‘Why We Still Love Zora’: Irma McClaurin on PBS Documentary ‘Claiming a Space’ and Zora Neale Hurston’s Legacy

PBS’ American Experience premieres documentary film on pioneering writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). Directed by Tracy Heather Strain, Zora Neale Hurston: Claiming a Space is the first film to explore Hurston’s life and ethnographic work in great detail.

“Anthropology only started looking at the literary styles of novels and non-scholarly writing in the late ’80s. But Zora had already been there and done that,” said Irma McClaurin, Black feminist poet, anthropologist and Hurston expert.

On the Power of Choice and Imagination: The Ms. Q&A with ‘Women Talking’ Producer Dede Gardner

Already showing in select theaters and releasing nationwide on Jan. 27, Women Talking is both beautiful and harrowing: an ideologically captivating drama about how a group of women with very little agency navigate making a choice that will have profound effects on their lives, their children’s lives and their community. This extraordinary film features an equally extraordinary ensemble cast, including Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and Judith Ivey, with Ben Whishaw and Frances McDormand.

The film takes place in 2010 in an isolated religious community, where it’s been discovered that men and boys have been drugging and raping the women and girls while they sleep; the story concentrates on the small group chosen to make a crucial decision for all the women and girls in the colony: stay and fight back, or leave. Ms. had the opportunity to speak with producer Dede Gardner about her work on the film and its reflection of the power of community, of choice, and of imagination.

She Wins: Here’s to Powerful Black Women Leaders on Screens

The 80th Golden Globes is days away. Viola Davis is the only Black female actor nominated in the Motion Pictures-Drama category.

In The Woman King, Davis plays the Agojie general of an all-female warrior unit and embodies the fierceness of this leader, while delivering a performance characterized by maternal softness and emotional vulnerability—traits often reserved on screen for white femininity. While not nominated for any Golden Globes this year, Bridgerton received 15 Emmy Award nominations in 2022 and this spring another powerful Black woman graces the screen, Queen Charlotte. Bridgerton is an opportunity to reevaluate diversity, equity and inclusion on the screen. Casting people of color provides jobs to talented actors who would otherwise be overlooked, but mere “inclusion” in the frame is insufficient.

In ‘The Swimmers’ Film, Director Sally El Hosaini and Olympian Yusra Mardini Bring the Refugee Experience to the Screen

In 2015, sisters Yusra and Sara Mardini, trained as professional swimmers by their father, fled Syria with hopes of escaping their war-torn homeland. During the harrowing 25-day journey, the dinghy’s motor broke and the boat began to sink—so Yusra and Sara jumped into the frigid waters to drag the boat to shore. Eventually granted asylum in Germany, Yusra began training again at a Berlin pool and was selected to compete as part of the Refugee Olympic Team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Their story has been captured in The Swimmers, an evocative biographical drama directed by Sally El Hosaini and released on Netflix last month. In this Q&A, Sally El Hosaini and Yusra Mardini discuss the experience of making the film, how to tell true stories, and what they hope viewers will take away.

‘Matilda’ Spotlights an Unsettling Truth: Spanking in Schools Is Still Pervasive in the U.S.

While the much-anticipated film adaptation of Matilda, starring Emma Thompson as Trunchbull, will be sure to delight filmgoers of all ages this holiday season, the unsettling truth is that approximately 70,000 K-12 public school students are subject to corporal punishment annually.

It’s time that our communities and laws take aggressive steps to not just outlaw this practice—but to change the hearts and minds of both teachers and parents by promoting humane and effective practices that lead to long-term, positive changes in behavior.

The Pioneering Black Sci-Fi Writer Behind the Original Wakanda

MIT rarely allows Hollywood films to be shot on their campus. So it was a surprise when an email went out in 2021, alerting students that a film titled Summer Break would be filming at the school. Turns out, this was the working title of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

But something else was special about Wakanda Forever’s filming location. The MIT scenes were shot a stone’s throw from where, a century before, Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins worked at the Institute. Hopkins is credited with inventing the setting that eventually became Wakanda in her science fiction, but her name isn’t widely known.

“She was a powerhouse, an innovator and an intellectual dynamo.”

‘Freda’ Is the Film We Need Now

Because Haiti is in the news again, we are bombarded with stories about unrelenting political turmoil, destabilizing unrest and crippling poverty.

Set in contemporary Port-au-Prince, Gessica Généus’s film Freda affirms that not only do Haitian women exist, but that their existence is replete with complexity and beauty. A feminist film in every way, Freda’s commitment to the female characters especially asks us to carefully consider what we look for when we see Haitian women.

‘I’m This. I’m That. I’m Many Things’: Pratibha Parmar on Andrea Dworkin and ‘My Name Is Andrea’

Pratibha Parmar’s 2022 film about Andrea Dworkin brought both pushback and praise within feminist and queer communities. In this Q&A, Parmar shares her thoughts on reactions to the film but also about her interest in Dworkin.

“There is an arc between generations of female artists’ protesting violence against women. And I want Andrea’s voice to be part of the conversation on its own terms and in its complexity.”