The Women in Film Festival enters its third year, bringing seven interesting and unusual films to the M.V. Film Center and virtually on Friday, Oct. 15, through Sunday, Oct. 17.
The festival begins on Friday with two films, “My Name Is Pauli,” a documentary about the remarkable late Black lawyer, activist, and poet, and “Asia,” an Israeli fiction film directed by Ruthy Pribar.
The late Pauli Murray identified as nonbinary or genderqueer — in other words, an individual who doesn’t identify as male or female — at a time when it was unheard-of.
Murray was a civil rights and women’s rights activist, as well as the first Black woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. Ruth Bader Ginsberg named Murray as co-author of a brief on the 1971 case Reed v. Reed, in recognition of her pioneering work on gender discrimination. Directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, the film also describes Murray as an influence on Thurgood Marshall and Eleanor Roosevelt. According to Odie Henderson, a contributor on rogerebert.com, Murray wrote, “People talk about Jim Crow; well, I’m dealing with Jane Crow.” Henderson concluded, “And what a great and inspiring subject Pauli Murray is.”
“Asia,” the fiction film playing virtually as well as at the Film Center, describes the relationship between a nurse named Asia and her daughter Vika, whose motor skills are deteriorating in a Lou Gehrig–like disease. Vika, played by Shira Haas, is a 17-year-old looking into the abyss of death. Her mother Asia, played by Alena Yiv, immigrated to Israel from Russia with Vika, and as a single mother, she has spent more time with her career than with her daughter. When Vika lands in the hospital after a drinking bout, their relationship gradually begins to change. The final episode is heartrending.
‘Night Rain’ and ‘Marvelous and the Black Hole’
Directed by Jeanne Marie Spicuzza, “Night Rain” screens Saturday afternoon, Oct. 16, both in the Film Center and virtually. Based on the real case of the Hollywood murder of the Black Dahlia, an actress finding her film project canceled agrees to do a low-budget film about Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia. She finds herself stalked, and descends into a thriller-like set of circumstances.
The anonymous backer of the film becomes more and more threatening and controlling, killing one member of the crew after another. The title was inspired by Spicuzza’s granddaughter, Amaya, the Japanese word for “Night Rain.”
Playing later on Saturday is “Marvelous and the Black Hole,” a comedy about a rebellious teenager, Sammy, played by Miya Cech, who meets up with a magician named Margot, played by veteran actor Rhea Perlman. Sammy hasn’t gotten over the loss of her mother, and acts out, piercing her skin to make x’s and skipping school.
After her father (Leonardo Nam) sees photos of the toilet stalls Sammy has vandalized, he enrolls her in a small business class. Sammy will have no part of it. Once she strikes up a friendship with Marvelous Margot, things get better, as she learns Margot’s magic tricks and joins Margot’s salon. Sammy wins the day by returning to her class with a magic show.
Ladies Only Psychic Party, ‘Ailey’ and ‘Sisters’
The Women in Film Festival concludes on Sunday, Oct. 17, with three events. The Ladies Only Psychic Party, hosted by mentalist Jon Stetson, returns to the Film Center for a live comedy presentation, blending mystery with psychology for an intuition-based performance. Stetson has appeared before three U.S. presidents.
Also playing on Sunday is the documentary “Ailey,” playing only at the Film Center. Directed by Emmy nominee Jamila Wignot, this remarkable film describes Alvin Ailey’s fascinating dance choreography conveying the Black experience. Searching for truth in movement, he develops a vocabulary that comes from his past. Ailey’s work has been called the most innovative dance in the world.
“Sisters” is the final film screening on Sunday, Oct. 17, both in the Film Center and virtually. The three French-Algerian sisters of the title, Zora, Nohra, and Djamila, hope to find their brother, Rheda, abducted by their father 30 years ago. The film opens with the three bickering and talking to their mother about why she divorced her husband.
Zora, the eldest, writes a play about their childhood and the way it has traumatized them. When they learn their father is dying, they put aside their friction and head to Algeria, to confront him and discover where their brother is.
Information and tickets for the Women in Film Festival are available at mvfilmociety.com.