“Defund the Police” is a Mission Statement, not a Slogan

To those who think “defund the police” is too strong or controversial a slogan, try considering it as a mission statement instead.

People have allowed police violence to continue unabated. A catchy slogan that’s soft enough to feel unchallenging to opposing voices isn’t going to shift a norm. Remember, conservatives wanted to play at civil war over one man who knelt through an anthem.

Mission statements shift norms. Communicating clear criticisms and expectations shifts norms.

So many allies who have issues with “defund the police” seem to grasp the concepts of shock doctrine and disaster capitalism, and how they’re used against us on socioeconomic fronts. We understand when there’s a sea change and a moment of unpredictability, politics can be changed against us in fundamental ways. We’ve fought that forever.

Why is the idea of using social protest to quickly shift norms to achieve the goal of that protest still such a foreign concept to so many? It’s the same concept of using unanticipated, shocking moments to shift norms quickly, except instead of dismantling a society for profit, it’s utilizing the voice of a society to rebuild a broken part and keep people safe.

We completely understand how these moments of shock are used against us. We understand it to the point where the shock and disaster capitalism itself threaten to become constant norms. It’s used so often against us that the first step of fighting against it is to fight the weariness that tempts us to shrug our shoulders and accept it.

Despite shock doctrine being such a constant in our lives, despite recognizing that it’s something we live with every day, we still don’t understand how protest inverts the same mechanisms to help people; we still don’t imagine we’re capable of it ourselves – even when millions are protesting. We imagine we have to soft sell it – and not even our own fights. We convince ourselves it’s our job to soft sell someone else’s fight because we’re so afraid we can’t take hold of the mechanisms once that Trump uses day after day.

How fucked up is it that we fight against this administration’s normalization and shifting of social anchors every day, but when that shift is asked of us, we hem and haw and ask if we can pre-concede it on behalf of someone else’s protest, against their wishes, in order to play to the very people who fuck up our norms and social anchors daily?

That is a brutalization of our consistency and resolve. It’s a misunderstanding of our capability, and it’s an absolute failure to understand the needs, priorities, and capabilities of those we’d say we’re allied to. Slogans do not shift norms. They advertise something that a customer is already seeking to buy – they’re just deciding between brands at this point. Slogans are “come identify with this brand” so you impulse buy from us instead of them.

We’re not dealing with impulse buying. We’re dealing with picking up the largest vestige of one of the most brutal social norms our country was founded upon and shifting that anchor out from under people so it can be placed somewhere healthier. Our first act cannot be deciding that shifting the norm is too difficult. The job is to convince and expect people to move that norm, not to repaint the one that already exists without shifting it one jot.

How much have George W. Bush, Trump, and their cohorts absolutely ruined our ability to gauge our responsibilities and capabilities in protest? How much has a generation-plus of this nonsense gotten into our heads?

Branding is not reality. Doing shit is reality. “Branding is reality” is what Trump sells you because it’s the only thing he and Republicans are good at. It’s the only way they can still win anything. We will not beat them in “branding is reality” because they are better at it than we are and they believe in it, where we stop when it goes too far off the rails.

We’re the “doing shit is reality” side, or at least that’s what we’re supposed to be. And if we’ve lost that so soundly, we’re already screwed and we every one of us know it deep down. I don’t think most of us are that lost, but we absolutely know the draw and temptation of being that lost; we all understand something tugging at us that says, “just take the easy route” because we’re all so tired.

We all know what that lurking element within us feels like, and we all know that the Trump administration is relying on our giving into it. Hell, it was Stephen Bannon’s entire strategy starting Day One of the Trump administration: Tire us out. Tire us until we were willing to mistake the easy for the needed, and call a change in advertising a change in reality. That is their entire plot. It is all they’re good at, but holy shit are they good at it.

We will never out-sell Trump on perception. We can beat him on reality, and we can easily outwork him. Figure that out fast.

So let’s be good at doing shit. Let’s be good at resting when needed and then being tireless. Let’s be good at the hard things. Let’s be good at taking that lurking piece of ourselves that says, “justify what’s easy instead of doing what’s needed” and setting it to the side. We don’t do what’s easy when it comes to civil rights. We do what civil rights organizations tell us is needed.

Black Lives Matter is looking to haul up and replace a social anchor that’s been used to suppress Black people since before the Civil War, that’s been so effective at it that this country has used that same social anchor to suppress every other community they can think of: Latinxs, Asians and Pacific Islanders, indigenous people, LGBTQ people, the disabled, the list goes on.

Trump used secret police in Washington, D.C. with no identifiers, working for lord knows what agencies, with no trail of accountability for crimes they commit, and we’re wondering if de-funding that happy ass bullshit is too strong a stance?

New murders, beatings, and sexual assaults committed by police are revealed daily and we’re wondering if de-funding that crap should be toned down? To what? Funding murders, beatings, and sexual assaults by police at the same level they are now?

You’re not a salesperson on commission looking for the best angle. The slogan doesn’t need work because it’s not a slogan. It’s the job: You’re an activist working against the risk of people losing their lives. Act like it.

Imagine being a protester who actually believes the act of protest can achieve the goal of that protest. Then imagine the opposite. Ask which one gets shit done.

New Documentaries by Women — June 22, 2020

There were a number of new movies by women that came out last week. I decided to split documentaries for a separate article to make each one easier to read and use. It’s important to highlight that one of the best weeks for releases directed by women still pales in comparison to the worst weeks of releases directed by men.

If the number of releases by women matched the number by men, I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up a weekly article about it without help. While it’s great that so many new releases by women are here, there’s still a lot that needs to be done.

I also want to mention that the first three documentaries featured here are all about trans people leading very different lives in very different communities, in very different parts of the world. As of my writing this article, each of these documentaries is getting 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. They’re worth your time.

Queen of Lapa (virtual theatrical)
co-directed by Carolina Monnerat

“Queen of Lapa” centers on the housemates who live in the hostel of Luana Muniz. Muniz is a trans activist and sex worker who seeks to provide a safe place for other trans sex workers in a society that refuses to respect their humanity and safety.

The documentary engages the desires, goals, and everyday lives of the women under Muniz’s watch. Their safety is something that’s only grown more tenuous under the election of authoritarian president Jair Bolsonaro.

Carolina Monnerat directs with Theodore Collatos. A Brazilian filmmaker, she’s produced a number of documentaries, but this is her first in the director’s chair.

“Queen of Lapa” is a virtual theatrical release. That means the profits from its rental are split between the distributor and an independent movie theater of your choice. You can rent it for $10 through any of the theaters listed right here.

Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth (digital purchase)
directed by Jeanie Finlay

“Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth” follows the journey of a trans man who decides to give birth. While pregnancy and giving birth obviously pose their own challenges, many of the toughest aspects become societal ones. Trans people are already under grave threat from societies that aggressively devalue and dehumanize them. The idea of a man giving birth serves to create even more of a target for these hostile and hateful elements of our cultures.

It’s important to be able to understand people’s lives and their own desires and wants. A film like this is audacious in its existence primarily because it shouldn’t be. It’s normal, understandable, human, but because too many still refuse to treat it that way, a story of someone simply wanting to have a child becomes risky. Hopefully artists showing how normal it is can change that.

Jeanie Finlay is a documentary filmmaker who tends to highlight the human, lived-in moments of her subjects.

You can buy “Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth” to own for $9 from Google Play, $10 from iTunes or Vudu, $12 from Fandango, or $13 from Microsoft.

Jack & Yaya (digital rental)
directed by Jennifer Bagley

“Jack & Yaya” follows friends who grew up together and both realized they were somebody different. They’re both openly trans people, though they wouldn’t always choose that term to describe themselves. They’ve maintained their friendship, and their community has largely accepted who they are. That’s worth seeing, because not all communities have managed this.

You can rent “Jack & Yaya” for $5 from Gumroad, Reelhouse, or Vimeo.

Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn (HBO)
directed by Ivy Meeropol

Roy Cohn was a power broker who used connections and brute repetition to manufacture political realities from thin air. It’s not surprising then that his most successful protege has become Donald Trump. Cohn’s story reveals connections that lead from the Red Scare of the 1950s through the rise of bigoted religious conservatism in the 80s, straight through the Trump’s presidency today.

The film takes its name from Cohn’s square on the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which simply described him as “Bully, Coward, Victim”. Cohn was gay, and died as a result of AIDS in 1986. He brought his boyfriends to Ronald Reagan’s White House even as Cohn and Reagan vilified gay people, denied their rights, and ignored the AIDS crisis.

Director Ivy Meeropol is the granddaughter of some of Cohn’s first public victims, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. They were convicted in 1951 and put to death in 1953 for spying on behalf of the Soviet Union. Though Julius was most likely guilty, there’s considerable evidence that Cohn manufactured evidence and false testimony to frame Ethel of crimes she didn’t commit.

You can watch “Bully, Coward, Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn” with an HBO subscription.

One Take (Netflix)
directed by Manatsanun Panlertwongskul

This is a documentary on Thai girl group BNK48. As near as I can tell, becoming a part of it is part reality show, part performance, and part election. Here, first and second generation performers compete to be included as performers on a single. Like many documentaries on contemporary musicians, it may be as much an extension of the brand as it is a journalistic look at anything to do with the group. That said, the window into the pop culture of other countries can be incredibly valuable.

It’s difficult to find information about Manatsanun Panlertwongskul as a director. She’s well known in Thailand as an actress and presenter, and she’s also qualified for the Swiss Open, one of the non-Grand Slam tennis tournaments.

You can watch “One Take” with a Netflix subscription.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

New Movies + Shows by Women — June 19, 2020

There’s so much this week that I’m going to split out documentaries and feature them on Monday. Before we get into it, I also want to mention “Scare Package” on Shudder. It’s a horror comedy anthology movie with segments directed by Emily Hagins and co-directed by Hillary Andujar.

On to the reason you’re here:

Love, Victor (Hulu series)
co-showrunner Elizabeth Berger

When I was growing up, the only Latinx role model I had in a coming-of-age series was Mario Lopez in “Saved by the Bell”. As A.C. Slater, he was second fiddle to Zack Morris, a character who read as white (though he was played by an actor who’s a quarter Indonesian). Slater would either give in to Zack’s plots, or would lose out in competition with him. In other words, the only Latinx role model I had on TV essentially played the Daffy Duck to Zack Morris’s Bugs Bunny – always a step behind, not as cool, only successful when his more privileged friend allowed him to be. It was good to have the representation, but there was a lot lacking in the way it was conveyed.

There’s so much more now than there once was – “One Day at a Time”, “Ugly Betty”, “Jane the Virgin”, “East Los High”, just to name a few. And now there’s “Love, Victor”. It takes place in the same world as the movie “Love, Simon”. Where that film poses a (relatively) smooth version of coming out, “Love, Victor” throws more obstacles in the path of its protagonist. Victor is in a new city, figuring out his sexual orientation while at the same time wondering how to discuss it with his family.

There’s something of a split in attitudes toward LGBTQ people between older and younger generations of Latinxs in the United States. There’s more acceptance in younger generations, and it’s much more of a norm. Older generations often have difficulty in large part because of how ingrained Catholicism is in Latin-American cultures.

Another factor is that immigrant communities try to assimilate to U.S. norms in order to fit in and decrease bigotry aimed at themselves. One of the easiest ways to assimilate into U.S. culture is to adopt the bigotries U.S. culture aims at other marginalized groups. This isn’t a bug; it’s a feature of U.S. culture that keeps marginalized groups tearing each other down in an attempt to keep themselves safe. Younger generations have the benefit of more modern norms, and clearer eyes on how systemic this is. Obviously, this can create a lot of clashes between older and younger generations, especially when it turns out one of their kids is also part of another group their own generation has been taught to marginalize.

Elizabeth Berger is showrunning with Isaac Aptaker. The pair are coming off a run as showrunners of “This is Us”, so they know how to put together a ranging, multi-generational story with a large cast.

You can watch “Love, Victor” with a Hulu subscription.

Miss Juneteenth (digital rental)
directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples

“Miss Juneteenth” is a pageant that offers a chance at a full scholarship to college. A former winner is determined to get her daughter to win it, and sees it as an opportunity to provide a better life than she’s had.

I want to highlight the lead here. Nicole Beharie is a superb actress, probably best known for dragging “Sleepy Hollow” along for its first three seasons as Fox dreadfully mismanaged and obsessively re-cast an initial success into complete non-function. Few actors could have anchored that mess through so much as well as she did.

This is the first feature by writer-director Channing Godfrey Peoples. She’s written episodes on Ava DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar” and has a few shorts to her name, but otherwise she’s a new voice.

You can rent “Miss Juneteenth” for $7 on Amazon, Fandango, iTunes, Redbox, or Vudu.

Mr. Jones (digital rental)
directed by Agnieszka Holland

“Mr. Jones” is a biographical film that follows Welsh journalist Gareth Jones. He’s the journalist who began to reveal the Holodomor in the 1930s, wherein the Soviet Union starved Ukraine by seizing its food and wealth for itself. Entire harvests were stolen away, leaving ethnic Ukrainians to starve.

Estimates of the true cost in human life vary anywhere from 3.3 to 12 million. The U.N. has estimated it between 7 and 10 million. Either range puts it on a scale approaching that of the Holocaust under Nazi Germany. Somehow, debate remains as to whether this was a genocide, though I don’t know what else you call the forcible starvation of an entire people.

The Soviet Union would respond to the mass loss of life by encouraging Soviet peasants to take over the farms and land of the starved. That contributes directly to the Ukraine-Russia situation today, where Russia has annexed Ukrainian land such as Crimea and established a military presence in eastern Ukraine – the areas with a higher portion of Russian populations.

Director Agnieszka Holland is one of the most legendary filmmakers working today. Her “Angry Harvest” (for West Germany) and “In Darkness” (for Poland) were both nominated for Academy Awards as Best Foreign Language Film, and she was nominated for another in 1992 for her adapted screenplay to “Europa Europa”.

My generation (Millennials) are likely most familiar with her 1993 adaptation of “The Secret Garden”. She’s also directed on series like “The Wire”, “Treme”, and “House of Cards”. She’s one of the best filmmakers that most U.S. moviegoers have never heard of. That should change, and a film about the importance of a free press in the face of authoritarianism is a good way to make that change.

Disclosure: Writer Andrea Chalupa is a friend. This is her first feature.

You can currently buy “Mr. Jones” for $13 on Amazon or Redbox, or $15 on Fandango, with rental becoming available on July 3.

Babyteeth (digital rental)
directed by Shannon Murphy

“Babyteeth” is an Australian film about a chronically ill teenager who befriends a drug dealer. Her family has to make adjustments in confronting and tolerating aspects of the friendship.

Director Shannon Murphy has helmed episodes for multiple series, including “Rake” and “Killing Eve”. “Babyteeth” is based on a screenplay by Rita Kalnejais, adapted from her own stage play. The film serves as the feature debut for both.

You can rent “Babyteeth” for $7 from Google Play or Microsoft.

The Short History of the Long Road (digital rental)
directed by Ani Simon-Kennedy

A young woman whose father raises her in a nomadic lifestyle has to fend for herself. She’s only ever known driving through the U.S. in an RV and doing odd jobs. She has to decide what it is she wants for herself. Lead Sabrina Carpenter has gotten a good amount of praise for this role.

Director Ani Simon-Kennedy is a fairly new voice. Her only previous feature is an Icelandic film called “Days of Gray”.

You can rent “The Short History of the Long Road” for $4 from Google Play or Vudu, $5 from Amazon, iTunes, or Microsoft, or $6 from DirectTV or Optimum. (And bravo to the film’s website for actually having a centralized resource to find this.)

Buffaloed (Hulu)
directed by Tanya Wexler

Ah, debt collectors. As Millennials go through the second or third (depending on age) major recession of our thus far still pretty damn brief adulthoods, the debt collection industry has boomed. Speaking of, Boomers had mob movies and family comedies, though come to think of it, both were actually about the value of tight-knit family units. Millennials have movies about the people our generation speaks to most outside of our own families – debt collectors and scammers!

Enter “Buffaloed”, where Peg Dahl just wants to escape Buffalo and will try to pull off any scam or con to do it. She ends up becoming successful as a debt collector and tries to start her own business in contention with the city’s more established debt collector.

Director Tanya Wexler has been pretty quiet since 2011’s “Hysteria”, a period romance about the invention of the vibrator. “Buffaloed” is her first feature since, though she has another (“Jolt”) due out soon.

You can watch “Buffaloed” with a Hulu subscription. You can also rent it for $4 from Google Play or Vudu or $5 from Fandango, iTunes, or Microsoft,

Vampire Dad (digital rental)
directed by Frankie Ingrassia

Look, I’m not going to lie. This had me at the title. “Vampire Dad” is a spoof on 1960s counter-culture films where the central issue at hand – brace yourself – is that a wholesome dad also turns out to be a vampire. You see, he’s a psychologist, and creatures of the night needed someone who could help them with therapy.

I’ve been watching a lot of “What We Do in the Shadows”, so this all seems pretty natural.

Director Frankie Ingrassia might be more recognizable as an actress on shows like “Goliath”. “Vampire Dad” is her feature directorial debut.

You can rent “Vampire Dad” for $4 from Google Play, $5 from iTunes, or $6 from Amazon.

Feel the Beat (Netflix)
directed by Elissa Down

“Mighty Ducks” but with dance sounds better than most other similarly inspired films. As a fan of even (especially) the cheesiest entries in the “Step Up” franchise, I’m for it.

Elissa Down is an Australian filmmaker who’s carving a career in young adult films.

You can watch “Feel the Beat” with a Netflix subscription.

The Dustwalker (Hulu)
directed by Sandra Sciberras

Speaking of Australia, “The Dustwalker” crosses alien invasion with fast zombie movies. I’ve read about Australia, so I almost put this in the documentary section for Monday, but nope – it’s fiction.

Writer-director Sandra Sciberras has directed on a range of films, and more often works as a producer.

You can watch “The Dustwalker” with a Hulu subscription, or rent it for $4 from Google Play or Vudu, or $5 from Amazon, Fandango, iTunes, or Microsoft.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

On “Defund the Police” and the Job of Alliance

Nobody cares if you think Black Lives Matter has branded correctly, or is using a slogan you don’t like. Black protesters tried a lot of other branding: “Please don’t kill us,” “I can’t breathe,” “Black Lives Matter.” The same thing you’re saying now has been said about all of it.

Imagine if allies stopped thinking it was our job to assess the messaging, and started thinking it was our job as allies to carry those messages forward regardless. The job of an ally in these situations isn’t to tell whoever we’re allied to how to run their own protests. It’s to aid in making the protests more effective and safer, however the marginalized group in question decides to run it.

It is not an ally’s job to assess or judge, or think ourselves qualified to rate or grade. Starting from the standpoint of thinking that we can do the job better than they can is an inherently supremacist argument. It’s soft, polite supremacy, sure, but it is supremacy nonetheless.

It normalizes the idea that ultimately, we’re the arbiter of what is appropriate or not in terms of how Black Lives Matter brands, takes action, communicates. It pretends that the idea of rating them and discussing that assessment with friends is some helpful, activist action, when all it does is play fantasy football with other people’s risk.

If Black Lives Matter wants the police de-funded because it saves their lives, are we really going to quibble over branding for the priorities of the people whose lives are at risk, whose shoes we’ve never walked in a day in our lives? Are we going to pretend we can communicate the needs they live every day of their lives in a way that’s inherently superior to the way they’ve decided to do it? Or are we going to show up for the job we’ve been asked to do and ensure that police are de-funded because it saves lives?

Imagine Black people pleading for their lives and telling us what the solution is, and then sitting back and discussing whether doing that in blunt terms is too inept or simple for our tastes. Putting it that way might help you realize how fucking baldly racist it comes off.

Our job isn’t to assess whether BLM’s messages work or not. Our job is to make those messages work the way Black activists have decided through their extensive knowledge, experience, and generations of sacrifice that have determined what these messages need to be.

Think that you know better than movements that have endured things you can’t imagine for generations? We do not know more than BLM. We do not know more than Black protesters about how Black protest needs to be shaped and conveyed. Ease off the ego trip. Recognize that as allies it’s our work that is needed. Our judgment is not work; it treats other people’s sacrifice as a sandbox. Judgment is not an effort; it does no work. Listen to what needs doing and then do it. That is effort, that is work, that is real alliance.

New Movies + Shows by Women — June 12, 2020

Last week’s entry in this feature was postponed due to the Black Lives Matter protests. They’re still ongoing, so I don’t want this to distract from them. Please support them, follow them, and pay attention to them.

Some of these films do tackle other fights that intersect with BLM and these protests. The first entry concerns the actions of Border Patrol and ICE, which are policing agencies that have similarly broken the law. They’re operating concentration camps and in one case, are actively using industrial detergent to gas detainees into worsening health and lethal consequences.

How to go from that to talking about a film about a dog is difficult, but platforming the work of women is something that is still an ongoing project. I don’t want to lose sight of any of this, which can be difficult when things are so overwhelming. It’s important to still be pursuing and building support for all of these fights.

The Infiltrators (digital rental)
co-directed by Cristina Ibarra

Cristina Ibarra is a documentary filmmaker whose work has been featured on PBS’s venerable “P.O.V.” Her co-director here is Alex Rivera, who has focused on narrative filmmaking. The result in “The Infiltrators” looks like a unique blend of each, dramatizing events while simultaneously contextualizing them with real footage in a documentarian framework.

Here, undocumented youth get themselves detained by Border Patrol so they can help other detainees who are already imprisoned reach out for help and legal aid.

As I said in my intro, that this comes out in the wake of news that ICE is essentially gassing detainees en masse using industrial disinfectant only makes it more pressing. Immigration detention centers now amount to extermination camps; let’s not pretend anything else.

You can rent “The Infiltrators” from Amazon Prime, Google Play, or YouTube for $4.

Born in Evin (digital rental)
directed by Maryam Zaree

“Born in Evin” refers to the literal birthplace of director Maryam Zaree. Evin is an Iranian political prison. Zaree’s parents were imprisoned there for opposing the theocratic regime that took over after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

(It’s important to recognize the climate for this was created in large part by the previous U.S.- and U.K.-backed coup that overthrew democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953.)

Many who opposed the new theocratic regime of Iran were imprisoned, and Zaree was hardly the only baby born at Evin. She was brought to Germany at two years old by her mother, while her father remained in prison. “Born in Evin” tells the story of generational and cultural trauma, of coping with it and carrying forward the resistance it must teach.

Zaree herself has acted in a range of German films, and this is her feature-length directorial debut.

You can rent “Born in Evin” from Google Play or YouTube for $4, or Amazon Prime for $5.

Shirley (Hulu)
directed by Josephine Decker

I don’t afford this policy for many actors, but I unquestionably trust Elisabeth Moss’s choice in projects. She’s arguably made the best choices of any Millennial actor. A lot of that is – of course – what she then brings to those projects.

Back on “The West Wing”, she was thought of as the one part of a great ensemble who couldn’t act, but who we liked anyway. Yet if you looked at that ensemble today, she probably stands as the best and most versatile actor of the bunch outside of Martin Sheen. Her career is one of grounding high-concept projects across countless genres. She hooks viewers into the emotional reality of difficult ideas and strange worlds; she conveys emotionally stepping into someone else’s shoes the way few can. If she’s leading a project, it’s worth watching.

A lot of that is talent and hard work. Some of it is working with 100% of the talent pool when it comes to directors. She works with women directors reliably, something that can’t be said for most actors. It’s in an actor’s interest to seek out and work with the full range of talented directors. Someone who only works with 50% of the talent pool that’s out there isn’t going to find the working relationships that draw the most out of their own talents.

An actor who rarely works with women directors is limiting their own choices and their own growth. Hell, anyone who rarely seeks out women coworkers and superiors (or Black, or LGBTQ ones, or whatever the case may be), is limiting their own ability at the work they do.

Moss’s ability to ground project after project is due to her incredible talents, yes. Her consistent ability to do this across such a seemingly unlimited range of projects and perspectives owes something to her decisions in working with a wider range of directors and writers. Any actor can ground the right project once or twice. Someone who does it with a nearly impossible consistency is doing it in part because she is seeking out projects and fellow artists who come from every perspective.

Director Josephine Decker is an arthouse director’s arthouse director. She’s perhaps best known for meta-perplexion “Madeline’s Madeline”.

The screenplay is adapted by Sarah Gubbins from the novel by Susan Scarf Merrell.

You can watch “Shirley” with a Hulu subscription. You can also rent it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, or YouTube for $2.

Judy & Punch (digital rental)
directed by Mirrah Foulkes

This is the kind of off-kilter, macabre (vengeance?) film that’s right up my alley, particularly with an actor of Mia Wasikowska’s calibre leading it. Obviously, it’s tackling themes of domestic violence, but it’s hard to tell where it will take it. The world of the film seems to mix fairy tale, period, and anachronistic filmmaking together.

It also marks a leap in the career of Mirrah Foulkes from actor to director. She’s well known for roles in Australian television and BBC productions, particularly in the original “Animal Kingdom” and “Top of the Lake”. This is her first feature.

You can rent Judy & Punch from Amazon Prime, Google Play, or YouTube for $4.

Marona’s Fantastic Tale (virtual theatrical)
directed by Anca Damian

It’s strange how we can talk about cultural loss, genocides, we can take action regarding ongoing racist brutality, and we can more or less hold it together. Then we see an animated movie about dogs and we break. How does that work? Is it a screwed up failure of our priorities?

I’ve spent the week calling DA’s and mayor’s offices asking about police brutality investigations, writing action items, calling my governor’s and senators’s offices, consulting on potential threats people face. I write something about it all, and I might break in the moment after the words are out. I might cry to my computer before recollecting myself. I might stave off fear at the end of the day by curling up in bed and watching a familiar sitcom.

But I watch an animated trailer about a dog’s life and the waterworks start going. I know the work I put in; I haven’t screwed up my priorities. Part of the role of pets as our companions in life is that they become our safe space. They ease the times we feel shitty and helpless. They love us regardless, they help us make it through. Pets are a symbol of an innocence we can’t often see in the world around us, and they’re an endless well of renewal for a hope that gets worn down every day. I can’t always afford to cry when I’m doing activist work. I can afford to at home in a safe space with my dog. I don’t know exactly what that says.

Anca Damian is a Romanian director who’s helmed both animated and live-action films, both fiction films and documentaries. “Marona’s Fantastic Tale” has been picked up by GKids at least for its American virtual theater release.

A virtual theatrical release is a way of still supporting independent theaters while the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping responsible people at home. The cost of a movie ticket is split between the distributor and theater itself – just like if you were going physically to that theater. Just select the local, independent theater you want to support when purchasing your ticket.

Here, that means you can rent “Marona’s Fantastic Tale” for $10 on GKids, and you have 3 days to watch it.

Curon (Netflix series)
co-directed by Lyda Patitucci

This is a 7-episode Italian series based on a legend about the submerged town of Curon. Flooded towns always make for good horror settings – here, it was submerged as part of a hydro-electric dam project.

Another favorite horror trope of mine is the doppelganger. The church tower is the only part of Curon still above water. Supposedly, you can hear its bells ringing in winter. The legend is extended in the series to say that when you hear them ring, your death is coming and your double emerges from the lake. Good times.

The series follows a pair of teens doing what teens do best in horror series – uncovering hidden secrets while making poor survival decisions. Of course, they have a good motive – their friend Anna is missing.

Lyda Patitucci directs with Fabio Mollo. This is her first project as a director, but she’s got a very solid history on Italian TV shows with high production values (“The First King”, “Italian Race”).

You can watch “Curon” with a Netflix subscription.

Becoming Who I Was (digital rental)
co-directed by Jin Jeon

A young Indian boy is believed to be the reincarnation of a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He doesn’t have a place in his own village, but the monastery that may accept him is barred behind mountains and a Chinese government that views Tibetan Buddhist monks as symbols of resistance and unrest. It sounds like the set-up for a pointed narrative film, but this is actually a documentary.

It spans eight years of young Padma Angdu’s life and that of his caretaker, Urgyan Rickzen, through their attempt to reach Tibet. I’m not trying to be clever by using the word “attempt”. I honestly don’t know how it ends.

Jin Jeon is a documentary producer and director who’s worked in South Africa and South Korea.

You can rent “Becoming Who I Was” from Amazon Prime for $3.

The Deeper You Dig (digital rental)
co-directed by Toby Poser

This is a unique independent film made by a family. Toby Poser, husband John Adams, and daughter Zelda Adams also play the lead roles.

Poser and John wrote and directed together, with Zelda as assistant director. Poser produced, John did the music and editing, and John and Zelda shared cinematography.

Now when you talk about family-made films, you don’t expect Dario Argento-esque abduction mystery with a supernatural bent. What’s impressive is that it doesn’t exactly look homemade. At least in the trailer, there are complex shots and solid acting.

Indie has lost a lot of its meaning over the years, with studio-driven arthouse films composing most of what we refer to as indie filmmaking today. In fact, horror is one of the few genres where true indies and family and community filmmaking still thrive. Much of this is due to still being able to crack into the genre with a very low budget. Much of it is due to horror often still being driven and celebrated as a local affair. This enables movies that push boundaries and don’t play it safe – they’re exactly indie filmmaking, not just something that emulates it.

You can rent “The Deeper You Dig” from Amazon Prime, Google Play, or YouTube for $7.

Miss Snake Charmer (Hulu, Tubi)
directed by Emalee Arroyo, Rachael Connelly Waxler

Yeah, I don’t know what to do with this one. It’s a documentary about a beauty pageant that involves killing and skinning rattlesnakes as one of its competitions. The winner gets to spend the rest of the weekend standing in rattlesnake pits at the World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup. Much has been documented in the past about the cruelty of the event.

I don’t want to frame it as the documentary endorsing any of this. It may or may not; I haven’t seen it yet. This is both Emalee Arroyo and Rachael Connelly Waxler’s directorial debut.

You can watch “Miss Snake Charmer” with a Hulu or Tubi subscription. You can rent it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, or YouTube for $4.

Searching Eva (digital rental)
directed by Pia Hellenthal

This documentary follows a sex worker named Eva Colle. It seeks to examine modern sexual autonomy. The general consensus from everything that’s out there seems to be it’s “hard to pin down”.

This is German director Pia Hellenthal’s first feature. The trailer here is cut down a touch from the original, which features a lot of nudity – and frankly, I have no idea on WordPress’s hosting policies on that, so you get the (barely) SFW trailer here.

You can rent “Searching Eva” from Amazon Prime, Google Play, or YouTube for $4.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Hulu)
directed by Marielle Heller

You could previously rent Marielle Heller’s biographical drama centering on the friendship between Fred Rogers and Lloyd Vogel. This is the first time it’s available on subscription services, though.

Heller herself is rarely mentioned as one of the most promising up-and-coming film directors, yet her last two films have earned Oscar nominations. She directed “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, which earned Oscar noms for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, while “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” earned Tom Hanks his first nomination in 19 years.

You can watch “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” with a Hulu or Starz subscription. You can rent it from Redbox for $1.80, or from Vudu for $5.

Can You Hear Me? (Netflix series)
created by Florence Longpre
showrunner Julia Langlois
half-directed by Miryam Bouchard

This Quebecois series actually has two seasons out already, but Netflix has only just picked it up so U.S. viewers can see it. Unfortunately, finding a correctly translated English trailer for this has been difficult, so I hope some of you know French. (It’s frustrating when streaming services can’t manage this for series that do have English subtitles.)

“Can You Hear Me?” is a dramatic comedy that follows three women who live in poverty. Florence Longpre is both the creator and one of the writers and leads. It’s also of note that half the episodes are directed by Miryam Bouchard, who’s helmed a great deal of Quebecois TV in recent years.

You can watch “Can You Hear Me?” with a Netflix subscription.

Lenox Hill (Netflix series)
co-directed by Ruthie Shatz

Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash have worked as co-directors on a few medical docu-series now. Their previous shows “Ichilov” and “Ambulance” have centered on Israeli hospitals, but “Lenox Hill” focuses on Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. It follows four physicians: two brain surgeons, an ER doctor, and an OBGYN.

You can watch “Lenox Hill” with a Netflix subscription.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Actions to Take: Sacramento Incident of Police Violence

Sacramento DA office, Community Policing:
(916) 874-6218
(wait for first sentence of message to complete, then hit 8. On next menu, hit 1)

Sacramento Mayor’s office:
(916) 808-5300
(press 0 at menu, then press 1 on next menu)

Reporting that evidences this incident of police violence is right here.

Demand that the officer who committed these crimes is charged and prosecuted. They disobeyed their training by shooting a teenager in the face with a rubber bullet. That training exists because shooting someone in the face with rubber bullets can cause severe injury or death. Having that training yet using these weapons in that fashion regardless is attempted murder.

Given that Sacramento has multiple incidents of police violence and misuse of weapons, demand that commanding officers are investigated for whether assault on peaceful protesters and bystanders was ordered, either formally or informally. Demand investigation of whether commanding officers gave orders to disregard training by aiming rubber bullets at people’s faces. Charge and prosecute commanding officers as necessary.

The DA’s office cannot rely on the police to investigate a crime the police themselves committed. They must make an independent decision to charge and prosecute. They have photographic evidence, witnesses, and a victim.

This is not asking the DA’s office to do anything special. This is expecting them to do their job. I want to stress that the Sacramento DA’s office will treat you like shit. Don’t let this deter you. Communicate your expectations, call back if they hang up on you, repeat yourself if they transfer you. They act like bullies; show them that acting this way holds no power.

Additional video of the aftermath:

Actions to Take: New York City Incident of Police Violence

Manhattan DA’s office:
(212) 335-9000
(lodge your complaint, they’ll put you through to Community Management)

NYC Mayor’s Office:
(212) 639-9675
(just keep telling the automated system “operator” until you get connected to one)

Reporting that evidences this incident of police violence is right here.

Demand that the officer who committed these crimes is charged and prosecuted. He is clearly walking beside a superior who ignores the action. Demand that this superior is investigated. Further demand that the officer’s commanding officer is investigated for whether assault on peaceful protesters was ordered, either formally or informally.

There is an independent review, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The DA’s office cannot rely on the police to investigate a crime the police themselves committed. They must make an independent decision to charge and prosecute. They have video evidence, witnesses, and a victim.

This is not asking the DA’s office to do anything special. This is expecting them to do their job.

Article contains video of incident from multiple angles.

Actions to Take: Buffalo Incident of Police Violence

Erie County District Attorney’s office:

(716) 858-2400

Reporting that evidences this incident of police violence is right here.

Demand that the officers who committed these crimes are charged and prosecuted. Demand that their commanding officer is investigated for whether assault on peaceful protesters was ordered, either formally or informally.

The DA’s office cannot rely on the police to investigate a crime the police themselves committed. They must make an independent decision to charge and prosecute. They have video evidence, witnesses, and a victim.

This is not asking the DA’s office to do anything special. This is expecting them to do their job.

Actions to Take: Philadelphia Incident of Police Violence

Philadelphia District Attorney’s office:
(215) 686-8000

Philadelphia Mayor’s office:

(215) 686-2181

Reporting that evidences this incident of police violence is right here.

Demand that the officer who committed these crimes is charged and prosecuted. Demand that his commanding officer is investigated for whether assault on peaceful protesters was ordered, either formally or informally.

The DA’s office cannot rely on the police to investigate a crime the police themselves committed. They must make an independent decision to charge and prosecute. They have video evidence, witnesses, and a victim.

This is not asking the DA’s office to do anything special. This is expecting them to do their job.

New Movies + Shows by Women Postponed, Please Call District Attorneys and Mayors Instead

Hi all, I’m postponing the regular Friday “New Movies + Shows by Women” article. I apologize, but next week’s will include both this week’s and next week’s titles. It’ll be 2-weeks-in-1.

I’ll instead be sharing various actions you can take in calling DA offices and mayor’s offices, demanding that police and their commanding officers be held accountable for criminally violent actions.

Movies and how they change you.