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Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words
A film by Yunah Hong

Anna May Wong knew she wanted to be a movie star from the time she was a young girl—and by 17 she became one. A third generation Chinese-American, she went on to make dozens of films in Hollywood and Europe. She was one of the few actors to successfully transition from silent to sound cinema, co-starring with Marlene Dietrich, Anthony Quinn and Douglas Fairbanks along the way. She was glamorous, talented and cosmopolitan—yet she spent most of her career typecast either as a painted doll or a scheming dragon lady. For years, older generations of Chinese-Americans frowned upon the types of roles she played; but today a younger generation of Asian Americans sees her as a pioneering artist, who succeeded in a hostile environment that hasn’t altogether changed. Yunah Hong’s engrossing documentary is an entertaining and imaginative survey of Wong’s career, exploring the impact Wong had on images of Asian American women in Hollywood, both then and now. Excerpts from Wong’s films, archival photographs and interviews enhance this richly detailed picture of a woman and her extraordinary life. More.

Busan Int’l Film Festival, World Premiere
San Francisco Asian American Int’l Film Festival, North American Premiere

 

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Apache 8
A film by Sande Zeig
For 30 years, the all-female Apache 8 unit has protected their reservation from fire and also responded to wildfires around the nation. This group of firefighters, which recently became co-ed, soon earned the reputation of being fierce, loyal and dependable—and tougher than their male colleagues. Facing gender stereotypes and the problems that come with life on the impoverished reservation, the women became known as some of the country’s most elite firefighters. From director Sande Zeig and executive producer Heather Rae (Cherokee), APACHE 8 combines archival footage and present-day interviews and focuses primarily on four women from different generations of Apache 8 crewmembers, who speak tenderly and often humorously of hardship, loss, family, community and pride in being a firefighter. The women are separated from their families, face tribe initiation, and struggle to make a living in a community ravaged by unemployment and substance abuse. But while the women may have initially set out to try and earn a living in their economically challenged community, they quickly discover an inner strength and resilience that speaks to their traditions and beliefs as Native women. More.

Native American Film & Video Festival
American Indian Film Festival

 

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Atomic Mom
A film by M.T. Silvia

When M.T. Silvia was little, she thought it was fascinating that her mom Pauline did secret government work. But as she began to understand the ramifications of her mother’s research on the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, a horrified Silvia took action, becoming an anti-nuclear demonstrator. After decades of secrecy, Pauline has become a peace activist and whistleblower, revealing some of the US military’s most closely guarded secrets. Through their extraordinary family history, Silvia examines the legacy of atomic warfare and the range of ethical issues it presents. More.

Mill Valley Film Festival
San Francisco Women’s International Film Festival

 

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Calypso Rose: The Lioness of the Jungle
A film by Pascale Obolo

An exuberant and inspiring ambassador for the Caribbean, Calypso Rose is the uncontested and much decorated diva of Calypso music. With more than 800 recorded songs, she continues to be a pioneer and champion of women’s rights, as she travels the world making music. French-Cameroonian filmmaker Pascale Obolo spends four years with Calypso Rose on a very personal journey. Traveling to Paris, New York, Trinidad and Tobago and to her ancestral home in Africa, we learn more about Calypso Rose in each place, and the many faces and facets of her life. The daughter of an illiterate Trinidadian fisherman, Calypso Rose was one of ten children, who at the age of 9 was sent to live with relatives in Tobago. At 15 she wrote her first song and launched a career that took her to the top of the male-dominated calypso world. This creative film is not only about memory and the exchange and discovery of world cultures, but also about the journey of a remarkable woman, an Afro-Caribbean soul and an exemplary artist.  More. 

Washington DC International Film Festival
Festival International du Film de Ourdah, Jury Mention

 


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The Fat Body (In)Visible
A film by Margitte Kristjansson

"While I have all the confidence in the world, I’m told every day that my body is revolting." Jessica turns heads in the street—for both her striking fashion, and larger than average body. She has learned to ignore the frequent insults which come her way, but it has not been an easy journey. Keena is the heaviest she has ever been—and the happiest. Confident and attractive, she decided long ago that dieting is not for her. Keena and Jessica—and filmmaker Margitte Kristjansson—are body acceptance activists, working to celebrate body diversity and the right to be happy whatever your body size. Brought together by social media, they use the blogosphere strategically to make their bodies visible in a world that still thinks that fat women should hide away. In this insightful short documentary, Keena and Jessica speak candidly about growing up overweight, and the size discrimination they have faced. Their stories detail the intricacies of identity and the intersection of race and gender with fatness— and how social media has helped this community enact visibility on their own terms. More.

 

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Girl Power: All Dolled Up
A film by Sarah Blout Rosenberg

This thought-provoking short film examines the notion that “girl power” has been co opted by commerce to create a feminist construct that is ultimately damaging to girls’ identity and development. In a range of diverse, revealing interviews with girls as young as seven, we witness the power of the popular media in developing brand loyalty and image self-consciousness. Complementing the girls’ testimony are numerous pop culture examples, as well as academics illuminating how the concept of girl power has been used to bring in big money by focusing on appearance. From Dora the Explorer’s grooming aids to Disney’s Princesses line to the highly sexualized Bratz dolls, the message is clear: girl power means being attractive. As one particularly astute young interviewee puts it, “Somewhere along the way girls get the idea ‘okay, I’m supposed to look hot every time I leave my house.’” GIRL POWER is critical viewing for women’s studies, advertising and mass communications courses, educators or anyone who works with young girls. More.

 

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Going Up the Stairs: Portrait of an Unlikely Iranian Artist
A film by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami

Warm, revealing and often surprisingly funny, Iranian filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s portrait of an unlikely artist shows us that true talent will refuse to be stifled and you don’t need an education to channel your emotions into art. Akram is an illiterate 50 year old Iranian woman who became a painter unexpectedly when her young grandson asked her to work on a drawing; that simple act tapped into an explosion of powerful, primitive and colorful paintings, which she hid under the carpet from possibly disapproving eyes. She finally tells her Western educated children about her work and they arrange for her to have an exhibition in far-off Paris. The only hitch in this plan is that Akram must obtain permission from her husband—who she married when she was 8 and he was in his 30s—in order to attend. Their comfortable bickering covers up Akram’s frustrations and fears that her chance for recognition of her magical talent lays completely in the hands of this conservative and traditional Iranian man. An inspiring resource for courses on contemporary Muslim and Islamic studies, women’s studies, art and more. More.

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Silver Wolf Nomination
Sheffield Doc/Fest, Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award: Best Female-Directed Film


 

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Grrrl Love and Revolution: Riot Grrrl NYC
A film by Abby Moser

Fed up with the calcification of punk into a male-dominated, misogynistic and  increasingly mainstream movement, the birth of Riot Grrrl inthe late 1980s brought together feminism and pop culture in an empowering, noisy union. The angry music of Riot Grrrl bands such as Bikini Kill and Bratmobile became a creative outlet to confront issues too often silenced in the media: rape, domestic abuse, sexuality, racism and female empowerment. Riot Grrrl created a feminist subculture which made its members active, front and center participants in the alternative punk scene. Filmmaker Abby Moser was at the heart of the NYC Riot Grrrl movement, filming them between 1993 and 1996, creating an invaluable archive for students learning the history of feminism. She captured the excitement of the times, and the articulate self-awareness of its members. She also documents their frustration with a mainstream media which dismissed feminism as a hobby, and the group’s own difficulties respecting the race and class divisions amongst themselves. Interweaving contemporary interviews with archival footage, this documentary examines the role of Riot Grrrl in launching third-wave feminism, and changing the face of women in music for future generations. More.

Los Angeles Underground Film Festival, Honorable Mention
New Fest New York LGBT Film Festival

 

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Invoking Justice
A film by Deepa Dhanraj

In Southern India, family disputes are settled by Jamaats—all male bodies which apply Islamic Sharia law to cases without allowing women to be present, even to defend themselves. Recognizing this fundamental inequity, a group of women in 2004 established a women’s Jamaat, which soon became a network of 12,000 members spread over 12 districts. Despite enormous resistance, they have been able to settle more than 8,000 cases to date, ranging from divorce to wife beating to brutal murders and more. Award-winning filmmaker Deepa Dhanraj (SOMETHING LIKE A WAR) follows several cases, shining a light on how the women’s Jamaat has acquired power through both communal education and the leaders’ persistent, tenacious and compassionate investigation of the crimes. In astonishing scenes we watch the Jamaat meetings, where women often shout over each other about the most difficult facets of their personal lives. Above all, the women’s Jamaat exists to hold their male counterparts and local police to account, and to reform a profoundly corrupt system which allows men to take refuge in the most extreme interpretation of the Qur’an to justify violence towards women. More.

International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam
One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Prague

 

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Justice for Sale
A film by Ilse van Velzen & Femke van Velzen

JUSTICE FOR SALE follows the young, courageous Congolese human rights lawyer Claudine Tsongo who refuses to accept that justice is indeed “For Sale” in her country. When she investigates the case of a soldier convicted of rape, she becomes convinced his trial was unfair and uncovers a system where the basic principles of law are ignored—and when the system fails, everyone becomes a victim. The documentary not only provides a glimpse into the failings of the Congolese judicial system but also raises questions about the role of the international community and non-governmental organizations in reforming it. Does their financial support cause justice to be for sale? And who pays the price? More.
 

International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam
The International Film Festival in Burundi, Best Documentary

 



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The Learning
A film by Ramona Diaz
One hundred years ago, American teachers established the English-speaking public school system of the Philippines. Now, in a striking turnabout, American schools are recruiting Filipino teachers. THE LEARNING, from award-winning filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz (IMELDA), is the story of four Filipina women who reluctantly leave their families and schools to teach in Baltimore. With their increased salaries, they hope to transform their families’ lives back in their impoverished country. This absorbing, beautifully crafted film follows these teachers as they take their place on the frontline of the No Child Left Behind Act. Across the school year’s changing seasons, the film chronicles the sacrifices they make as they try to maintain a long-distance relationship with their children and families, and begin a new one with the mostly African-American students whose schooling is now entrusted to them. Their story is intensely personal, as each woman deals with the implications of her decision to come to the US, and fundamentally public, as they become part of the machinery of American education reform policy. More.

Silverdocs Documentary Festival
2011 IDA Humanitas Award, Nomination

 



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The Mosque in Morgantown
A film by Brittany Huckabee
THE MOSQUE IN MORGANTOWN follows one woman’s crusade against extremism in her West Virginia mosque, throwing the community into turmoil and raising questions that cut to the heart of American Islam. When former Wall Street Journal journalist and single mother Asra Q. Nomani returns from working in Pakistan to her hometown mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia, she believes she sees signs of trouble: exclusion of women, intolerance toward non-believers, and suspicion of the West. She finds such signs particularly alarming and determined to halt the ‘slippery slope’ that she maintains leads from Islamic intolerance to violence, she begins a campaign to drag the mosque’s practices into the 21st century, triggering a heated battle between tradition and modernity. Nomani’s activist tactics alienate would-be allies in the mosque, leading many to wonder who most deserves the label of “extremist.” Director Brittany Huckabee takes a balanced view of the tensions dividing this community, exploring both sides from a neutral standpoint. This riveting Emmy® Award nominated film is not only about women’s rights in the mosque but about the struggles of a Muslim community faces as it strives to be a part of American life. More.

True/False Film Festival
San Francisco Asian American Film Festival, Best Documentary Feature


 




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No Job For A Woman: The Women Who Fought To Report WWII
A film by Michèle Midori Fillion

When World War II broke out, reporter
Martha Gelhorn was so determined to get to
the frontlines that she left husband Ernest
Hemingway, never to be reunited. Ruth Cowan’s reporting was hampered by a bureau chief who refused to talk to her. Meanwhile, photojournalist Dickey Chappelle wanted to get so close to the action that she could feel bullets whizzing by. This award-winning documentary tells the colorful story of how these three tenacious war correspondents forged their now legendary reputations during the war—when battlefields were considered no place for a woman. More.

Sarasota Film Festival, Through Women’s Eyes Intl., Official Selection

2012 History Makers Awards, Best Use of Archive in a History Production, Nominee
 



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The Poetry Deal: A Film with Diane di Prima
A film by Melanie La Rosa

She remains the most famous woman poet of the Beat Generation; her friend Allen Ginsberg called her “heroic in life and poetics.” THE POETRY DEAL is an impressionistic documentary about legendary poet Diane di Prima. Still actively writing in her late 70s in San Francisco, where she is poet laureate, di Prima is fierce, funny and philosophical. She is a pioneer who broke boundaries of class and gender to publish her writing, and THE POETRY DEAL opens a window looking back through more than 50 years of poetry, activism, and cultural change, providing a unique women’s perspective of the Beat movement. Much of the story is told through di Prima’s recorded readings, including a deeply moving reading of her unpublished poem The Poetry Deal, reflecting on her relationship with her art. Essential for women’s studies, poetry studies, women’s history courses and more, THE POETRY DEAL puts di Prima’s life and work on screen in a unique, beautiful portrait using rare archival footage, impressionistic scenes and powerful stories told by friends and colleagues. More.


 




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Poetry of Resilience
A film by Katja Esson

Academy® Award nominated director Katja Esson’s (FERRY TALES, LATCHING ON) exquisitely made film explores survival, strength and the power of the human heart, body and soul—as expressed through poetry. She highlights six different poets, who individually survived Hiroshima, the Holocaust, China’s Cultural Revolution, the Kurdish Genocide in Iraq, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Iranian Revolution. By summoning the creative voice of poetry to tell stories of survival and witness, each reclaims humanity and dignity in the wake of some of history’s most dehumanizing circumstances. More.

IDA DocuWeeks, Los Angeles *Academy Award Qualification
Woodstock Film Fest, Best Short Doc

 




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Quest for Honor
A film by Mary Ann Smothers Bruni

A searing and necessary documentary, QUEST FOR HONOR, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was shortlisted for an Academy® Award nomination for Feature Documentary, investigates the still prevalent practice of honor killing in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. The alarming rise in the heinous act of men killing daughters, sisters and wives who threaten “family honor,” endangers tens of thousands of women in Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and adjoining countries. The Women’s Media Center of Suleymaniyah, Iraq, has joined forces with Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to end this practice. The film follows Runak Faranj, a former teacher and tireless activist, as she works with local lawmen, journalists and members of the KRG to solve the murder of a widowed young mother, protect the victim of a safe-house shooting, eradicate honor killing and redefine honor. This is essential viewing for Muslim and Islamic studies, Middle Eastern studies, and human rights courses.
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Sundance Film Festival, Official Selection

Amsterdam Film Festival, Winner, Van Gogh Award

 




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Rights & Wrongs
A film by Corine Huq

By returning to the roots of Islam and understanding how societies have found justification for their treatment of women within Islamic sources, this thoughtful and far reaching film is an essential resource that debunks myths about women and Islam. Renowned Muslim feminist scholars and journalists, including Asra Q. Nomani, Mona Eltahawy, Azadeh Moaveni, Dr. Amina Wadud, Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl and Asma Gull Hasan, detail how from early on very different understandings of the Qur’an lead to vastly different translations, with enormous repercussions for women living in different Islamic societies around the world. The film alternates between the history of Mohammad and issues facing Muslim women today—from the wearing of the veil, to praying in the mosque, and attitudes towards domestic violence and honor killings. It also looks at how feminism works within Islam in the modern era. RIGHTS & WRONGS is indispensable for courses on Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, comparative religion, women’s studies and more. More.

 



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Scarlet Road
A film by Catherine Scott, Produced by Pat Fiske

Impassioned about freedom of sexual expression, Australian sex worker Rachel Wotton specializes in a long overlooked
clientele— people with disabilities. Working in New South Wales—where prostitution is legal— Rachel’s philosophy is that human touch and sexual intimacy can be the most therapeutic aspects to our existence. Indeed, she is making a dramatic impact on the lives of her customers, many of whom are confined to wheelchairs or cannot speak or move unaided. Through her graduate studies and her nonprofit group Touching Base, Rachel both fights for the rights of sex workers and promotes awareness and access to sexual expression for the disabled through sex work—and brings together these two often marginalized groups. We follow her from conducting sex and disability workshops to speaking to the World Congress on Sexual Health about her mission to observing her overnight stays with severely disabled clients who blossom under her attention—with one man even gaining back lost movement and sensation thanks to his time spent with her. Rachel has made it her life’s work to end the stigma surrounding these populations; the depth, humor and passion in this positive and pro-active documentary will transform the way we see sex workers and people with disabilities forever. More.

SXSW, North American Premiere
Sydney Film Festival, World Premiere
 

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Skydancer
A film by Katja Esson

Renowned for their balance and skill, six generations of Mohawk men have been leaving their families behind on the reservation to travel to New York City, to work on some of the biggest construction jobs in the world. Jerry McDonald Thundercloud and his colleague Sky shuttle between the hard drinking Brooklyn lodging houses they call home during the week and their rural reservation, a gruelling drive six hours north, where a family weekend awaits. Their wives are only too familiar with the sacrifices that these jobs have upon family life. While the men are away working, the women often struggle to keep their children away from the illegal temptations of this economically deprived area. Through archival documents and interviews, Academy® Award nominated director Katja Esson (FERRY TALES, LATCHING ON) explores the colorful and at times tragic history of the Mohawk skywalkers, bringing us a nuanced portrait of modern Native American life and a visually stunning story of double lives. More.

Big Sky Film Fest, World Premiere
Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York

 

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Water Children
A film by Aliona van der Horst

In this acclaimed, hauntingly beautiful film, director Aliona van der Horst follows the unconventional Japanese-Dutch pianist Tomoko Mukaiyama as she explores the miracle of fertility and the cycle of life—sometimes joyful, sometimes tragic. When Mukaiyama recognized that her childbearing years were ending, she created a multimedia art project on the subject in a village in Japan, constructing what she calls a cathedral, out of 12,000 white silk dresses. While Mukaiyama’s own mesmerizing music provides a haunting backdrop to the film, her installation elicits confessions from its normally reticent Japanese visitors, many of whom have never seen art before—and in moving scenes they open up about previously taboo subjects. Mukaiyama’s courageous approach to a subject that remains unspoken in many cultures is explored with an elegance and sophistication that deepens our understanding of the relationship between body and mind. More.

DOXA Documentary Film Festival, Winner, Feature Documentary Award
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Reflecting Images


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