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Recent DVD Releases

Women Around the World

by Angela Pressburger

An Angel at My Table
1990, UK/Australia/New Zealand
158 minutes, Criterion Collection edition released September 2005

Director: Jane Campion

Recognitions: FIPRESCI, Toronto, 1990, Best Actress: Kerry Fox, Valladolid, 1990;   Grand Special Jury Prize, Venice, 1990; Best Foreign Film, Independent Spirit Awards, 1992

Based on New Zealand author Janet Frame's three-part autobiography of  the same name.

The story of New Zealand's most famous author and poet, Janet Frame,  who for eight years of her life was considered "abnormal" and committed  to a mental institution. A shy young girl, from a poor family, Frame was bright and studied to be a teacher. Her intelligence combined with  her nervousness in social situations, lead to depression and over 200 electric shock treatments at a mental hospital where her extreme shyness was incorrectly diagnosed as schizophrenia. Through it all she  continued to write, and eventually to publish as her creative tenacity  proved to be her salvation. The film focuses on the period Frame spent hospitalized, book-ended by her childhood and her delight in the world after being declared sane but shy, and released. A wonderful and  inspiring film powerfully acted by New Zealand's Kerry Fox who turns in  a really extraordinary performance, especially since she was only twenty-four at the time.

The DVD should be available for both sale and rental from any major source.

Chokher Bali
2003, India, 167 minutes, subtitles
released June 2005
Director: Rituparno Ghosh

Recognitions: Nominated for the Golden Leopard, Locarno, 2003
Adapted from the 1902 novel of the same name by India's Nobel prize-winning author Rabindranath Tagore.

This gorgeous period piece is set in an undivided Bengal between 1902 and 1905, when the raging political turmoil over Britain's proposed partition of the state was at its peak. The film is a psychological study of relationships between the sexes in a well-to-do landed family.  On another level it is a parable on both the state of women in general and widows in particular, in traditional Indian society. Beautifully shot, mostly in lavishly designed interiors, this is an intelligent and  sensitive film.

If you can, go and see Indian-born Canadian director Deepa Mehta’s award-winning film Water, which has just been released on the big screen. A festival favourite this year, it is also about the state of  widows in India, and both gorgeous and heart-rending, in an entirely different way. Set just before Partition, in the late 1930s, it will help flesh out the topic for you. DVD should be available for both sale and rental from any major source.

See Chokher Bali with:

The House of Mirth
2000, UK/France/Germany/USA
140 minutes, released May 2001

Director: Terence Davies

Recognitions: Best Actress, Gillian Anderson, British Independent Film 
Awards, 2000; Golden Satellite for Best Art Direction, 2001; People’s 
Choice Award, Istanbul, 2001
Based on the novel of the same name by Edith Wharton.

Here, Lily, the clever and beautiful heroine, ends up loosing the only man she loves and becoming a social outcast to die unloved and unwanted of an overdose of laudanum in a New York rooming house as a result of  her "unsuitable" behaviour.

The two stories, one Western, one East Indian, can be book-ended as commentary on the plight of upper-class women on opposite sides of the world, around the turn of the last 

The DVD should be available for both sale and rental from any major source.

2004, Senegal, 123 minutes, subtitles
Available in Canada now and in the US starting December 31, 2005
Director: Ousmane Sembene

Recognitions: Winner, Best Film, in "Un Certain Regard," Cannes, 2004; Jury Award, Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival, 2005. Nominated for the Political Film Society Award in the Democracy and Human Rights categories.

The story of the women of Djerisso, and their rebellion against the traditional practice of female genital mutilation. Four of the girls flee the ceremony to find protection (“moolaadé”) in the home of Colle,  the second wife of a minor village chief. While Colle’s refusal to allow her own daughter to undergo the procedure was tolerated by the villagers as a personal foible, her sheltering of other women’s children is seen as a threat to the basic social order. Her defiance causes the men and the priestesses to put various pressures on her, and eventually on all the women who support her … leading to a finale that will bring you to tears and wonder in equal measure. Indeed, it turns out that one stubborn woman's resistance can alter the shape of the world.

The film is not a heavy documentary, in fact you will probably find it enjoyable as although it is a critique of traditional forms of authority, it is also a celebration of the warmth and dynamism to be found in the colourful, bustling life of an African village. The 81-year-old Senegalese director, Osmane Sembene, is considered the "father of African cinema", and has explored the hardships facing African women and their capacity for resilience and heroism in many of his films. He has also organized unions and written novels before taking on this particularly controversial subject.

The DVD available in Canada now, and in the US starting December 31, 2005  from any major source.

Our Times
2002, Iran, 75 minutes, subtitles documentary, released September 2005

Recognitions: Netpac Award, Locarno, 2002
Directors: Rakhshan Bani-Etemad (The Blue Veiled, Under the Skin of the City)

Variety: "An unforgettable picture of women in today's Iran" 

Rakhshan Bani-Etemad is the most outspoken and respected female director working in Iran today. This fascinating documentary focuses on the 48 female candidates whom the government refused to officially recognize in the Iranian elections of 2002. In the first part of the
film, the filmmaker follows a group of young girls — including her own daughter — who have opened a campaign office for the successful reformist candidate Mohammad Khatami. Many of the girls are first-time voters (age of majority in Iran is 16), and their euphoric sense of commitment and political engagement is striking, and encouraging. In stark contrast, the second half of the film, focuses on the life of one of the unsuccessful presidential candidates, Arezoo Bayat, an ambitious 25-year-old twice-divorced woman who takes care of her blind mother and 9-year-old daughter, holds down two gruelling jobs, and wants to take college courses. Her landlord throws her out on the street because she is a single woman, and then her boss fires her for apartment hunting  when he feels she should be working. Instead of caving in to these and  other pressures, this beautiful, intelligent, real-life heroine decides to run for president. This is a powerful, multifaceted portrait of the role of women in Iranian society and we highly recommend it.

DVD should be available for both sale and rental from any major source.

Women Around the World Films on DVD Continues>>

Films to Enjoy Over the Holidays on DVD>>>

Book Reviews: The House of David, Offerings in the Snow and 1776

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