‘A Ballerina’s Tale’ Chronicles Misty Copeland’s Journey

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"A Ballerina's Tale" examines Misty Copeland's talent and tenacity.

Credit: Courtesy of Sundance Selects

(WOMENSENEWS)–One of the must-see films of this week, which opened Oct. 14, is "A Ballerina’s Tale." It’s a documentary tribute to the extraordinary talent and tenacity of Misty Copeland, the African American prima ballerina who defied the ballet world’s inherent racism and the gravity of personal injury to grand jete from the corps de ballet into the spotlight. She joins the cadre of the very few women of color who’ve danced principal roles in "Swan Lake" and other classics in the world’s premiere ballet companies. Filmmaker George Nelson chronicles Copeland’s career from age 13, when she first discovered, began to study and dedicated herself to the dance. Throughout the film, Copeland, in on-camera interviews and voiceover narration, reveals the challenges she faced to gain acceptance of her "physical type" and how she overcame the notion that women of color are too muscular to move with a ballerina’s essential grace and fluidity. Footage of exquisite performances by Copeland and others underscores that the point is on pointe. Brava Misty Copeland! See this film!

Oct. 16 Openers

"Watchers of the Sky" is filmmaker Edet Belzberg’s documentary about Raphael Lemkin, the lawyer and social activist who coined the word "genocide" and developed the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute cases of mass murder based on ethnicity. Inspired by Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book "A Problem from Hell," the film focuses on Lemkin’s life work through four instances of genocide and examines how the world responded in each case. Archival footage of Lemkin is fascinating and interviews with Benjamin Ferencz, Luis Moreno-Ocampo and others who’ve fought to punish perpetrators of genocide and prevent further incidences of it establish the importance of Lemkin’s legacy. Another must-see film.

"Truth" is a truth-based drama about how the 2004 CBS "60 Minutes" investigative report on then-President George W. Bush’s military service eventually led to the downfall of the program’s anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes. The film, based on Mapes’ book and written and directed by James Vanderbilt and starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett, is a powerful reminder about news media’s simultaneous power and vulnerability. Powerful performances by Blanchett and Redford make the film a standout.

"Room," scripted by Emma Donoghue from her novel, is the truth-based tale of Ma, a woman who’s held prisoner in a room for years by "Old Nick," who repeatedly rapes her. She gets pregnant and gives birth to a son, Jack. She’s raised, Jack, now 5 years old, in the isolation of that room, lovingly trying to give him a sense of normalcy. Then they escape, and she has to teach Jack the realities of the wide world. The film is gripping, emotionally harrowing and important. It dramatizes the plight of women who are held captive – physically or figuratively – around the world, what they must do to survive and what freedom would mean to them. Brie Larson’s performance as Ma is exceptional.

"Meadowland" is a heartbreaking drama about what happens to Sarah (Olivia Wilde) and Phil (Luke Wilson) a year after their beloved child walked into a roadside gas station bathroom and disappeared. They haven’t been able to get their marriage back on course ever since the incident, and begin losing each other in addition to their son. Wilde and Wilson give stunning performances, and cinematographer Reed Morano proves herself to be a brilliant first-time director.

"Beasts of No Nation," is another tale of exploitation that represents real life situations. It is the story of Agu, a young boy who is forced to become a soldier in an unspecified African country. Written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, based on a novel by Uzudinma Iweala, the film is absolutely harrowing. This captive child is a boy, but we know that young girls are being forced to become soldiers, too. This fiction feature is powerful in its call to action to stop the abuse.

"Momentum" is one of two badass female flicks opening this week. It stars Olga Kurylenko as a professional thief who’s lured to do a job that involves much more than the theft of diamonds. The script, co-written by Debra Sullivan and Adam Marcus, is action-packed and Kurylenko’s fighting stance keeps the plot plod-free.

The second of these films is "The Assassin," set in seventh century China, where assassin Nie Yinniang (Qi Shu) is on a mission to kill a political leader. Directed by acclaimed action film auteur Hsiao-Hsien Hou, the movie has great spectacle and spectacular women’s martial arts.

"Crimson Peak," the latest from horror auteur Guillermo del Toro, is a femme-centric gothic tale starring Mia Wasikowska as an author who can see dead people. She finds herself in a remote and mysterious mansion that’s inhabited by many ghosts and seems to have a life of its own. The film is visually spectacular with exquisite period set décor and costumes and superb special effects and cinematography. But the plot is weak, despite fine performances by Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain, as her foil.

Stay tuned for more October openers next week.

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