This week involves a number of series and films on tough subjects, so please heed the content warnings for what you do and don’t want to watch and read.
There’s one thing I couldn’t cover here because I’m not sure where it is. The streaming service Quibi is in its last weeks of operation. Quibi announced it’s shutting down on Dec. 1. I’m not entirely sure what’s happening with their shows that are still set to debut. Docu-series “Slugfest” was supposed to be out this week. Is it? When I go on Quibi, it can’t find the page I’m looking for. Who knows? They may be shopping it to another service.
I’m somewhat relieved because I thought it was going to be some awesome documentary about people who get together to celebrate their love of slugs. We wouldn’t want to miss that. But it’s just about the Marvel vs. D.C. Comics rivalry. I’m not even sure people are still interested in that, are they? Hey, Iron Man can fully withdraw into a hard outer shell. Is he technically a snail? “Slugfest” is co-directed by Sheena M. Joyce, wherever it is or might end up.
I’ll be splitting new documentaries by women off into their own article next week again because there’s a good amount of material in total this week. This article will cover new narrative series and movies:
A Teacher (Hulu)
showrunner Hannah Fidell
CW: grooming, statutory rape
“A Teacher” centers on a high school teacher who grooms one of her students. Reflecting a number of real-world examples, Claire (Kate Mara) begins a relationship with Eric (Nick Robinson) that leads to repeated statutory rape. When this happens to boys, it’s often brushed under the rug or boys are congratulated for sleeping with an older woman. This ignores their having been sexually assaulted. A second lasting wound that follows the first, this reaction is an aspect of toxic masculinity that often prevents victims from coming forward and finding the support they need.
It looks like “A Teacher” will tackle the longer-lasting impact and the damage done to Eric. I hope that this is one of its priorities. (Past projects on this subject matter have occasionally exploited the salacious aspects as fantasy.)
Showrunner Hannah Fidell directed a movie on the subject in 2013, also called “A Teacher”. She’s since directed the films “6 Years” and “The Long Dumb Road”. She also wrote on each. Six of the show’s 10 episodes are also directed by Fidell, and two more by Gillian Robespierre (director of “Obvious Child”.)
The first three episodes are out now, and a new episode will premiere every week.
You can watch “A Teacher” on Hulu with a subscription.
mostly directed by women
“Industry” follows young investment bankers and analysts competing for positions at a London firm just after the 2008 financial collapse.
The series showrunners are men, but five of the first season’s eight episodes are directed by women. (Either being showrun or having half the episodes directed by women are the metrics I use for featuring a series here.)
The first episode is directed by Lena Dunham, creator of “Girls”. Another is directed by Mary Nighy, a director on UKTV’s “Traces”. Three are directed by Tinge Krishnan, a director on British web series “The Feed”.
The first episode is out now, and a new episode will premiere every week.
You can watch “Industry” on HBO with a subscription.
Come Away (VOD)
directed by Brenda Chapman
“Come Away” combines “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan” in a unique way. A sister and brother live out these fantasy worlds as a way of helping their parents cope with the death of their older brother and a debt they owe.
One thing that makes “Come Away” intriguing is the director. The travails of Brenda Chapman’s work on Pixar’s “Brave” are well documented. The co-director of “The Prince of Egypt”, she created and wrote “Brave”. She was announced as Pixar’s first woman director when she was also set to helm “Brave”. Then she was replaced by Mark Andrews due to disagreements with Pixar executive producer John Lasseter.
As for Lasseter, he would later leave Pixar and Disney Animation after admitting sexual misconduct with employees that included groping, kissing, and sexual harassment. Just the guy you want overriding a woman’s decisions on a film about a girl discovering her independence, right?
Lasseter landed on his feet just fine as the new Head of Animation for Skydance. He was out of work for one week, and removed from any executive position for a total of only six months. Chapman was well regarded enough to keep working as a story consultant, but she didn’t get another film to direct for eight damn years.
Combine that with the fact that right-wing trolls are bombarding “Come Away” with objections to casting Black actors as Alice and Peter Pan, and this ticks nearly every box under “Let’s go watch it”. All we’d need is an angry J.K. Rowling tweet and I’d have bigot bingo.
As a new release, “Come Away” is at a theater-equivalent $20 rental point. See where to watch “Come Away” on streaming right here.
What We Wanted (Netflix)
directed by Ulrike Kofler
Alice and Niklas desperately want to have a child, but they’ve had four failed attempts. They go on holiday only to meet a couple who has everything they want – the happy marriage and a child of their own.
The film is based on a short story, and it was submitted as Austria’s entry for Best International Feature at next year’s Oscars.
This is Ulrike Kofler’s feature debut as both writer and director. She comes from an editing background in Austrian and German film, and she’s worked on both documentaries and narrative projects.
You can watch “What We Wanted” on Netflix with a subscription.
Honey Bee (VOD)
directed by Rama Rau
CW: grooming, statutory rape, child trafficking, reference to suicide
“Honey Bee” follows Natalie. She’s an underage prostitute who’s used as part of a human trafficking ring. After the ring is arrested, she’s removed to foster care in a remote section of Ontario. This doesn’t remove her from danger or her loyalty to the former ‘boyfriend’ who controlled her, however.
Rama Rau is a name to watch. She’s been chiefly a documentary filmmaker. “The Market” followed human organ trafficking. “No Place to Hide” described the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons after she was gang raped, bullied about it, and police failed to do anything resembling their jobs in investigating it. “League of Exotic Dancers” explores the racism and exploitation that pervaded classic burlesque, and yet is often ignored in our idealized re-tellings of it today. “The Daughter Tree” examines the preference for boys in India, and what happens to both girls and boys as a result of it.
See where to rent “Honey Bee” on streaming right here.
De Lo Mio (HBO)
directed by Diana Peralta
Two sisters from New York City go to the Dominican Republic to help clean their late father’s home. Their estranged brother helps them, but the family reuniting in this way brings out difficulties in the experiences they’ve missed together. In many ways, the sisters are severing connections to a culture they’ve never fully known, while also reuniting with a brother who’s never left that culture.
“De Lo Mio” is written and directed by Diana Peralta. The film is her feature debut.
You can watch “De Lo Mio” on HBO Max or HBO Latino with a subscription. (It’s not online at the publication of this feature, but should be by tomorrow.)
directed by Yoon Een-Kyoung
Yoo-mi’s mother committed suicide at a hotel five years ago. She now finds herself having to leave her younger brother there with a friend. Needless to say, creepy things start happening and they originate from her mother’s old room.
“Lingering” is written and directed by Yoon Een-Kyoung, and it appears to be her feature debut.
You can watch “Lingering” on Shudder with a subscription.
All Joking Aside (VOD)
directed by Shannon Kohli
Charlene is trying to make it as a stand-up comic, but can’t seem to develop a reliable act. She crosses paths with a heckling audience member, who turns out to be a washed-up comic himself. She pursues him for help in refining her comedy.
Shannon Kohli comes from a background of cinematography, and shifted into directing on series like “Van Helsing”, “Riverdale”, and “The Magicians” – including one of the latter’s famous musical episodes.
See where to rent “All Joking Aside” on streaming right here.
My Summer as a Goth (VOD)
directed by Tara Johnson-Medinger
“My Summer as a Goth” is about a girl who discovers a new identity in being goth. It’s centered around a new romance and she’ll have to determine how much of her newfound love of goth is wrapped up in him vs. her own wants.
Reviews agree that it’s a sweet, low-budget comedy, though they seem split on whether the portrayal of goth culture is meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek or if its broadness is off-the-mark.
This is writer-director Tara Johnson-Medinger’s first film. Her background as a producer of music history documentaries makes for an intriguing resume.
See where to rent “My Summer as a Goth” on streaming right here.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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