“Texas is the place where so much of the entire West was born. There is that sense of freedom. And it has to do with ownership of space.”
Joyce Gibson Roach, Folklorist and author of The Cowgirls
Directed by Sarah Brennan Kolb, Good Ol Girl explores the struggle between long-held traditions and female independence and the slow fade of rural life. This documentary profiles three cowgirls as they try to forge a life for themselves in a man’s world. These are women who want to show that they can compete with the guys and do what they do but still be a woman in their own right.
Mandy is a rancher who raises beef cattle and bison. She’s religious and firmly traditional. She struggles with the internal battle of opposing desires: to thrive as an independent business woman and to be a wife and mother.
Sara is the next in line to run the family ranch. However, she bucks with tradition and decides to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer.
Martha desperately wants to work in agriculture but can’t find a job. With the encroaching suburbs, land is far more valuable for housing development than it is for ranching making job options scarce.
“I was born and bred to be a cowgirl.”
Filmmaker Kolb grew up in Texas and says this about what she observed:
“Strict adherence to ‘traditional’ gender roles, political powerlessness over one’s own body, and the assumption that a woman’s place was safe inside a ranch-style house, permeated the lives around me. Like most women, I discovered that accepting the dissonance between the person you are on the inside, and the face you present to the world, is part of growing up.”
Good Ol Girl effectively demonstrates the struggle these women face to live within the confines of their strictly gendered upbringing while also seeking independence through their respective careers. The documentary felt uneven at times. Mandy’s story was far more interesting. For those of you sensitive to footage of dead animals, there is a particularly jarring scene where Mandy discovers one of her heifers died during childbirth. I still can’t get that image out of my mind.
A group of SoundCloud rappers live in isolation in the desert of Crestone, Colorado. The end of the world is nigh and this group of friends spend those final days making music, getting tattoos, eating the last of their food stores and smoking weed. In Crestone they reconnect with themselves and their music. Their seclusion sparks their creativity. However, they ignore the warning signs that they must flee their remote haven. In the midst of it all, a woman director is filming them for her documentary, capturing their spirited rebellion.
“Performing and being became indistinguishable.”
“What does music sound like if there is no one left to repost and share it?”
Directed and co-written by Marnie Ellen Hertzler, Crestone is a hybrid feature film/documentary putting real SoundCloud rappers (Huckleberry, Keem, Mijo Mehico, Benz Rowm, RyBundy, Sadboytrapps, Champloo Sloppy, and Phong Winna) in an imaginary pre-apocalyptic world. Crestone is Hertzler’s debut feature film and it’s quite an auspicious start. Hertzler mixes filmmaking styles, enhances visuals with added designs and creates an inherently contradictory cinematic world by placing internet musicians in a remote natural landscape. So many of us right now are living in seclusion as the coronavirus spreads across the globe. In a weird way, I felt a connection with this group of rappers whose lifestyle is so completely different from my own with the exception of that I too am stuck in isolation and working on my craft.
“I am drawn to this group of people as a filmmaker because of their ability to completely and confidently reinvent themselves over and over. Their transformation isn’t simply a wardrobe change or a new playlist; it is an entire upheaval of their previous lives.”
Marnie Ellen Hertzler
Crestone was set to have its world premiere at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival. Visit the official website for more information about this movie.
“The yearning of the dance was the yearning of the spirit to be reconnected with god.”
Written and directed by Iram Parveen Bilal, I’ll Meet You There is a moving portrayal of a family trying to reconnect with each other. The story follows three generations of a Pakistani-American family living in Chicago. Majeed (Faran Tahir) is a city cop tasked with investigating the local mosque’s potential terrorist ties. It’s a great opportunity for his career but it also means he’ll have to bridge the divide between himself and his faith while also betraying his community. Majeed is a widower trying to raise his teenage daughter Dua (Nikita Tewani) on his own. Dua is a dancer, something she inherited from her mom, who teaches dance at a local nursing home and is preparing to audition for Julliard. But as she connects with her Muslim faith she realizes that her culture and passion for dance are at odds with each other. She takes private lessons with her aunt Shonali (Sheetal Sheth) to learn the dance style her mother used to perform. Dua must hide her freer lifestyle from her grandfather Baba (Qavi Khan). Baba has been estranged from his son Majeed since the death of his daughter Fatima, Dua’s mother. Baba’s traditional ways are at odds with Dua’s more modern lifestyle and Majeed finds himself in the middle of a contentious family dynamic. At the heart of it all is their love for each other which transcends the generational divide.
“I’m a better filmmaker and human being because this film exists; by its existence, this project is questioning mainstream discourse on Muslim American identity, immigrant assimilation and the question of nationalism.”
Iram Parveen Bilal
I’ll Meet You There is a heartfelt film with complex characters who grow and change as the story progresses. It’s a sweet, sensitive film that adeptly explores all the nuances of Pakistani culture and the Muslim community. For Pakistani-Americans it offers a mirror and for everyone else a window into a culture that is not our own. I’m drawn to films like this one that explore the family dynamic and how individuals forge their own destinies. I highly recommend I’ll Meet You There to anyone who wants to broaden their horizons or just wants a sincere family tale.
I’ll Meet You There was set to premiere at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.
Sophia just broke up with her boyfriend. When she calls up her therapist, Dr. Blady, to discuss the matter, Sophia is hit with some outdated advice about gender roles and romantic relationships. It doesn’t help that she can’t get her mind off of her ex or the huge blackhead on her nose. Sometimes you just need to clear your life of toxic people… and clogged pores.
Watching Blackheads is as satisfying as squeezing a clogged pore and watching all the pus come out. I couldn’t help but connect with the story of a woman struggling with anxiety, a bad therapist and self-destructive tendencies. And for those of you who love to pop a zit, the climax of the film features a glorious stop motion extraction. Blackheads clocks in at 7 minutes and 46 seconds and features stop animation with 2D animation. It’s directed by Emily Ann Hoffman, a fine artist and animator who, according to her website, explores “female sexuality, body and vulnerability through a comedic lens.” I’m definitely impressed with Blackheads and eager to see more work from Hoffman.
Blackheads was set to premiere at this year’s SXSW film festival. Filmmaker Emily Ann Hoffman is making Blackheads available to the public on Vimeo from 3/15 to 3/16. You can watch it here. For more information about Hoffman’s work, visit her online portfolio.
Kaylinn (Georgia Mischak) is basic. She’s pretentious as fuck, has no friends and documents her sad life with endless selfies. Gross. At least that’s what Gloria (Chelsea Devantez) wants to believe as she scrolls through Kaylinn’s Instagram. Gloria is dating Nick (Nelson Franklin) and is participating in the time-honored tradition of projecting one’s insecurities by cyber stalking her boyfriend’s ex. Maybe it’s time for Gloria to get over it? Or maybe she needs to scroll through a few more pictures first?
Basic packs a punch in a mere 3 minutes and 3 seconds. This short is written, produced and directed by Chelsea Devantez who also stars in the film. Basic is relatable in so many ways. For many women dating in the age of social media, there’s so much at stake with our already fragile egos and the pressure to present ourselves in the best possible light. And in the early days of a relationship, building confidence is difficult and takes time. It’s easy to slip and become infatuated with a perceived threat that doesn’t really exist. I’ve been in Gloria’s situation before. I have cyber-stalked a boyfriend’s ex. I have said some things that reveal some deep-seated insecurities and pettiness.
Basic is funny, engaging and endlessly watchable. It was shot over 2 days in LA with a small crew and tiny budget. The production quality is fantastic and I really loved the aesthetics and the film’s soundtrack. All three actors were great but I was especially entranced by Mischak and Devantez’ performances. If you’re on the lookout for a relatable comedy, look no further than Basic.