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TagWomen Filmmakers

Woodstock Film Festival: My So-Called Selfish Life

“I’m childfree and it’s fabulous.”

Marcia Drut-Davis

Women carry the burden of the many expectations society has for them. The biggest one: motherhood. If a woman in her childbearing years decides against having children, she’s considered selfish. In fact, if she makes any reproductive choices at all, including the use of contraceptives and birth control, voluntary hysterectomies or having an abortion, she will be criticized by someone who feels they have a say in the matter. Many women are seen as walking uteruses rather than individuals who have a lot to offer other than giving birth. And those who want children but can’t have them due to many factors, including infertility, socioeconomic inequality and forced sterilization, are often seen as some sort of failure because they couldn’t achieve the goal assigned to them by societal norms. Being childfree or childless can make women feel like outcasts. Or worse. Silenced. 

Childfree — won’t have children

Childless — can’t have children

Written, directed and produced by Therese Shechter, My So-Called Selfish Life gives a voice to the women out there who live their lives without birthing children, whether it was their choice to do so or not. It’s a profoundly important documentary about a subject that is often swept under the rug. Any childfree or childless woman, including myself, who has endured awkward and hurtful conversations with people in their lives about their situation  will feel not only validated but redeemed to hear so many women in similar situations. And for those who cast judgement on others about the idea of maternal regret, they may learn a thing or two about compassion. 

The documentary includes interviews with a variety of experts including doctors, authors and activists. These are bolstered with historical context and pop culture references. Almost every possible approach was taken making this a very thorough exploration on the subject matter. With that said, I wish the film had explored how social media platforms, including TikTok, are being used to openly discuss childfree living but it unfortunately does not.

I can see this documentary doing well through word-of-mouth recommendations, with childfree and childless women sharing it with others to encourage discussion and understanding.

My So-Called Selfish Life premiered at the 2021 Woodstock Film Festival. Learn more about the documentary on the official website.

Together Together

What happens when you’re more than ready for your next journey but life hasn’t caught up with you yet? Matt (Ed Helms) wants to have a  baby.  He’s 45 years old, a successful app developer, financially stable and emotionally ready for parenthood. The trouble is he doesn’t have a partner. Matt takes the next step and hires surrogate. Anna (Patti Harrison) is a 20-something barista who agrees to the arrangement so she can afford to go back to college. Parent and surrogate are supposed to remain emotionally distant but Matt wants to be involved in every step of the process. The two form a bond that crosses the boundaries they were supposed to set for each other. What will happen when the baby finally arrives?

Written and directed by Nikole Beckwith, Together Together is a sweet, quirky movie about the curveballs life throws at you and how relationships don’t always fit easily into societal molds. Beckwith was inspired by “the idea of strangers coming together in such an intimate and complicated circumstance.” The movie takes its time exploring all the nuances of Matt and Anna’s situation with all the ups and downs that come with it. Helms is fantastic as the neurotic soon-to-be-dad and Harrison is a delight as the emotionally conflicted Anna. The film suffers from an abrupt ending that will leave some viewers frustrated. Despite that, I recommend you watch this charming and heartfelt movie.

Together Together is in theaters now and releases on digital May 11th.

The Place That Makes Us

Youngstown, Ohio is a steel mill city on the Rust Belt that has seen a major decline over the past few decades. The mills closed and the subsequent loss of jobs sent its residents fleeing. For those left behind, they were faced with a crumbling infrastructure, an uptick in violence and crime and hundreds of vacant homes. 

Directed by Karla Murthy, The Place That Makes Us spotlights a group of Youngstown residents seeking to transform their hometown. Filmed over the course of three years, the documentary follows members of the city council and organizers of YNDC (Youngstown Neighborhood Development Committee) as they work to rebuild Youngstown’s abandoned homes and make plans to boost their community. While the documentary is specifically about Youngstown, it could really be about any shrinking city or town in America. What the film does really well is drive home the message that any community can be transformed but it takes its residents, not outsiders, to really enact that change.

The Place That Makes Us premieres today on the WORLD channel series America Reframed. Visit the official website for more information.

SXSW: Violet

Violet (Olivia Munn) is plagued by self-doubt. The Voice (Justin Theroux) is constantly reminding her of her insecurities, negating anything positive she thinks about herself and is sending her down  path of self-destruction. As a high-powered executive in the film industry, this inhibits her from personal and professional growth and from achieving any form of happiness. It doesn’t help that past traumas, her mother’s neglect, her brother’s disdain and a failed relationship that ended in literal flames, come back to haunt her. The Voice is in constant battle with her self-confidence, which offers Violet little glimmers of hope. There are good things in her life and good people too. Including Red (Luke Bracey), a handsome and understanding screenwriter whose opinion of her far exceeds her own for herself. Women in business, regardless of the industry, have an uphill battle, not only to breakthrough the barriers set by outdated gender norms but to fight against the impostor syndrome that society imposes upon us. Regardless of Violet’s support system of friends and colleagues, she must find a way to tap into that self-confidence and suppress the Voice on her own.

Written and directed by Justine Bateman, Violet visualizes self-doubt in a way that will resonate deeply with audiences, especially women who are often the victims of mansplaining and impostor syndrome. The Voice is presented through a man’s narration which epitomizes how society devalues women. Self-confidence is shown in the form of white cursive writing on screen. This visual-auditory representation of Violet’s thought process was incredibly effective. Bateman has hit a homerun with this brilliant depiction of internal strife and self-destruction and Munn delivers a wonderful performance as the title character.

Violet had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.

kid 90

“I documented everything and locked it away from 20 years. I’ve never looked back at it. And so I decided to unlock the vault.”

Soleil Moon Frye

Actress Soleil Moon Frye catapulted to fame when at the tender age of 7 she starred in the hit TV series Punky Brewster. She was among a group of child stars who worked through the ’80s and came of age in the ’90s. During her teenage years, Soleil grabbed a video camera and a journal and began documenting everything: partying with friends, road trips, intimate conversations, flirtations, her experience having major surgery when she was 15 years old, family gatherings etc. Her circle of friends included fellow actors including Jenny Lewis, David Arquette, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brian Austin Green, Mark-Paul Gosselar, Stephen Dorff, among others. Soleil chronicled all the ups and downs of this stage in her life. More than two decades later, she’s ready to show this archive of tapes, diary entries and voice mail recordings to the world.

Picking up the camera was a way of controlling.”

Soleil Moon Frye

Directed by Soleil Moon Frye, kid 90 is an intimate documentary with a lot of heart. It captures a time before social media when teens, even those who often found themselves in the public eye, had some modicum of privacy and the freedom to be their most authentic selves. Soleil Moon Frye is front and center and we get to know the person behind the iconic character of Punky Brewster. Throughout the documentary, Soleil interviews her peers including Stephen Dorff, Brian Austin Green, Balthazar Getty, David Arquette and others. The most poignant aspect of the film is Soleil’s memories of friends who left us far too soon. I was particularly moved by seeing images and hearing the voice of Jonathan Brandis, whose tragic death by suicide is one I’ve never really come to terms with.

Through the tapes we see Soleil as a rebellious teen. As a Punky Brewster fan myself, it was difficult to see this other side of Soleil Moon Frye but I’m so grateful I did. It made her a more of a multi-dimensional person in my mind rather than simply a figure from childhood. Soleil Moon Frye exudes warmth and kindness. She’s someone you’ll want to spend with. 

kid 90 is a must see, especially for those people, like myself, who came of age in the ’90s. I hope Soleil Moon Frye will consider turning her archive of memories into a book!

kid 90 premieres on March 12th on Hulu.

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