Chicago Feminist Film Festival: ‘Crystal Swan’ Tells A Darkly Comic Version of the American Dream

We all know about the American Dream. We see it in movies, we read about it history books, we talk about it all the time. In achieving this proverbial dream, we have achieved the pinnacle of success and freedom, whatever that means. In her directorial debut, Darya Zhuk paints a different picture of chasing the American Dream in the newly sovereign nation of Belarus, one that is funny, tragic, and confused.

In Belarus in the 1990s, Velya (Alina Nasibullina) is an aspiring DJ who wants nothing more than to move to Chicago, home of house music. She and her strung-out boyfriend party all night, and she survives by living at home and stealing from her mom. But, Belarus’ bureaucracy makes it virtually impossible for an unemployed woman living with her mom to leave the country. In an attempt to trick the system, she buys a letter of employment from a factory, but this backfires as she writes down the wrong phone number, which means the embassy can’t call to verify her “employment.” So, she heads to the phone number’s address in the factory town of Crystal City to ensure she gets her visa. This leads to a clash of the classes in the name of reaching that American Dream.

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Chicago Feminist Film Festival: ‘Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché’ Is An Important Documentary With a Few Problems

Alice Guy-Blaché was not only the first female director, but also one of the first film directors, period. But odds are you’ve never heard of her. She directed nearly 1,000 films (including what’s regarded as the first narrative film), founded her own movie studio, and shaped cinema today. But due to a film canon dictated by male power, her legacy was almost erased. Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché tells her story, but unfortunately forgets quite a few figures along the way.

Alice Guy-Blaché was a French film director and from 1896 to 1906, was most likely the only female film director in the world. She experimented with cinema, creating some of the first examples of close-up, hand-colored film, and synchronized sound. She wrote comedies and tragedies, and created films, such as The Consequences of Feminism, that interrogated gender roles. She was a working mother who ran her own movie studio. So how is it possible that so few people have heard of her?

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