Tag Archives: Australian film

New Shows + Movies by Women — March 18, 2022

I have a lot to say about the first series and its creator’s history. It’s important for me to share as much as I can find, but when something intersects with racism, that’s also important to highlight. A big part of the way I write this feature is to highlight the names of women behind these shows and movies, but when one of these names has a history with a racist project, I find myself not always knowing what to do. I also find myself nervous about the specific kind of racism. If I talk about someone being racist toward Black or Asian people, I’m not Black or Asian. I don’t feel doubtful for saying something’s racist because there’s no internal monologue telling me I shouldn’t. There are Black or Asian voices I can point to; I can follow their lead.

When a creator has been racist toward Mexican people in their work, that is something I’ve endured. It is something that has targeted me. It’s a pain I know and have inhabited. Discussing it opens up vulnerability and trauma I’ve experienced. Because I’ve so often been told by the people applying that racism that I’m overreacting or that it doesn’t exist, even bringing it up makes me terrified that no one will take it seriously. I can’t follow someone else’s lead because it’s my lead. My work as a Latino writer isn’t just in reckoning with it, it’s in proving to others that it exists, proving to others that my voice is legitimate to talk about its existence. I have to prove to all that vulnerability and trauma stacked up in me that I’m able to do it even as that ingrained self-doubt tells me in countless ways I can’t possibly do it right. I’m supposed to be one of those voices. If I don’t speak, I know I’m repeating the marginalization that expects me as a Latino to be too exhausted and afraid to do so. If I do speak, I have to wade through all that marginalization I’ve internalized to just get to the first word.

It’s like this with all marginalizations; this moment it’s just my turn. But whoever’s ‘turn’ it is, realize they’re terrified to be taking it. It’s unfair that the work of proving it – whether for Black, Asian, Latine, indigenous, women, disabled, LGBTQ+ writers, the list goes on – that the burden of all that work is on the shoulders of whoever is facing the bigotry aimed at them in that moment. It is an unfair critical structure that our culture assumes as its default. To speak is needed, and the burden of that is it demands repeating the internal experience of violence. To not speak may avoid that direct pressure point, but asks the quieted to live inside and legitimize their marginalization. Men need to understand that for women. White people need to understand that for people of color. Enabled people need to understand that for disabled people. Cis het people need to understand that for LGBTQ+ people.

The purpose of this feature is to highlight work by women and to help make the women doing that work better known. I don’t always know how to call something out when the history of that person’s work itself platforms racism, misogyny, ableism, or other forms of bigotry. I’ve cut things before because they’re blatantly, explicitly hateful. I won’t platform bigotry, but there’s a lot that rides the line, or that comes from someone who featured bigotry in one project…but perhaps not this one.

I’m sure there are some things I don’t see – especially with not being able to watch everything that’s featured here. I specifically want to make this article series as informational as possible because that helps me mitigate potential forms of implicit bias I may not recognize I hold. When a creator has made racist work before, I hope readers realize bringing it up is about the racism, and that does have a place being discussed when that work is featured for another reason. I hope to see the creator I’m about to highlight surpass that racism, to isolate it to a prior point in her career, but without seeing some kind of reckoning with that prior work, the only other option is to talk about the nature of it and the impact it has.

NEW SERIES

Minx (HBO Max)
showrunner Ellen Rapoport

“Minx” follows Joyce as she creates the first erotic magazine for women in the U.S. “Minx” takes its inspiration from a number of similar magazines that started publishing in the 70s. Ophelia Lovibond and Jake Johnson star.

Ellen Rapoport previously wrote and produced on “Three Moons Over Milford”. She got her start as a writer on “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment”.

I’m trying to figure out the right way to say this because the moment I looked at Rapoport’s project history my heart sank. She wrote a film called “Desperados” which was incredibly racist toward Mexicans in an era when that racism is even more dangerous than usual. When a creator has done that before, I can’t feature something from them without noting it.

Like I said, I strive to keep this feature informational, but that is information to me because that kind of racism is dangerous in general and it’s specifically dangerous to me and my family. What makes us safer is other people realizing that is information as well, and not some kneejerk or emotional interpretation. When someone is racist, the fact that they are racist and have done something racist is information we need other people to understand instead of dismiss. The kind of things Rapoport wrote in “Desperados” are the kind of things that make people feel legitimized in dehumanizing or threatening Latine people. I wrestled with whether I should even feature this project or not, but there’s nothing that immediately points to “Minx” sharing that racism. That doesn’t make me feel immediately safer because “Desperados” didn’t look racist from its press releases and trailer either.

This isn’t a case of me harping on something minor; “Desperados” was repetitively racist and dehumanizing. To share another project from the same creator without talking about that would be to participate in my own dehumanization and marginalization. I’m hoping it was isolated to that one project because I’m genuinely interested in “Minx”, but I know from experience that hope is not often sustained.

You can watch “Minx” on HBO Max. Two new episodes arrive every Thursday, for a total of 10.

Standing Up (Netflix)
showrunner Fanny Herrero

In this French comedy, four young Parisians juggle stressful lives and jobs while trying to make it as stand up comedians.

Showrunner Fanny Herrero also created French comedy “Call My Agent!”.

You can watch “Standing Up” on Netflix.

The Newsreader (Roku)
directed by Emma Freeman

Anna Torv plays a news anchor who takes a reporter under her wing and trains him. They develop a bond as they cover the whirlwind of news the mid-80s brought. The series is set behind-the-scenes at an Australian broadcast news program.

Emma Freeman has directed on “Stateless” and “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”, among other Australian series.

You can watch “The Newsreader” on Roku. All six episodes are available immediately.

Cracow Monsters (Netflix)
showrunner Kasia Adamik

In this Polish fantasy series, a medical student is pulled into a circle of investigators who hunt monsters and gods from Slavic mythology.

Kasia Adamik’s shows regularly contend at the Polish Film Awards, with “Wataha” winning two of its three best series nominations, and “1983” being nominated. For “Pokot”, she was also nominated for Best Film and Best Director alongside her mother and co-director, the great Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland.

You can watch “Cracow Monsters” on Netflix. All eight episodes are available immediately.

The Paradise (Acorn TV)
directed by Marja Pyykko

In this Finnish-Spanish mystery series, a Finnish family is found murdered in Spain’s Costa del Sol. They send an investigator to bridge the Finnish community and Spanish investigators there. The series is told in Finnish, Spanish, and English.

Director Marja Pyykko is a fairly prolific director of Finnish TV.

You can watch “The Paradise” on Acorn TV. All eight episodes are available immediately.

Welcome to Flatch (Fox)
showrunner Jenny Bicks

A U.S. remake of BBC mockumentary series “This Country”, “Welcome to Flatch” sees a documentary crew film the young adults of a small town.

Showrunner Jenny Bicks was a producer on “Sex and the City”, and wrote and produced on “The Big C” and “Men in Trees”.

You can watch “Welcome to Flatch” on Fox. New episodes arrive every Friday.

Lust (HBO Max)
directed by Emma Lemhagen

No English trailer available, but in this Swedish series, Anette takes part in a government study about the sex lives of women in their 40s. This evokes her and her friends to reflect on how the study’s questions play into their lives.

Emma Lemhagen directs. She’s helmed films in Sweden since the 90s.

You can watch “Lust” on HBO Max. All episodes are available now.

NEW MOVIES

Love After Love (MUBI)
directed by Ann Hui

In the 1940s, a girl is sent from Shanghai to Hong Kong so she can continue her education. Instead, she starts working for her aunt to seduce the rich and powerful.

Ann Hui is a legendary Hong Kong director who’s won Best Director at the Golden Horse Awards three times and at the Hong Kong Film Awards six times.

This is the third time Hui has directed an adaptation of Eileen Chang’s writing. Chang was a feminist writer of the 1940s who fled the Communist regime. Another adaptation of her work that might be familiar to Western audiences is Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution”.

You can watch “Love After Love” on MUBI.

Master (Amazon)
directed by Mariama Diallo

Three Black women at a college in New England begin to share strange experiences. Regina Hall and Zoe Renee star.

Writer-director Mariama Diallo wrote and directed on experimental series “Random Acts of Flyness”. This is her first feature film.

You can watch “Master” on Amazon.

Violet (Showtime)
directed by Justine Bateman

Violet suffers anxiety. Knowing she makes her decisions out of fear, she puts herself in fearful situations in order to break the cycle. Olivia Munn stars.

Justine Bateman is best known as an actress going as far back as “Family Ties”. This is her first feature as writer or director.

You can watch “Violet” on Showtime.

Cheaper by the Dozen (Disney+)
directed by Gail Lerner

Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union star in this remake of the 2003 Steve Martin/Bonnie Hunt comedy. It centers on a chaotic family of 12.

Director Gail Lerner has helmed episodes of “Grace and Frankie” and “Black-ish”. This is her first feature.

You can watch “Cheaper by the Dozen” on Disney+.

Rescued by Ruby (Netflix)
directed by Katt Shea

A state trooper partners with a rescued shelter dog in an attempt to get into the K-9 Search and Rescue unit.

Director Katt Shea started out as an actress in the 80s, but was soon directing films for legendary B-movie maker Roger Corman. Her big break came in 1992 with the infamous “Poison Ivy”. After 18 years away (since 2001), she returned with “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” and seems to be focusing on the family genre. (In a weird twist, this also stars Scott Wolf, an actor on Melinda Hsu Taylor’s very different “Nancy Drew” series, which I highly recommend. I look forward to winning a pub quiz with this trivia several years from now.)

You can watch “Rescued by Ruby” on Netflix.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

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

New Shows + Movies by Women — February 18, 2022

It’s funny when weeks take on themes. The week after Valentine’s Day is apparently the time for TV shows about affairs and breakups. Everyone all right out there? I’ve got to look at past years and see if this is a regular occurrence, or just a coincidence this week.

It’s also a time for horror movies, and this is something I know is pretty common to February. Composed of mid-budget and low-budget films, horror likes to lurk where event movies don’t. Superhero and action films are waiting for those prime summer dates, so they aren’t sucking up all the audience right now. That provides an opportunity for films that lack the marketing budget to compete – and these days, that typically means horror, which has found a lot of success in these off-peak months.

I’ll also point out that a new Celine Sciamma film drops this week. It doesn’t fall into either of those categories, but as the filmmaker behind “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, “Girlhood”, and “Tomboy”, Sciamma has a strong argument as the best director working today.

Netflix has a number of short films debuting by both women and men this week. This includes Ashley Eakin’s directorial project “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”, a 13 minute short about a disabled boy who must escape Germany’s Aktion T4 program during Nazi rule. The program of forced euthanasia resulted in the murder of 300,000 disabled people in Austria, Germany, occupied Poland, and parts of what is now the Czech Republic, often with the aid of regional Catholic and Protestant authorities.

Marielle Woods directs Netflix short “Heart Shot”, a 19 minute film about two teenagers in love, but facing an unspoken danger. Woods has worked on stunts for “John Wick: Chapter 2”, “Baby Driver”, “Bright”, and stunt coordinated on “Westworld”.

New projects this week come from Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, Sweden, the U.K., and the U.S.

NEW SERIES

Aftertaste (Acorn TV)
showrunner Julie De Fina

Easton West is a celebrity chef with anger issues who burns all his bridges and has to retreat to his hometown in Adelaide, Australia. There, he takes on starting a new, more humble restaurant with an unexpected partner.

Julie De Fina created the show with Matthew Bate and showruns and writes on it.

You can watch “Aftertaste” on Acorn TV. All six episodes are available immediately.

Lov3 (Amazon)
half directed by Mariana Youssef

In this Brazilian series, three siblings navigate dating by pursuing unconventional relationships in the wake of their parents’ separation. There’s no English trailer available, but the series itself does have English options.

Mariana Youssef directs three of the six episodes. It’s her first time directing on a series; she’s previously worked on documentaries and short films. “Lov3” was co-created by Rita Moraes.

You can watch “Lov3” on Amazon. All six episodes are available immediately.

Fishbowl Wives (Netflix)
half directed by Namiki Michiko

Sakura Hiraga lives a glamorous life of luxury that hides her husband’s abusive behavior from others. Unable to leave, she makes a connection with another man that reminds her of the dreams she’s given up. She’s just one of six women who pursue affairs in the Japanese series “Fishbowl Wives”.

Namiki Michiko directs at least four of the eight episodes. She’s directed a number of Japanese films and series, including the modernized 2019 adaptation of “Les Miserables”.

You can watch “Fishbowl Wives” on Netflix. All eight episodes are available immediately.

NEW MOVIES

Petite Maman (MUBI)
directed by Celine Sciamma

Nelly is a girl who’s lost her grandmother. She goes on a trip to help her parents clean out her grandmother’s home. Exploring the forest there, she meets another girl building a treehouse. The French film is told from a child’s perspective.

Writer-director Celine Sciamma is the first name that comes to mind when you ask me about the best director working today. She directed “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and my #3 pick for best films of the 2010s, “Girlhood”.

You can watch “Petite Maman” on MUBI.

A Banquet (VOD)
directed by Ruth Paxton

Sienna Guillory plays Holly, a widowed mother who tries to cope with her daughter Betsey declaring her body now belongs to a higher power. Betsey refuses to eat, but doesn’t suffer or lose weight, and Holly is forced to contend with who or what this higher power may be.

Ruth Paxton started as a production designer and art director, and has written and directed several shorts that interpret painting and dance. This is her feature-length debut.

See where to rent “A Banquet”.

CW: imagery of suicide

Knocking (Shudder, VOD)
directed by Frida Kempff

After undergoing a trauma and a stay in a psychiatric ward, Molly moves into a new apartment. Yet she keeps hearing knocking. She can’t sleep or live a normal life, and no one else hears it or believes her. “Knocking” is adapted by Emma Brostrom from the novel by Johan Theorin.

Frida Kempff is a Swedish director who’s primarily helmed documentaries before this. “Knocking” is her first narrative feature.

You can watch “Knocking” on Shudder, or see where to rent it.

Horror Noire (AMC+)
co-directed by Zandashe Brown, Robin Givens

This anthology film presents six horror stories from Black directors and screenwriters. Tony Todd, Peter Stormare, and Lesley-Ann Brandt star.

Zandashe Brown is a relatively new director. Robin Givens is known for her acting career, which has ranged from “Head of the Class” to “Riverdale”. This is her third feature as director, and she’s helmed some episodes on “Riverdale”.

You can watch “Horror Noire” on AMC+.

The Space Between (Hulu, Paramount+)
directed by Rachel Winter

Kelsey Grammar plays an eccentric rock musician who’s losing track of reality. He has to contend with the people his label sends to force him out of his contract, but may be on the verge of rediscovering his music.

Rachel Winter has produced on films like “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Krystal”. This is her first feature as director.

You can watch “The Space Between” on Hulu or Paramount+.

Flee the Light (VOD)
directed by Alexandra Senza

A psychology student accidentally releases an ancient supernatural force when she tries to cure her sister’s psychosis.

This is the first feature directed by Alexandra Senza.

You can rent “Flee the Light” on iTunes or Vudu.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

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

Culture War: The Dire Condition of Australia’s Arts Funding

Sydney Opera House

by Olivia Smith

Australia is a source of incredible filmmakers and visual artists, but funding for our most independent creators is beset by a coalition led by Senator George Brandis, who heads our Ministry for the Arts.

Our artists face a dire reality: grants are harder to find, and overwhelmingly favour companies secure in their establishment. The Ministry selects for orchestras, operas, and ballets with tourist appeal, while starving out distinctly Australian artists.

Multiplexes are held captive by American companies that stuff their own products onto every screen. Australian-made means you compete with other Australian-made films to get the dingiest, filthiest corner screen. In 2013, Australian films were disregarded to the tune of a dismal 3.5% of box office.

And now, Screen Australia’s funding has been cut by $38 million.

In theatre, five playwrights account for a whopping 24% of Australian drama put on between 1987 and 2013. This is while only 45% of plays – less than half – can be described as Australian in origin. Again, this leads back to the Ministry’s preference in funding only what they interpret as safe, classical work.

We are also beholden to reviews in English papers. A bad review abroad is often worse than a bad review at home. Heaven forbid we offend the delicate tastes of the mother country. These critics would often rather see more Shakespeare and other English playwrights, but this strangles support for new Australian theatre. Of plays performed that originate overseas, nine authors account for 69% of the work. There is meager market and support for up-and-coming Australian playwrights.

Visual artists are forced to find corporate sponsorship. This can easily go wrong, as when nine artists boycotted the Sydney Biennale because of a single sponsor. Transfield Holdings owns stake in Transfield Services, which operates two immigrant detention gulags so far off shore that they are closer to Indonesia and Solomon Islands than they are to the continent.

Their gambit worked, forcing Transfield to conclude their sponsorship, to which Brandis responded with threats to cut off government funding of the arts portion. I link a Guardian piece above because our own media frowned upon the upright actions of artists and wagged fingers: it might frighten other corporate sponsors, they warned. Is corporate sponsorship so skittish? Is it so crucial to artists that they cannot survive without it? Unfortunately, the state of our arts funding appears to make the answer to both questions, “Yes.”

Australia has become stifled and stagnant. The art our government chooses to fund is the kind that pleases England and America the best. We are like the child proffering a mangled project of construction-paper and glue to our mother and step-father, hoping that they like it. We refuse to believe that in their eyes we will never be their equal, and so we don’t grow up and invest in our own art infrastructure.

Enough of this and our identity will cease to be Australian. Like our art, we will become poor imitations of other countries.

To find an example of growing up and striking out on our own path, we need look no further than our little brother New Zealand, a country that has created art the way they see fit and has captured the world’s imagination in doing so. Their government has valued community and local arts, has overcome the xenophobia we still suffer and offered opportunities (i.e. poached) artists from Indonesia and Australia, and mobilised crowdfunding, resource sharing, and cooperative creation as ways to bolster local art. Meanwhile, we keep what the tourists like alive while we let our own artistic community stagnate.

Special Edition Trailers of the Week — Aussie Rules

by Gabriel Valdez

There were a few fantastic trailers from Australia and New Zealand this week that I didn’t want to get lost in our regular edition, especially because this next film just became my most anticipated:

PREDESTINATION
Trailer #2

Here’s the thing about Predestination. It’s based on a Robert Heinlein short story about a time traveler who descends from himself…by impregnating himself before a sex change.

The trailer doesn’t breathe a word of this, but if you know the material, you can see it strongly hinted. Perhaps the film just uses the Heinlein name and the time travel concept. Even if that’s true, it still looks like a visually arresting thriller.

BUT! And this might be the biggest “but” in film history – if it addresses Heinlein’s concept in any way (and I wouldn’t put it past Ethan Hawke to tackle it), we are in for a hell of an ambitious film.

Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies” is a stunning mindbender about a man who creates his entire lineage using temporal paradoxes. In the time it was written, it was an important and challenging metaphor for the struggles of the transgendered, and made readers feel real emotion for a character they might have ridiculed were he a real person standing before them.

Predestination might just be a time travel noir using the barest framework of Heinlein’s story. But if it’s not…oh boy, if it’s not, if it’s true to Heinlein, it’s one of the most difficult – and potentially most important – film adaptations ever tackled.

THE DEAD LANDS
Trailer #1

I’m a big fan of action films about indigenous peoples, because you know what? Indigenous peoples had action franchises, too. Occasionally, a film like this is exploitative, but a surprising amount of the time there’s a real passion and dedication that goes into presenting these societies in detail, and proudly.

The Dead Lands is being produced by the same group that financed Indonesia’s two The Raid movies – the best action franchise of the past decade – and they have a habit of trusting their talent and giving them the means to try out crazy ideas more traditional studios wouldn’t go near.

This means a lot in the countries of Oceania, where there isn’t exactly a lot of money for original filmmaking in the first place. Needless to say, I’m eagerly anticipating a stylish New Zealand action movie that – hopefully – is both respectful and revealing of Maori storytelling culture. After all, we get to hear stories from the perspectives of indigenous peoples far too rarely.

THE MULE
Trailer #1

A movie about how long it takes a man to go to the bathroom. Wait, wait! It’s more complicated. You see, he has drugs in his stomach, he’s being detained by the authorities led by Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Captain America), and he’s being stalked by the drug dealer he’s late in meeting, played by John Noble (Fringe, Sleepy Hollow). He’s cooped up in a small, Melbourne hotel room while a legal aide tries to get him free and his family turns increasingly dramatic.

It looks like a blistering, uncomfortable comedy with some truly intense moments to it, the kinds of comedies Australia does with a brutal sense of just how to make you laugh out of discomfort.

That’s our special Down Under roundup this week. By the way, if you’re looking for more news and reviews on Australian film, I highly recommend my own go-to source, Jordan and Eddie. They’re two young Australian critics who are fantastic reads.