(WOMENSENEWS)— This week’s standout feature is “Standing Tall,” a compelling drama about a French judge (Catherine Deneuve) who fights against all odds to save a neglected, terribly troubled and prone-to-violence young boy (Rod Paradot) from institutionalization. Based on her extensive research into the French juvenile justice system, director Emmanuelle Bercot—who also co-scripted with Marcia Romano—plumbs one heartbreaking story to dramatize France’s growing population of disillusioned, disenfranchised youth. Deneuve is stunning and the film is an outstanding piece of fine art as social advocacy. In French with English subtitles.
Revered Belgian feminist filmmaker Chantal Akerman, who took her own life last October at age 65, is celebrated this week with the U.S. theatrical release of two documentaries, one directed by Marianne Lambert, the other by Akerman herself.
Lambert’s “I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman” is a superb primer on the filmmaker, including her legendary iconoclastic and semi-nomadic lifestyle. Lambert shot most of it during 2014, when the filmmaker was completing her final film, “No Home Movie,” which premiered in 2015, shortly before Akerman’s shocking death.
Akerman’s “No Home Movie” is a fascinating, uncensored and profoundly personal two-hour observation of the filmmaker’s elderly mother, Natalia, a Polish immigrant and Auschwitz survivor, who putters around her Brussels apartment, often singing to herself and obviously quite oblivious to the camera. This profoundly moving mother-daughter essay is a companion piece to Akerman’s “News from Home” (1977), based on letters that Natalia sent to her daughter during the filmmaker’s years of nomadic travel. Get to know Akerman’s work. Your life will be richer for it.
P.S. For an intensive Chantal Akerman immersion, Icarus Films has just released its “Chantal Akerman: Four Films” DVD set, including “From The East,” “South,” “From the Other Side” and “Down There.” Watch them for a fuller understanding of Akerman’s innovative style of impassioned filmmaking.
Also opening this week, “Catching the Sun” is filmmaker Shalini Kantayya’s documentary about three entrepreneurs who are actively engaged in boosting the solar energy industry and jockeying for a position in it. The film sets forth the reasons why an unemployed American worker, a Tea Party activist, and a Chinese businessman believe that solar power is the clean and affordable energy source for the future, and why they are stymied and infuriated by the failure of the world’s populace and authorities to embrace it. They have a point!
“Notown,” a documentary by Cucillo Consad and Capella Fahoome, addresses another crucial ecological and human rights issue: clean water. The film focuses on the polluted water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and Detroit, where the demands made by Melissa May and other citizens for the right to clean water have grown into a civil rights movement of global proportions. See the movie and join the movement.
“Francofonia,” Aleksandr Sokurov’s heady cinematic visit to the Louvre Museum in Paris, is a probing look at the relevance of historical reflection, the importance of art in enabling it, and the role the Louvre plays—and, by implication, other museums, too—in facilitating access to it. Sokurov’s unique cinematic essays incorporate truths, fiction and quirky humor into a style that generally defies genre classification and offers rare insight into the potential psychic impact of cinema.
“Moments of Clarity,” despite its title, is more standard fare: a femme-centric road trip comedy in which two girls whose repressive parents are stifling them pair up to escape their shut-in lives and join in the fun at their church’s annual youth group jamboree. That sums up the plot and script co-written by Kristin Wallace who has the girls get into a mess of unexpected and somewhat raunchy trouble along the way to the church social. Not much clarity there.
“God’s Not Dead 2” is a femme-centric drama in which a school teacher (Melissa Joan Hart) responds to a student’s question by quoting scripture, gets fired and winds up in a civil rights lawsuit about whether she was teaching or preaching. The issue is more interesting than the film, which seems biased in its presentation and made more for TV than the big screen.
“Miles Ahead,” Don Cheadle’s masterful take of the life, music and loves of jazz legend Miles Davis, is a must see. With Cheadle’s intense portrayal of Davis front and center, the film is all about the male-dominated realm of jazz during Davis’ day. In the midst of all that testosterone, Emayatzy Corinealdi, as Frances Taylor, Miles’ first wife—a brilliant artist in her own right who gave up her promising career to support his—will fan your feminist flames. She’s amazing. And her performance obliterates the excuse that male artistic genius justifies the abuse of women.
Stay tuned for more April movie news and reviews of April openers.