Dec 27, 2015

NYFF Interview with Nanni Moretti for "Mia Madre"

Film director Margherita (Margherita Buy) and her actor Barry Huggins (John Turturro) have an on-set discussion about his inability to remember his lines in Nanni Moretti's Mia Madre to be released this March. 

I have just added a link to my Ambassador Magazine interview (in "Feature Articles") with Italian writer-director Nanni Moretti. I spoke with Mr. Moretti about his semi-autobiographical movie at the New York Film Festival last October.

Mia Madre is shot from the point-of-view of an Italian film director, portrayed by Margherita Buy, who is in the midst of making a large-budget movie when she learns that her mother is dying of heart disease. Mr. Moretti plays her brother Giovanni, and John Turturro has a supporting role as an American actor in Margherita's film. In my interview with Mr. Moretti, he is quite candid about the fact that he wishes he had been more like his character, the devoted son Giovanni, when he discovered his own mother was dying during the making of We Have a Pope (2011). Mia Madre will be in theaters in March.

Oct 27, 2015

Brief Clips of My Bluestockings Bookstore Reading

I have just posted clips of my Bluestockings presentation on YouTube: In this reading (on October 14th), I discussed the conventions of the female quest for identity in The Silence of the Lambs and The Secret of Roan Inish, emphasizing my feminist reading of heroic journeys. Among the topics I touch upon are: disorientation at the start of the quest; the hero's self-sacrifice; and why many cinematic quests are action films. At a trim 6 1/2 minutes, it is a good intro to some of the key ideas in my book, Cinematic Quests for Identity: The Hero's Encounter with the Beast (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015). I hope you will take a look!

Oct 24, 2015

Sarah Gavron's "Suffragette"

Factory workers and British suffragettes Maud (Carey Mulligan) and Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) in a still from Suffragette.
In theaters now, Suffragette is that rare narrative film made from the point-of-view of a working class woman, in this case one living in early 20th century Britain. You can read my interview with the director, Sarah Gavron, here:

My review of Suffragette also appears in Film Journal International:

Oct 19, 2015

Patricio Guzmán's The Pearl Button: In Theaters this Weekend

A still from "The Pearl Button" of the Humboldt Current, which marks an area of low salinity ocean that flows along the west coast of South America and that marks a unique ecosystem. (Courtesy of distributor, Kino Lorber Pictures).

If there were a poet laureate of Chile’s Atacama Desert, it would be documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzmán. In Nostalgia for the Light (2011), Guzmán probed that high, arid land, famous for its observatories, and its spectacular views of the Milky Way, for evidence of crimes that are the subject of all of his documentaries. They were committed during the sixteen years of dictator Augusto Pinochet’s regime. In his latest documentary, The Pearl Button, the writer-director becomes the bard of oceans, and in his sublime narrative voice, ruminates on their depths as the repository for human history.

The Pearl Button is comprised of several storylines that arise from that quotidian object. One button represents the only piece of evidence in a murder case that will never be brought to trial. It was discovered off the Pacific coast of Chile, not far from the Atacama Trench, annealed to a railroad tie. These wooden ties weighed down the bodies of Pinochet-era victims dropped from helicopters. Guzmán re-enacts that chilling crime and imagines the body and mind of the “disappeared” person now flowing in oceanic memory, along with countless others who suffered the same fate. 

Writer-director Patricio Guzman on his epic voyage along Chile's Pacific coast during production of his sublime documentary, "The Pearl Button." (Courtesy of Kino Lorber Pictures.)
During production on The Pearl Button, the 74 year old writer-director embarked on a sea journey along Chile’s 2,600-mile coastline, mostly inaccessible by land or air. Along the way, he discovered another narrative thread: the story of Jemmy Button, an indigenous 19th-century man who was paid one pearl button to travel to England in order to be “civilized.” Button later returned to his coastal community, among many other nomadic aboriginal locations in what is now Southern Chile and its archipelago. Europeans eventually decimated the native peoples, although some escaped. Guzmán speaks to a few of their descendants, including the last Kawésqar speaker. Once ocean nomads, they are now prevented by the Chilean government from putting to sea in their traditional canoes.

Oct 15, 2015

At Bluestockings Book Store

Me at Bluestockings Bookstore on October 14th, discussing chapters from my book, Cinematic Quests for Identity.
Having the opportunity to do readings is definitely the best thing about writing a book. Last night, at Bluestockings Bookstore in New York City, I had a terrific audience of movie lovers, some of whom stayed afterward to talk about Jonathan Demme's "The Silence of the Lambs" and John Sayles's "The Secret of Roan Inish," and to tell me how much these quest movies meant to them. One woman shared a story about Howard Shore, Demme's composer, and another wondered why people continually embark on quests. (It's a lifelong struggle for those who wish to live the "examined life.") Thank you, Bluestockings staff and customers for a very special evening! (And to Pete and Brian for topping it off with baseball and nachos.)Please check back early next week for video clips from the reading.

Oct 11, 2015

My Bluestockings Bookstore Reading

Please attend if you are in New York City! You can see a full-size version of this invitation by going to "Upcoming Events" on my Facebook page. The "reading," which is a presentation on the quest in The Silence of the Lambs and The Secret of Roan Inish, is on Wednesday, October 14th at 7 PM, at Bluestockings Bookstore,

Oct 5, 2015

Nora Ephron Documentary at New York Film Festival

Jacob Bernstein's "Everything is Copy," which premiered at the New York Film Festival last week, is a documentary about Nora Ephron, the writer-director of Julie and Julia and many other romantic comedies. The filmmaker is Ephron's son. Read my review of "Everything is Copy" on

Oct 2, 2015

Ongoing New York Film Festival Coverage

You can read my New York Film Festival coverage in several places this year, including this website. Links to the newest posts on Film Journal International are below. Please check back again in a few days. 

Haskell Wexler and Pamela Yates in Nicaragua on the set of Latino (1986). (Photo courtesy of Skylight Pictures.)

I spoke with Pamela Yates about Rebel Citizen, a documentary that is actually a candid, extended interview with Haskell Wexler, the two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer and director (Medium Cool, 1969). Yates (Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, 2011) speaks to Wexler about his little-known passion for making documentaries. Rebel Citizen will screen at NYFF on October 6th and 11th. Film Journal International’s Screener Blog:

Filmmaker Laura Israel whose Don't Blink: Robert Frank screens at NYFF next week.(Photo courtesy of NYFF)

The second interview is with Laura Israel (Windfall, 2010) whose new documentary, Don’t Blink: Robert Frank, is about that Swiss-born photographer and filmmaker. Frank is best-known for his book of photos from 1955, The Americans. Israel has worked with him for many years, so her documentary is an intimate portrait of the artist, but it is also a skillfully rendered interpretation of his work. Don't Blink will screen at NYFF on October 4th and 6th. Film Journal International’s Screener Blog:

Sep 25, 2015

My NYU Bookstore Reading

I hope you will take a look at clips of my recent presentation on Jonathan Demme's "The Silence of the Lambs" at NYU Bookstore:

Also, snippets of the question and answer session are here:

Sep 23, 2015

New York Film Festival Screens a New Documentary about Ingrid Bergman (First in a Series about NYFF)

Ingrid Bergman was an avid photographer and maker of "home" movies, footage of which appears in Stig Björkman's documentary. (Photo courtesy of the New York Film Festival.)

In Stig Björkman’s Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words, which will screen at The New York Film Festival, an archivist observes that the radiant star of so many memorable films saved her photographs and “home” movies, as well as her school assignments, and her children’s school papers, because early in her life she had learned the value of such mementos. Orphaned as a young adult, Bergman went to live with relatives who died three months after her arrival.

Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words is organized chronologically, moving from the actress's girlhood to her early work in Swedish theater, to her triumph in Hollywood, which began when Bergman was brought to the U.S. by David O. Selznick to make Intermezzo (1939). After working with Victor Fleming and Alfred Hitchcock, she went to Italy to realize her dream of working with Roberto Rossellini. Her affair with the director resulted in a swift and stinging rejection by the American public.

At first puzzled and then deeply wounded by this sudden withdrawal of admiration, Bergman would not return to Hollywood until 1956 when she appeared in Anatole Litvak’s Anastasia. Her final theatrical film, before her death from cancer, is also discussed in the documentary. It marked Bergman's return to Sweden to appear in Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata (1978).

Sep 18, 2015

My Reading at NYU Bookstore

My first reading for Cinematic Quests for Identity: The Hero’s Encounter with the Beast took place at New York University Bookstore last night. No author could ask for a better audience. Friends, family, colleagues and former students from CUNY/Baruch and CUNY/City Tech attended. I read briefly from my first chapter, which is about Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête (1946), and then did a presentation on the conventions of the quest in Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991), the subject of my second chapter.

Afterward, we had a terrific question and answer session and a book signing. Check back in a few days for video clips from the presentation.

Aug 12, 2015

My Interview with Filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Jr.

A still from the documentary, "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution," opening in September in New York City.
I have just posted links to my video interview with Stanley Nelson, Jr. whose documentary, "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution," is a history of that political party. In the interview, Mr. Nelson speaks about the genesis of the film project, his choice of interviewees for the documentary, and the influence of the Black Panther Party on the civil rights movement, among many other topical issues. Mr. Nelson was gracious enough to grant me about 30 minutes; for easier viewing, our interview is divided into two parts. Check back soon for a link to my feature article on the documentary, which will appear in Film Journal International.

Aug 2, 2015

Relief From Summer Blockbusters

A still from Christian Petzold's Phoenix depicts Nelly (Nina Hoss), an Auschwitz survivor. 
For those who want to escape the usual summer fare, and see films intended for adults, Christian Petzold's Phoenix (in German with English subtitles) and Stevan Riley's Listen to Me Marlon are both terrific choices, as is Nadav Lapid's The Kindergarten Teacher, (See my FB page, March 9th: GarciaNYC).

Some readers may have seen Petzold's previous film Barbara (2014), set in East Germany, which is about a medical doctor hounded by the secret police. It starred Nina Hoss, the German writer-director's frequent collaborator. In Phoenix Hoss plays Nelly, a Jewish singer who survives Auschwitz only to find that her German husband may have betrayed her. My Film Journal International review is here:

Listen to Me Marlon is a documentary based on two hundred hours of audiotapes Marlon Brando recorded, in part because he was engaging in what he called "self-therapy." Having given up on psychotherapy, the iconic actor just started talking to himself. Because these recordings constitute the entire narrative track, it feels as though Brando is telling his own story. Riley's stills and archival footage are as skillfully edited as the soundtrack. Read my Film Journal International here:

Jul 10, 2015

"Caffeinated": A New Documentary for Coffee Lovers

In Caffeinated, a young woman harvests the fruit that contains the seed or coffee bean.
(Still courtesy of Filmbuff.)

The coffee farmer, the bean, the roaster, the taster, as well as the espresso machine-maker and barista, all from different parts of the world, appear in a new documentary, Caffeinated, directed by Vishal Solanki and Hanh Nguyen. (It opens in theaters on July 14th.) Driven by an appreciation for coffee and American coffee consumption and culture—coffee is our most imported commodity—this feature-length debut is an entertaining look at one of the few handmade products in the world.

Coffee production has always been and still is a male-dominated enterprise, yet Caffeinated features the voices of many women, including the farmers of Las Hermanas (The Sisters) in Jinotega, Nicaragua, an Indian “taster”—just like a wine taster, she grades the product—and women entrepreneurs who have founded companies that support the sustainable development of coffee. In their interviews, it appears that Solanki and Nguyen also encouraged male farmers to emphasize the role played by female members of their family. This is most apparent in sequences shot in Central America in which farmers point to wives and daughters who are harvesting and sorting the cherry-like fruit from which the coffee bean is derived. Special attention is also paid, in the course of the documentary, to representing racial diversity.

Caffeinated is distinguished as well by the filmmaker’s visual sensibilities: Thoughtful use of light and camera angles to emphasize the beauty and color of the landscapes where coffee is grown, is also apparent in the sensuality with which the faces of farmers and their workers are photographed. Solanki and Nguyen also possess an eye for the symmetry of machines that roast, grind and steam coffee. While the documentary is beautiful to look at, and the co-directors are objective and journalistic, the editing is uneven. A sequence on the use of pesticides and its damaging effect on women’s health, for instance, draws no coherent conclusions, and often in the documentary, the narrator’s identity is unclear. Caffeinated is nevertheless impressive in its scope, and for the fact that it does not use music to manipulate the viewer’s emotions.

Those who enjoy Caffeinated will also appreciate Nick and Marc Francis’s Black Gold (2006), a fascinating study of the economics of the coffee trade. See the link to my interview with the filmmakers in “From My Archives: Interviews” (to the left of this column.) Thanks to Dropbox dropping the ball, you will need a log-in to access it.

Jun 28, 2015

Bree Newsome Takes it Down

An AP photo of Bree Newsome's arrest after she removed the Dixie flag from the South Carolina State House.
By now, the video of Bree Nelson removing the Dixie flag from the South Carolina State House has surely gone viral. (If you have not seen it, go to YouTube: Shortly after Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the state of Georgia began flying that flag, and in a celebration to mark the beginning of the Civil War, South Carolina did the same in April of 1961, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. During last week's "Meet the Press," Washington Post writer Eugene Robinson, referring to that 1961 incident, said the Dixie flag "was flown as a symbol of massive resistance to racial desegregation."

Ms. Newsome's actions this morning reversed the battle cry of the Dixie flag: Now it is a call to action for all Americans, the beginning of a new fight in the longest running war in our country. It began before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with our genocide of American Indians in one of the biggest land grabs in history, and our trafficking of Africans in the slave trade that established the fortunes of many Northern and Southern families. Our ownership of those slaves furthered the growth of our capitalist economy. Institutionalized racism, the cause of economic disparities in America, continue to benefit the enfranchised among us, most of whom are white. But Ms. Newsome's actions are not intended to divide us.

In the summer of 1964, the racism and hatred that the Dixie flag represents killed two Jewish men, Andrew Goodman and Michael Shwerner, and their colleague, a Black man named James Earl Chaney, right before the start of the Congress of Racial Equality's voting registration campaign in Mississippi. I was a school-girl at the time, and my family had just moved to the suburbs. We were the first with a Spanish name to live in that neighborhood. A Black family with two children arrived shortly afterward. The father was an anesthesiologist and the mother a nurse. One night, shortly after the bodies of the three activists were found, we were awakened by the siren that called our volunteer fireman to work. A cross was burning on the lawn of the Black family's home.

Jun 12, 2015

Memories of Orson Welles

A still from The Third Man of Orson Welles (Courtesy of Rialto Pictures/Studio Canal).

New York City's Film Forum will be screening a restored print of Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949) later this month. The script was by Graham Greene, and the movie stars Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and the incomparable Orson Welles. While I am hard-pressed to pick my favorite Orson Welles movie, in this one he makes his best grand entrance. And, The Third Man is a terrific example of British noir. Thinking about Welles led me to recall our trip to Morocco . . .

. . . where my husband and I embarked on a long drive to El Jadida in order to see the locations used in his Othello (1952), namely the Portuguese Cistern and the Fortress of Mazagan. Welles's version of the Shakespeare tragedy, which he adapted and directed, and in which he played the title role, is one of the best film adaptations of that play. (Those who like the play and Welles's portrayal should screen Laurence Fishburne's performance in Oliver Parker's Othello, 1995.) Here are a few photos that will illustrate Welles's wonderful choice of location for Othello.

Dropbox and the Snake Oil Sales Model of Tech Firms

I hope you will all indulge me in one last rant about Dropbox that seems to have nothing at all to do with film or art, but with capitalism, and the pernicious form of that economic system that has been allowed to grow with the advent of technology and the Internet.

Dropbox followed the "get rich" technology growth model, what I think of as the Snake Oil Sales Model, that leaves behind those of us who are not in marketing or business. Dropbox began with the offer of a free product, one that many writers and artists and photographers need—a digital storage room. Since most blogs do not support PDF files for print articles, writers use Dropbox to give their readers (and editors who may want to pay them to write) access to print articles they have written that are not on the Internet. We all know, when we sign up for a service like Dropbox that, in a few years, when the company has built a user base of a few hundred thousand people, we will have to pay a fee in order to continue using it. That is the Snake Oil Sales Model: Take it for free, try it, and get hooked. (Drug dealers apparently use the same model.)

If you are under 40, you are so accustomed to this model that you do not even give it a second thought. But Dropbox has done something even worse that is generally reserved for companies like Microsoft and Apple. They have discontinued the service—read as "app" or "program"—they originally offered, that of a free storage room to which anyone can gain access. Now they have a fee-based "share" model for businesses. That's it. So, users like me who have depended upon the service, and expected at some point to be asked to pay, are being harassed so that they will drop out and leave gig space for the businesses. If you are snickering at this point, pause for a moment and think: Do you want a fee-based Internet for the 1% or the Wiki model—and the Blogspot model that you are reading right now, neither of which charges a dime?

Here is Dropbox's response to my e-mail about my pre-2012 account which should allow completely free access to my Public Folder, and has for the last three years. That means the many links that exist on this page to PDFs stored in my Dropbox Public Folder should work without you having to use your Dropbox log-in to read them. Below is what a response looks like in the Snake Oil Sales Model, a "fix it yourself" for something that cannot be fixed—unless you are a hacker.

Dropbox Support, Jun 12, 12:03 AM:
Thanks for writing in. While we'd love to answer every question we get, we unfortunately can't respond to your inquiry due to a large volume of support requests. Here are some resources for resolving the most common issues:

Restore files or folders -
Reset your Dropbox password -
Reset/Disable two-step verification -
Learn about sharing files or folders -
Learn about Dropbox's desktop app -
Learn about Dropbox's mobile apps -
Ask a Community expert on our Forum -
For all other issues, please check out our Help Center -
We're sorry for the inconvenience,
The Dropbox Team

Needless to say, none of these links have anything to do with the recurring problem, which is that readers of this website must now use their own Dropbox log-in to get to my public folder.

Jun 10, 2015

Dropbox Dropping the Ball, AGAIN

For the second time in a month, Dropbox is not working. If there are broken links to any articles you wish to read, please send me an e-mail. Thank you.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2015

The Wanted 18 is a film about a herd of cows that provided "Infitada milk" for a West Bank town. (Photo courtesy of HRWFF.)

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival opens tomorrow in New York City, with a slate of 16 feature-length documentaries screening at the IFC and Walter Reade Theaters ( From the deserts of Southern Sudan to the Gaza Strip and to our own domestic human rights issues, this year’s slate is outstanding. Among the best documentaries are Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, a comprehensive and balanced chronology of that political party, and Laurent Bécue-Renard’s Of Men and War, which follows veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as they participate in group therapy sessions at a residence for PTSD sufferers.

My interview with Bécue-Renard appears here: A review of "The Black Panthers" is here:

Hajooj Kuka’s Beats of the Antonov takes us to Southern Sudan, and depicts the Sudanese government’s racial cleansing campaign there—and the native people’s surprising response to it. Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan’s The Wanted 18, through interviews and stop motion animation sequences, tells the story of a herd of cows in Beit Sahour in the West Bank that were declared a threat to national security by the state of Israel. Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence (a follow-up to The Act of Killing) takes us to Indonesia, and follows an optometrist who confronts the men who killed his brother during the Indonesian genocide of 1965-1966.

Ayat Najafi’s No Land’s Song is about Sara Najifi’s efforts to stage a concert in Tehran with solo female singers; women vocalists are prevented from performing as solo artists by Iran’s clerics. Mr. Najafi is this year’s Nestor Almendros award winner, the festival’s cash prize named for one of the founders of HRWFF. My interview with him may be read here:

My Interview With Cristina Comencini for "Latin Lover"

This still from Cristina Comencini's Latin Lover is courtesy of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

My video interview with Italian writer-director Signora Comencini (in English and Italian), for her new film Latin Lover, is now on YouTube: It is the newest entry in my series on Women Filmmakers. (Links to others are to the upper right of this column.)

Latin Lover screened at The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual festival of Italian films, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema (June 4-11). A delightful comedy, and a wonderful celebration of women, it features Virna Lisi in her final performance as the first wife of the “latin lover,” actor Saverio Crispo. In the movie, she and the other wives and lovers, and their children and grandchildren, gather for the 10th anniversary of Saverio’s death, their memories and rivalries intact. 

Signora Comencini (far left) at FSLC's Open Roads Festival opening night party. (Image is my snapshot.)
Although not well-known in the United States, Signora Comencini has made 16 films, and is an Oscar-nominated writer-director in the Foreign Language category for The Beast in My Heart (2005). That film and When the Night, nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2011, were adapted from her novels. At this writing, the expertly written and directed Latin Lover does not have a U.S. distributor.

May 29, 2015

The Site of a Perilous Quest

The Stonewall Inn in New York City is finally being recognized for its significance in the struggle for equality. (Photo courtesy of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.)
In the recent news coverage of the Islamist take-over of Palmyra, I felt that too much was being made of the ruin’s significance, and too little of the human suffering that was to follow. There is no doubt that place matters, but no one alive today remembers the life of Palmyra. We rely on historians and archeologists to explain its importance. These thoughts resurfaced today when I received a “breaking news” item from Andrew Berman, an acquaintance of mine who happens to be the director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Andrew was writing to announce that the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee would finally be considering the Stonewall Inn as a site worthy of recognition—due in large part to GVSHP’s efforts. In his statement, Andrew said: “This is a long-overdue move to recognize the incredibly important role this site and the riots connected to it have in the struggle for LGBT rights in this country and worldwide.”

Unlike Palmyra, the bar has not stood for millennia, but it is a symbol that can be understood by any human being who has been cast as an outsider—and everyone engaged in the struggle for equality.  While buildings and monuments should be preserved as important reminders of great suffering, they should also evoke the ongoing quest for identity and acceptance. That long journey in the LGBT community began at Stonewall.

A Postscript on DropBox

A human being from Dropbox responded to my complaints (explained in the post below this one); while the pattern of ascribing wrongdoing to the user remains intact, the instructions I received from Vinny fixed the problem. So, all links to PDFs are now working. Film Journal International links, however, may still not contain my byline. Headlines also remain corrupted.

May 26, 2015

DROPBOX Dropping the Ball . . .

It seems that some of the links to PDFs that I have recently posted here, and that should take readers directly to the article in my pre-2012 public folder on Dropbox, require them to log in to an account. I have written to Dropbox about this problem, but the management there is invisible. (They may all be robots--or are we calling them cyborgs now?) In the meantime, if you do not have a Dropbox account and want to read one of my articles, you need only send me an e-mail, and I will reply with a PDF.

It seems to me that so many of the services and websites we depend upon start out free of charge, and remain free, but suddenly do not work as they did when we first signed up for them. Knowing that users cannot get hold of a real person, and do not want to waste time on a "community forum" (Dropbox has questions about the issue I have identified here that have gone unanswered for 5 months), they force them to upgrade and begin paying for the service. On a business profile website, which will go unnamed but that everyone reading this will know, I cannot do things that I used to be able to do quite easily in the past. I also suddenly have feeds that I have not subscribed to on my page.

Try writing directly to these websites (you need the skills of a seasoned journalist to ferret out the "contact" link) and you may get a reply that blames the dysfunction on you or your browser. Bollocks, as the British say . . . I am convinced that the problem I am describing, and all such problems, are thinly disguised scams to get users to upgrade and pay!

Please write to me or comment if you are reading this and having similar problems with Dropbox. In the meantime, I refuse to "share" a file on Dropbox. I will just send you the article you want to read, hoping that you will respect the copyright I hold.

May 24, 2015

Spring Cleaning

This is a photo of Australian Aboriginal artist Elizabeth Thorn Djandilga's "Tortoise."
I was cleaning out old paper files today, to make room for new ones, and I found an article I wrote in 1999 for Windspeaker, a Canadian newspaper which follows the lives of indigenous people from around the world. "Dreamings, An Art Form from Down Under" is both a primer on Australian Aboriginal art, and a piece about four women artists. It includes interviews with three of the artists and Djon Mundine of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, then the only Australian Aboriginal curator in Australia. I hope that you will read about these remarkable women who paint not to create art, but as a ritual to celebrate their "Dreamings." (I am posting it under the heading of "Archives.") The article, scanned from old newsprint, can easily be read but was hastily clipped; so, please excuse the rough edges.

May 12, 2015

A Girl's Story: "When Marnie Was There"

Anna is the main character in Hiromasa Yonebayashi's When Marnie Was There.
(Photo courtesy of distributor GKids)
I am not generally attracted to animated features, but when I read about the plot of Hiromasa Yonebayashi's When Marnie Was There, I decided to attend a press screening. It is a rare movie in which a girl is aided in her quest for identity by another girl. I was completely absorbed in the film, at first because of its lush colors and cinematography—and then because Anna, its protagonist, is such a complex character. When Marnie Was There is quite simply one of the best movies for young adults that I have seen in recent years, and it is opening next week.

Anna, who is 12 years old, is an adopted child. She is also a talented artist, yet she is so insecure and fearful that she develops a terrible case of anxiety. Her mother, fearing for her well-being, decides Anna needs a rest from their life in the city. She sends her to family friends, empty nesters who live in a seaside village. The movie, which is based upon the book by British author Joan G. Robinson (1910-1988), switches the setting to Hokkaido. Near an abandoned house on the village marsh, Anna meets a girl named Marnie who helps her to realize the sense of belonging that is the object of her quest.

Adapted by female screenwriter Keiko Niwa, the film was produced at one of Japan’s famous animation studios, Ghibli, which also produced Spirited Away (2001). Strong female characters, including Anna’s mother, and the compassionate but eccentric “grandmother” who protects Anna from the wrath of a villager, make When Marnie Was There a delightful movie for young women. A measure of its emotional power is that at the end of the screening, I turned to a male critic seated next to me and caught him dabbing at his eye with a tissue. Neither of us had ever felt so moved by an animated character.

Apr 26, 2015

And the Award Goes to . . . (OMG, Not Another White Male!) My Picks for the Best of Tribeca Film Festival

A still from Paz Fabrega's Viaje that screened at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of TFF.)
In my Film Journal International feature on gender balance at the Tribeca Film Festival, I applauded the programmers for their inclusion of women filmmakers, but the major awards, with the exception of Camilla Nielsson in the documentary category (for Democrats), and the Nora Ephron prizes that recognize the work of women filmmakers, all went to white males. Laura Bispuri’s Sworn Virgin, a terrific quest film in the Narrative competition, won the Ephron prize. Another movie, about a 43 year-old white, male virgin, Dagur Kári’s Virgin Mountain, was awarded best narrative.

The audience award went to Felix Thompson’s King Jack, a male coming-of-age movie. While TFF cannot be held entirely accountable for the choice of its New York audience, institutional biases are apparent in Tribeca Talks (which included Thompson), and in TFF’s gala choices and special screenings, all devoted to white males, including the Monty Python troupe and Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. These events and their dearth of women filmmakers undoubtedly influenced audiences, jurors, and industry attendees that include distributors and theater owners. Press coverage is profoundly affected by who is invited to speak at these festival events, and by those invited as hosts, the majority of whom were white and male. The circumstances I describe here comprise a study in the ways in which women filmmakers are shortchanged in every aspect of the movie industry--even in audience awards.

Here are my Tribeca “awards” for films written or directed by women and/or those that are women-centered:

Narrative Films:

Best Cinematic Quest for Identity: Sworn Virgin (writer-director, Laura Bispuri)

Best Film: Sworn Virgin
Runner-Up: Meadowland (director, cinematographer, Reed Morano)

Best Cinematography: Viaje (writer-director, cinematographer, Paz Fabrega) and Meadowland (Reed Morano)

Best Sound Mix, Sound Design: Meadowland

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Alba Rohrwacher in Sworn Virgin

Best Actors in Supporting Roles: Paz de la Huerta in Bare (Natalia Leite, writer-director) and Zosia Mamet in Bleeding Heart (Diane Bell, writer-director)


Best Cinematic Quest for Identity: Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (Lisa Immordino Vreeland)

Best by a Woman: Democrats (Camilla Nielsson)

Best about a Woman: Roseanne Barr for President (Eric Weinrib)

Best about a Girl: Toto and His Sisters (Alexander Nanau)

Best Produced by Women: The Birth of Sake, Masako Tsumura (Erik Shirai, director) and Havana Motor Club, Zelmira Gainza (Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, director)

 At this writing only Sworn Virgin will receive a theatrical release through distributor Strand Releasing. 

Apr 22, 2015

My Tribeca Film Festival Coverage

A still from Erik Shirai's "The Birth of  Saké" shows brewery workers preparing the rice that is the basis of Japan's national beverage. (Photo courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)

My interview with filmmaker Erik Shirai and two of his subjects in The Birth of Saké appears on Film Journal's website:

Paul Mangwana, the leader of Mugabe’s political party, Zimbabwe African National Union, and Douglas Mwonzora, a member of the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change. (photo courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)

My interview with Camilla Nielsson for Democrats, about the two men who drafted Zimbabwe's first constitution, appears here:

Flonja Kodheli (L) and Alba Rohrwacher in Laura Bispuri's Sworn Virgin, one of the films discussed in my article on Italian films premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of TFF.)

"Tribeca Film Festival Spotlights Italian Filmmaking" includes interviews with four filmmakers:

Sarah (Dianna Agron) and Pepper (Paz de la Huerta) in a still from Natalia Leite's Bare. (Photo courtesy of TFF.)

"Assessing Gender Balance at the Tribeca Film Festival," my coverage of women directors and women-centered films screening at the festival, appears on Film Journal International's website:

Check back in a few days for an interview with cinematographer (Frozen River) turned director Reed Morano for Meadowland.

Apr 20, 2015

Alexander Nanau's "Toto and His Sisters"

Andreea and Toto in Toto and His Sisters (Image courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)
The Tribeca Film Festival always screens a broad range of documentaries, and this year is no exception. I saw as many as time allowed, and interviewed two documentary filmmakers (see Film Journal International’s “Screener” blog) whose work may or may not get released in theaters. A third, Alexander Nanau, is a filmmaker I did not have time to speak with, but his documentary, Toto and His Sisters, about a Roma family, is a documentary I wanted to write about. It will screen at the festival on April 24th.

One art house distributor I spoke with at Tribeca complained that Toto and His Sisters had a  “downward trajectory.” Another declared that “everyone” knew about Romania’s discriminatory polices against the Roma. Neither statement is true. There have been other excellent documentaries and narrative films on the subject, but Nanau’s is both a skillfully rendered piece of journalism, and a documentary in which we see the world through the eyes of children. As in print journalism, documentary is shaped by the views of the journalist, although the subject matter surfaces through interviews—and, as it does in every cinematic genre, through the filmmaker’s close attention to what may be articulated through camera placement and editing.

Apr 14, 2015

Bring Back Our Girls

Tonight, the Empire State Building’s red and purple lights signal New York’s solidarity with the Nigerian people. These are the colors of “Bring Back our Girls,” the movement to rescue the 219 schoolgirls abducted on April 14, 2014 by Boko Haram. Our hearts are with the girls who are still missing, and the love and courageous activism of their families and friends.

Apr 10, 2015

My First Review

Yesterday, I received the author’s copies of my book, and Lucia, one of the feline beasts who shares our apartment (does anybody own a cat?), turned in my first review. Family! Always our harshest critics!

Mar 24, 2015

Fragments for Spring . . .

This is a photo I took in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, fondly known as the "UP" to the locals. It has little to do with what is posted below. It just reminds me of spring, which is getting a slow start in New York City this year!

Glitches on Film Journal International's website remain, so some of my links are still broken. A spring cleaning and rebooting is imminent.

My review of Abderrahmane Sissako's "Timbuktu" appears in the latest print edition of Cineaste (

Please check my FB page for updates on my book: "Cinematic Quests for Identity: The Hero's Encounter with the Beast" also has an Amazon page now: Click on my name to see the "Author Page."

Finally, it must be Spring in New York City because the Tribeca Film Festival press screenings begin later this week. My coverage will be published online at FJI's "Screener Blog" in April. 

Love and Marriage Italian Style

I have just posted a link to "Italian Love and Marriage: How the Screen Classics Interpreted It" under Feature Articles (Print/Online). The feature, in which I discuss "Love with the Proper Stranger" and "Wild is the Wind," among other classics, appears in the latest issue of Ambassador, the magazine of the National Italian-American Foundation. 

Mar 23, 2015

Ongoing Exhibit at MoMA: My Interview with a Curator

Last fall, I interviewed Ron Magliozzi, an associate curator in the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art about "100 Years in Post-Production." The ongoing exhibition is about a 1913 film in MoMA's collection from the New York City-based production company Biograph. The studio's unnamed project, which Magliozzi and his co-curator assembled into a rough cut for the exhibition, starred the Caribbean-American theater and film actor Bert Williams. My interview appeared in the Winter issue of Ambassador Magazine. I have placed a link to the left of this column under "Feature Articles." A note to filmmakers: MoMA is considering proposals for the footage.

Mar 15, 2015

An Insider's Film Festival: New Directors/New Films

One of the standout documentaries at New Directors/New Films is Stevan Riley's Listen to Me Marlon.
Native New Yorkers pride themselves in never paying full price for anything—not clothing or theater or opera tickets—and in knowing where to discover a great performer, or to see the work of a future star of the art world. With the advent of the Internet, finding these venues has become easier for everyone, although bargains are harder to come by. The halcyon days of the New York City Opera, and dozens of Off Off Broadway productions, are past, but the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center have preserved one New York City insider event for film buffs, the annual New Directors/New Films festival. (For information and tickets:

ND/NF features art house cinema at its very best—a quirky, eclectic mix of films by young or newly minted filmmakers from around the world. While the $16 per screening “rack rate” may not appear to be a bargain, there are member rates, discounted student tickets and 4-movie package rates, as well as VIP tickets that include events and opening and closing night screenings. Both venues, Titus 1 at MoMA, and FSLC’s Walter Reade, are terrific theaters with stadium seating and good sound systems. From March 18th to the 26th, twenty-six features and sixteen shorts will screen at ND/NF by filmmakers who represent over a dozen countries including India, Israel, Japan, Georgia, Tunisia, Canada and the United States.

Nellina, one of the stars of an excellent documentary-narrative hybrid, Simone Rapisarda Casanova's The Creation of Meaning.
This is a still of Pacifico, the Tuscan shepherd at the center of The Creation of Meaning. In a quick shot of Pacifico's kitchen there is a snapshot of Nellina as a foal.

Feb 17, 2015

My Facebook Page for "Cinematic Quests for Identity"

Please visit my new Facebook page for updates on the book, and to read about new cinematic quests for identity and meaning. I hope you will participate in discussions, too. I have posted road pictures from my travels, remembered Alice Rohrwacher's "The Wonders" (2014), and listed the Oscar-nominated quest films. My Facebook page is "Maria Garcia, Author" and the URL is:

Feb 16, 2015

My Book, "Cinematic Quests for Identity: The Hero's Encounter with the Beast"

Last week, as I walked onto the deck of the pool where I swim laps, Julie, one of my "pool friends," paused in mid-lap and shouted: "Where have you been? I have been asking about you all month. Is your book finally finished?"

It had been longer than a month since I had gotten to swim my usual mile--but I could answer Julie definitively, and in the affirmative. In fact, "Cinematic Quests for Identity" is in production. It will be published in late March or early April by Rowman & Littlefield. Their description appears here:

Feb 2, 2015

Oscar's Foreign Film Nominees Among the Best Movies of 2014 (Links to my Interviews with Two of the Filmmakers)

A still from Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida shows the title character, a nun who, on the verge of taking her vows, discovers her Jewish heritage.(Courtesy of Music Box Films)

The finest Oscar-nominated films of 2014 are in the Best Foreign Film category: Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, Andrei Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan and Abderhamme Sissako’s Timbuktu, the last of which premiered at the New York Film Festival in 2014. Most movies in this category are “art house,” and these three are no exception. While they may not have received wide distribution originally, their Oscar nominations have led to re-releases in some cities. In New York City, for instance, Timbuktu and Leviathan are now screening at Film Forum, ( and Ida recently reopened at Cinema Village (
In this still from Andrei Zvyaginstev's Leviathan, the isolation of the protagonist in a vast, empty landscape perfectly illustrates his predicament, as well as his sensibilities. (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics).
All movies should be seen on the big screen, and this is especially true of Ida and Leviathan where the settings and the mise-en scène (the visual style of the film) do so much of the storytelling. The starkness of Pawlikowski’s 1960s-era Poland, and that of Zvyaginstev’s modern Barent seacoast of Russia, place in high relief the interior struggles of their respective protagonists, a novice nun who discovers she is Jewish, and a mechanic who is battling a corrupt politician attempting to seize his land. In the case of Sissako’s Timbuktu, based on the real-life Islamist occupation of that Malian city, the director’s sense of color and his excellent use of music and ambient sound, is best experienced in a theater. My review of this film appears in the upcoming issue of Cineaste.

My New York Film Festival interview with Sissako, a Mauritanian-born writer-director, "Defying Jihad: Abderhamme Sissako's 'Timbuktu' Dramatizes a City Under Siege," appears in the print version and on Film Journal International's website: (Film Journal International is launching a new website design and there may be problems viewing the images attached to this article and the one below.)

I also interviewed Zvyaginstev, a Siberian-born filmmaker, when he was in New York City this Fall. That interview, "In the Belly of the Beast: Andrey Zvyaginstev's Acclaimed 'Leviathan' Depicts One Man's Fight Against Corruption in Modern Russia," may be seen here: These two movies, along with Ida, would have been at the top of my "Best Films of 2014" list, which I did not have time to write this year. More about the project that prevented me from posting in my next entry . . .