5. MISS REPRESENTATION (2011) #52FilmsByWomen

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This documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Kimberlee Acquaro starts with a very personal tale by the former, at that time pregnant with a baby girl, concerned about the society her daughter was going to live in and how media consumption could have shaped her perception of herself. She continues by telling her own story, the tragic loss of an older sister, her consequent struggle “to be two daughters at once”, the unobtainable aim of perfection and developing of eating disorders, something unfortunately common among young women. Then she comes to the core of the matter: how women are represented in US media and how these distorted and over-sexualized images affect people, especially girls. And that’s when it becomes problematic.

The opening credits show us a comparison between Great American Women™ (Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.) and half-naked celebrities acting sexy, and the whole documentary mostly is just a big stretch of this message – i.e. girls should aim at being valued for their minds and not for their looks. While this is certainly a good advice in general and it’s true that the media offer a limited range of models for young women, I found it slightly patronizing – as if girls who dress or act in a certain way are not valuable or they are just victims of the media system – and made me feel uncomfortable throughout the film, even if I agreed with most of the things were said by Siebel Newsom and the interviewees.

Slut-shaming problems aside, Miss Representation has the perk to expose through a masterful use of archive footage what we call “everyday sexism” and how women in powerful positions are diminished by a media system controlled solely by men. If only the implied faux dichotomy “Smart/sexy” weren’t so strong, it would have been a great documentary, and also a feminist one.

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4. SEDMIKRÁSKY (1966) #52FilmsByWomen

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If I had to describe this film to those who weren’t familiar with nová vlna (Czech New Wave), I’d tell them it’s like watching an episode of Broad City set in the Sixties.

I wasn’t familiar with the Chekoslovakian avant-garde either, in fact, I discovered this masterpiece from influential director Věra Chytilová by watching The Story of Film: An Odissey on Netflix a while ago, then finally decided to watch it as part of my Films by Women pledge.

Everything in Sedmikrásky (Daisies) is truly groundbreaking, from the anarchist dialogues to the experimental cinematography, and the excellent craft in the sound department. It’s a joy for your eyes, ears, and minds. The fact that it feels fresh and no less important –for its political (and feminist) statements against censorship and authority – than it was when it came out, makes it even easier to refer to it as a true milestone in the history of cinema.

3. THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL (2015) #52FilmsByWomen

Author’s note: it’s been too long since my last update and I think I’m failing this challenge. Actually, I haven’t watched a single film in ten days and that’s a first for me. Guess I’ve been too busy working and binge-watching Daredevil season 2. I’ll try catching up by watching two films a week. Now, let’s get down to business.

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The magic realism used within the narrative is the most peculiar trait of  Marielle Heller‘s first feature, undoubtedly one of the most interesting debuts in years. It can be easily mistaken for an artsy flick, with the protagonist’s daydreams coming to life in bright colors and cool comics, but there’s something extremely painful and true in Minnie’s struggle through adolescence that we usually don’t see in the typical indie film. It was since Andrea Arnold‘s Fish Tank that we hadn’t seen a coming-of-age film so brutally honest. While Arnold’s camera harshly dissected Mia’s reality – giving us one of the rare examples of the female gaze in cinema – Heller makes it all about Minnie, exploring every single trait of her intimacy and shooting her inner thoughts directly to the screen.

There is no moral and no judgment of the teen’s conduct (and, surprisingly, not even of Monroe’s), which makes it less enjoyable for those who always want to find a message in what they watch. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I liked it even though it’s far from perfect.

2. EDEN (2014) #52FilmsByWomen

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Many have described Mia Hansen-Løve‘s fourth film as the Inside Llewyn Davis of club culture, and the comparison seems particularly fitting, as they both tell the story of an artist’s struggle for fame and his continuous failures. Both Llewyn and Paul are fictional characters, though inspired by real people (the former by folk singer Dave Van Ronk, the latter by the director’s own brother Sven who also co-wrote the script), and they’re both ultimately overshadowed by two very real musicians, Bob Dylan and Daft Punk. Moreover, the two films have an overall melancholic feeling and they both rely on repetitions as a narrative device. But, while we follow Davis in his brief journey as if it were a lifetime, we see more than twenty years of Paul’s life condensed in 131 minutes, following a rythm that strangely feels long and rushed at the same time.

There are some very inspired moments in this weird creature that is Eden, the most memorable consisting in the wonderful use of Daft Punk’s Veridis Quo in a crucial scene, and it also has the perk of being mildly interesting and comprehensible even for those who aren’t into dance music, but in the end it feels a bit too dragged and incomplete.

Anyway, I wasn’t familiar with Hansen-Løve’s filmography and Eden made me want to watch her other features, so my conclusion is that I watched a good film.

1. MUSTANG (2015) #52FilmsByWomen

As some of you who follow me on Twitter might know, I pledged to watch at least 52 films made by women by the end of 2016. The only film directed by a woman I’ve already watched this year is Mustang, which was also part of my “Oscars catch-up”.

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I fell in love with Deniz Gamze Ergüven‘s first feature. The way she tells the story of these five sisters, the way she makes you care about them, is beautifully heartbreaking. The girls are portrayed by five wonderful actresses who shine throughout the film, giving natural performances and life to a brutally honest script.

Some have said that the themes explored in the film, and the explicit feminist message it vehicles, are so strong that they ultimately overshadow the final outcome, but I have to disagree with this claim. Mustang is clearly a political film, it  denounces the situation of women in culturally underdeveloped areas of Turkey, but it also speaks universally through the eyes, smiles, words, and broken hopes of five young women.

Jurassic World: why big dinos (and Chris Pratt) aren’t enough?

I had the privilege to grow up in a world where Jurassic Park always existed. The first one came out the year I was born, and the trilogy ended when I was eight (just in time to be replaced by another milestone, Harry Potter). Like almost every 90’s kid, I was obsessed by it: I had dinosaurs’ action figures, I went to exhibitions about dinosaurs, and bought loads of illustrated books on the subject. The last time I saw Jurassic Park I was in my teens and I never rewatched the sequels, so I can say this saga is part of a childhood I put aside.

Maybe that’s the reason why I wasn’t thrilled about Jurassic World right from the start. It’s not that I feared that my childhood would be ruined (which is a rather stupid thing to say, to be honest), it was just the feeling that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as I would if I were a child. However, keeping my expectations at the lowest has paid off well in the past, making me enjoy movies I thought I would despise, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

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