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.
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.
From calling out pay disparity to defiantly saying ‘gay,’ enjoy these feminist wins from the 94th Academy Awards. (After all, we can’t let two grown men steal *all* of the headlines.)
Weekend Reading for Women’s Representation is a compilation of stories about women’s representation.
This week: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was a “model of composure” in the face of “egregious behavior” from some Republican senators; the “exhaustion of being the first Black women”; the impact of switching from gender ‘discrimination’ to gender ‘privilege’; women’s representation in post-Soviet states; how the Oscar winner for Best Picture will be decided using ranked-choice voting; rest in power Madeleine Albright, who knew how to “move beyond her talking points and to engage her counterparts in frank oval-table bargaining”; and more.
In the mid-1930s, Anna May Wong was Hollywood’s preeminent Asian American starlet frustrated by a racist film industry. She connected with Bernardine Szold Fritz, a Jewish American writer and American salon hostess in Shanghai.
Today, 100 years after Anna May starred in her first leading role, The Toll of the Sea, stereotypes and casting white actors for Asian roles are still all too prevalent. Outside Hollywood, the U.S. is just beginning to recognize her groundbreaking achievements—Anna May Wong will be one of five American women to be featured on a U.S. quarter this year. It’s a start.
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.)