Female Director Spotlight: Julie Dash’s Legacy is Rooted in Black Heritage and Extraordinary Women

Deeply poetic, and rooted in her heritage, Julie Dash’s work showcases extraordinary women from the past and present. A pioneering director, Dash places historical heroines—both known and unknown—front and center in her filmography. Her refreshing work places a lens on black women, and showcases them in a way that doesn’t follow society’s (or Hollywood’s) rigid standards. Dash’s women overcome obstacles, and exhibit a resilience and grace no matter the circumstances. She doesn’t allow her leads to follow traditional narratives, in fact she allows them to follow a narrative of her own design.

The heart of Dash’s work are the complex women that she paints a vivid picture of, both real and fictional. While she often explores the complex relationship of racial identity, at the same time she is a visionary that refuses to place her heroines in a box. Dash cites that her films were influenced by authors such as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Toni Kay Bambara.

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Jewels Under the Kitchen Sink: ‘El Auge del Humano’ is a Radical Mood Piece

This piece is part of a series called Jewels Under the Kitchen Sink. Here we try to bring films that have been overlooked during their time, or were (despite their distinctive and timely nature) somehow forgotten, back onto the radar. It’s an attempt at reaching into the dusty niches of time and fishing some true gems out of there. We hope to pique your interest towards some of these films, so they can be reintroduced into today’s film discussion.

Some films just won’t leave your head after you have seen them. Recently confronted with the slightly overwhelming request, “Recommend me the most unforgettable film you have ever seen,” I was suddenly thinking about El auge del humano again. I didn’t give the recommendation, because the person asking probably wouldn’t have liked it and there are so many other unforgettable cinematic experiences. But, the instinctual jump obviously didn’t happen without reason, so my train of thought went from there. It’s rare that cinema is so distinct and led-on with such a pronounced confidence.

Writer/director Eduardo “Teddy” Williams was born in Argentina, tutored by Miguel Gomes during his studies and garnered attention with his short film Pude ver un puma, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. Starring frequent collaborator Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, who is known for his dazzling performance as Sean in Robin Campillo’s 120 BPM, the film tells the mysterious story of young men roaming a torn-down and empty world with a floating and dreamlike sensibility. While dystopias are a popular narrative framing device in short films, there has never been one that tells its story quite like this one. This fact announced the young director as a filmmaking voice to look out for.

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After several shorts, Williams finally put together his first feature film, a deeply mysterious study of both characters and their environments, seamlessly spanning three countries through small towns, jungles and video chats. El auge del humano finally premiered at Locarno in 2016 and won Williams a highly deserved Best First Feature Special Mention and the Golden Leopard in the Filmmakers of the Present section. While the film sparked very diverse reactions amongst critics, there was no denial that Williams’ craft was absolutely original. Continue reading “Jewels Under the Kitchen Sink: ‘El Auge del Humano’ is a Radical Mood Piece”

Fantasia 2019 Review: Terrifying Japanese Ghost Story ‘Stare’ Won’t Let You Look Away

First, the lights start to flicker. Then, you hear a quiet tinkling of bells. You turn to find the source of the noise and find a woman hiding in the shadows. Her face is covered with long, black hair and her hands are pressed together in front of her. As she gets closer, she looks up and reveals her unnaturally large eyes. This is the last thing you see before she claims your eyes. This is Shirai-san, the ghost of Otsuichi’s newest film, Stare, which premiered this year at Fantasia. 

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‘Consequences’: On Gay Loneliness and the Spectacle of Hyper-Masculinity

Slovenia’s first LGBTQ-themed film, Consequences (or Posledice, 2018), is an arresting portrayal of what happens when institutional and judicial structures fail young gay men. The debut film by director Darko Štante asks: if men haphazardly placed in youth detention centers do not receive adequate support, what happens to the gay men in it? How do failing political structures further marginalise gay men, and leave them twice-removed from society?

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Coming Soon to Much Ado About Cinema

Happy hot girl summer everyone! After spending a rocky awards season (remember that only a few months ago?) and a even rockier school/work season, we’re finally back on our feet to create some new and wonderful content for our Patreon. As you may know, Much Ado About Cinema is volunteer run and no one at our team from Editor-in-Chief to Staff Writer earns any money. We rely heavily on the money we gain from our Patreon to run the website. Our hope is that in the future we’ll save enough money to pay our writers. So far we’ve been offering early access to our videos and podcasts on top of our Patreon exclusive podcast, “Chatter,” to our patrons but we’ve been a lacking on the writing side. Well not anymore! Starting in August we have three wonderful columns and a new podcast for our patrons. All these new additions will be available to different tiers on our Patreon in addition to early access and “Chatter.” Keep reading to find out more about the new additions to Much Ado About Cinema and click here to join our Patreon.

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Fantasia 2019 Review: Step Into A Different Kind of Post Apocalyptic World in ‘Riot Girls’

In a world without parents, kids actually know what they’re doing for the most part. They can take care of each other, find the basics of survival, and make life work in a land without adults. But, without parents, the typical teenage tensions of jock versus punk bubble up into violent rivalries. This is the world of Jovanka Vuckovic’s Riot Girls. Her feature-film debut is jocks vs. punks, east side vs. west side, rich vs. poor, all in the name of survival. Yet, despite these rivalries, Riot Girls is still a hilarious and colorful film that lets kids be kids while also kicking major ass.

It is an alternate version of 1995. A strange wasting disease has wiped out all of the adults. This has left kids to fend for themselves and form alliances. Here, the poor kids live on the east side of town, while the rich jocks live on the west side. On the east side, we meet Scratch (Paloma Kwiatkowski) and Nat (Madison Iseman), two punks trying to have fun in the face of a terrifying reality. Scratch sports a tall mohawk, Nat wears thick eyeliner, and both wear leather jackets covered in patches and spikes. Punk never dies, even in the face of the apocalypse. However, they must dig deep into their punk sensibilities when Nat’s brother and the group’s leader, Jack (Alexandre Bourgeois), is kidnapped by the west side jocks, also known as the Titans.

The Titans, ruled with an iron fist by Jeremy (Munro Chambers), the oldest kid in town, live in the local high school and train kids to be ruthless fighters. Meanwhile, the east side has a much more relaxed approach, treating each other as equals and living in harmony without dictator-like rule. This is a story of jocks versus nerds and outcasts taken to the extreme. The jocks, of course, rule the school, wear letter jackets like military uniforms, and collect weapons like candy. The outcasts have a more DIY approach, not unlike the punk movement. They don’t have many vehicles, they use bats are protection, and their “uniforms” are band t shirts and leather jackets emblazoned with phrases like “Eat the Rich.”

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Review: ‘Badass Beauty Queen’ Goes Behind Anastasia Lin’s Quest For the Truth

If you were given a platform to speak on any issue, what would you choose? What do you think would happen to you for exercising free speech? For some, the stakes are way higher, and the consequences are great. Over the course of history, beauty pageants have served as national stages for young women to shed light on any cause of their choice with some reservations. For a former contestant, the Chinese-born Anastasia Lin, her call to arms would prove to be extremely dangerous and career-threatening.

In 2015, Lin made international headlines when she used her platform to speak out against the human rights crisis in China. In 2016, she made the news again as she advanced to the final round of the Miss World competition in Washington D.C. Lin’s call to action would put her entire family in China in danger, especially her father, a successful businessman. Since 2015, Lin has scored legions of supporters in her plight, yet she is still at odds with the Chinese government.

In the long line of of pageant contestants over time, have any other queens been named ‘persona non Grata?’ Anastasia Lin is the lone woman that has that distinction. “The Badass Beauty Queen” was the term derived from Andrea Thompson’s article in Marie Claire, where she described Anastasia Lin’s fight for freedom of expression in China.

In Theresa Kowall-Shipp’s documentary of the same name, the production follows Lin through her final shot at pageantry, as well as the many attempts to silence her message by the Chinese government and the Miss World Organization. Lin’s story is extraordinary, and one that showcases the importance of the press, standing up for what’s right, and using your platform for the greater good. Badass Beauty Queen is a documentary of which has been years in the making, and one that deserves to be seen.

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