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Last updated: August 20, 2005
Copyright 2006
Michael R. Colford
All rights reserved

Film Festival Reviews

An Early Mother's Day at the Boston International Festival of Women's Cinema, 2002

by Michael R. Colford
 
The Boston International Festival of Women's Cinema (BIFWC) has become my favorite non-Chlotrudis film event of the year. Boston area film buffs who wants a taste of some of the bigger film festivals, like Toronto or Sundance, should be attending this festival. A top-notch, international slate of films, an organized ticketing process, fascinating filmmakers in attendance, and a feeling of community as you travel between the Coolidge Corner and Brattle Theatres all contribute to giving BIFWC attendees a first-class film festival experience. The Festival, which celebrated its tenth year, is run by Beacon Cinema Group's Marianne Lampke, Connie White and a host of volunteers who all do a terrific job in running an organized event. I was thrilled that so many Chlotrudis members took part in the festivities this year.
Anna Karina
Anna Karina
 
Nicole Holofcener
Nicole Holofcener on the set of
Lovely & Amazing
From Kerry Washington's shoplifter trying to impress her high-class mother, to Tilda Swinton's techno-geek scientist caring for her three clones, the unofficial theme for this year's Festival was the mother-daughter relationship. Seven of the eight films I screened looked at this complex relationship in varied yet universal ways. The opening night film, Lovely & Amazing, was Nicole Holofcener's humorous look at a mother and her three daughters struggling with their own neuroses in image-conscious L.A. Brenda Belthyn, Catherine Keener and Emily Hamilton give outstanding performances, and Holofcener's screenplay leaps off the screen with sparkling wit. Holofcener introduced this film and answered questions before the Coolidge Corner Theatre turned into a party zone for a gala reception.
 
Festival favorite Rose Troche returned with her powerful adaptation of A.M. Homes' short story collection, The Safety of Objects. Masterfully weaving the disparate stories into a cohesive storyline, Troche examines the family relationships of four suburban families, ably assisted by terrific work from Glen Close, Patricia Clarkson, Mary Kay Place, Timothy Olyphant, Dermot Mulroney, Jessica Campbell and Kristen Stewart. The accomplished grace that Troche exhibits in Safety is a testament to her growing talent as a filmmaker.
Rose Troche
Rose Troche
 

Judy Davis and Marcia Gay Harden
Judy Davis and Marcia Gay Harden in
Gaudi Afternoon

Susan Seidelman of Desperately Seeking Susan fame, was present to introduce and answer questions about her latest effort, Gaudi Afternoon. This light-hearted romp features a spectacular cast of talented women including Judy Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, Juliette Lewis and Lili Taylor, and explores gender, sexuality, and what makes a parent. In perhaps the strangest twist on parenthood, Tilda Swinton plays Rosetta Stone, a painfully geeky scientist, who has secretly created three clones of herself in Teknolust. Lynn Hershman-Leeson's film is a humorous look at research and gender relationships with a surprisingly sweet conclusion.
 
The other films looking at mother-daughter relationships came from Indian director Mira Nair, Boston natives DeMane Davis and Khari Streeter, and Jewish Filmmaker Sandra Goldbacher, all with varying degrees of success. Nair's Hysterical Blindness follows two female friends (Uma Thurman and Juliette Lewis) struggling to find fulfillment with men in New Jersey during the 1970's. Gena Rowlands faces similar problems as Thurman's mother. Co-presented by the Boston Jewish Film Festival, Goldbacher's Me Without You follows a similar theme in England. Anna Fiel and Michelle Williams (astounding as a British woman) grow up through the 70's and 80's struggling to find their own identities while unwilling to let go of each other. Shot in and around Boston, Davis and Streeter introduced their film Lift, a look at a highly successful shoplifter struggling to find approval from her high-class mother. Kerry Washington is phenomenal as the main character who expresses a range of emotions and brings her character to life, sometimes despite the awkward dialogue she's required to recite.
Khari Streeter and DeMane Davis
Khari Streeter and DeMane Davis,
co-directors of Lift
 

Alan Arkin and Jill Sprecher
Alan Arkin and director Jill Sprecher on the set of
Thirteen Conversations About One Thing

The one film that didn't feature the mother-daughter dynamic was the powerful sophmore effort from Jill Sprecher, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. Using separate but interweaving storylines, Sprecher and a talented cast including Alan Arkin, Clea DuVall, John Turturro, Matthew McConaughey and Amy Irving spin an emotional tale about philosophy of all things, and humanity's search for happiness. Sprecher and her sister Karen co-wrote the strong screenplay and utilize the streets of New York to good effect.
 
The centerpiece of the Festival is the panel discussion, this year featuring Jill Sprecher, DeMane Davis, Khari Streeter, Rose Troche and local producer Susan Welsh. GETTING IT DONE, GETTING IN, GETTING SEEN was a fascinating experience as the filmmakers discussed the difficulties in making their films, from conception to distribution (the latter being the most trying at times) with humor, insight and just a twinge of bitterness at times. What sometimes turned into filmmakers trading horror stories (Sprecher has not been paid for Thirteen Conversations, Troche's Objects has been pushed to a 2003 release) the panel also provided fascinating information for any aspiring filmmaker, or interested film buff.
Tilda Swinton sees double
Tilda Swinton and Tilda Swinton in Teknolust
 
Despite my efforts, and the impressive nine films I caught in four days, I viewed fewer than half of the total films screened. With such a variety of accomplished films by talented women, there really is something for everyone. I urge any fan of movies to keep any eye open for next year's BOSTON INTERNATIONL FESTIVAL OF WOMEN'S CINEMA. And if any of the films mentioned above pique your interest, make sure you catch the ones that are released theatrically. And as I learned at last year's panel discussion, try to catch any indie films you want to support on opening weekend. Those box office numbers can sometimes make a break a film. See you at the movies!
 

Boston International Festival of Women's Cinema High Falls Film FestivalIndependent Film Festival of BostonProvincetown International Film FestivalSidewalk Film FestivalSundance Film FestivalToronto International Film FestivalTribeca Film FestivalVenice Film Festival