ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS

ab_fab_poster-xlarge_trans++Nh2C-BRZbWxVBE4ofntb1i8fHfiPU7vbpwsBWtn6W9IBased on the British television sitcom of the same name, Absolutely Fabulous takes you on a fun-filled adventure with international PR guru “Edina Monsoon” (Jennifer Saunders) and her equally-stylish best friend, magazine editor “Patsy Stone” (Joanna Lumley). Although an enjoyable viewing for all audiences, fans of the show (which ran from 1992 to 1995 and sporadically until 2012) will appreciate the characters, fashion and unique humor to a whole different level. (BKP: 4/5)

Review by Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky

When 60-something Edina “Edi” realizes both her PR agency and book deal are failing, her botox-injected bestie calls with bad news: fashion mogul Kate Moss, her biggest client, is moving on. Good thing Patsy is attending the Huki Muki fashion extravaganza, filled with industry royals (and an always-welcome Jon Hamm cameo). If Edi can charm her way back into Moss’ good graces, problem solved!

Not so fast, ladies. Edi accidentally knocks Kate Moss off of a balcony - drink in hand - plummeting into the waters of the River Thames. When the biggest name in fashion is presumed dead, Edi and Patsy hit the road without telling their families, including Edi’s serious daughter "Saffron," (Julia Sawalha) and find themselves in all sorts of ‘fabulous’ trouble.

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 1.44.45 PM Director Mandie Fletcher has as much comedic timing as screenwriter Saunders, packing on the hilarity with over-the-top dream sequences, car chases and celebrity-filled fashion events. Cameos from Moss and Hamm are not the only ones that will surprise you (I’m in no way talking to fans of the Spice Girls. Or am I?).

For viewers of the television show, either from the original run in the 1990s or its decade-long syndication, Edi and Patsy’s journey is an uproarious treat. Sitting a packed theater, surrounded by fans (particularly in the middle-aged gay community) was almost as entertaining as the film itself. Watching their reactions and hearing the applause as characters made their first appearances on screen made it obvious: Absolutely Fabulous was made for them.

Much like Sex and the City, Entourage or Veronica Mars, you have to appreciate the characters’ backstories to emotionally encompass yourself in this universe. A reader would not be able to write an objective review on a novel if they flipped to the last chapter. However, they could write about the fun they had while reading it. And this last chapter made being a British fashionista with a gold high heels in one hand and champagne in the other seem absolutely fabulous.

absolutely-fabulous

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (7/23/16)

Photos: Joanna Lumley as “Patsy Stone” and Jennifer Saunders as “Edina Monsoon”GreenA2016

Photo Credits: Fox Searchlight

Q: Does Absolutely Fabulous pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

Almost every scene.

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THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER

Opens in NYC this Friday (7/23/16). Review coming soon.

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SUMMERTIME

Summertime opens in NYC this Friday (7/23/16). Review coming soon.

Click HERE to read Lesley Coffin's exclusive Q&A with filmmaker Catherine Corsini:

"Writer-director Catherine Corsini has gradually emerged not only as one of France's top female directors, but one of their most respected auteurs of her generation.

Although she originally pursued a career as an actress, writing and directing proved to be her true calling. And she's been pursuing that ambition since the early 1980s with a multitude of shorts, telefilms, and features... Her new film, Summertime, feels like a big leap forward for Corsini..."

< Click HERE to Keep Reading Lesley's Post >

Top Photo (from left): Izïa Higelin and Cécile De France.

Bottom Photo (from left): Cécile De France and Izïa Higelin.

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DON’T BLINK – ROBERT FRANK

Blink01Now playing at the Film Forum in Manhattan. Follow link below for times, tickets, & info on special events.

From the Film Forum: Robert Frank, now 91 years old, is among the most influential artists of the last half-century. His seminal volume, The Americans, published in 1958, records the Swiss-born photographer’s candid reactions to peculiarly American versions of poverty and racism. Today it is a classic work that helped define the off-the-cuff, idiosyncratic elegance that are hallmarks of Frank’s artistry.

Director Laura Israel (Frank’s longtime film editor) and producer Melinda Shopsin were given unprecedented access to the notably irascible artist. The assembled portrait is not unlike Frank’s own movies – rough around the edges and brimming with surprises and insights – calling to mind Frank’s quintessential underground movie, the 1959 Beat short, PULL MY DAISY (co-directed by Alfred Leslie). DON’T BLINK includes clips from Frank’s rarely seen movies, among them ME AND MY BROTHER and COCKSUCKER BLUES. The soundtrack includes Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Yo La Tengo, and Tom Waits.

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GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

16July15GhostbustersNYCWhy makes Ghostbusters 2016 so important?

Thoughts from Peier Tracy Shen 

There are of course more important reasons to watch GB16. And that’s kind of the elephant in the room, especially with the recent news about Leslie Jones, who was subjected to twitter abuses. The Internet trolling (rampant, in fact, ever since the movie was announced) only reflects the gender and racial issues that are still embedded in our society.

But what’s the big deal? What does it have to do with going to the theatre and watching the movie? Easy. Media representations. It is not difficult to realize that necessary changes are required in the ways the media represent our world.

However, the film industry typically tries to escape social responsibilities by hiding behind box office numbers. Their typical line of argument is that imbalanced representation is the result of the lack of demand. Indeed, even the possibility of this all-female GB16 remake is based on the financial successes of recent films with female ensembles such as Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids. Thus, what GB16 does at the box office will affect what films will be made in the next decade. And the brutal reality is that while male-led blockbusters flop all the time yet still keep coming, for women, this is a huge "make it or break it" moment.

It may sound ludicrous to assert that the financial success of GB16 is a quintessential issue for the woman's movements, but representations matter. How could one question that? How many African-American comedians got their start because of Eddie Murphy’s success on Saturday Night Live? It is time for the media to reflect the importance of all races, genders, and sexual orientations. Even though I am still praying for Hollywood to produce an interesting Asian character sometime soon (maybe in the next decade?), this movie is a start.

So to those who are tired of the ideological gender talk, the truth is that more job opportunities will open up for women because of the success of this all-female reboot. To the skeptics who wonder about the effect of seeing female scientists having fun and kicking ass -- especially when Kate McKinnon as "Jillian" goes into slow-motion and licks her guns -- I present this one endearing photo of Kristen Wiig surrounded by MiniBusters:

MiniBustersWithKW

FF2 Media Critics all rave about GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) from our multiple POVs. Hooray for the Team Ghostbusters! Highly Recommended just for the fun of it 🙂

Amelie Lasker: I don’t know what it’s like to have grown up with the originalGhostbusters, but I do know what it’s like to love a movie for its pure fun and to take comfort in going back to it. To me, that feeling explains the excitement surrounding Paul Feig’s 2016Ghostbusters, a fittingly zany new story that is a welcome revival of the world populated by green-gooey, glowing supernatural creatures. (AEL: 3.5/5) Click HERE to read Amelie's full review!

Brigid Presecky: Screenwriter Katie Dippold & director Paul Feig never stoop to low jokes or a mockery of the female-led cast. In fact, they let the characters be their smart, tech-savvy selves and leave the 'dumb blonde' role to a perfectly cast Chris Hemsworth. (BKP: 4/5) Click HERE to read Brigid's full review!

Eliana Levenson:

Georgi Presecky: With all the negativity happening in our nation and around the world at the moment, it’s strangely cathartic to duck into a theater and watch a group of ragtag scientists save the world in a somewhat-neat, 100-minute package. Sometimes laughter is the best way to bust the kind of ghosts we can't control. (GEP: 4/5) Click HERE to read Georgi's full review!

Jan Lisa Huttner: GB16 is manna from heaven in the multiplex dessert. We want to see women to do all the things men do as "action sheroes" without having to do it backwards and in high heels. With nods to past, present, and future, and aided by the same catchy tune Ray Parker Jr created way back when, GB16 sent me out of the theatre once again with a song in my heart 🙂 (JLH: 4/5) Click HERE to read Jan's full review!

Jessica Perry:

Kimi Kumar:

Peier Tracy Shen: Putting aside its all-female cast and what it does for social representations, we have to acknowledge the fact that GB16 as a summer blockbuster is exactly what it should be and more. In fact, few have done better. The girls are hilarious, brilliant, and sexy; their gadgets are high-tech and exciting; and the ghosts, reminding one of what Tim Burton’s dream would be, are spectacular. There are also adorable moments with Chris Hemsworth (our Thor) playing a lovable bimbo who likes to drop his shirt at all times (and nobody is complaining). Indeed, the filmmakers, including screenwriter Katie Dippold and writer/director Paul Feig, successfully orchestrate laugh-out-loud humor, tense actions, and thrilling scares. So the question is this: If you enjoy watching things blow up, action-packed sequences, and adult humor, why would you miss this one? (PS: 4/5)

Rachel  Kastner:

BrigJessEllyL

Photos from top to bottom

1.) Kimi Kumar, Jan Lisa Huttner & Peier Shen at the Regal Union Square (NYC)

2.) Brigid Presecky, Jessica Perry, & Elly Levenson at the IMAX (LA)

Q: Does Ghostbusters (2016) pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

D'Uh!!!

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GHOSTBUSTERS Boston

Ghostbusters image topI don’t know what it’s like to have grown up with the original Ghostbusters, but I do know what it’s like to love a movie for its pure fun and to take comfort in going back to it. To me, that feeling explains the excitement surrounding Paul Feig’s 2016 Ghostbusters, a fittingly zany new story that is a welcome revival of the world populated by green-gooey, glowing supernatural creatures. (AEL: 3.5/5)

Review by FF2 Intern Amelie E. Lasker

I’ve noticed that writers of female protagonists in recent comedies tend to emphasize these characters’ unique energy, a kind of childish inability to submit to the seriousness of the world. The new Ghostbusters, reimagined by writers Katie Dippold and Paul Feig, are no exception.

Physics professor “Erin Gilbert“ (Kristen Wiig) has to suppress her personality in order to get tenure, “Abby Yates“ (Melissa McCarthy) and “Jillian Holtzmann“ (Kate McKinnon) love playing with their gadgets while conducting supernatural studies no one wants to fund, and their newest team member “Patty Tolan“ (Leslie Jones) is persistently and optimistically friendly to inattentive New Yorkers at her monotonous MTA job.

Unlike the original Ghostbusters, this new team finds it a real challenge to make people understand the importance of their mission. For one, the four make up an extremely enthusiastic group. When they set out on ghost-hunting missions, they blast through the city, siren blaring, in a brightly painted hearse. Worse, the movie’s New York public is very unwilling to believe in the coming of a supernatural apocalypse, and “Mayor Bradley” (Andy Garcia) and his assistant “Jennifer Lynch” (Cecily Strong) are reinforcing the people’s complacency.

The audience knows, of course, that the Ghostbusters are going to save New York City despite all their kooky noise, and that their energetic banter is actually (pseudo-) scientific. When the outcome of events proves the Ghostbusters right, it’s satisfying to see them finally taken seriously.

The movie is mostly action, heavy special effects, and silliness. Appearances by original Ghostbusters cast members--including Billy Murray (a funny addition as famed ghost-debunker “Dr. Heiss”) and Sigourney Weaver--add to the fun.

TimesSqMayhem

Top photo: Melissa McCarthy as "Abby" and Kate McKinnon as "Jillian" capture a ghost.

Bottom photo: Melissa McCarthy (Abby), Kristen Wiig (Erin), Kate McKinnon (Jillian) & Leslie Jones (Patty).

Photo Credits: Hopper Stone

Q: Does Ghostbusters (2016) pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? GreenA2016

Of course! The four Ghostbusters, and a number of female supporting characters (as real estate agents, reporters, and mayor’s assistant), have all kinds of saving-the-world to discuss.

© Amelie E. Lasker FF2 Media (7/18/16)

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GHOSTBUSTERS Chicago

GhostbustersPosterIf you ask me who I’m gonna call after seeing Ghostbusters, my answer will be Kate McKinnon. Every time. (GEP: 4/5)

Social Media Manager Georgiana E. Presecky 

Hooray for Kate McKinnon! The Saturday Night Live cast member steals Paul Feig and Katie Dippold’s remake of the beloved 1984 original. Her delightfully whacky engineer, Jillian Holtzman, is a welcome reprieve from the usual fare that characterizes a Feig-McCarthy matchup (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy).

That’s not to say her fellow actors (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth) don’t offer laughs of their own. The opposite is true; the comedy in this take on Ghostbusters is what made it enjoyable, much more so than the sometimes-monotonous action of three scientists and an MTA employee working to close a supernatural portal.

Part of what made the original film a classic was the ‘80s kitsch - it made the idea of blasting ghosts with proton guns so fun. Said '80s kitsch has been polished and replaced with 21st-century visual effects and, thankfully, updated jokes suited to the improv-savvy cast.

Fans of the original were concerned that a reboot would taint the memory of the original. Some – probably slightly deranged - believed casting women in the main roles would be the catalyst for ruining the legacy of Ivan Reitman’s feature.

But not only is the remake funnier and faster, the negativity surrounding the female cast is enough to make you want to strap on a proton pack of your own and fire at the trolls. Of course, you don’t have to – the funny script does that on its own, if you’re willing to ignore the cluttered plot.

In fact, with all the negativity happening in our nation and around the world at the moment, it’s strangely cathartic to duck into a theater and watch a group of ragtag scientists save the world in a somewhat-neat, 100-minute package. Sometimes laughter is the best way to bust the kind of ghosts we can't control.

Georgi Presecky FF2 Media (7/15/16)

ZapEmGood

You Zap 'Em, Girls!

From Left: Melissa McCarthy (Abby), Kate McKinnon (Jillian), Kristen Wiig (Erin) & Leslie Jones (Patty).

Photo Credits: Hopper Stone

Q: Does Ghostbusters (2016) pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? GreenA2016

D'Uh!!!

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GHOSTBUSTERS LA

BrigidLAI ain’t afraid of no ghost girls.

Katie Dippold and Paul Feig’s remake of Ivan Reitman’s ‘80s classic offers up a funny, enjoyable ride through the green-slimed streets of New York City. Although the special effects create a fun movie-going experience, it’s the real-life comedians and surprising cameos that make Ghostbusters a fun holdover during Saturday Night Live hiatus. (BKP: 4/5)

Review by Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Comedians don’t typically have grand green screens and busy streets to work with when they’re standing on a constructed stage in Studio 8H in Rockefeller Plaza, The Second City in Chicago or The Groundlings in Los Angeles. Maybe that’s why the funniest moments in 2016’s Ghostbusters remake came without proton blasters, evil pilgrim balloons or glowy vortexes. 

Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig  and Leslie Jones team up as three scientists and local a MTA employee trying to take down the growing number of supernatural spirits roaming New York City. The combination of comedy (Wiig’s mumbling, McKinnon’s zingers, McCarthy’s shrillness and Jones’ timing) make for a believable chemistry that carries the film through the silly, extended plot.

Numerous cameos from Paul Feig favorites provide a bulk of the laughs, like Cecily Strong, Michael McDonald and Saturday Night Live writer/producer and Freaks and Geeks alumnus Steve Higgins. Even if you walk out of the theater and can’t remember their specific lines of dialogue, it was the presence of these comedians that made you smile. And when an actor’s presence can immediately make you laugh (here’s looking at you, Zach Woods) there’s something to be said for their talent.

Dippold and Feig never stoop to low jokes or a mockery of the female-led cast. In fact, they let the characters be their smart, tech-savvy selves and leave the “dumb blonde” role to a perfectly cast Chris Hemsworth. At one point, Wiig’s character explains her sad backstory in an attempt to make the characters seem vulnerable and purposeful, but her spectacular dramatic acting almost felt suited for a different film. Wiig is so good that it felt out of place in this blockbuster comedy, in which all of her signature SNL characters make an appearance simply through her facial expressions (Target Lady, Penelope, Aunt Linda, etc.). However, it also shows the range that these actresses can go to while still keeping the viewers laughing.

Director Paul Feig took to Twitter on the day of the film’s release, saying, “GB’s now open here. It’s been quite a ride, gang. Supporters, you rock. Haters, I’ve heard you all. Now let’s all just have fun. We need it.” …. We most certainly do.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (7/15/16)

CombatReady

Top Photo: Brigid (on right) with Jasmine. Photo Credit: Jessica Perry

Bottom Photo: Who Ya Gonna Call? From Left: Leslie Jones (Patty), Melissa McCarthy (Abby), Kristen Wiig (Erin) & Kate McKinnon (Jillian).

Photo Credits: Hopper StoneGreenA2016

Q: Does Ghostbusters (2016) pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

D'Uh!!!

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GHOSTBUSTERS NYC

GB16ReadyGhostbusters 2016 (aka GB16) is manna from heaven in the multiplex dessert.

Most women don't want to live in a world without men, or be "better" than men (whatever that might mean); we just want equality. Equality means telling our stories, making fools of ourselves, and cheering women on when they grab for the brass ring. Equality means more representation on screen, and more opportunities behind-the-camera.

Welcome to the New Millennium: We want to see women to do all the things men do as "action sheroes" without having to do it backwards and in high heels. With nods to past, present, and future, and aided by the same catchy tune Ray Parker Jr created way back when, GB16 sent me out of the theatre once again with a song in my heart 🙂 (JLH: 4/5)

Review by FF2 Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner

Selective memory is nothing new, my friends. Way back in the Bible, kvetchers were already kvetching:

"The people took to complaining bitterly… The riffraff in their midst felt a gluttonous craving and then they wept and said, 'We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all, nothing but this manna to look to.'"

You will find these words in the Book of Numbers (11:1 - 11:6). God is providing manna from heaven to sustain people who are wandering in the dessert, but some people would rather have that scrumptious stuff  they "used to eat free in Egypt."

Meanwhile, Moses is tearing his hair out. Don't they remember they were once slaves in Egypt? Nope! No way to argue with kvetchers. They have their memories and who is Moses to say otherwise?

And so, in the era of reboots, remakes, and franchises, time and again I actually have to go back and rewatch films I saw long ago in order to substantiate my claim that some of my fellow film critics are "riffraff."

Ironically, this rarely seems to happen when the protagonist is male. Who can count the number of times Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and all their macho buddies have come to us "refreshed," not to mention that stack of invitations to reboard the Starship Enterprise? How many actors will introduce themselves as "Bond. James Bond." before we are finally sated?

And yet, when anyone dares to bring back a female protagonist, hot bursts of derision spew forth like Old Faithful. Diane English got flamed in 2008 when she released a new take on The Women (loosely based on a film from 1939). Kimberly Peirce got flamed in 2013 when she released a new take on Carrie in 2013. I did what I could be it wasn't enough. Neither film ever had a chance.

Now, in one of the biggest gambles in the history of the American multiplex, director Paul Feig and screenwriter Katie Dippold have brought us a film in which the four male protagonists in the original franchise have been replaced by four female protagonists. Is it manna from heaven? No. That would be a bit extreme. But is it fun? Yes. Hallelujah! Mission Accomplished!

Just like in 1984, GB16 opens at Columbia University, but this time our physics professor is "Erin Gilbert" (Kristen Wiig), all buttoned up and desperate to please. Alas, poor Erin. It turns out she has a secret stain on her resume. Long ago, she wrote a book on paranormal phenomena with her BFF "Abby Yates" (Melissa McCarthy) and now Abby has published the book online without Erin's permission.

So after years of estrangement, Erin just happens to be at Abby's lab pleading for secrecy when a tour guide reports strange goings on at an old Manhattan mansion. Naturally, Erin is swept along when Abby and her new partner "Jillian Holtzmann" (Kate McKinnon) head over to investigate. But as soon as the apparition barfs green goo all over her dowdy clothes, Erin is back in the game. Goodbye Academia. Hello Ghostbusting.

The next manifestation materializes at a subway stop staffed by "Patty Tolan" (Leslie Jones). The gals arrive swinging Jillian's awesome inventions (Jillian is a nuclear engineer don't ya know), Jillian lights them up, and Patty is hooked. Goodbye MTA. Hello Ghostbusting.

Now that the core GB16 foursome is complete, they need a place to call home and someone to manage incoming phones calls. Yet again, a decrepit old firehouse just happens to be available, but this time the person who answers their ad for a receptionist is a hunk named "Kevin" (Chris Hemsworth). GHOSTBUSTERS

"Mayor Bradley" (Andy Garcia) and his Communications Director "Jennifer Lynch" (Cecily Strong) are unable to control the mayhem. When word leads that ghosts are descending on Manhattan, a mighty monster lodges itself in Kevin's buff body.  Now all that stands between New York City and the end of civilization as we know it are the four GalPals. Do they get the job done? You betcha! Hooray for the Ghostbusters.

The plot has everything required for a summer blockbuster, and since that's never been much anyway, why make an issue of that now? The fun lies in the interactions--the little quips and asides that make each one of the main characters unique and endearing.

GB16 honors its roots (with deliberate references to prior happenings and tiny little cameos for surviving members of the GB84 cast including Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver), but the main challenge is to establish a rhythm of its own. The goal is obvious: Show that women can do all the things men can do as "action heroes" without having to do any of it backwards and in high heels.

No heels!!! When Erin takes off her nice little lady shoes in Act One and puts on her overalls and workboots, it's a big moment for Erin. You either catch it and give an appreciative little giggle or you don't. I did. When Abby grabs on and lets Erin pull her from the pit, it's a big moment for Abby. You either feel that little tug on your heart or you don't. I did. When Jullian concentrates the proton streams, it's a big moment for Jullian. You either go with the flow or you don't. I did. When Patty gives up job security for a life of adventure, it's a big moment for Patty. You either cheer her on, or you don't. I did.

To me, all this really is manna from heaven. I know it's never been better for women than it is today, and films like GB16 give me faith in a better tomorrow.

© Jan Lisa Huttner FF2 Media (7/15/16)

OurGirlsInGreen

Middle Photo: Kristen Wiig as "Erin Gilbert" all buttoned up in her "before" pose.

Our Girls in Green (from left): Melissa McCarthy (Abby), Kate McKinnon (Jillian), Kristen Wiig (Erin) & Leslie Jones (Patty).

Photo Credits: Hopper Stone/Columbia Pictures

Q: Does Ghostbusters (2016) pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? GreenA2016

D'Uh!!!

Almost all of the dialogue is focused on the work at hand = establishing the Ghostbuster business and getting rid of the undesirables who have descended on Mayor Bradley's fine city.

But there is one exception: The minute Erin meets Kevin, she gets a little zing... and everyone notices. So Erin takes some ribbing from her GalPals, especially from Abby.

There have been several well-documented incidents of male actors refusing parts in female-driven films. Thankfully Chris Hemsworth was man enough to play along. His performance is a riff on what Channing Tatum does in his Magic Mike movies, but Mike is a serious fellow whereas Kevin is lighter than air.

16July15GhostbustersNYC7/18/16 ADDENDUM: JAN RANTS

Before I move on, just a few words about Ghostbusters 1984 (aka GB84). Just for the record, we're not talking here about some great cinematic milestone. Some of the people--mostly guys--out to destroy GB16 would have you believe that GB84 was a "classic." It wasn't. It isn't. GB84 was fun, just like GB16, and that's fine. To make more of it is not just an aesthetic blunder, it's also an instance of selective memory.

Watch it again--as I did yesterday--and I'll bet even you will flinch at the opening scene at Columbia University during which Erin's counterpart "Dr. Peter Venkman" (played by Bill Murray) is clearly intending to seduce one of his students.

I remember those days. That was par for the course back then. No more.

From Left: Kimi Kumar, Jan Lisa Huttner & Peier Shen. FF2 Media's NYC-based team has a great time at Ghostbusters 2016! (Photo courtesy of our new BFF Mark).

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HOOLIGAN SPARROW

HooliganSparrow01

Watching Hooligan Sparrow, it is impossible not to think, “This is what documentary filmmaking is all about.” Through Hooligan Sparrow, Director Nanfu Wang courageously exposes the trials and danger that woman’s rights activist, Ye Hiang (Sparrow) faces in daily life in China. Through the moments it captures and perhaps more importantly, the moments it fails to, Nanfu Wang’s documentary gives a glimpse into the humanitarian crisis inside China’s borders. (RAK: 4.5/5) 7/23/16

Review by FF2 Media Intern Rachel A Kastner

 When Ye Hiang is assaulted in her home, she calls the Police for help. Instead of coming to help her, they avoid her calls and shrug their shoulders. Ultimately they arrest her instead. This is how government officials treat Ms.Ye Hiang, also known as ‘Sparrow’, a women’s rights activist in China. When filmmaker Nanfu Wang became interested in Sparrow’s activism through social media, she traveled to China to follow and film Ms. Hiang. She didn’t know the trouble she was about to get into.

When the documentary starts, Nanfu Wang speaks directly to her audience, explaining to the camera that the police are coming to question her about her recent activity. The ‘questionable’ recent activity includes filming Ms. Hiang as she protested a child rape case that the government wanted to keep hush-hush. She gestures to a package of her footage, and explains that she is nervous she won’t be able to smuggle it out of the country.

That footage is a month’s worth of protests, in home interviews, and jail visits all centered on Sparrow’s activism. It exposes the level of state surveillance and harassment in modern-day China. To get these shots, Nanfu filmed in true guerilla-style, filming from inside her handbag or behind cars, and using camera-glasses. In one particularly tense scene, a police officer notices that Nanfu’s glasses look strange and breaks them in front of her. Screen goes to black. Nanfu’s footage captures events and confrontations that were too threatening for Sparrow’s team to capture themselves.Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 1.57.46 PM

Ms.Ye Hiang, better known as ‘Sparrow,’ knows that she faces real danger when she travels to the Henian province to protest the case of six 12-year-olds who were raped by their school principal, but she goes anyway. We follow her and her team of women’s rights activists as they set up their protest across the street from the school, attracting local and even national attention. In the aftermath of the success of their protest, they all became targets of the government, including filmmaker Nanfu Wang herself. They are more or less on the run from the government for the remainder of the film. We watch as Sparrow is kicked out of her house, jailed, and assaulted by neighbors. We watch director Nanfu Wang outrun undercover cops and hide out in a locked apartment. Although Nanfu is new to the world of activism in China, this isn’t anything new for ‘Sparrow’.

Sparrow gained notoriety years ago when she began advocating for sex workers’ rights. She became famous through social media with several campaigns and photos that went viral. Her goals seem impossibly large: to expose the corruption that keeps the Chinese government from protecting its women citizens, When asked in an interview whether her work matters if she’s the only one doing it, she responded, “one is better than none.” And if the government feels so threatened as to follow Sparrow and her team for weeks, as evidenced by the footage in this film, Sparrow is clearly doing something right.

As the credits roll, we learn that some of Sparrow’s team is still in detainment, waiting for release or trial. After the lights come up, everyone in the theater realizes they were sitting on the edge of their seat. How did she get the footage out of the country? What is going to happen to Sparrow now?Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 1.57.21 PMPhoto Credits: Nanfu Wang

Top Photo: Ye Hiang (Sparrow) holding a sign for a social media campaign for women's rights

Middle Photo: Ye Hiang in one of her provocative campaigns against child prostitution

Bottom Photo: Nanfu Wang at an art installation in America of all of Sparrow's belongings.

Does Hooligan Sparrow pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

GreenA2016Absolutely. This film focuses on Sparrow and her team of women's rights activists, and the bulk of their conversations are about their protests.

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