Features Film

Round-up: April’s Monthly Film Challenge – Female Filmmakers

APRIL has ended and so has the first-ever Close-up Culture Monthly Film Challenge.

Last month we reviewed 30 films by female filmmakers, an exhausting but ultimately rewarding experience. In that time we covered impressive and diverse work by established filmmakers like Lynne Ramsey, Naomi Kawase, Fabienne Berthaud as well as newcomers such as Mari Okada, Molly McGlynn and Rosemary Myers.

We hope that you enjoyed the challenge and will join us again next time round. You can revisit all 30 reviews below.


1. You Were Never Really Here – Lynne Ramsay

‘The structure and pacing of You Were Never Really Here is just as subversive as Phoenix’s suicidal action lead. The film threatens to kick into full-throttle before easing us down to a creeping speed…Lynne Ramsay may not be Britain’s most prolific filmmaker, but she is building a filmography to challenge the finest.’ Read more..

2. Western – Valeska Grisebach

‘To understand the wide-reaching influence of the American Western you only have to look at German filmmaker Valeska Grisebach.

While growing up in the American sector of West Berlin, Grisebach would watch Westerns with her father. She loved John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) and Henry King’s The Gunfighter (1950). But she was particularly drawn to James Stewart’s farm boy-type character in Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 (1950). Thirty-something years later – and now a parent herself – Grisebach has returned to the genre she loved as a child with Western, a slow-burn tale of masculine pride and xenophobia.’ Read more…

3. Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms – Mari Okada

‘This is stunning work from Okada whose own troubled upbringing remains pertinent in her work. Maquia is a rich film with something for everyone to cling onto. Watch and be submerged in the vivid and elaborate fantasy world that Okada has created.’ Read more…

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4. My Feral Heart – Jane Gull

Even with a short 83-minute runtime, Gull’s film is guaranteed to leave a mark. She has crafted a beautifully feral piece of British cinema. A film to admire in its execution and prevailing spirit.’ Read more…

5. What a Girl Wants – Dennie Gordon

‘Dennie Gordon’s 2003 film What a Girl Wants gives Amanda Bynes the Princess Diaries treatment, taking her physical silliness and landing it in the orderliness of upper-class Britain.’ Read more…

6. An – Naomi Kawase

‘CHERRY blossoms are an iconic part of Japanese culture. Glorious yet ephemeral, they encourage us to appreciate life’s intricate beauties as well as its transience.

It is under the glow of the Cherry Blossoms that Naomi Kawase’s 2015 film An begins. A story that, like much of Kawase’s previous work, wills us to pay attention to our relationship with nature as a way of enriching our lives. That being said, Kawase’s journey to this message is darker than we anticipate.’ Read more…

7. Austenland – Jerusha Hess

‘There are brief moments where the mix of 19th century values and modern-day impatience clash in fun ways – such as Jane’s act of hip-hop defiance on the piano and a look behind the scenes at Austenland’s actors on a tea break. But this is a film even the most dedicated Austen fan will find relatively joyless.’ Read more…

8. Girl Asleep – Rosemary Myers

‘Girl Asleep is an Australian coming-of-age tale that beams with quirky joys – from the overt jollification of disco dancing entrances at Greta’s party to the smaller detail of time transitions marked on various objects such as a basketball and a bucket of fried chicken.’ Read more…

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9. Maudie – Aisling Walsh

‘Maudie is an honest and touching portrait of a unique artist, given life by Michael Timmins’ plaintive score and a terrific physical performance from Sally Hawkins. One to be mentioned in the same breath as Andrew Garfield’s in Breathe and Eddie Redmayne’s in The Theory of Everything.’ Read more…

10. Lemon – Janicza Bravo

‘Janicza Bravo’s film Lemon introduces us to our lead character as he sleeps in a puddle of his own urine. A middle-aged man who has lost control of his life and is declining in infantile fashion. This pitiful image persists throughout the rest of a film that revels in the derision of such pathetic male suffering.’ Read more…

11. Never Steady, Never Still – Kathleen Hepburn

‘Despite some stunning scenery – snow, beautiful sun sets, mountains and water, all shot beautifully with the camera of Norm Li – Never Steady, Never Still is not easy viewing.
Every shake of Judy’s hands, every shuffle of her feet, is painful to observe. Her legs are so match stick thin you expect them to snap at any moment. Her hobbling walk is excruciating to watch as are her attempts to claw the various pills from her huge pill box.’ Read more…

12 & 13. Bachelorette and Rough Night – Leslye Headland and Lucia Aniello

‘Rough Night is like a drunk in high heels walking behind the slightly less inebriated Bachelorette and still slipping on the exact same cracks in the road. A rough time all round. More coke than jokes. Let’s not do it again.’ Read more…

14. Meditation Park – Mina Shum

‘AS those familiar with Chinese tradition will know, Chenpi should not be left outside in the rain. Yet in Mina Shum’s creepingly emotional film Meditation Park, Chenpi – sun-dried tangerine peel used in Chinese medicine and cooking – is given such neglectful treatment. In doing so, it becomes the symbol of a marriage in peril.’ Read more...

15. Mary Goes Round – Molly McGlynn

‘Mary Goes Round is the work of a detailed and thoughtful filmmaker who fosters a genuineness that permeates through all of her characters and every scene. Cash is the on-screen heartbeat of this as she gives Mary vulnerability while retaining a spirit and charm that leaves you willing her to pull through.’ Read more…

16. The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness – Mami Sunada

‘Sunada gets us up and close to cinema greats – and he does not disappoint. This film is a gift to anyone whose life has been enriched by the mesmerising and touching work of Studio Ghibli. The image of Miyazaki closing his eyes with a stopwatch in hand to imagine each of his storyboards (his films are remarkably put together with just storyboards and no script) will be enough to give any film-lover goosebumps.’ Read more…

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17. Venus – Eisha Marjara

‘Marjara’s film bounces from dancing jovialness to blunt family drama as Ralph opens doors of tolerance, especially from Sid’s parents, that otherwise may have remained bolted shut. It takes Sid on a transformative journey as she prepares to undertake a physical one – what she calls her ‘second puberty’.’ Read more…

18. Sky – Fabienne Berthaud

‘What unfolds next is a more subdued and introspective story than initially teased as Romy strikes up a relationship in Las Vegas that helps her reconnect with a world that has treated her cruelly. A journey that, similar to Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, sets the poetic beauty of nature against the human decay of rusty, poverty-stricken America.’ Read more…

19. Just Charlie – Rebekah Fortune

‘Just Charlie is an educational, emotional and – at times – enraging experience. But if Fortune’s film tells us anything, it is that we should approach the subject of gender with open minds and compassion. If we fail to do so, future generations will be gravely ashamed of us.’ Read more…

20. Dude – Olivia Milch

‘Mention ‘dude’ in the title of your film and one’s mind immediately drifts to Coen Brothers’ classic The Big Lebowski and 2000 comedy Dude, Where’s My Car? Yet the only things Olivia Milch’s Netflix Original Dude owes to either of these films is excessive drug use and – in relation to Dude, Where’s My Car – a dog that gets high on weed.’ Read more…

21. Miss Stevens – Julia Hart

‘This notion is the heartbeat of Hart’s film as it looks at the masks we all wear and the images of ourselves we project in everyday life. For Miss Stevens, she must work out where the caring teacher ends and the slightly malfunctioning adult begins.
There is nothing to blow you away here, but Miss Stevens is just a solid and thoughtfully put together film.’ Read more…

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22. Even When I Fall – Sky Neal and Kate Mclarnon

‘Even When I Fall is a film about human trafficking. But this is no depressing documentary about man’s inhumanity. Far from it. It is uplifting, full of hope and leaves the viewer with a warm feeling. Sometimes, evil is overcome.’ Read more…

23. The Invitation – Karyn Kusama

‘The Invitation is a film well worth sticking with. If you are able to stay through the slow-cooking meat of the film, you will be rewarded with a deliciously shocking finale. One that throws the subtly and politeness – including that of Kusama’s reserved camera-style – completely off the table.’ Read more…

24. An Education – Lone Scherfig

‘Love or education? That is the question posed to the lead character of Lone Scherfig’s 2009 film An Education. Set in 1960s London, Jenny Mellor (Carey Mulligan) is a 16-year-old near-straight A student (just Latin is letting her down) who has her sights on a place at Oxford University. A curious, mature and fiercely intelligent young woman – who better to play her than the magnificent and bright Mulligan — Jenny is yearning for a time when she can leave the constraints of her home life to read English.’ Read more…

25. People You May Know – Louisa Fielden

‘This is a short film that covers a lot of impactful ground and cuts deep into an issue our society must continue to confront. Compelling viewing.’ Read more…

26. Casting JonBenet – Kitty Green

‘Green is more interested in the ways we relate to these infamous crimes, how memories and our personal baggage affect our outlook, and our desire to seek answers or theories even when they are not there. From that unexpected angle, Casting JonBenet is a uniquely perceptive documentary.’ Read more…

27. Newtown – Kim A Snyder

‘Kim A. Snyder’s unflinching and emotionally testing documentary, Newton, brings us into the homes of families affected by the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting on December 14, 2012. Here, as we are told, life is separated by events that happened before December 14 and events that come after. The murder of 20 children and 6 educators on that day has altered the essence of the community and left an irreparable scar that refuses to heal.’ Read more…

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28 & 29. Certain Women and Wonder Woman – Kelly Reichardt and Patty Jenkins

‘BEAUTY and strength come in many different forms. Last year Kelly Reichardt and Patty Jenkins demonstrated this with two distinctly different – yet powerful – portraits of women. One was a superhero flick that showcased a faultless, heroic female protagonist in glowing Amazonian light. The other was a triumph of life’s smaller interplays, populated by tired faces and a drained colour palette.’ Read more…

30. Waste Land – Lucy Walker

‘Walker’s documentary is a tough look at the expense of human neglect. Both to our environment and to the poorest in our societies. Yet thanks to the resourceful work of Muniz, this is a Waste Land, unlike T.S Eliot’s, that offers a lot more than a glimmer of hope.’ Read more…

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2 comments

  1. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Clio Bernard, but I think she is easily the most exciting up-and-coming British filmmaker. Highly recommend checking out The Arbor and The Selfish Giant if you haven the caught them yet. Great list and lots of fascinating recommendations, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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