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TagFemale Focused

Sundance: Master

“It’s never going to change.”

The presence of three black women at a predominantly white New England college unleashes a dark and mysterious force in the new horror movie Master. Written and directed by Mariama Diallo in her feature debut, the film stars Regina Hall as Gail Bishop, the new “Master”, aka dean of students, for the fictional Ancaster College. As Bishop tries to settle into her new role at Ancaster, she’s tasked with guiding the board of directors in deciding whether the only black professor on campus, Liv Beckman (Amber Gray), deserves tenure. One of Beckman’s students, freshman Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee), is struggling to acclimate to Ancaster as she’s constantly confronted with subtle but potent forms of racism from faculty, staff, and fellow students. Ancaster is known to be haunted by a former student and Jasmine happens to have been assigned the same room where the student had committed suicide decades before. As the holidays approach, the deeply rooted racism that has been part of Ancaster’s history from the very beginning manifests itself into an evil force that is hellbent on destroying the women.

Master tackles one of the horrors of our everyday world. In the film, racism haunts its victims like a ghost. It’s a mysterious force that takes many forms and is passed down through generations. It persists no matter how much the characters struggle against it or how much they’re gaslit to believe that progress has been made. Diallo effectively demonstrates the power of racism in pretty much every aspect of this film. The message is there: racism will never truly go away. And that is a horrifying reality.

A must-watch, especially for the performances by Regina Hall and Zoe Renee.

Master premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and will be available on Amazon Prime March 18th.

Sundance: Resurrection

Margaret (Rebecca Hall) needs to be in control. At home, she’s an overprotective single mom to her 17 year old daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman). At work, she gives important life advice to an office newcomer and keeps her affair with married coworker Peter (Michael Esper) under wraps. Margaret craves control over the people in her life because at one time she sacrificed it her own. And this came at a great cost.

David (Tim Roth), a dark figure from Margaret’s past, is back. Margaret sees him everywhere and despite her attempts to get rid of him, he persists. David has something that Margaret lost many years ago and wants back. Will she have to sacrifice the life she’s built for herself to finally defeat David?

Written and directed by Andrew Semans, Resurrection is like Gaslight (1944) meets Rosemary’s Baby (1968) but on steroids. Rebecca Hall turns a wonderful performance as the increasingly paranoid Margaret. Tim Roth’s portrayal of David is absolutely chilling. The film is perfectly paced, gripping and will leave viewers in shock. The final scenes are unsettling and will leave viewers asking themselves: “What just happened?”. Resurrection must be seen to be believed and even then you might not realize what exactly was real and what wasn’t.

Resurrection premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. It has since been acquired by IFC Films and Shudder.

Sundance: Brainwashed: Sex – Camera – Power

We need women filmmakers. Desperately. The male dominated film industry has been shaping how we view women over time by objectifying them in a way that skews the power dynamic over to the men and away from the women. And according to filmmaker Nina Menkes, this has lasting effects on how women are treated in the workplace, in public and at home. One way to balance this is to bring women filmmakers to the forefront, give them a platform where they can not only thrive but where they can share differing perspectives and points-of-view.

Based on her lecture Sex & Power, The Visual Language of Cinema, Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power is an illuminating study on the history of the male gaze in film. The documentary includes footage of Menkes’ lecture, interviews with theorists, directors and actresses and 175 film clips that demonstrate the male gaze. The clips run the gamut from Metropolis (1927) to Titane (2021). Menkes analyzes the majority of them and also includes women directed films to demonstrate the difference between not only the male gaze and the female gaze but also the female gaze with internalized misogyny. Menkes breaks down the analysis of the male gaze into five categories: Subject, Framing, Camera Movement, Lighting and Narrative Position. This documentary serves as the feminist film course that anyone interested in the history of film and the future of the industry should take. Menkes doesn’t make any direct correlations to the male gaze in film and real life consequences however it is suggested throughout the film. Brainwashed can be a tough pill to swallow but when we learn we grow.

Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance: Call Jane

Call Jane stars Elizabeth Banks as Joy, a stay-at-home wife pregnant with her second child. Joy and her husband Will (Chris Messina) soon discover that Joy’s pregnancy is causing her congestive heart failure. The doctor gives her two options: die carrying the child or have an abortion. It’s 1968, still a few years away from Roe vs. Wade, and abortions are illegal underground operations. After a scare, Joy discovers  “Call Jane” a service involving a network of suburban woman who arrange abortions for women in need. The initiative is run by Virginia (Sigourney Weaver) who takes Joy under her wing. Corrupt doctor Dean (Cory Michael Smith) charges $600 per procedure which is out of reach for most women who seek the service. Joy and Virginia team together to make abortions available to more applicants but do so in a safe, affordable yet unconventional way. Joy does all of this while keeping it secret from her husband, daughter (Grace Edwards) and neighbor Lana (Kate Mara).

Based on the true story of the Jane Initiative, Call Jane is directed by Phyllis Nagy, best known for her stunning adaptation Carol (2015). Call Jane has similar pacing as Carol. The film takes its time telling its story. Patient viewers will be greatly rewarded. Call Jane shines a spotlight on the history of abortion but also offers us a look into a future where abortions may become illegal again. Women will seek out abortions regardless of their legality and while the Jane Initiative saw no casualties, many other women have died from botched back alley abortions. This film won’t change anyone’s mind about abortion. But it does serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come and what we have to lose.

Call Jane premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

The Worst Person in the World

“I’ve never seen anything through. I go from one thing to another.”

Have you ever felt like a complete failure? Like you’re the worst person in the world? These feelings plague Julie (Renate Reinsve), a 20-something college student who isn’t sure what path she wants to take in life. Every new career move leads her to a new guy but she just can’t quite stay put. That is until she meets comic book artist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie). He’s older, a bit wiser and absolutely smitten with her. As Julie turns 30 and they move in together, she finds herself at a crossroads. That restlessness seeps back in. She then meets Eivind (Herbert Nordrum) at a party and the two can’t help but be drawn to each other. With both Julie and Eivind in separate committed relationships, the world seems to stop just for them. But then reality hits Julie hard as she must reckon with her relationships and her path moving forward.

“Nothing’s ever good enough. The only thing worse than all the idiots is yourself.”

Directed by Joachim Trier, The Worst Person in the World is a richly layered portrait of a young woman in flux. I’m not usually drawn to stories like this but I couldn’t help but be captivated by this one. It’s structured much like a novel and features an introduction, twelve chapters and an epilogue. Oslo, Norway serves as the setting and a gorgeous backdrop for the story. Julie’s decisions in life seem to be solely influenced by the men in her life, whether it’s Aksel, Eivind, another boyfriend or her emotionally distant father. It’s takes a major life event for her to rely on just herself. The film does suffer a bit from a strong male gaze and male perspective especially considering the focus is on the female protagonist. However, Renate Reinsve does at complexity to her character which makes Julie a character you can both sympathize and be frustrated with.

The Worst Person in the World is distributed by Neon and will release in theaters February 4th.

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