Tag Archives: Japanese film

New Shows + Movies by Women — Shirakawa, Dahomey, Sicily

You may notice a few changes. First of all, it’s Thursday! What’s this doing a day early? I’m going to move New Shows + Movies by Women from Friday to Thursday. I’d like it to be a permanent move, but I want to make sure it works well first. It’s a better day for readership, and it gives readers a little more prep time to plan ahead for their weekend viewing. I’ll still cover everything coming out through Friday for the week.

I’m also playing around with titling. Dates are good, but they don’t grab people. Folks don’t click on something that says April 2022 because it’s now out of date…yet the shows and movies featured in that article will still be just as directed by women as they were a year ago. The purpose of the article and information it has doesn’t change or lose value, and the title should reflect that. Besides, the date remains the first thing after the title when you click through.

New series this week come from Japan, while new movies come from Italy and the U.S.


Dearest (Netflix)
directed by Tsukahara Ayuko

Japanese series "Dearest" on Netflix.

(Yes, Netflix is still terrible about releasing trailers for their smaller international licenses.)

In this Japanese series, Rio is a businesswoman who discovers she witnessed a murder 15 years prior. She has to navigate this newfound responsibility between the contrary urges of an old flame detective and a protective lawyer.

Tsukahara Ayuko directs. She’s directed a ton of Japanese series, including on Nogi Akiko’s “MIU404”, which landed last month (and which I loved).

“Dearest” is another in Netflix’s recent push to bring on more Japanese broadcast series.

You can watch “Dearest” (or “Saiai”) on Netflix. All 10 episodes are available immediately.


The Woman King (Netflix)
directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood

“The Woman King” depicts Dahomey, an historical kingdom that counted among the most powerful nations in Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries. Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, and John Boyega star.

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood also helmed “The Old Guard”, “Beyond the Lights”, and “The Secrets Life of Bees”. She started in the 90s as a writer on “A Different World”.

You can watch “The Woman King” on Netflix.

Game of Love (Hulu)
directed by Elisa Amoruso

Bella Thorne stars as Vivien, whose partner Roy is preparing the family estate for sale. She discovers secrets about his past that put their romance in jeopardy. The film is Italian, but English language.

Elisa Amoruso has directed and co-written a number of romantic dramas, including Thorne’s previous “Time is Up”, which forms a loose franchise with “Game of Love”.

“Game of Love” debuts Friday, Feb. 17. You can watch it on Hulu.

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.

The Antidote to Us vs. Them Cop Shows — “MIU404”

“MIU404” is the first police procedural I’ve seen that’s consistently empathetic to its lawbreakers. The Japanese series keeps a keen focus on the circumstances and corruption that funnel many into crime, whether it’s abused workers, indebted women, or immigrants traded in bulk by businesses.

A Mobile Investigative Unit (MIU) is a patrolling unit that arrives on scene to start the investigation as quickly as possible. It’s designed to hand over this initial work to a local or specialized department. Sometimes, they’re brought in as support for ongoing investigations. It’s an interesting approach for a police procedural genre that’s long relied on A-to-B plots that catch the bad guy and wrap up in an hour. “MIU404” can do this, but it’s just as interested in the frayed cases, messy loose ends, and law enforcement blind spots that are never resolved.

What’s shown here is much closer to real investigative work. It relies on comparing interviews to physical details instead of making the crime scene a magic detective diorama. A team that brings multiple perspectives bounces ideas off each other, instead of one genius being relied upon to solve it all. They ask relevant specialists for their expertise instead of having mind palaces that store information like a computer. They consult their captain, go through procedure, and get permission when they want to chase down hunches that aren’t fully supported – or get told why they shouldn’t. DNA is almost never mentioned. It’s a staggeringly fresh breath of air that feels more real than countless gritty detective shows.

The live wire in “MIU404” is Ayano Go’s portrayal of police officer Ibuki Ai. An inexperienced and impetuous officer who’s flunked out of every department, he’s given one last chance with the MIU. It’s not named outright, but he has what might be an impulse control disorder. He also has a past incident of beating a suspect – not someone we’d expect to be the show’s bleeding heart. Usually that would be the background for the series’ grizzled vet, not the excited apprentice. Yet Ibuki relentlessly argues on behalf of victims and suspects alike, always wanting to give whoever they’re after the benefit of the doubt. His two modes are charging in, hoping for a chase or fight, and standing up as the voice that empathizes and presumes innocence.

Hoshino Gen’s Shima Kazumi is the grizzled vet who’s been demoted, but he doesn’t fit familiar stereotypes either. He does his best to make no presumptions about a case. As he often repeats, he distrusts everyone including himself. He’s a skilled and perceptive investigator, and Ibuki’s hunches can grate on him. Shima does things by the book because it means he can better remove his own potential bias.

Interestingly, this includes Shima recognizing his own limitations. He knows that as raw and misdirected as Ibuki can be, the younger man also has a willingness to take chances that Shima lacks. Ibuki will risk chasing something futile that Shima wouldn’t. Shima recognizes this is an asset. He appreciates that Ibuki has a different way of doing things that can also dig out hidden truths, so long as Ibuki remembers to temper his emotions before acting on them.

This gives us partners who are empathetic in completely different ways. Ibuki’s empathy is emotional. He wears it on his sleeve and starts to act on it even when it might be counterproductive. He also lacks the self-awareness to identify the boundary between what he wants for himself and what’s good for others. He can mistake the two.

Shima’s empathy is much more measured. He needs it to be informed. He’s weathered enough to be motivated by the impact of his actions rather than an emotional need to act. Of course, that means he can sometimes overanalyze whether he’s justifying an action. That makes his empathy too guarded and slow at times.

Both approaches have their strengths and pitfalls. Both characters are deeply flawed and imperfect. Yet together, they have a way of tempering those weaknesses. Shima holds Ibuki back when the impact is opposite of the intent, or when Ibuki’s being narcissistic…and Ibuki coaxes Shima into action when the latter would overanalyze away their chance to help.

Their ability to build empathy for each other in a way the other doesn’t have access to for themselves means they have an ability to guard against each other’s potential abuses of power. By the time we’ve met them, neither is doing anything egregious, but they’re able to point out the casual and implicit shortcuts they might take as police that they really shouldn’t. This is a way for the series to highlight criticisms of policing in a way that offers a more constructive route. It’s a remarkably smart and nuanced approach.

“MIU404” doesn’t present us ideal cops or an expectation for them to be perfect individuals. Nor does it give us unrealistic heroic icons who pave over faults as many U.S. procedurals do. Instead, it gives us deeply flawed, often tired people. They might be so flawed as to be harmful, and that grind itself isn’t easy…except the show describes how a healthy environment of various perspectives, accountable oversight, and honest communication about their impulses and ideas can help the department better serve people.

There are elements that may take some acclimation for Western viewers. “MIU404” is a broadcast series made for Japanese audiences, not a co-production with a Western company with global viewership in mind. There are different storytelling priorities, particularly when it comes to the comedy.

The series can flip between video-esque and cinematic approaches to storytelling pretty readily. We’re used to shows that choose one aesthetic instead of contrasting the two. What that video-esque realness brings forth isn’t drama or aesthetic, but rather how ordinary much of what’s presented is. It doesn’t feel like actors are getting gritty realness or neon-at-night hyperreality, but the video-esque quality brings things down from the level of acted drama to the level of “yeah, this could happen”.

Making the investigations feel ordinary, unremarkable, and routine makes it much more consequential than a thousand breadcrumb-by-algorithm NCIS episodes. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat there watching a broadcast police procedural and thought, “This feels real”. Don’t get me wrong, the old Dick Wolf, “Law and Order”, Campbell’s-soup-for-TV approach has its place, but it’s also lost much of its original intent behind an ocean of cop shows saturated in us vs. them themes, computers-are-magic montages, and relentless police brutality glorification. With those, you can hop in halfway through any episode and know the full plot stakes inside two minutes because the progression of each story is exactly the same.

The standout quality of “MIU404” is Nogi Akiko’s mystery writing. It’s not all dead bodies and ticking clocks either. One episode revolves around high schoolers prank calling the police, pretending to be women who are stalked and getting in the way of investigating a real serial stalker. Since MIU is support, they’re tasked with investigating the prank calls while the investigative department pursues the stalker. Even before the two inevitably intersect, the course of that investigation is still compelling, a testament to writing that doesn’t need constant escalation in order to be interesting.

The series does have a few moments of melodrama and heightened drama. This might seem a big leap from that sense of the everyday it features in its investigations, but that’s more because of what we’re used to as U.S. audiences. Gritty drama is made all around the world, but it’s only the primary mode of visual storytelling in a few places – mostly North America and Europe. The rest of the world leans further toward melodrama as its storytelling medium, and let’s be real – our obsession with grittiness is just as apt to go overboard and lack believability.

That shift from the ordinary to melodramatic, which often includes a bit of cute and cringe, is just as normal as our storytelling shifts from ordinary to gritty, which often includes grim menace and a reinforcing one-liner timed to the commercial break. If you’re willing to pick up and understand how one is as natural a progression as the other, then “MIU404” is thoughtful, moving, and funny. If that’s a step too far, then you may get some storytelling whiplash from the show’s shifting tones.

Ibuki and Shima’s different approaches to similar empathy don’t stop the two from constantly getting on each others’ nerves, and herein lies the downfall of many a police procedural. I consider myself something of an expert on witty buddy cop banter, having survived many years of the “Hawaii Five-0” reboot. Why would I do that to myself? It was the only way to watch Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park kick ass for several years running. Unfortunately, every episode would stick the other two leads (Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan) together for filler so they could bicker each side of a B-plot nobody cared about. And then they’d play tinkly little piano music over it to suggest this was somehow fun. Every broadcast police procedural made in the U.S. repeats this. It’s Buddy Cop 101 and it makes me want to tear my hair out.

“MIU404” has some bickering, but it’s mostly well written and acted. Some of it borders on comedy routine, and it often veers straight into dramatic and revealing character moments. There’s a rare bit that doesn’t land or that relies on a level of cuteness that’s a big cultural difference – something we’d never include in a U.S. police procedural. Most of it really works, and feels like a welcome deluge in the desert of terrible police show banter.

Moreover, Ibuki and Shima’s bickering reveals a closeness and appreciation for each other, as it becomes more and more of an in-joke between them. It also reflects their growing ability to call each other in when one’s going too far or the other’s being a stick in the mud. It would’ve been easy to take this in an Odd Couple route, but “MIU404” is much more interested in how this helps them see from the other’s perspective and learn their own limitations. It’s a much warmer feeling, and creates the sense of a safe space the series can lean on to tackle some exceptionally tough themes in its cases.

The episodes themselves are explicit about the issues they call out. Investigations center on workplace abuse, road rage, Japan’s lack of witness protection, and the abuse of immigrants, just to name a few early topics. Desperate crimes aren’t seen as a perpetrator to lock up and tally off, but rather a symptom of larger social ills to identify. Other procedurals might do this from time to time as a ‘special episode’, but they’re often written as half-measures because it’s not what those shows really do. For “MIU404”, this is exactly what it’s designed to engage. This is why it’s here, so the areas it focuses on come off as remarkable and pointed.

One of the most interesting moments in the show involves four MIU officers and their captain debating the right course of action for punishing young offenders. They each have a different approach and philosophy that backs it, but as usual their captain’s heard this all before and is one step ahead. Aso Kumiko’s Captain Kikyo Yuzuru is the most admirable character on the show. She’s the first character we meet in the series after she announces the new department’s creation, but what social media’s taken from her leadership position centers on her looks. When meeting with other captains and those who outrank her, she regularly deflects the claim that her differing opinions arise from being a woman, and redirects the conversation into what she requires and expects from others in relation to her department.

There are stereotypes this kind of character can fall into, but Kikyo is a full person who considers her job a responsibility instead of an achievement. Her portrayal can be seen as a microcosm of the show’s arguments overall – that for police to be useful, they have to keep community in mind. They can’t pit victims against each other to justify screwing one or the other over. They’re there to carry out a responsibility, not exert their position. “MIU404” gives us police officers who are susceptible to mistakes and abuses, which is unfortunately the reality. It also gives us a person in charge who shapes an environment where these habits can be communicated and disarmed, and in doing this argues that this should be the expectation for the system as a whole. These arguments are about Japanese policing toward a Japanese audience, but many of them apply to a lot of other places. As a U.S. viewer, the show is resoundingly relevant.

“MIU404” ought to be a good show with a few great episodes, but its warmth, complex understanding of different kinds of empathy, its ability to argue systemic changes, its talented ensemble, and showrunner/writer Nogi Akiko’s skill at both mystery and comedy writing make it feel like an utter treat.

Nogi’s lobbying for her medical procedural “Unnatural” to also be picked up internationally, and I deeply hope it is. She’s an exceptional storyteller whose voice we could stand to hear more of in this part of the world.

You can watch “MIU404” on Netflix. There’s no embeddable trailer, but you can click through and see it there.

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New Shows + Movies by Women — Jan. 20, 2023

The beginning of the year continues to be a drip-feed as studios and awards ceremonies focus disproportionately on men. This doesn’t mean there aren’t great films by women to find. One of my top contenders for film of the year last year and still holding my place for best performance (Jenna Ortega) was Megan Park’s “The Fallout”, and it arrived on January 27.

Take a chance on something that looks interesting to you, even if you haven’t heard of it. Especially if you haven’t heard of it. Part of the point of this weekly feature is to platform the series and films that don’t receive the same marketing budgets and windows as work by men. Every year, the best work I’ve seen on film tends to be the movies that barely get any launch.

Park’s school shooting PTSD story “The Fallout”, Anvitaa Dutt’s musical gothic horror “Qala”, and Chloe Okuno’s inverted giallo “Watcher” from 2022.

Rebecca Hall’s drama and dreamscape of privilege “Passing”, Claudia Llosa’s magical realist “Fever Dream”, and Julia Ducournau’s body horror “Titane” in 2021.

Kitty Green’s disturbing tale of normalization “The Assistant”, Isabel Sandoval’s lamentation of love and false allyship “Lingua Franca”, and Julia Hart’s crime thriller “I’m Your Woman” in 2020.

None of these saw the platforming they deserved, nor recognition from mainstream U.S. awards ceremonies. Celine Sciamma, Kelly Reichardt, Shatara Michelle Ford, Eliza Hittman, Naomi Kawase, the list of women directors constantly overlooked and rarely supported as they should be goes on.

One thing this feature has made clear to me is that prior to 2020, more than 90% of the films I watched in any given year were made by men. Now a slight majority of what I watch is made by women. And I’m watching newer ideas, fresher concepts, plots and characterizations that aren’t played out. Most filmgoers, no matter how educated, worldly, or forward-thinking we may imagine ourselves, gravitate toward what we’re familiarized to through media and marketing – even when it comes to the most experimental and ‘artsy’ work out there. If what we’re familiarized with and spend almost all our time with is made by only half the population, it will start to feel narrow and repetitive because it is.

Scale that out to include the other half of the population, and suddenly stories are less repeated, the range of perspectives aren’t so narrow because…well, you’ve just expanded them.

There are legitimate and correct arguments for fairness, equality, and access, but even a selfish argument as filmgoers – even just that one argument for what we choose to see…why would we ever limit ourselves to watching what only half of filmmakers create?

The only problem is that seeing the other half requires doing the work of familiarizing ourselves with what they’ve created. That’s work we’re used to media and marketing doing for us. Do that work, though, start seeking the perspectives you haven’t thought to prioritize in the past, and it’s suddenly very easy to recognize that this overly repetitive and self-limiting industry is a burgeoning art form full of possibility once again.

This week, we’ve got new series from France and Japan, and new movies from the U.K. and the U.S.


Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre (Netflix)
directed by Tagashira Shinobu

Junji Ito is a manga author whose blend of Kafka-esque concepts and cosmic horror imagery has helped his ideas go viral. Now, he gets an anthology anime series.

Director Tagashira Shinobu has long run character design for series ranging from “Hunter x Hunter” to “Batman: Gotham Knight”.

You can watch “Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre” on Netflix. All 12 episodes are out immediately.

Women at War (Netflix)
showrunner Cecile Lorne

As the First World War breaks out and men are called to the front, four French women see their lives intersect. A prostitute, the sudden head of a factory, a Mother Superior, and a nurse all face the war in their own way as they draw toward a common goal.

This is the third French series on which Cecile Lorne has written.

You can watch “Women at War” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are out.

MIU404 (Netflix)
showrunner Nogi Akiko

Ayano Go in Japanese mystery series MIU404.

In this Japanese mystery series, a distrustful detective played by Ayano Go is paired with an inexperienced partner. Their unit works to solve cases quickly, before they get turned over to specialized departments.

Showrunner Nogi Akiko also wrote “The Voice of Sin” and “Unnatural”.

Despite seeing shows like this take off, Netflix still regularly forgets to post embeddable trailers for them. You can watch “MIU404” (and its trailer) on Netflix. All 11 episodes are out now.


Ali & Ava (Showtime)
directed by Clio Barnard

Ali and Ava have a whirlwind romance over the course of a month, while each navigating the lingering wreckage of their prior relationships.

Writer-director Clio Barnard has been nominated for three BAFTAs, including British Film of the Year for “Ali & Ava”.

You can watch “Ali & Ava” on Showtime.

Actual People (MUBI)
directed by Kit Zauhar

As her final week of college comes to a close, Riley tries to get the attention of her crush. She has to confront anxiety about racism she’s faced along the way, and what future is out there for recent college grads.

Kit Zauhar writes, directs, and stars. “Actual People” is her first feature.

You can watch “Actual People” on MUBI.

Sorry About the Demon (Shudder)
directed by Emily Hagins

Nursing a broken heart, Will moves into his new place hoping for a fresh start. As often happens in horror-comedies, it turns out to be haunted. If that weren’t bad enough, now he’s got to save his ex from being possessed.

Writer-director Emily Hagins has directed a number of horror anthology segments and low-budget movies.

You can watch “Sorry About the Demon” on Shudder.

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

Subscribe to my Patreon!

Spellbinding and Gentle — “The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House”

Two best friends leave their hometown for Kyoto. Kiyo and Sumire want to become geisha, who perform traditional forms of dance and music in present-day Japan. They live in a house with both practicing geisha (geiko) and apprentices (maiko). Sumire is a natural who loves every second of the training and picks it up with elegance and ease. No matter how hard she works, Kiyo washes out of it. She has no head for rhythm and choreography, and falls further and further behind the other girls.

On the verge of being sent home, Kiyo begins cooking for the house. The house’s usual chef is injured, unhappy with her commute, and the other girls have little idea how to cook. Kiyo quickly becomes the house’s new chef, or makanai.

“The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House” is a slice-of-life series that’s beautifully gentle. We see the characters’ daily lives and there’s no artificial conflict in the plot. Sure, there’s some inner conflict about what makes a few characters happy and one or two characters are difficult for some of the others to live with, but everyone sorts themselves out pretty well.

The series is less about these things and more about Kiyo and Sumire coming into their own. Kiyo is a remarkable character. Played by Mori Nana, there are moments where she’s disappointed, but she’s able to find so much satisfaction throughout her day. Kiyo never struggles to be herself, and as much as our storytelling prizes conflict, there can also be something captivating to find in its absence.

The realizations about character in “The Makanai” are subtle and rarely conveyed outright. It feels real that way. Did Kiyo want to become a geiko for herself or so that she could live life alongside her best friend? Can Kiyo not be trained as a geiko because she lacks ability, or simply because she’s someone who already is who she is – who can’t be molded because she’s already so shaped as a person? These answers matter, but they also aren’t crucial for the story to answer because the story is about the moment-to-moment experiences of daily life, and we only find these answers through those experiences.

Kiyo never seems disappointed that she can’t become a geiko. She’s heartbroken that she has to leave, not because she can’t train. One character suggests Kiyo will struggle with being lesser-than as the house’s makanai. The thought never crosses Kiyo’s mind. It’s the role that feels most right to her. She’s proud to share every dish and continue being a part of Sumire’s and the entire house’s lives.

The sense of watching “The Makanai” is to feel things slow down to its pace. It evokes a transcendent sense of calm. After I watched the first few episodes and stopped, I just listened to the wind outside and felt how still things were inside. It’s hard to describe the effect of “The Makanai” in exact terms. I want to avoid using Westernized descriptions like oneness, presence, or mindfulness because they’ve been co-opted as commercialized keywords for us as much as they still describe sensations.

I’ll go with something simpler. “The Makanai” makes me feel like everything’s OK. It doesn’t fix things in the world or make life easy, it’s not magical and it doesn’t cover things over, but it creates a space for gentleness – even to yourself. I wasn’t going through anything pressing or intense surrounding my watching it – it wasn’t soothing a stressor, though I’m sure it could.

We strive for moments that are special, unique experiences, to achieve something memorable. In doing so, we often overlook the ordinary moment we’re already in, that it’s nice to simply feel it slowly and calmly. It’s not difficult to hope a moment of joy or achievement never ends. What if those ordinary, everyday moments were something we also don’t want to end? The space the show creates is one where it’s OK to be still, listen, take no actions. It says that’s enough to be human. To experience is to be worthwhile, before function or schedule. To close my eyes and listen to that buffeting wind and feel still, that this is the best thing I can do in this moment. We don’t think like that or afford ourselves the time to fulfill that basic human need.

“The Makanai” doesn’t even ask us why not. It just creates the space for it that makes it obvious and recognizable, that clarifies how much we miss it.

There’s one scene where a girl wakes up early and asks Kiyo for something simple because her stomach’s upset. Kiyo cooks and listens as the girl talks about her younger sister. It’s a moment of two people sharing a space we don’t normally get to see, one that’s typically so unimportant it’s never thought of in Western series, or that’s left on the cutting room floor if it is.

The characters often call Kiyo’s food “ordinary”, or so the subtitles communicate. To us, this would be a deep insult. Perhaps it’s a cultural difference, or a difficult translation, but it’s clear this is meant as a compliment and Kiyo always takes it this way. And why shouldn’t it be? “The Makanai” is almost entirely about the ordinary in its characters lives, and it feels so calm and peaceful for it. It makes the ordinary feel detailed and captivating, the way it actually is in our lives if we ever bothered to notice.

There’s no empty space in “The Makanai”. There’s always a conversation to be had, a human being to be better understood. Every scene features exchanges and actions. These moments may be quiet and uncomplicated, but every corner of the experiences we see feels inhabited and loved. Every action, no matter how ordinary, feels deeply real and human. Every person feels important, easy to understand but impossible to grasp, a universe of experiences even as they hang laundry, set out candied plums to dry, or watch someone having their photo taken. How often do we overlook these things in our lives?

Often, when a geisha dances we see less of the dance than the reaction of the person watching. This is how we know it’s art, to see someone else’s entire being changed for moments at a time. “The Makanai” reminds us that someone hanging laundry or cooking or listening can also be art, that as human beings our lives are filled with these moments that we’ve taught ourselves not to appreciate. In overlooking the ordinary, the everyday, how many opportunities to be moved and to appreciate the artist do we miss?

There’s a brief scene of Kiyo sitting over a river to enjoy a popsicle after a hard day of work, a moment that communicates how content and fulfilled she is to be here. I wish you could have seen my reaction as I watched, so I could convey to you this is art, that my entire being changed for moments at a time.

You can watch “The Makanai” on Netflix.

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The Most Stunning Series of the Year — “The English” & “First Love”

“The English”

There was no shortage of beautifully filmed and designed series this year, but one stood out as striking enough to surpass everything else I saw. “The English” demonstrated a staggering visual sense of endless wilderness, an infinite natural backdrop both gorgeous and intimidating. It contrasts this with pernicious and ironic iconography that represents the destruction wrought by colonization and Westward expansion. The show’s use of natural light shows that few lighting and color-grading effects can match the simplicity of filming at certain times of day – even if that restricts the time you have to capture a scene.

The Western stars Emily Blunt as Lady Cornelia Locke, who’s come to the American West to kill the man who killed her son. Chaske Spencer plays Eli Whipp, a Pawnee scout for the U.S. Army who seeks to live the rest of his life in quiet despite a world that’s determined to kill his people. Naturally, they link up, discover a shared past, and guns blaze.

“The English” doesn’t shy away from commenting on the unbridled savagery of European colonizers, assessing the genocidal history of “Manifest Destiny”, and linking Christian expansionism as directly responsible. Its main story may be equal parts romance, actioner, and tragic backstory, but “The English” picks apart imperialism and methods of forced assimilation thread by brutal thread on its way.

I do have a few issues with “The English”. It’s so eager to demonstrate its clear mastery over every era of Western that the pacing has a few hard shifts. A separate B-plot that eventually ties in hides its secrets and never gives its characters enough time to burn into memory, meaning every time we switch to it, it’s overly confusing. I normally love overly confusing, but I just had to shrug my shoulders and go with it. A few supporting performances here and there try way too hard and cross over into sketch territory. These are infrequent, but enough to notice.

As briefly as it can frustrate or confuse, these elements are ultimately pretty easy to set aside. What really lingers is the unparalleled cinematography, seeing for miles at times, the haunting use of light and shadow in others, and never letting go of a special kind of magic that feels truly cinematic and larger than life. I remember my breath being sucked away at one point as a horse and rider are silhouetted by the sunset in the dust they kick up, a shot that requires complex choreography yet was only possible to capture for a few minutes in a day before the sun changed angle.

If you appreciate the patiently developed tableau of classic cinema and can accept a great series that makes occasional storytelling mistakes, “The English” is a visual feast with superb leading performances and a driving sense of purpose. (Read the review.)

A close runner-up:
“First Love”

I could say many similar things for “First Love”, a Japanese romance series that tells the story of lovers in the 90s who reconnect today. Yae wanted to become a flight attendant and travel the world, but an accident prevented this. Now, she’s content working as a taxi driver, but struggles bridging the gap to her son Tsuzuru, who lives with his father. Her former lover Harumichi works as a security guard after serving as a pilot, but when they meet, she doesn’t remember him.

“First Love” is remarkable for director Kanchiku Yuri’s choice to film in the style of each narrative’s time frame. She echoes the dramatic approach of each era’s storytelling, the parallel stories told during the 90s and today changing down to shot choice, coloration, and even hints of picture clarity. As the flashback begins to catch up, these choices also change according to those times. It’s not the kind of thing that jumps out and hits you over the head; it’s used subtly and in service of the story.

The match of directing, cinematography, costuming, set design, and even dance choreography comes together to highlight the strange mix of quietly trying to find satisfaction in life against a backdrop of loneliness and disappointment. It serves as a phenomenal metaphor for Japan’s Lost Generation, which includes Gen X and Millennials who saw a stiff economic downturn as they entered the job market. Yae’s and Harumichi’s own stories and careers reflect this as well.

The wintry setting of Sapporo, Japan is used exquisitely, sometimes just in the daily routes Yae takes around the city, and sometimes more dramatically – as in a youthful confession of love in a blinding snowstorm. Kanchiku Yuri accomplishes one of the best directing jobs of the year, and I’m eagerly looking forward to whatever she does next. On top of this, Mitsushima Hikari gives one of the best performances of the year as the adult Yae.

Like “The English”, “First Love” has long streaks where it feels like it’s the best show of the year, but it’s similarly undermined by some of its writing. It relies on a key plot device that’s cliché (at least among Western viewers) and large portions of its romances hinge on forms of stalking. It’s certainly not the first drama to treat stalking as romantic, but it feels like a giant rift to justify crossing, even if the other parts of the series are superb.

I’d still recommend it with this caveat. It’s OK to watch problematic things as long as we don’t cover over the problem or lie to ourselves about its presence. It is a remarkably filmed and acted series, but one that includes a necessary “Yes, but…”

Like I said, there was no shortage of beautifully filmed and designed series this year. The others at the top include:

“Pachinko” tells an elegant epic of Korean diaspora that survives genocide and war. (Read the review.)

“Cracow Monsters” is a sumptuously dark and dreary Polish modern fantasy with a silky sense of color and shadow. (Read the review.)

“Andor” is a moving embrace of 70s social sci-fi that may be the height of Star Wars storytelling. (Read the review.)

If you enjoy articles like this, subscribe to my Patreon! It helps with the time and resources to write more like it.

New Shows + Movies by Women — December 2, 2022

This year, the holidays start with heartwarming movies about love stories, male strippers, and British people having affairs. We’re covering the last two weeks, since last week was a holiday.

I’m going to split off holiday movies into a separate article, since there are so many of them. That’ll make each more manageable, both for me and hopefully for readers.

This week, new series by women come from Canada, Finland, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S., and new films by women from Australia, India, Mexico, the U.K., and the U.S.


First Love (Netflix)
showrun/directed by Kanchiku Yuri

High school students Yae and Harumichi fall in love in the late 90s. Yae goes to college, and Harumichi joins Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. 20 years after a tragic accident, Yae works as a taxi driver and Harumichi is employed by a security company. They live in the same city, dreaming of what their lives could have been like even as they encounter each other once again.

Kanchiku Yuri has written and directed a few Japanese series, including procedural “Keishicho Shissonin Sosaka” and “L et M”.

You can watch “First Love” on Netflix. All 9 episodes are out.

Welcome to Chippendales (Hulu)
showrunner Jenni Konner
half directed by Nisha Ganatra, Gwyneth Horder-Payton

Kumail Nanjiani stars as Somen Banerjee, the entrepreneur who started the Chippendales male stripper business in the 1980s. The series reflects the real-life story, which descended into murder for hire, arson, and racketeering.

Showrunner Jenni Konner has written and produced on “Single Drunk Female” and “Girls”.

Gwyneth Horder-Payton, director on “Pose”, “American Horror Story”, “Pam & Tommy”, and “The Offer” directs two episodes. “Dollface” and “The High Note” director Nisha Ganatra directs another two.

You can watch “Welcome to Chippendales” on Hulu. Three episodes are out, with a new one arriving every Tuesday for a total of 8.

Three Pines (Amazon)
showrunner Emilia di Girolamo

Alfred Molina plays Chief Inspector Armand Gamache (on par in Canada with a Poirot in the UK). He investigates murders in Three Pines, a Quebec village hiding long-buried travesties of its own. This adaptation of the Louise Penny novels gives room to indigenous voices, including a mystery of the disappearance of an indigenous girl, and performances by Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Tantoo Cardinal, and Anna Lambe.

Showrunner and writer Emilia di Girolamo also wrote and produced on “The Tunnel” and “Deceit”. Her background is incredibly interesting, with a PhD in the rehabilitation of offenders using drama based techniques.

You can watch “Three Pines” on Amazon Prime. Two episodes are out, and a new one arrives every Thursday.

Riches (Amazon)
showrunner Abby Ajayi

A patriarch’s stroke leaves his family contending for a cosmetics empire he’s left to two children he abandoned decades ago.

Showrunner Abby Ajayi has previously written and produced on “Inventing Anna” and “The First Lady”.

You can watch “Riches” on Amazon Prime. All 6 episodes are out.

Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin (Peacock)
showrunner Megan Amram

Adam Devine, Sarah Hyland, and Jameela Jamil star in a spinoff of the “Pitch Perfect” movies. Devine’s character Bumper moves to Germany after one of his songs becomes a hit there.

Showrunner Megan Amram produced and wrote on “The Good Place” and wrote on “Parks and Rec”.

You can watch “Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin” on Peacock. All 6 episodes are out.

The Flatshare (Paramount+)
showrunner Rose Lewenstein
half directed by Chloe Wicks

Two people share an apartment, but even though they share a bed, their careers and lives mean they’ve never met.

Showrunner Rose Lewenstein and director Chloe Wicks (who helms 3 of the 6 episodes) worked together previously on “On the Edge”.

You can watch “The Flatshare” on Paramount+.

Transport (Acorn TV)
showrunner/directed by Auli Mantila

This Finnish crime series finds a reporter tracing a microchip found in baby food. Elsewhere, a bank manager is drawn into an illegal scheme, and a veterinarian goes missing. These leads all tie into the illicit horse trade.

You can watch “Transport” on Acorn TV. All 8 episodes are out.


Qala (Netflix)
directed by Anvitaa Dutt

A singer with a burgeoning career contends with the expectations of those around her, including her controlling mother. Triptii Dimri stars.

A longtime songwriter and screenwriter on Hindi films, Anvitaa Dutt added directing with the 2020 horror mystery “Bulbbul”. Triptii Dimri also starred there in what I thought was one of the most overlooked performances that year. Dutt and Dimri are a must-watch combination in my book.

You can watch “Qala” on Netflix.

The Swimmers (Netflix)
directed by Sally El Hosaini

Two sisters training for the Olympics flee the Syrian civil war in 2015. Yusra and Sarah travel through Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece before their overcrowded boat breaks down and the swimmers tow it to safety. A year later, Yusra competes in the Olympics for the Refugee team.

The story sounds like something that could only be created for film, but those are the real details of Yusra Mardini’s life. She fled Syria with her sister and they were two of four swimmers who towed 16 others to safety.

Director and co-writer Sally El Hosaini also helmed “My Brother the Devil”.

You can watch “The Swimmers” on Netflix.

Mr. Malcolm’s List (Showtime)
directed by Emma Holly Jones

Based on the novel by Suzanne Allain, a young woman named Selina courts a mysterious and much-discussed suitor in 19th century England. Secretly, she’s aiming for revenge on behalf of a friend – a just return for the suitor’s impossible list of preconditions for a future wife. Freida Pinto and Sope Dirisu star.

The novel was self-published by Allain in 2009, and her adapted screenplay floated for nearly a decade until Jones shot a short film of it. The short film’s success – with 2 million views – led to the novel’s traditional publishing in 2020 and the production of the full-length feature.

You can watch “Mr. Malcolm’s List” on Showtime.

Please Baby Please (VOD)
directed by Amanda Kramer

A gang obsesses over Bohemian 1950s newlyweds, thrusting them into a musical exploration of sexual identity. Andrea Riseborough, Harry Melling, and Demi Moore star.

Amanda Kramer is an experimental filmmaker who also directed “Paris Window” and “Ladyworld”.

You can rent “Please Baby Please” on Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, or YouTube.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Netflix)
directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre

Based on the novel by D.H. Lawrence, a woman begins an affair with the gamekeeper on her husband’s estate.

Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre is known for her impressive visuals in films such as “The Mustang” and episodes of “Mrs. America” and “The Act”. She started out as an actress before shifting full-time as her directing career took off.

You can watch “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” on Netflix.

How to Please a Woman (Hulu, VOD)
directed by Renee Webster

Fed up with her lot in life and freshly laid off, Gina manages an all-male combination cleaning-and-prostitution service in this Australian film.

This is writer-director Renee Webster’s first feature after directing on Australian series such as “The Heights”.

You can watch “How to Please a Woman” on Hulu, or rent it on VOD.

Who’s a Good Boy? (Netflix)
directed by Ihtzi Hurtado

Chema idealizes his crush, and is determined to lose his virginity to her before the school year ends.

Ihtzi Hurtado is a director on Mexican series and films.

You can watch “Who’s a Good Boy” on Netflix.

Alone Together (Hulu)
directed by Katie Holmes

During the pandemic, a pair of strangers in stressful relationships are booked for the same Airbnb in upstate New York. Katie Holmes, Jim Sturgess, Derek Luke, and Melissa Leo star in Holmes’s debut as a writer and second film as director.

Holmes is most famous for her roles in films like “Disturbing Behavior”, “Pieces of April”, and the series “Dawson’s Creek”.

You can watch “Alone Together” on Hulu, or rent it on VOD.

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

If you enjoy what you’re reading, subscribe to my Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

New Shows + Movies by Women — October 28, 2022

Sometimes a new show or movie can be hard to locate. Let me explain: every once in a while, there’s something listed but that doesn’t come available when it should. This usually has to do with international releases – HBO Max is particularly terrible listing the right dates for the right countries. I constantly see their Spanish-language series listed for release in the U.S. on one date, but then land on another, unlisted date. If I were to tell you to go see a series that isn’t there yet, that’s not very useful to you.

This has only gotten worse with Warner Bros. Discovery’s acquisition of HBO. Many international series have been pulled early. HBO Max used to be one of the best places to find European series. With a focus on originals, this included less-frequently platformed work by women. After the acquisition, Warner Bros. Discovery culled HBO’s European content. This included not only stopping original productions east of France, but removing content from Central, Eastern European, and Nordic countries that was already bought and paid for.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the movie “Batgirl” being denied any release. That was so the entire production can be used as a tax write-off. Incomplete shows might also be used this way, but these finished shows aren’t succumbing to the same situation – this has more to do with Warner Bros. Discovery not wanting to pay residuals. Some of this content may end up getting licensed out to other streamers, but much of it will simply disappear and not be seen again. That’s a tragedy for the artists involved, especially since it covers so much work by women in Europe.

New series by women come from India, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S., with new films by women arriving from Belgium, Nunavut, South Korea, and the U.S.


Hush Hush (Amazon)
showrunner Tanuja Chandra

(Turn Closed Captioning on for subtitles.) This horror series from India follows five women, four of whom are trying to cover up a crime in their apartment block.

Tanuja Chandra has been directing films since the 90s. This is her first series.

You can watch “Hush Hush” on Amazon. All 7 episodes are out.

From Scratch (Netflix)
showrunner Attica Locke
directed by Nzingha Stewart, Dennie Gordon

Zoe Saldana stars as Amy, who falls in love with a Sicilian man while studying in Italy. The story tracks their relationship through the years across countries.

Attica Locke showruns the series based off Tembi Locke’s memoir. Attica also wrote and produced on “Empire” and “Little Fires Everywhere”. Joining from the latter to direct 5 episodes is Nzingha Stewart, who’s also directed on “Maid” and “Scandal”. “Madam Secretary” director Dennie Gordon also directs 3 episodes.

You can watch “From Scratch” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are out now.

The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself (Netflix)
half-directed by women

The son of an infamous witch finds himself trapped between two warring clans. All fear him because of his father’s history of violence, even as his father’s clan tries to kill him.

Debs Paterson and Rachna Suri direct two episodes apiece.

You can watch “The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are out.

Arknights: Prelude to Dawn (Crunchyroll)
directed by Watanabe Yuki

Based on a tower defense puzzle game, “Arknights: Prelude to Dawn” follows a doctor’s team that’s racing to find a cure in a world beset by plague, disasters, and fascist governments. You can tell it’s not a documentary because some characters are part-animal.

Director Watanabe Yuki previously helmed episodes of “Warlords of Sigrdrifa” and “Visual Prison”.

You can watch “Arknights: Prelude to Dawn” on Crunchyroll. The series will be simulcast as episodes premiere in Japan every Friday.

Modern Love Tokyo (Amazon)
showrunner Hirayanagi Atsuko
mostly directed by women

(No English subtitles available on this one.) This Japanese adaptation of “Modern Love” is an anthology series. Each episode focuses on different characters and depicts a different form of expressing love.

Hirayanagi Atsuko showruns, as well as writing and directing two episodes. Ogigami Naoko and Yamada Naoko each direct another.

You can watch “Modern Love Tokyo” on Amazon. There are 7 episodes, all available immediately.

May I Help You (Amazon)
directed by Shim So Yeon

(No English subtitles available on this one.) Funeral director Baek Dong Ju can speak to the dead, who ask her to grant their last wishes. If she doesn’t, her bad luck accumulates. Kim Jib Sa runs odd errands for his uncle, but after a boycott is looking for new work. He might be able to help the funeral director with her odd requests.

Director Shim So Yeon has helmed a number of Korean series, including “Here’s My Plan”.

You can watch “May I Help You” on Amazon.

If Only (Netflix)
showrunner Ece Yorenc

(No embedded trailer available.)

Dissatisfied 30 year-old Emma is sent back in time 10 years after a lunar eclipse.

The Spanish series is helmed by Turkish director Ece Yorenc, who’s alternated between Turkish and Spanish series the last several years.

You can watch “If Only” on Netflix.


Earwig (MUBI)
directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic

A 50 year-old caretaker must care for a 10 year-old girl, whose dentures are made of ice and must be changed around the clock.

The English-language, Belgian film is helmed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, who also co-wrote the screenplay. She previously directed and co-wrote “Evolution”.

You can watch “Earwig” on MUBI.

CW: Following entry includes dating violence

Run Sweetheart Run (Amazon)
directed by Shana Feste

After her blind date turns violent, Cherie is trapped in the city at night. Doing everything she can to get home alive, she discovers she’s not the first woman to be hunted by this man.

Director and co-writer Shana Feste also helmed “Endless Love”.

You can watch “Run Sweetheart Run” on Amazon.

Slash/Back (VOD)
directed by Nyla Innuksuk

Maika and her friends use improvised weapons and their extensive horror movie knowledge to fight back against an alien invasion in their Arctic town. Most of the cast is Inuit or First Nations.

Nyla Innuksuk directs and co-writes the Nunavut film. She’s also helped create VR experiences for Tanya Tagaq and A Tribe Called Red.

See where you can rent “Slash/Back”.

20th Century Girl (Netflix)
directed by Bang Woo-ri

A teen in 1999 South Korea does a favor for her best friend – befriending her crush. Introduce his best friend and various complications ensue before the promise of a new century.

This is the first film from writer-director Bang Woo-ri.

You can watch “20th Century Girl” on Netflix.

Torn Hearts (Amazon)
directed by Brea Grant

This Blumhouse horror stars Katey Sagal as a country music legend who hosts a young country music duo seeking out her advice. When they discover she may have murdered her singing partner, their stay turns into terror at their idol’s hands.

Brea Grant directs from a screenplay by Rachel Koller Croft. Grant might be best known for recurring roles on “Dexter” and “Heroes”, and her shift into directing includes Angela Bettis horror-comedy “12 Hour Shift”.

You can watch “Torn Hearts” on Amazon.

The African Desperate (MUBI)
directed by Martine Syms

Palace is an MFA grad whose last 24 hours in art school become stranger and stranger.

This is the first feature for director and co-writer Martine Syms.

You can watch “The African Desperate” on MUBI.

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.


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.


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.

New Shows + Movies by Women — February 11, 2022

There’s a lot to get to this week. With 14 titles, most streaming services see something new, but it’s an especially good week if you have Netflix or Shudder. Just from what I’ve observed writing this feature for the past two years, Netflix regularly has a big influx of projects by women. I don’t know that they have a higher rate than others. Since Netflix has a much larger output compared to other streaming services, it could just be a matter of volume. Either way, there are weeks like this where a huge number of titles by women appear on the platform.

As for Shudder, it’s picking up a lot of horror films that came out on rental last year, but that haven’t found a subscription service until now. These can be international, like Argentina’s “Rock, Paper and Scissors”, or a low-budget indie like “I Blame Society”. Shudder can be pretty good at grabbing these horror gems by women that other services overlook.

Of course, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, there’s also a number of romantic comedies out there. It’s a genre I do miss and they look surprisingly good. Expect to see some promising ones coming out this and next week.

New shows and films by women this week come from Argentina, Iran, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, the U.K., and the U.S.


Inventing Anna (Netflix)
showrunner Shonda Rhimes

Julia Garner stars as Anna, a con artist who uses Instagram to convince New York high society that she’s a German heiress…before stealing their money. The series is based on a real-life case where Anna Sorokin defrauded banks, hotels, and the wealthy throughout the 2010s. If you don’t know Garner, she’s absolutely an actress to keep your attention on.

Shonda Rhimes created and showruns “Inventing Anna”. Rhimes has produced on “Bridgerton”, “Scandal”, “How to Get Away with Murder”, and “Grey’s Anatomy”.

You can watch “Inventing Anna” on Netflix. All 10 episodes are immediately available.

Sister Boniface Mysteries (Britbox)
showrunner Jude Tindall

A Catholic nun spends her free time solving mysteries.

Showrunner and writer Jude Tindall also created and wrote for “Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators”, and wrote on the show where the character of Sister Boniface first appeared, “Father Brown”.

You can watch “Sister Boniface Mysteries” on Britbox. New episodes arrive every Tuesday.


Ballad of a White Cow (MUBI)
co-directed by Maryam Moghadam

Maryam Moghadam writes, directs, and stars as Mina in this Iranian film. Mina discovers her husband was innocent of the crime for which he was executed. She attempts to fight the very system that denies her even the most basic agency as a woman.

Maryam Moghadam directs with Behtash Sanaeeha. As an actress, she’s appeared in a number of Iranian films. This is her third film as a writer, and second as director.

You can watch “Ballad of a White Cow” on MUBI.

The Sky is Everywhere (Apple TV)
directed by Josephine Decker

Based on the novel by Jandy Nelson, a shy musician tries to keep growing up in the wake of her older sister’s death.

Josephine Decker directs, and she’s kind of a big deal. She helmed “Shirley” starring Elisabeth Moss, and “Madeline’s Madeline”. She has a tendency to get weird, meta, and experimental.

You can watch “The Sky is Everywhere” on Apple TV.

Anne+ (Netflix)
directed by Valerie Bisscheroux

In this Dutch film, a graduate navigates her love life in the LGBTQ+ scene of Amsterdam, while trying to get her writing career off the ground.

The film is based on director and co-writer Valerie Bisscheroux’s series “Anne Plus”.

You can watch “Anne+” on Netflix.

I Blame Society (multiple services, VOD)
directed by Gillian Wallace Horvat

Gillian is a good filmmaker, but she just can’t seem to break through. Then it comes to her: the skills to be a good director are very similar to the skills needed to commit the perfect murder.

Writer-director Gillian Wallace Horvat is a prolific producer and director of video documentary shorts. Put another way, she directs those documentary featurettes that end up as extra features on new releases and remasters. Some are historical, some are analytical, some confront problematic elements in classic films.

It’s a unique skillset and she has about 50 of these to her credit in just the last five years, along with occasional award-winning shorts.

You can watch “I Blame Society” on Hoopla, Kanopy, Shudder, Tubi, or see where to rent it.

Child of Kamiari Month (Netflix)
directed by Shirai Takana

A girl named Kanna is a descendant of the gods. It’s her family’s duty to collect offerings from around Japan and deliver them to the gods. When her mother passes away, Kanna takes the responsibility on in the hope the gods can reunite them.

Shirai Takana started out doing in-between animation on movies a decade ago, worked her way through key animation jobs, and assistant directed 2020’s visually stunning “Children of the Sea”. This is her first film as director.

You can watch “Child of Kamiari Month” on Netflix.

Marry Me (Peacock)
directed by Kat Coiro

Jennifer Lopez stars as singer Kat Valdez, who’s about to marry her longtime partner Bastian in front of a global audience. She learns seconds beforehand that he’s been unfaithful. Totally reasonably she marries a stranger in the crowd, a man named Charlie who just so happens to be played by Owen Wilson.

Based on the graphic novel, Kat Coiro directs. She’s been a director on “Dead to Me”, “The Mick”, and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. She’s also directing the upcoming MCU “She-Hulk” series.

You can watch “Marry Me” on Peacock.

Love and Leashes (Netflix)
directed by Park Hyeon-jin

A woman stumbles on her co-worker’s secret, and the two develop a romantic bond over BDSM. The Korean romantic comedy is based on a webtoon.

Writer-director Park Hyeon-jin has previously directed “I Am Your Bleating Phone” and “Like for Likes”.

You can watch “Love and Leashes” on Netflix.

Rock, Paper and Scissors (Shudder, VOD)
co-directed by Macarena Garcia Lenzi

In this Argentinean horror film, two siblings resent their half-sister when she seeks her part of their father’s inheritance. They don’t want to sell the house they’ve inherited, so they decide to hold her captive, playing a series of escalating games.

Macarena Garcia Lenzi directs with Martin Blousson. It’s the first narrative feature for either.

You can watch “Rock, Paper and Scissors” on Shudder, or see where to rent it.

Alone with You (VOD)
co-directed by Emily Bennett

A woman eagerly anticipates her girlfriend’s homecoming. As she prepares, their apartment begins to take on hallucinatory qualities, hinting at a truth she’s tried not to recognize.

Emily Bennett co-writes, directs with Justin Brooks, and stars. This is her first feature film as director.

See where to rent “Alone with You”.

Homestay (Amazon)
directed by Seta Natsuki

In this Japanese film, a high school student passes away and a soul takes up residence in their body. That soul has 100 days to figure out the truth behind that student’s death. I believe this is a remake of a Thai film, but based on a novel by Japanese writer Eto Mori. Can’t find a subtitled or dubbed trailer for the Japanese version, but English subtitles will be available on Amazon.

Seta Natsuki has directed on several Japanese films and the series “The Curry Songs”.

You can watch “Homestay” on Amazon.

The Kindness of Strangers (Netflix)
directed by Lone Scherfig

Clara and her two sons escape from her abusive husband. In a tough New York City winter, their survival is reliant on rare, intertwining acts of kindness. Zoe Kazan stars as Clara.

Writer-director Lone Scherfig has directed a number of films in Denmark, the U.K., and the U.S. This includes the Oscar-nominated “An Education”, as well as “Italian for Beginners” and “Their Finest”.

You can watch “The Kindness of Strangers” on Netflix.

Tall Girl 2 (Netflix)
directed by Emily Ting

A tall girl has gained popularity at school, and as the lead in the school play has to navigate social issues she hadn’t before. This is the sequel to “Tall Girl”.

Emily Ting directs. This is her third film.

You can watch “Tall Girl 2” on Netflix.

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

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