Review: Beauty in Truth

Beauty in Truth, a film by Pratibha Parmar, is a documentary about American writer and activist Alice Walker.

Image of Alice Walker from the film Beauty in Truth
Image of Alice Walker from the film Beauty in Truth

Predisposed to love it would be a good description of my attitude toward the film. I’m a lifelong admirer of Alice Walker. I have a tendency to finish her books and turn back to page 1 and start reading again. She’s an extraordinary soul – a beautiful soul – who has given so much to the planet. I respect her, I value her brilliance, I see so much wisdom and spiritual guidance in work. Her life is an inspiration.

Everyone should see Beauty in Truth. Everyone who is cares about American history. Everyone who cares about justice anywhere on the planet. Everyone with an interest in writing and storytelling.

Indeed, my recommendation of the film is enthusiastic and heartfelt.

Pratibha Parmar wrote, directed and produced the film. She first worked with Alice Walker after the release of Possessing the Secret of Joy, Walker’s novel about female genital mutilation. The Beauty in Truth website explains,

1993 Pratibha released her most challenging film Warrior Marks, which documented female genital mutilation at a time when the subject was taboo globally. This award-winning documentary was made in collaboration with the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker. Parmar and Walker collaborated on the book Warrior Marks – Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women, which documented the making of the film.

Beauty in Truth documents Alice Walker’s life from her upbringing in rural Georgia to the present day. It uses interviews, conversations with Alice, quotations from her poems and books, historical video footage, news reports and video and personal images supplied by Alice Walker to create the story of a writer and activist who is known worldwide.

Photo by Virginia DeBolt from Wikimedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alice_Walker.jpg
Alice Walker: Photo by Virginia DeBolt from Wikimedia Commons
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alice_Walker.jpg

The particularities and struggles of Alice Walker’s life reflect with universal truth on the Civil Rights Movement, on the women’s movement, on the gay rights movement, and movements for justice all around the globe. Her struggles and the reaction of the American people to them are not just a story about her but a story about the American character. Her writing and her activism create change that affects us all.

Alice Walker has been honored as a writer with a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for The Color Purple as well as numerous other awards and honors for her writing and humanitarianism. This film honors the life she’s lived as a human being with an ability to understand and speak for truth and justice.

The film is available for streaming on PBS if you act soon. A screening schedule is available on the film website, and the film can be booked for showing in schools. (PBS LearningMedia provides four video-based educational components are available for teachers of grades 9-12 to download for free. University level instructors can sign up to be notified when materials for their level are available. Instructions are on the website.)

Other People’s Opinions: A Few Reactions from Twitter

I saw quite a few tweets about the film when it first aired on PBS last week. I thought you might be interested in the reactions of a few other people as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Watch This: Trailer for the Short Film One Billion Rising

One Billion Rising is an event organized by Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues. The film is a short about the event in 2013. Another event is planned for Valentine’s Day 2014.

Watch This: Cave Digger Trailer

Cave Digger is an award-winning  documentary about an unusual artist who digs caves in the sandstone of Northern New Mexico. The caves are works of art filled with carved sculptures, furniture, rooms with arched entries and fantastic displays that range from things like flowers and leaves to abstract designs.

This extraordinary cave artist is Ra Paulette. Most of his work is on private land and not open to the public. Catching this film may be the only chance you will have to see his amazing sculptures.

The film Cave Digger is the work of Jeffrey Karoff. The documentary will show at The Guild Cinema in Albuquerque on February 17 – 19. It will be at the Sedona Film Festival on February 22 – March 2. You can learn about future screenings at cavediggerdocumentary.com.

The film has won numerous award for its exploration of Ra Paulette and his unique artistic obsession. It was nominated for an Oscar in 2014 in the documentary short subject category.

Vimeo Tries Out a New Video On Demand Idea

Vimeo is moving into a new area of video on demand that may change the way films are released. If you are a member of Vimeo PRO ($199 a year) you can see certain films released there long before they are in wide release.

In VOD for Everyone? Vimeo’s Blake Whitman Tells Us About Opening Up Self-Distribution With Vimeo On Demand, Blake Whitman, Vimeo’s VP of Creative Development, is quoted as saying,

I think it’s a natural progression — we’ve been a platform for video creators to share and distribute their work. Distribution has different meanings for different people — and for filmmakers that means actually selling and seeing revenue for work that they’re making. Vimeo on Demand, that’s the next step of self-distribution. We make tools for individual creators — how can we help them make money for what they do? We think we’re in a great place now with the platform we’ve created and the audience that we built to really take a step into that arena and hopefully help filmmakers all over the world.

That was where Vimeo started with the VOD idea back in March. This is still true with Vimeo. Anyone can distribute a film there.

Cinemanovels poster

Vimeo has taken its business model to a new level by actively seeking films to add to its video on demand library.

An independent film I supported on Kickstarter and am interested in seeing is Cinemanovels, directed by Terry Miles and starring Lauren Lee Smith and Jennifer Beals. Recently it was announced that Cinemanovels and 9 other films from The Toronto International Film Festival will premier on Vimeo VOD.

According to Vimeo Offers TIFF World Premieres $10,000 Advance for Digital Rights, this is a boost to the indie filmmaker as well as an opportunity for the eager viewer to get in on a film before it makes it to a general release. Buying first rights to films is a new step since the announcement in March that filmmakers could put their work on Vimeo VOD.

At $199 a year, Vimeo PRO isn’t going to compete with YouTube, but it certainly can be competition for Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. This new business model from Vimeo really opens things up for independent filmmakers by giving them a distribution channel that didn’t exist before.

Review: August: Osage County

There are many films that can make you feel as if you’ve been assaulted by life, by pain, by damage and abuse, by hurt. August: Osage County is one of these. It peers into the way abuse and pain carries down, almost intact, from one generation to the next. In this particular story, the damage is inflicted by the women.

The drive to the funeral in August: Osage County
The drive to the funeral in August: Osage County

The story begins with a father’s death. Sam Shepard as the Oklahoma poet Beverly Weston dies. The family gathers. Meryl Streep plays Violet Weston, the not-exactly-grieving widow and mother to Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, and Juliette Lewis.

Violet Weston has cancer of the mouth, both physically and metaphorically. She’s addicted to about 11 different prescription drugs, which she pops with malicious intensity. The drugs do not have pleasant effect on her behavior.

Julianne Nicholson as Ivy is the daughter who stayed in Oklahoma, near her parents. Julianne Nicholson’s performance in this part is quiet and nuanced and complete perfection, especially when contrasted with the overblown emotionalism of some of the other characters. Okay, not some of the other characters; Meryl Streep’s character. She seemed too big somehow, too much.

I’m sure Meryl Streep intended her to be too big and too much. The woman doesn’t make mistakes. Violet Weston was too big and too much on purpose, I’m guessing.

Eating on the porch
Eating on the porch

Julia Roberts drives in with her husband, played by Ewan McGregor, a buttoned down kind of man, and her 14 year old daughter, played by Abigail Breslin. Her marriage is breaking up. Julia Roberts is simply wonderful in this part. She’s the eldest daughter – strong and bitter and angry. She’s the wronged wife with a cheating husband. She’s the protective mother whose 14 year old daughter attracts the attentions of her sister’s smarmy fiancé, played by Dermot Mulroney. She’s a wounded lioness, just like her mother, with sharp teeth and powerful claws.

Juliette Lewis has her own coping mechanisms for dealing with her family. Get as far away as possible, pin all sorts of unrealistic hopes and wishful thinking on a man, and pretend the realities of her upbringing never happened.

Add to this menagerie of family Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae, played expertly by Margo Martindale. She’s married to Chris Cooper. Like Violet’s husband, Mattie Fae’s husband is a kind and tender man. How did these two sisters manage to find such good men to marry? They have a mother-whipped cowering mess of a son played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Bring all these characters together for a funeral, make them stay together for several days, and all hell breaks loose.

I want to give a particular mention to Misty Upham, who plays a Native American woman hired by Beverly to cook and clean just before he goes missing. (Perhaps you remember her from Frozen River, where she had a bigger part.) Misty Upham needs to be pulled out of the Native American niche and put into other roles. She’s terrific and should be given parts that aren’t so bound by ethnicity. Hey, Jinji Kohan, how about giving her a part in Orange is the New Black where actresses are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their characters?

This story is brilliant in its specificity. It’s filled with outstanding performances. Any awards that go to August: Osage County are deserved. Like a lot of movies that deal with harsh reality, it’s hard to watch at times, even though it has moments of redemption and beauty.

I recommend August: Osage County wholeheartedly. It’s not the kind of movie you want to watch more than once, but it is the kind of movie that should be watched.

Watch This: Trailer for August: Osage County

August: Osage County opens in wide distribution today. Are you going to be there? I can’t wait!

Review: What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew is based on the Henry James novel of 1897. It stars Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan as Maisie’s horrifyingly bad parents. Maisie is played by Onata Aprile.

What Maisie Knew poster
What Maisie Knew poster

Alexander Skarsgård and Joanna Vanderham are also in the film. After Maisie’s parents divorce, her father marries the former nanny (Joanna Vanderham). Her mother marries a convenient bartender (Alexander Skarsgård) and these two surrogate parents are left largely in charge of the neglected and forgotten Maisie.

Moore and Coogan do not sugar coat their performances as the unlikeable adults. They are as selfish and unfit as two people could possible be to fill their roles as parents.

Like the book, the film is told from Maisie’s point of view. Onata Aprile is remarkable as Maisie. She’s  natural and real, completely childlike rather than actory. It’s hard to remember she’s performing – saying lines, taking direction. She absolutely makes the film work. It breaks our hearts as we watch her trying to survive in her often awful situation.

Like all neglected children, Maisie loves her parents. But when she’s with Margo, daddy’s new wife, or Lincoln, mommie’s new husband, Maisie recognizes that this is the way it’s supposed to be. Lincoln bumbles his way into child care – he doesn’t even know that you should hold a child’s hand when you cross a Manhattan street. But he does naturally all the things her mother does not do. He listens to her, he plays with her, he makes sure she has something to eat.

If a film about something so depressing can be called beautiful, this is a beautiful film. The performances are outstanding, the way the camera follows Maisie and lives in her world is brilliant. The ending is emotionally satisfying even though it is unrealistic to expect Maisie’s situation to be wrapped up in a red bow for any length of time.

The film was released on DVD in May 2013 and is available on most streaming services now.

Watch This: Theatrical Trailer for Veronica Mars

Although we’ve been getting all kinds of pre-release peeks at Veronica Mars, this is the first actual official trailer. It gives you a lot more insight into what’s going on in the movie’s plot.

Bring it!

Watch This: Sex After Kids Trailer

Saw a tweet from Zoie Palmer about this trailer and thought it was worth sharing. A lot of familiar faces in this comedy, plus it looks really funny.

The difficulty for those of us in the U.S. is that I don’t know where it’s playing. It’s been on the festival circuit in Canada, Australia and the U.S., but I’m not sure about release in theaters. According to the Sex After Kids website, it has shown in some U.S. theaters, but they don’t have a 2014 calendar update (or didn’t on the day I looked.)

Sex After Kids – Redband Trailer from Jeremy LaLonde on Vimeo.

Follow @SexAfterKids on Twitter for updates such as this one:

 

 

Review: Girl in Progress

Girl in Progress is a coming of age story about a girl who writes her own coming of age story based on research on the coming of age genre, then attempts to live it out according to plan.

Starring in this 2012 film are Eva Mendez as the mother, Cierra Ramirez as the girl in progress, Matthew Modine as the mother’s married boyfriend, and Patricia Arquette as the girl’s teacher.

Girl in Progress poster

Ansiedad, the girl in progress, is Cierra Ramirez; you may know her from The Fosters. She’s an extremely bright and creative teen who is captured by a remark her English teacher makes about coming of age tales. She has an interesting reltionship with her English teacher.

Lunch with the English teacher
Lunch with the English teacher – doesn’t everyone?

The mother of this wise but naive teen is often gone, either working or conducting inappropriate relationships with married men. In her absence, Ansiedad plots out a complete coming of age story for herself which includes stealing, hanging with the mean girls, dumping her best friend, losing her virginity and leaving home. She then proceeds to live this plan out so she can have the needed epiphany that will carry her into adulthood.

The movie is out on DVD and available from streaming services now. Take a look at the trailer for the film.

I have to admit I watched the film because my granddaughter recommended it to me. She’s in the throes of her own coming of age saga right now, which is why the movie appealed to her. I found it good as well, even at my advanced stage in life. On a scale of 10 stars, I would give it at least 7.