BLUEBEARD (2017): Review by Giorgi Plys-Garzotto

It’s exhilarating to see a woman director like Lee Soo-Youn joining South Korea’s distinctive and stylistically rich neo-noir school of filmmaking. Bluebeard draws from predecessors like Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy, as well as Western mind-game players like David Fincher and Christopher Nolan, to spin a tight tale of paranoia and conspiracy, thought-provokingly set amid the upheavals global-warming and surveillance state technology have wrought on South Korean life. (GPG: 4.5/5)

Review by FF2 Contributor Giorgi Plys-Garzotto

"Seung-Hoon" (Jin-Woong Jo) is a lonely, divorced doctor who has just moved to a poor, rural province to work at the only medical practice in the area. He soon learns the area has been plagued for decades by a string of unsolved serial killings, which doesn’t bother him much—until his landlord, under anesthesia for a colonoscopy, starts talking in his sleep about hiding dead bodies, describing methods much like those of the local serial killer’s.

As Seung-Hoon tentatively investigates his landlord, who runs the butcher shop beneath his apartment, his landlord’s son starts trying to befriend him. The son may or may not know about the murders his father may or may not have been committing for the past thirty years, so Seung-Hoon is wary of getting close to him. Seung-Hoon must also fend off his ex-wife, who he is having child custody disputes with—that is, until she disappears shortly after leaving his apartment late at night.

This begins a chase where Seung-Hoon seems to be pursuing as often as he seems pursued. While I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending, I can say without giving too much away, that Bluebeard’s conclusion is a bait-and-switch that leaves everything resolved.

The camerawork is purposeful and grittily poetic, grabbing the audience’s attention with every frame. I particularly enjoyed how Bluebeard plays with hiding and revealing faces, having a character walk through shadow or move in and out of focus over the course of a line to create suspense. The art direction was also noteworthy, especially in Seung-Hoon’s cramped and disorganized one-room apartment, which often serves as a mirror into Seung-Hoon’s mind. The extremely strong visuals are a major reason why Bluebeard works as well as it does; they set each moment’s tone so vividly that the film is able to gracefully walk the line between absurd comedy and surreal terror without a misstep.

As we approach Fight Club’s twentieth birthday, the “unreliable-narrator thriller” genre often feels played out, but Bluebeard satisfies and impresses with its revitalization of well-trodden narrative ground. Highly recommended!

© Giorgi Plys-Garzotto FF2 Media (3/22/17)

Top photo: Dr. Seung-Hoon.

Middle photo: Seung-Hoon investigates his landlord.

Bottom photo: Seung-Hoon breaks into his landlord's butcher shop.

Photo credit: Pan Media & Entertainment

Q: Does Bluebeard pass the Bechdel test?

No.

All the scenes are about Seung-Hoon. Even scenes where the two nurses at his clinic are hanging out revolve around their opinions of him, or their boyfriends.

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P.S. JERUSALEM

Filmmaker Danae Elon confronts the Israeli/Palestinian conflict of Jerusalem in a quiet, family driven, home movie style documentary. (EML: 2.5/5)

Review by FF2 Associate Eliana M. Levenson

Shot very much like a home movie, P.S. Jerusalem explores a leftist Jewish perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian relationships in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem. The daughter of an outspoken liberal Israeli journalist, director Danae Elon returns to her childhood home of Jerusalem to try and explore what the city has become. Her father, Amos Elon, has recently passed away, prompting her to desire a better understanding of what drove him to abandon Israel for the final years of his life.

Explored predominantly through the struggles Elon faces as a wife and mother, P.S. Jerusalem delivers a biting portrayal of Israeli/Palestinian relations within the holiest city in the world. As Elon deals with the unending questions of her young sons, the bitter resignation of her North African Jewish husband, and her own personal connection to the city, she uses her camera as a tool for processing the challenges she sees around her.

There’s something painful about this documentary in its narrowness of perspective. Elon does not hide her personal political leanings, yet there is something disquieting about the flippant way she chooses to address certain injustices and ignore others. As a Jew, Elon does not show any sensitivity to the other side of a conflict choosing, instead, to exclusively focus her camera on instances of Jewish rage and injustice toward Palestinians. While her perspective is not invalid, nor unwelcome by those who must be willing to criticize Israel when wrong as much as praise it when correct, the one-sided nature of the film makes it an uncomfortable watch for even liberal Jews with a strong connection to Israel.

Perhaps most troubling, however, is the film’s firsthand demonstration of how politics become an entrenched dogma from parent to child. Just as Elon learned from her father to perceive the conflict a certain way, the documentary clearly shows how Elon is passing along similar narrow minded perceptions to her own children. In one scene, Elon takes her son Tristan to a rally against Jewish settlers moving into a previous Palestinian neighborhood. Amongst the yelling of “Apartheid” and “Thief” at Jewish families, Israeli music begins to play loudly from the homes. While Elon acknowledges that she likes the music, her son Tristan disagrees, explaining that the music is meant to make them angry. In this moment, it becomes clear that Tristan is being impacted by his parents perceptions of the conflict.

At its core, P.S. Jerusalem attempts to put the massive Israeli/Palestinian conflict on a personal level, placing it literally in the lens of a mother and her navigation of it through her parenting. However, the film presents a clearly biased and unnuanced portrait of something that cannot rightly be explored in its complexity through the lens of educating a child. While Elon raises some important points and harsh realities that even supporters of Israel must address, her desire to present her personal political position makes for an unbalanced film.

P.S. Jerusalem has the effect of making you feel sick to your stomach, at times for the right reasons, but all too often for the wrong. Watching the film is a constant battle to sit silently, consistently presenting a perspective that makes you want to stand up from your seat and yell at the screen. Yet, the film does not open a dialog, it squashes it. So harsh is it in its narrow perspective, that it paints anybody who disagrees as dangerous, an opponent to peace. In Elon’s quest to demonstrate tolerance, she presents the opposite by showing nothing more than oversimplified, far left perspective that places all the blame on her own people.

© Eliana M. Levenson FF2 Media (3/16/17)

Top Photo: The film’s poster, featuring Danae Elon’s son Tristan, a central character of the film.

Bottom Photo: Tristan stands on a rooftop, overlooking the city of Jerusalem.

Photo Credits: Filmoption International

Q: Does PS Jerusalem  pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

Nope.
While the narrative is driven by a female filmmaker, she is never on camera and all of her conversations are between her and her primarily male family.

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TICKLING GIANTS (2016): Review by Georgi Presecky

Written and directed by The Daily Show producer Sara Taksler, documentary Tickling Giants accounts the life of an Egyptian doctor who challenged authority with humor on his own popular TV show. Bassem Youssef’s journey from Internet sensation to wildly popular commentator is entertaining and eye-opening. His transformation from surgeon to “Egypt’s Jon Stewart” is a refreshing take on how to handle political turmoil – leave ‘em laughing. (GEP: 4.5/5)

Review by Social Media Manager Georgiana E. Presecky

“I love sarcasm,” Dr. Youssef says in an opening sequence of Tickling Giants. “It lets me cut through people’s facades without spilling any blood.” He does so through his own immensely popular satirical talk show, beginning in 2011 and telling the hard truths that the Egyptian news media didn't (sound familiar?). 40 percent of Egypt’s population tuned into his show’s second season, a completely unprecedented feat in the Arab world.

The Daily Show super-fan is shown traveling to New York to meet Stewart and appear on his show in 2012 – an experience that can be appreciated by fellow fans that would revel in the opportunity to make their heroes laugh.

Youssef’s story is fascinating, and his outlook on life and comedy is admirable – one way to deal with the unpredictable tumult of the political world is to see the humor in it. It’s a lesson many Americans need to learn, especially under the current administration – we just have to laugh, even when things don’t feel the least bit funny. For Youssef, it means taking to the streets or telling jokes even when it’s overwhelming or downright dangerous.

“When you laugh at authority, it won’t be easy to control us anymore,” Youssef and his writers remind us. It’s what got us through last year’s brutal election, whichever side you were on - or if you were too exhausted to even pick a side. When politics are tiresome, when the government or our fellow voters seem to be letting us down over and over and over again, there will always be late-night TV in America. There will always be jokes. There will always be Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah and Chelsea Handler. Egyptians aren’t so lucky – another important lesson Youssef’s story teaches about the implications of poking fun at a powerful government.

Tickling Giants is funny, informative and sad all at once. Taksler clearly knows her stuff thanks to her time at The Daily Show, but the story she tells doesn’t feel subjective. It isn’t one-sided or uncomfortable to watch, but instead an honest look at the catharsis of comedy and the consequences of the truths it dares to uncover.

© Georgiana E. Presecky (3/18/17) FF2 Media

Top Photo: Bassem Youssef

Middle Photo: Youssef's show gained a live audience in its second season.

Bottom Photo: "Egypt's Jon Stewart" meets the Jon Stewart.

Photo Credits: Sarkasmos Productions

Q: Does Tickling Giants pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

No.

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RAW (2016): Review by Giorgi Plys-Garzotto

French director Julia Ducournau’s latest is a slickly shot, deftly performed horror flick set at what this critic can only imagine is a very non-traditional veterinary school. Upon arrival at school, Justine (a lifelong vegetarian) must endure a week of hazing by upperclassmen, including her own sister, and along the way she discovers a taste for sex, drugs, and human flesh. (GPG: 4/5)

Review by FF2 Contributor Giorgi Plys-Garzotto with two cents at the bottom from Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner

“Justine” (Garance Marillier) comes from a family of vegetarian veterinarians  — she has been a vegetarian all her life, and she is about to start her first year at veterinary school. She is so disgusted by meat that she spits it out when she finds it in her food, and she is so committed to becoming a vet that she skips out on parties to study. However, when the upperclassmen at her veterinary school, including her older sister “Alexia” (Ella Rumpf), begin to intensely haze the first-years in what is known as “rush week,” she begins abandoning both her diet and her studies in favor of eating raw chicken kidneys on a dare and dancing all night at raves set up in various cafeterias and basements around the school.

The aforementioned chicken kidneys end up giving Justine (presumably named for the Marquis de Sade protagonist) a full-body rash, as well as an insatiable lust for blood. She tries to hide this from her roommate  — a gay man who has had a much easier time adjusting to campus hazing and hookup culture than she has  — and succeeds in convincing him she has just stopped being a vegetarian. However, after a few misadventures, involving stealing from the cafeteria and the vet school’s morgue, Justine’s sister Alexia finds out about her new habit in one of the film’s most spectacularly gory scenes. To Justine’s shock and horror, Alexia then reveals that she has the same appetites, which she indulges in regularly.

Alexia and Justine’s sister relationship is less than close; Alexia is sexy and popular, while Justine is a nerd who has to borrow dresses from Alexia because she doesn’t own any of her own. Alexia tries to help Justine through the hazing rituals at first, but gives up on her after becoming disgusted with Justine’s more bookish, reserved personality. Now that they can bond over their new diet, however, the sisters begin to grow closer, but the friction between them also worsens, leading up to a conclusion as satisfying as it is twisted.

All in all, Raw is delightfully bloody and weird, and visually gorgeous as well. If you have a weak stomach or delicate sensibilities, you may want to avoid this film, but otherwise it’s the best of two worlds—an artsy foreign film on one hand, and a gorefest to rival Tarantino on the other. What more could you want?

© Giorgi Plys-Garzotto (3/14/17) FF2 Media

Top Photo: The theatrical poster for Raw.

Middle Photo: Justine has a snack in between classes.

Bottom Photo: Justine does some hands-on studying after hours.

Photo Credits: Petit Film

Q: Does Raw pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

Yes!

Raw is centered around the relationship between Justine and her older sister Alexia, and they talk about Justine’s meat cravings, Brazilian waxes, and their family dogs, among other things.

I have to admit that I found Raw rather hard to stomach (HaHaHa). Although I knew I was watching metaphors-made-flesh so to speak (for example, about the susceptibility of young women to eating disorders), the shock value seemed to be more important to the filmmakers than the exploration of any "ideas" per se. In other words, I found the plot decidedly "thin." (Oy, can't help myself.)

What motivates Justine? Why is she in veterinary school in the first place? Is she just a good girl who wants to please her parents or does she have ambitions of her own? Not sure. Since Justine is an ace at taking tests, she presumably had other options, but her backstory is never explored.

By the end, I could literally hear my mother in the Great Beyond kvetching in my ear: "Why is it always the mother's fault?"

As far as the Bechdel-Wallace Test, men hardly enter into it. Justine and Alexia are very competitive, but thankfully their sibling rivalry never falls to the level of fighting over guys. (JLH: 3/5)

© Jan Lisa Huttner (3/16/17) FF2 Media

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KINGS, QUEENS & IN-BETWEENS (2017): Review by Georgi

Written and directed by Gabrielle Burton, Kings, Queens and In-Betweens is an inside look at the drag performance scene in Columbus, Ohio. Burton’s documentary attempts to shed light on gender as a social construct, and the difference between a drag performer’s persona and the person underneath. (GEP: 3.5/5)

Review by Social Media Manager Georgiana E. Presecky

“Drag is an art form,” one man tells Burton in the film’s opening sequence, in which she asks several interviewees what drag means to them. The answers range from political statements to simply enjoying themselves on stage, but all point to one main idea: in this world, gender doesn’t really matter.

Ohio might not be the first place you think of when the word “drag” is dropped, but Burton and her subjects are out to change that limited perspective by honing in on one of five drag venues in the city of Columbus. Seeking to educate viewers on why people participate in or attend drag shows for entertainment, Kings, Queens and In-Betweens follows the lives of these men and women, who have other trades and lives by day but enjoy the outlet of performing in drag at night.

The variety of interviewees makes the documentary compelling – the number of perspectives Burton provides makes this community all the more human. (My favorite drag performer interviewed was Sile Singleton, a Christian who said,
“God knows me in every way that I am. I think God’s sitting up there scratching his head, wondering why folks are trippin’.” It was nice to hear my own perspective echoed in a place I didn’t expect – and a lot of Kings, Queens and In-Betweens is unexpected.)

If Burton’s goal was to normalize a world that might make some uncomfortable, she succeeded – you would never know most of these seemingly “normal” people moonlight by dressing as the opposite sex, singing, dancing and telling jokes on stage. While a lot of the film’s sequences are poor quality, the story doesn’t really suffer – and I guess if you really want to see the show, buy a ticket.

Whether you’re male, female, transgender, straight, gay or otherwise, we all feel different from the people around us at times. It might have nothing to do with gender – it might just be that we feel different than our peers because of what we’ve experienced or what we believe. Who wouldn’t love to have an outlet – a place to feel like we belong, a place to feel confident and like we’re making other people – and ourselves – happy? Your place might not be a drag club in Columbus OH, but my hope - and maybe Burton's - is that we all find one.

© Georgiana E. Presecky (3/7/17) FF2 Media

Top Photo: A prominently featured drag queen and king.

Middle Photo: The film addresses gender norms head-on.

Bottom Photo: One of the club's most popular drag queens.

Photo Credits: Five Sisters Productions

Q: Does Kings, Queens & In-Betweens pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

The documentary is largely about people who don't conform to gender norms, so determining whether it is conducive to supporting "women" per se is somewhat moot.

Posted in Reviews: K-M | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE LAST LAUGH (2016): Review by Brigid

Ferne Pearlstein’s spectacular documentary puts a spotlight on the humor in times of tragedy, specifically the Holocaust. Is it okay to laugh? Is it okay to find the light in the darkness, all these years later? The Last Laugh uses comedians from Carl and Rob Reiner to Sarah Silverman and Mel Brooks to examines both sides of the sensitive topic, the ever-present argument. (BKP: 5/5)

Review by Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky

“You know, I speak about the Holocaust all the time, but I enjoy life. I am so happy that I have three great-grandchildren. Could Hitler imagine that I will survive and have three great-grandchildren? I mean, that’s my revenge.” Renee Firestone, a Holocaust survivor now 93-years-old, captures the essence of The Last Laugh, Pearlstein’s documentary on the humor coming out of the horror during World War II.

Although the passage of time may not make things easier, it could very well make laughter a little louder. At least, that’s what Mel Brooks experienced with “Springtime for Hitler,” an infamous musical number from his satirical comedy, The Producers. “When I was a kid in the mountains, I would get a lot of laughs with Hitler,” he remembers. “And a few Jews, after the show, would say, ‘You know, that’s not in such good taste.’ And I’d say, ‘I don’t care. I really don’t give a shit what’s in good taste.’”

Brooks’ experience is similar to the other countless comedians, including Gilbert Gottfried, Judy Gold, Robert Clay, Etgar Keret and Aaron Breitbart to name a few. Each gives a unique perspective on making light of the greatest tragedy in human history, mostly agreeing that laughter and light are the only things that can drive out the dark.

That sentiment is easier said than done, however, as Firestone walks around a Holocaust museum, recounting her horrific experience and death of family. This sequence transitions the audience from laughter to sobering silence, once again instilling both sides of the argument.

“Humor is the weapon of the week,” Keret states, recalling the jokes made in mid-20th Century programs like The Three Stooges, Hogan’s Heroes and material from The Marx Brothers. It’s just one of the many profound one-liners that Pearlstein catches and stitches together throughout the 88-minute film. She poses questions still relevant in today’s society and why we ridicule as a way of revenge; why we search for humor in times of enormous tragedy.

Firestone, like many survivors, is living proof that life goes on. Although you can never forget the trauma or the heartache, enjoying life in spite of those things is something to surely be proud of. If finding the humor in your own life is a struggle, look no further than Mel Brooks. “Comics are the conscience of the people,” he tells Pearlstein. “Comics have to tell us who we are, where we are ... even if it’s in bad taste.”

© Brigid K. Presecky (3/1/17) FF2 Media

Top Photo: Renee Firestone visits Las Vegas

Middle & Bottom Photos: Sarah Silverman and Mel Brooks in The Last Laugh

Photo Credits: Tangerine Entertainment

Q: Does The Last Laugh pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

Yes!

Although it’s a documentary, the main focus is on Holocaust survivor Renee Firestone and her family. They have multiple walk-and-talk footage throughout as she recalls her life experiences and attitude towards a brighter future.

Posted in Reviews: K-M | Tagged | Leave a comment

NAKOM (2016): Review by Jan

Iddrisu Awinzor is happily living his life as a medical student in Kumasi (Ghana) when a call from his sister Damata changes everything. There was a motorcycle accident. Their father is dead. Iddrisu must return to the village immediately.

Nakom (co-directed by Kelly Daniela Norris and T.W. Pittman) is an intense, quiet film that contrasts urban life versus rural life. Iddrisu has choices that would have been impossible in prior generations. Now that he has made the leap to Kumasi, Iddrisu is eager to take the next step to Accra (Ghana's capital), and maybe even to America one day. But what immediate effect would that have on his family, and what might be the long term affect on the village of Nakom?

Nakom, with its micro-budget and all-Ghanaian cast, has received kudos at film festivals all around the world and was recently named one of the five nominees for the prestigious John Cassavetes Award at the 2017 Spirit Awards. Highly Recommended... especially on a Big Screen! (JLH: 5/5)

Review by FF2 Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner

Nakom begins in the boom and buzz of Kumasi, one of Ghana's largest cities. Cars, buses, and motorcycles fight for space on the crowded streets. People everywhere are busily engaged in getting ahead, and a haze of pollution hovers over the already congested and obviously growing metropolis.

The camera soon zeros in on a very tall and extremely handsome young man named "Iddrisu Awinzor" (Jacob Ayanaba). Iddrisu is a medical student with a beautiful girlfriend and a golden future. She teases him in bed, calling him her "village boy," but they are clearly leading a very modern life.

And then Iddrisu's cellphone begins to buzz. His sister "Damata" (Grace Ayariga)  is calling with the worst possible news. Their father has died and Iddrisu must return to their village -- Nakom -- immediately. So he packs a suitcase and boards a bus and leaves the city behind.

Of course, Iddrisu's stated intention is to return to Kumasi the following week. He is very ambitious, and he has set his sites not just on Accra (the capital of Ghana) but on the golden land of America. However, the situation in Nakom is way more complicated than he realized. His father was in debt, the family's future is in peril, and Iddrisu is now "the master" (a title he hates but knows he cannot avoid). 

Full Disclosure: I saw Nakom a year ago as part of the New Directors/New Films series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. I was completely enthralled by its vivid depiction of village life (most especially the different trajectories of men and women). However bright and studious Iddrisu might be, it is clear that Damata is just as studious, probably brighter, and certainly more perceptive. But Damata will never have his opportunites, and she must clearly fight with herself every day to reconcile herself to the facts of her life.

"Sometimes," Damata says to Iddrisu, "you act like you decided your own birth and crawled into the world without help." I can't think of a better one line summation of the phenomenon we now call "Male Privilege."

One year later, Nakom plays even better than before. After the Brexit vote in the UK in June 2016 and the presidential election in the USA in November 2016, it is clear that the gap between urban life and rural life is just as profound in the "First World" as it is in the "Third World." Therefore this peek into daily life in the Ghanaian village of Nakom is a fully realized and masterful microcosm.

Kudos to filmmakers Kelly Daniela Norris and T.W. Pittman. Norris and Pittman co-directed. Pittman also co-wrote the screenplay with Isaac Adakudugu.

CAUTION: Please make every effort to see Nakom on the biggest possible screen. On a small screen, you will certainly get to know all the members of the Awinzor family, but Nakom itself will shrink. It requires a big screen to fully appreciate Nakom as "a character" in itself.

© Jan Lisa Huttner (3/4/17) FF2 Media

Top Photo: Damata (Grace Ayariga) fills Iddrisu (Jacob Ayanaba) in on the scene in Nakom and things that have happened since he left for Kumasi.

Middle Photo: Iddrisu begins a relationship with "Comfort" (Felicia Atampuri) who is the daughter of the Chief of Nakom.

Botttom Photo: The Awinzor family faces its future. "Senior Mother" (Justina Kulidu) has five children: Iddrisu, Damata and "Kamal" (Abdul Aziz), plus a younger son and a daughter who appear to be twins. She is also caring for "Fatima" (Esther Issaka), a teenage orphan who is the granddaughter of her late husband's brother.

Q1: Does Nakom pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? 

Just barely.

The central figure is definitely Iddrisu, and most scenes revolve around him, but Damata also has a relationship with their father's second wife (a woman slightly older than she is who has become something of a sister). But this woman does not get a name.

The mother of Iddrisu, Damata, and their younger siblings is called "Senior Mother," and the younger woman (played by Shetu Musah) is simply called "Junior Mother." My guess is that Damata knows her name and uses her name, but it is a name Iddrisu has probably never heard and would definitely never use...

Q2: Where is Ghana?

On the west coast of Africa, between the Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

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WATER & POWER: A CALIFORNIA HEIST

Marina Zenovich, a producer and director known for her work in nonfiction, investigates the exploitation of California’s most valuable resource: water. Water and Power: A California Heist uncovers the hidden truths of California’s water supply from the 1960s and the issues they cause in the present day when public interests and private interests are in conflict. (KIZJ: 3.5/5)

Review by FF2 Intern Katusha Jin

“From the very beginning it was about moving the water from where it was, to where it wasn’t.” –Mark Arax

The movie begins with a talking heads style interview with Mark Arax, a journalist and author, who describes California as the most “manipulated” landscape in the world.

After setting the somber, brave tone of the piece, Zenovich uses news broadcast clips to describe the seriousness of the drought experienced in California during 2015. We follow Donna Johnson, a Water Delivery Volunteer, as she delivers water to a Mexican immigrant who moved to America for the American Dream. However, what she has experienced here is far from that dream. Michael Lunsford, a Porterville Resident, also describes the struggles of having to drive into town in order to use other people’s homes to shower. Lunsford insists, “You may not have known your neighbor’s name before, but now you do…you might have to go over and ask to borrow a cup of water instead of a cup of sugar.”

Lunsford goes on to comment, “Mother nature’s dry, but there’s so much agriculture going on…when your next-door neighbor has orange growths for miles, how much water do you think he’s using to grow his oranges?”

With this, Zenovich directs us towards the bigger picture and reasoning behind why such a shortage of water exists.

John R. Wodraska, the General Manager of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California from 1993 to 1998, explains that John Wesley Powell had once said “whoever controls water will control the west.”

With this, the seed of doubt is planted, as we are exposed to the idea of corruption caused by the private interests of the rich.

The company “Wonderful and its owners, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, are investigated. It seems odd that despite the many years of drought in California, their nuts, which grow in the valleys of the state, seem to be making them richer than ever.

Zenovich takes her audience through the history of water supply in California from the 1960s, including the disputes between public interest versus private interest. She brings us back to current day, and again shows us the reality of those living in the drought to really hone in on the fact that water shortage is not a myth.

Throughout the documentary, music plays a large role in maintaining the suspense and build up. The immensely unnerving score imitates a ticking time bomb, which is matched with dramatic editing and beautiful aerial shots of the landscapes. Zenovich describes Water and Power as the documentary version of Chinatown. It tackles the privatization of water and aims to spread the understanding that water is not limitless. This documentary is an awakening force that really hits home. It aims to bring us together to solve the growing problem of a potential future of a world without guaranteed access to water.

©Katusha Jin FF2 Media (3/15/17)

Top Photo: Water and Power: A California Heist poster.

Bottom Photo: Green, flourishing agriculture beside dry, dying land.

Photo Credits: National Geographic

Does Water and Power: A California Heist pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

Yes.

Women talk about the struggles of living without guaranteed access to water.

Posted in Bechdel-Wallace List, Reviews: U-W | Tagged | Leave a comment

EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY (2017): Review by Jessica

Written and directed by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta, Everybody Loves Somebody is a feel good, bilingual romantic comedy about a successful doctor named Clara who has given up on the romanticized idea of love. But when a new doctor and an old love both come into her life, Carla finds herself, for the first time in a longtime, questioning what—and who—she really wants. (JEP 3.5/5)

Review by Executive Editor Jessica E. Perry

“Clara” (Karla Souza, from TV’s hit How to Get Away With Murder) is an OB-GYN, and the epitome of a successful, independent woman. She has a high-powered job, a nice home in Los Angeles, and is incredibly close with her family. But Clara is also bitter about love, so much so that she doesn’t even realize it anymore.

But Clara’s parents have finally decided—after 40 years together and having raised a family— that they should get married. So they plan to hold a beautiful ceremony at the family home in Mexico, and as the sad single sister, Clara must find herself a “filler” date to bring with her to the wedding. Cue, the handsome new Australian doctor at her hospital, “Asher” (Ben O’Toole). Clara bluntly asks him to come away with her for the weekend to be her date for the wedding. Asher, intrigued by Clara, surprisingly agrees, and so they drive together down the coast to her parent’s beautiful home.

Surprisingly, Clara finds herself enjoying her time with Asher at the wedding. But when an old flame shows up, uninvited, Clara is immediately thrown back a decade to when she, and the handsome “Daniel” (José María Yazpik) were on the cusp of marriage. Daniel has been traveling the world with Doctors Without Borders for years, his return to Los Angeles, unannounced and shocking. But Daniel is like family, and so Clara’s parents welcome him back like nothing has changed.

Unfortunately for Clara, everything has. Asher is persistent and seems to know Clara better than she knows herself. While Daniel is her past, but insists that he’s changed and is now ready to be her future. Thrown into a classic will they won’t they love triangle, Clara must decide if she’s finally ready to abandon her qualms about love.

Written and directed by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta, Everybody Loves Somebody is your everyday love story with a new cast of characters. Souza gives an honest performance as Clara, aptly capturing both what it is to be haunted by failed loves past, and also what it takes to be open to the possibility of finding something better. Funny, romantic, and grounded, Everybody Loves Somebody hits the right notes to set it apart from many tropes of the rom com genre, embracing independent career-driven women and challenging what love looks like from all angles.

©Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (2/27/17)

Top Photo: Everybody Loves Somebody poster.

Middle Photo: Clara and Daniel come to terms with what they still mean to one another.

Bottom Photo: Asher and Clara grow closer.

Photo Credits: Pantelion Films

Q: Does Everybody Loves Somebody pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

 Yes. But surprisingly, only just.

Clara and her sister, “Abby” (Tiaré Scanda), share numerous conversations together, but most revolve around Clara’s choices in love.

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MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI (2016): Snippet by Jan

Perfectly told tale of a French boy who is sent to a group home after his mother dies. Screenplay by award-winning filmmaker Céline Sciamma, best-known for her 2014 film Bande de filles (called Girlhood in English although Girl Gang would be a better translation), is based on Gilles Paris' 2002 novel Autobiographie d'une Courgette. Animated with dazzling style and state of the art technique by Swiss director Claude Barras (making his feature film debut).

Although Switzerland nominated My Life as a Zucchini for the 2017 Best Picture Oscar, AMPAS "only" nominated it for Best Animated Film. I think it deserves both! (JLH: 5/5)

NOTE: Since the runtime for My Life as a Zucchini is only 70 minutes, it is being shown in the USA in conjunction with Barras's adorable 8 minute short The Genie in a Ravioli Can from 2006. Some American theatres are offering both the French version (shown with subtitles) and a dubbed version (in English). I am glad I chose the French version so that the accents match the affects, but I have no doubt that the dubbed version (voiced by well-known actors like Will Forte and Ellen Page) is great too.

WARNING: Stay in your seat when the credits begin to roll. There's a little treat at the very end 🙂

© Jan Lisa Huttner (2/25/17) FF2 Media

Top Photo: Altho his mother calls him "Zucchini," the boy's real name is "Icare." When the film opens, Icare lives alone with his mother. His father, who left them years ago, left no forwarding address...

Bottom Photo: Zucchini (the kid with the blue hair) finds a new family after his mother's death.

Q: Does My Life as a Zucchini pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

Only kinda sorta.

Some of the girls in the group home clearly have relationships with one another, but we don't ever see them have "conversations" per se. And the headmistress has a few interactions with Camille's aunt, but neither of these women every get names.

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