The NOW Film Festival @ The Tropic 

By Ian Brockway

It is time for our cinematic forces to unite in joy and intent with another NOW Film Fest at the Tropic. A different film each Wednesday in March celebrating Women’s History Month.

Showings begin at 6 p.m.

Starting with a bang, from the trailblazing Director, Ava DuVernay “I Will Follow” (2010) is her first feature.

Maye (Salli Richardson) takes care of her ailing aunt Amanda (Beverly Todd). Empathy and the beauty of shared lives come into play, along with resentment. What comes across again and again is the richness of DuVernay’s characters, her human delicacy and her refusal to take sides, or add judgment to hospice care. This film creates a direct emotional line between February’s Black History Month and March’s Women’s History Month.

Then, from 1971, Elaine May’s “A New Leaf” is a madcap comedy. It is May’s debut as a director, and she pulls no punches. Sharp, dark, and honest, May pokes fun at the male ego, authority and mansplaining.

Walter Matthau is Henry, an egotistical playboy. realizing that he is losing his hold on an upper crust lifestyle, resolves to get married and kill his wife for the inheritance. Elaine May plays Henrietta. She loves Henry, but through her manipulations, she exposes him as a toxic husband. The end is softly subversive and will challenge your assumptions.

The third week brings Agnes Varda, a member of the French new wave. In “One Sings, the Other Doesn’t” from 1977, Varda offers a side-by-side portrait of two women, both of them seeking independence from controlling men. Apple (Valérie Mairesse) is rebellious, striking out against her restrictive and conservative family. She intends to be a singer. Apple meets Suzanne (Thérèse Liotard) who is trapped in a relationship with children and a masochistic photographer (Robert Dadiès) who commits suicide leaving her alone. Apple encounters the bohemian Darius (Ali Rafie) and decides to live in Iran with him.

Neither Apple nor Suzanne has a blissful relationship, yet each finds themselves in the other person. Suzanne settles with a doctor in Paris, while Apple joins a band of traveling musicians. Each of them learns to accept the passage of time and the see-saw of individual freedom against family.

Agnes Varda accents the film with many songs and shows the honesty of nakedness and breast-feeding. She also portrays the stranglehold of the patriarchy.

Finally, “Joan Baez: I Am a Noise” by Miri Navasky is an impressionistic character study of Baez, a singing legend, and an activist icon. This is a dynamic portrait of the artist as a leader and a vessel for change, although she is herself stricken with self-doubt, anxiety, and insecurity to the point of vomiting.

There is an abundance of intrigue in this film. One learns that the musician’s heart was broken by Bob Dylan. But fear not! Baez marched with Martin Luther King Jr in Washington D.C. and was vital to the organization of Amnesty International. Baez evolves as an unwavering activist and survivor who endured sexual abuse by her father.

The film is beautifully bolstered by the wonderful drawings and watercolors by Baez who created her own bestiary to help her with crippling abuse. Baez emerges as a living superhero and the documentary is perfect. Last but not least, Baez has Ginger, a one-eyed Bouver des Flandres who accompanies her singing.

Once again, the power of our voice increases with our audience. Join us to watch and celebrate, expressing the many prismatic visions of women today.

Write Ian at ianfree11@yahoo.com

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