As we grapple with the magnitude of a potential Roe v. Wade repeal, Women Make Movies is making a selection of films available that shed light on the history of reproductive rights in the U.S. and set forth what’s at stake as abortion access is rolled back.
When filmmaker Jennie Livingston stumbled upon drag ball culture in the late 1980s, they had no idea how much the resulting film would resonate. Released in 1990, Livingston’s first documentary Paris Is Burning showcases drag balls during the late 1980s in Harlem, New York City, and features interviews with numerous queer and trans Black and Latinx performers who comprised the various “houses” in competition at the balls. Decades later, the film continues to resonate.
In the case of New York City restaurateur Sarma Melngailis, the tactics allegedly used by her “Bad Vegan” husband are no joke—and more states across the country are recognizing “coercive control” under domestic violence law.
When Marvelous and the Black Hole premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, I was instantly charmed by its clever, unique story and excellent performances—from both relative newcomer Miya Cech and the always unforgettable Rhea Perlman. The film is coming to theaters on April 22—the perfect opportunity to revisit the film and speak with writer and director Kate Tsang about her powerful debut feature.
By rescripting gendered expectations, Disney’s Encanto and Pixar’s Turning Redoffer new freedom to women—from preteens and teenage girls, to mothers, grandmothers and extended family.
Like other fans of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I’ll be binge-watching when the fourth season of the hit series finally drops on Friday, Feb. 18.
I can’t help but wonder if the fictional Midge Maisel was influenced by the real-life Mary Ware Dennett or what would happen if they met. From 1915 through the 1930s, Dennett’s pioneering battles against U.S. government censorship helped pave the way for the freedom of speech Mrs. Maisel relies on and fights to expand.
Given the precarious state of abortion rights in the U.S. and the fervent hope that we’ll make it to the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade next year, it’s fitting that Sundance included two films about the Janes, an underground network of women in Chicago in the late 1960s who helped procure safe abortions for those in need of them before the legalization of the procedure nationwide.
Directed by Phyllis Nagy—the brilliant screenwriter who adapted Patricia Highsmith’s novel Carol—and written by Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi, Call Jane employs a composite character, Joy (Elizabeth Banks), as a conduit through which to tell the story of the Janes. But Joy’s can-do spirit doesn’t strike the the right tone for an account of a collaborative, revolutionary group of women who put themselves at tremendous risk to procure safe abortions for desperate girls and women.
In her screening introduction, director Rita Baghdadi reasoned that she created Sirens, part of the World Documentary competition at Sundance this year, in order to make a film about women in the Middle East that wasn’t just about victimhood or struggle. What emerges is a beautifully-wrought and surprising portrait of Lebanon’s first and only all-women’s thrash metal band, Slave to Sirens.
Arresting and restrained, Nikyatu Jusu’s horror film Nanny will lure you in and remain with you long after the credits roll.
(This is one in a series of film reviews from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, focused on films by women, trans or nonbinary directors that tell compelling stories about the lives of women and girls.)
Currently premiering at Sundance, Calendar Girls is a documentary about a Florida dance troop made up of women aged 50-plus. Embracing whimsy in unicorn-themed headbands one minute and then discussing heavy subjects like death and assisted suicide the next, the Calendar Girls offer their perspectives on what it means to grow older while exploring the power of friendships, leisure, work and learning new things even later in life.