s liberation movement.
Viva as in (Viva the revolution) is an attempt to elicit popular viewing for the fundamental change that the women’s movement has brought to such vital areas as child birth, the assumed absentee super man father/husband, the end of the biological shackles of women to their husband’s/boyfriends( and to society due to the lack of readily available birth control and the illegality of abortion.

While capitalism( doctors and insurance industry) still keeps woman from their vital conscious promulgation of the specifies with their insistence on an exorbitant and life threatening cesarean birth to unsuspecting women and the unnatural view of “the breast” that encourages high school girls in disproportionate numbers to request and be given boob jobs upon graduation, ,there continues to be a moving forward towards a reasonable equality between men and woman and a fulfillment of the woman’s rightful place in society.

Women are reclaiming their bodies with home births done with hot tub, in living rooms or bedrooms with the midwife and most importantly the husband/man in attendance. And with the separation of the childcare from the maternity leave, men came into their own as care givers even to their infant child. The “stay at home dad’ is not uncommon.

What has not changed in this country is the prorogations of the Bra and the biological result of the curtailment of the breast in unnatural captivity compromising the muscular structure that supports the breast and the natural flow of blood through this organ. While the Barbi doll with her boobs and ultra thin body put the breast into conscious understanding of the female body, it gave a distorted view of this vital body part.

To bring this change of awareness to the fore,
Anna Biller films her own breast on screen in seemingly endless and uncomfortable duration that is in complete contrast to what main stream films display except during sexually driven moments.

If Anna Biller is setting a trend away from the Bra, the precursor of cancer, this is a good thing, though I personally found it difficult to endure. But I liked the natural bodies she used to show that filmed actors need not be limited to thin, well proportioned and heavily worked on bodies.

The additional strength of this film is in the use of color and scenery that electrifies the screen. This is clearly the result of the freedom of child rearing Anna enjoyed due to the Women’s Liberation and the freedom that parents and children all enjoyed as a consequence of the women's ability to choice when and if she would be a mother.

The problem with the film is not the wealth of material presented, nor the unavoidable understanding that Anna is herself a product of the love and respect and enjoyment made obvious with her parent's inclusion in the film, But the superficiality of the characters and the frivolous nature of the film while only surface deep is such a distractions from the essence of the subject that I found it difficult to sit through the film once, and the second time was not any easier.

Viva is a statement, an important one, but it is not a plot driven film that we are used to paying money to see.


Women’s liberation clothed in mini skirts and nudity does not do it for me. But maybe for the young who need to know life before the legal victory of Linda Zises et al VS. The City of New York, the legalization of abortion and the availability of birth control, this film is a profound jumping off point for fruitful discussion


Linda Z(ises)
WBAI Women’s Collective

5/8/08

Beyond The Frame: Dialogues With World Filmmakers

Beyond The Frame: Dialogues With World Filmmakers
By Liza Bear

At 20 years of age Samira Makhmalbaf made “Blackboards” (2002), a film about the itinerant Kurdish schoolteachers of her native Iran who wander through mountains in search of students, unwieldy blackboards strapped to their backs.

It was her second feature. When “The Apple” (2000) was exhibited at Cannes the Tehran native was, at 18, the youngest filmmaker to show a feature film there.

Veteran Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira made his first feature in 1931 but had to wait until age 93 for “I’m Going Home” (2003) to become his first U.S. theatrical release.

These two filmmakers barely begin to suggest the range in ages, origins, styles, and circumstances of the interviewees in Liza Bear’s new book. The term ‘filmmaker’ in the title mostly means directors but also includes the occasional writer, actor, and producer. Superlative cliché’s like ‘cornucopia’ and ‘embarrassment of riches’ are difficult to resist in this instance, and not just because there are over sixty interviews of filmmakers from more than 20 countries on all six continents.

What’s most striking is how much these dialogues betray both the ear and the eye of a filmmaker, which -not surprisingly- Liza Bear is. Some are suggestive of little films in themselves, or rather of the sorts of screenplays that documentary makers write after their film is done.

The first interview, with Russian director Gleb Panfilov, begins:

“New York, September 30, 1987. 11 am sharp.

Location: The 27th floor of the St. Moritz Hotel, overlooking the dense green rectangle and the brackish waters of Central Park. On the horizon, a yellow-grey bank of polluted air caps the foliage.”

The talks are in chronological order and Bear conducted the earliest of them hot from the set of her own feature “Force of Circumstance”. Many of these pieces are as much genuine dialogues (like the title says) between filmmakers as interviews. The filmmakers relate to her as a colleague.

“Liza, tell me about your film” says director Atom Egoyan. “Did you like it?” asked Judy Davis about Peter Duncan’s “Children Of The Revolution” (1997) in which she starred. And it is precisely because of her passion for filmmaking as opposed to the gossip sought by ordinary journalists that Bear manages to elicit very personal shoptalk.

There’s this striking recollection from French actor/director Brigitte Rouan: “When I was younger I would regularly fall in love, not with my acting partner, but with the cameraman. It’s a very sensual relationship because they have their eyes on you eight hours a day”. It was one filmmaker to another when director Chris Menges advised, “Make sure that all the locations are within ten minutes of the hotel”. Jim Jarmusch goes into detail about the financial structuring that allows him full artistic control, commenting that “it’s shocking to realize how many people don’t have final cuts over their films –sometimes not even Scorsese”.

Collections of interviews with cinema directors are relatively rare, much less such interviews with the stamp of a Liza Bear on them. After all, her artist interviews in Avalanche (which she co-founded with Willoughby Sharp) were key to making that legendary publication the single most influential art magazine of the 70s. Now she’s done something similar for the cinema world, but for a wide variety of publications so that it’s especially important that these conversations have been gathered together. Some of the longer, and indeed earliest, pieces first appeared in Betsy Sussler’s ever-vital Bomb magazine where Bear is a contributing editor. Newsday, the New York Daily News and other mass circulation dailies are where quite a few of these intense little chats initially saw the light of day.

In these talks she enables these interviewees to lay aside their public personas, get past the media-induced burnout, and on to a shared level of pleasurable enthusiasm. In these talks they’re not promoting product. They’re discussing problems, revealing obscure sources of inspiration, musing on the nature of creativity. The last interview, with Yacef Saadi, the “Battle Of Algiers” producer and ex-revolutionary on whose memoirs the film was based, ends with this unusual exchange:

LB: “Is it harder to make a film or to win a revolution?”

YS: “It’s harder to make a good film. You can kill someone, but to educate him, that’s something else. And during the war we destroyed. There was an enemy and we killed him. Creating something is very difficult”.

Many of the films discussed in Beyond The Frame have a political dimension to them. Whether implied or overt, the political isn’t exactly difficult to find within the history of film. Filmmakers, like fiction writers, tend by nature to grapple with larger societal issues and injustices through their characters, grand themes expressed through particular and often rather ordinary lives. Sometimes, as with scriptwriter Shawn Slovo (A World Apart, 1988), the grand theme is dramatically thrust upon one as when her mother, an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa was killed: “It was my mother’s assassination on the 17th of August in 1982. She was assassinated by a parcel bomb.” Some of these filmmakers, like Romanian director Lucian Pintilie’ (An Unforgettable Summer, 1994) have had problems with ‘the authorities’ even when they weren’t trying to be controversial: “These bureaucrats live in a completely false world. They think that any fragment of text refers to them”.

Beyond The Frame offers many pleasures for aspiring filmmakers and aficionados alike. For one thing it’s a crash survey course on many of the more interesting filmmakers of the past twenty years and could profitably be utilized as such by academia, by film clubs, or by ordinary citizens at home who want to know about wonderful, often neglected, movies to watch from China, Argentina, Senegal, or the good old U.S. of A.

I think I’ll let the 22-year-old Samira Makhmalbaf have the last word here since she does a pretty good job in her own way, referring to those big blackboards, explaining what being a filmmaker is all about: “Knowledge can be a heavy burden to carry. In this film there’s a thin line between the imagination of art and the reality of life. To me, when reality and imagination make love, that’s the moment that art or metaphors are born. The reality in this film is smuggling, poverty, wandering, being a refugee. But my choice as an artist is to show them visually and beautifully. Art is imagination.”

Atanasio di Felice’s essay “Renaissance Performance” is included in the EP Dutton anthology The Art of Performance. He is a cinematographer for, and appears in, the upcoming HBO documentary (about artist Chuck Connelly) “The Art of Failure” scheduled for broadcast on July 7th. He is currently writing a novel inspired by three years spent traveling in the Andes.

312 pages. Praeger Publishers

Review by Atanasio Difelice

More information is online at: http://lizabearmakingbook.blogspot.com and
http://squaringoff.blip.tv.

Liza Bear has written film articles for Indiewire. She is a member of the Women Film Critics Circle.

5/6/08

Viva Filmmaker Anna Biller Critiques Critical Women Review

Dear Linda,

Your blog about my film VIVA was really strange and illogical. You are right that I have a fascination with glamour images of women, but that does not come from an obsession with Barbie dolls, but with classic cinema and photography. On the one hand you complain that I idolize Barbie dolls for their figures, and on the other hand you complain that I include body types you don't want to see (meaning, regular people who don't look like Barbie dolls). Which is it, sister?

And who are you to call me a "fat Barbie doll?" Do you have a problem with women who are above a size six? (I wore a size eight in the movie). Have you considered the visual and ethnic differences between myself and a Barbie doll? Do you think I'm like a doll because I'm wearing period makeup and clothing? Do you object to self-adornment, or is it just that you don't like clothing and makeup from that period? Does your dislike of this type of look constitute a critical film review?

I thought women's communities were supposed to support other women. Your "review" of my film is not a review, it's a mirror reflecting your own narcissistic likes and dislikes. This is the type of uncritical and emotional writing that gives women a bad name.

Respectfully yours,
-Anna Biller