'Fish Tank' Bubbles Up in January Film Lineup

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The start of the year is a low season for film releases but Jennifer Merin manages to find an array of new femme fare. There are features, documentaries, comedies and horror. Also, one spoof she wonders about even bringing up.

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Jennifer Merin(WOMENSENEWS)--January is typically the low season in film releases.

The holiday entertainment rush is over and attention is shifting to the Feb. 2 Oscar nominations for the March 7 Academy Awards.

But quite a few films with special women's interest are punctuating the lull this year.

Most promising is "Fish Tank," a dark drama by British writer-director Andrea Arnold that won the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It's about a troubled teen whose dysfunctional family life becomes even more difficult when her mother's new boyfriend walks into it. Katie Jarvis has received rave reviews for her starring role.

"Fish Tank" opens in limited release on Jan. 15. I can't wait to see it, given how fascinating I found Arnold's two previous films, "Red Road" (2006) and "Wasp," a dramatic short for which she won an Oscar in 2003.

Three interesting femme-helmed documentaries also open in January.

Petra Seeger's "In Search of Memory" profiles Eric Kandel, the Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, following him as he searches his own memories back to his childhood. Born a Jew in Vienna in 1929, Kandel emigrated to the United States before the Holocaust, but his work--and his memories--have been largely influenced by the specter of Nazi persecution. Seeger's blending of neuroscience and biography makes this film particularly compelling. The documentary, with the same title as Kandel's autobiography, opens in limited release on Jan. 15.

Also opening on Jan. 15, "Waiting For Armageddon" is a documentary co-directed by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner. It explores beliefs--held by some 50 million people--that Biblical prophecy foretells the world's future and that the End of Days is, indeed, coming. The filmmakers speak with Christians, Jews and Muslims who offer varied critical perspectives on the nature of prophecy and its potential political impact, especially as it relates to the state of Israel. This is a thought-provoking film for the start of the new year.

'Off and Running'

Opening in limited release on Jan. 29 is the third documentary, "Off and Running," directed by Nicole Opper and Avery Klein-Cloud. The film focuses on the life of Avery, the African American adoptive daughter of two white Jewish lesbian parents, who are also raising two adopted boys--one mixed-race and one Korean--in Brooklyn, N.Y. When Avery decides to explore her African American roots by seeking out her birth mother, she's forced to confront the complications of personal identity and family ties. Her outlook and behavior nose dive. She stays away from home, skips school and risks losing the chance to attend college and become a track star. But then her story starts its rewarding rebound.

For those who want a good fright in the new year, "Case 39" offers a femme-centric psychological and supernatural thriller. Renee Zellweger stars in the film as a social worker who's committed to saving a girl from her abusive parents and finds herself facing terrifying demonic forces. It opens on New Year's Day, in time to scare yourself out of a hangover.

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