Wives on Strike (2016)

Wives on Strike
Director: Omoni Oboli
Writer: Omoni Oboli
Cast: Omoni Oboli, Uche Jombo, Chioma Akpotha, Ufuoma Mcdermott, Kehinde Bankole, Kalu Ikeagwu, Julius Agwu, Kenneth Okonkwo
Seen on: 5.4.2017

Plot:
Mama Ngozi (Omoni Oboli), Madame 12:30 (Uche Jombo), Mama Amina (Ufuoma McDermott) and another woman (Chioma Akpotha) are market women, wives and friends. Their lives move in rather set ways, but when Amina’s husband decides to marry off their 13-year-old daughter, they are not prepared to let him get away with it. Together they hatch a plan: they will go on strike and stop fulfilling what’s expected of them as wives to make their husbands see their true value and act accordingly.

I stumbled on Wives on Strike by chance (it was one of the films the airline I flew with offered) and when I read the description, I knew I had to watch it even though there was a risk that it would be rather horrible – often especially the films that attempt to be feminist are particularly awful. But it turns out that Wives on Strike is an entertaining, proto-feminist comedy that I rather enjoyed.

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Les innocentes [Agnus Dei] (2016)

Les innocentes
Director: Anne Fontaine
Writer: Sabrina B. KarineAlice Vial, Anne Fontaine, Pascal Bonitzer
Cast: Lou de LaâgeAgata BuzekAgata KuleszaVincent MacaigneJoanna KuligEliza RycembelKatarzyna DabrowskaAnna PróchniakHelena SujeckaMira MaluszinskaDorota KudukKlara Bielawka
Part of: FrauenFilmTage
Seen on: 7.3.2017

Plot:
Mathilde (Lou de Laâge) works at a doctor for the red cross just after World War 2. She finds herself dispatched to Poland to take care of the concentration camp survivors and the French soldiers stationed there. It is in the hospital there that a young nun, Maria (Agata Buzek) from a near-by convent finds Mathilde and begs her to help them at the convent as well: they were raped by Russian soldiers and many of them are pregnant as a result. And not only do these pregnancies come with the usual dangers, but should anybody find out about their state, they would risk losing the convent, their home, entirely.

Les innocentes tackels a hard topic and it does so with a lot of sensitivity, but also a couple of lenghts. But I did enjoy it and the push it makes for solidarity among women.

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Ya umeyu vyazat [I Know How to Knit] (2016)

Ya umeyu vyazat
Director: Nadezhda StepanovaSergey Ivanov
Writer: Tatyana Bogatyreva
Cast: Alina KhodzhevanovaVladimir SvirskiyIrina Gorbacheva
Part of: FrauenFilmTage
Seen on: 3.3.2017

Plot:
Tanya (Alina Khodhzevanova) realizes one day that nothing about her life really makes sense to her. Her father is an alcoholic, her boyfriend brings other women home – while she’s there -, her mother is distant. She really has no joy in her life. Her conclusion is to attempt suicide. But it doesn’t work out that way and she finds herself in a psychiatric hospital where she starts to knit – both literally and figuratively.

I Know How to Knit was described as a dark comedy, a heartwarming tale in dire circumstances. Unfortunately, all I found were dire circumstances and depression, and very little humor.

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Margarita with a Straw (2014)

Margarita with a Straw
Director: Shonali BoseNilesh Maniyar
Writer: Shonali Bose, Nilesh Maniyar, Atika Chohan
Cast: Kalki KoechlinRevathySayani GuptaHussain DalalTenzing DalhaKuljeet SinghMalhar KhushuWilliam Moseley
Part of: FrauenFilmTage
Seen on: 3.3.2017

Plot:
Laila (Kalki Koechlin) has cerebral palsy but the much bigger issue is that she has to share her room with her brother (Malhar Khushu). Despite difficulties and worried parents (Revathy, Kuljeet Singh), she gets the opportunity to move from India to New York for her studies and that’s just what she does. Being on her own in a foreign country prompts a journey of self-discovery that leads Laila to co-student Jared (William Moseley) and Khanum (Sayani Gupta), a young blind activist from Pakistan who lives in New York.

There should be more films in the world like Margarita with a Straw: films that feature a queer, disabled women of color as their protagonists and tell a touching, funny story about them.

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Ma vie de Courgette [My Life as a Zucchini] (2016)

Ma vie de Courgette
Director: Claude Barras
Writer: Céline Sciamma, Germano Zullo, Claude Barras, Morgan Navarro
Based on: Gilles Paris’ novel Autobiographie d’une Courgette
Cast: Gaspard Schlatter, Sixtine Murat, Paulin Jaccoud, Michel Vuillermoz, Raul Ribera, Estelle Hennard, Elliot Sanchez, Lou Wick, Brigitte Rosset
Seen on: 21.2.2017

Plot:
After an accident, Icare, called Courgette, (Gaspard Schlatter) is orphaned. Police man Raymond (Michel Vuillermoz) brings him to a foster home where Courgette lives together with other kids, most notably the rowdy Simon (Paulin Jaccoud) who keeps pressuring Courgette for his story and the new arrival Camille (Sixtine Murat) who Courgette falls for immediately. But how did she end up in the home?

Ma vie de Courgette is a sweet, touching thing that approaches the topic of foster care with caution and a lot of realism. I enjoyed it a lot.

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Mein Blind Date mit dem Leben (2017)

Mein Blind Date mit dem Leben [literally: My Blind Date with Life]
Director: Marc Rothemund
Writer: Oliver Ziegenbalg, Ruth Toma
Based on: Saliya Kahawatte‘s autobiography
Cast: Kostja UllmannJacob Matschenz, Anna Maria MüheJohann von Bülow, Nilam Farooq, Ludger Pistor, Kida Khodr Ramadan, Herbert Forthuber, Michael A. Grimm
Seen on: 16.2.2017

Plot:
Sali (Kostja Ullmann) has dreamed of working in a hotel since the childhood holidays he spent in Sri Lanka, where his father is from. But shortly before he is done with school, his eyesight suddenly becomes very bad. After surgery, all he is left with is about 5% of his sight. But Sali is determined to succeed anyway. He finishes school despite everything and when he gets the chance to work at a noble hotel in Munich, he decides to just not tell them that he can’t see all that well anymore. But that doesn’t necessarily make things any easier.

Mein Blind Date mit dem Leben is a sweet film, though not one that warrants rave reviews. Despite its being inspiration porn, I enjoyed watching it, but it didn’t touch me very deeply.

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Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures
Director: Theodore Melfi
Writer: Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi
Based on: Margot Lee Shetterly‘s book Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
Cast: Taraji P. HensonOctavia SpencerJanelle MonáeKevin CostnerKirsten Dunst, Jim ParsonsMahershala AliAldis HodgeGlen Powell
Seen on: 6.2.2017

Plot:
NASA is working hard to send their first man into space – and especially to bring him back again. But they haven’t yet cracked the orbit needed for that. Working as computers, the black women Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) are far removed from the action, both figuratively and literally. But when the Soviets make quick advances and pressure rises, Katherine’s mathematic skills bring her right into the heart of the team. But racism isn’t all that easily overcome by maths.

Hidden Figures was entertaining, charming and incredibly enjoyable. It was almost too smooth – I was missing a bit of anger. But that’s only a teeny tiny complaint about a film I very much loved.

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Somersault (2004)

Somersault
Director: Cate Shortland
Writer: Cate Shortland
Cast: Abbie CornishSam Worthington, Anne-Louise LambertErik ThomsonLeah Purcell, Lynette CurranOlivia Pigeot
Part of: 7.1.2017

Plot:
16-year-old Heidi (Abbie Cornish) runs away from home after being caught when her mother’s boyfriend kisses her. She ends up in a small town in the mountains where she tries to connect with people. With men, that mostly means sex, though that doesn’t really end well. She finds a motherly friend in Irene (Lynette Curran) who offers her a place to stay; and she finds a job. And then she finds Joe (Sam Worthington) and kind of falls in love with him. But Joe is withdrawn and rough and is still trying to figuring out his own sexuality.

I hadn’t heard much about Somersault before seeing it, I basically bought it because Abbie Cornish is in it. What I got was an emotional, engaging and beautiful film with a wonderful ending.

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Jenseits des Krieges [East of War] (1996)

Jenseits des Krieges
Director: Ruth Beckermann
Writer: Ruth Beckermann
Seen on: 2.1.2017

“Plot”:
In the 90s, the Wehrmachtsausstellung reached Vienna. It detailed the war crimes committed by the Wehrmacht during World War II and created a lot of controversy, as the Wehrmacht thus far had been thought to have a relatively clean record (after an extensive review of the exhibition and its materials after the criticism, they found certain inaccuracies and a few generalizations that were too big, but the core argument still stands).
Beckermann visited the exhibition with her camera and interviewed the visitors to the exhibition, most of whom were Wehrmacht soldiers themselves.

Jenseits des Krieges is an incredibly important cinematic document and one that should be much older than it actually is. It proves that we had and still have a long way too go when it comes to our confrontation with World War II.

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Vamps (2012)

Vamps
Director: Amy Heckerling
Writer: Amy Heckerling
Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Krysten RitterSigourney WeaverDan StevensRichard Lewis, Larry Wilmore, Zak Orth, Wallace Shawn, Kristen JohnstonMalcolm McDowell, Gael García Bernal
Seen on: 1.1.2017

Plot:
Goody (Alicia Silverstone) and Stacy (Krysten Ritter) are best friends, flatmates, vampires and single women in New York. They try to navigate all of this best as they can. They drink only animal blood that they get from their exterminator job and go to Sanguines Anonymous meetings. They have practically no secrets from each other (except Goody can’t really bring herself to tell the recently turned Stacy how old she truly is). They share their dislike of their maker Ciccerus (Sigourney Weaver). But when Goody meets her old flame Danny (Richard Lewis) again and Stacy falls in love with her classmate Joey (Dan Stevens), things will have to be re-evaluated.

Vamps may not be quite up to Clueless standards (Heckerling’s previous film starring Silverstone), but it’s an amusing film that entertains.

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