The Milwaukee Film Festival is a virtual experience this year, and while we can lament the loss of the popcorn-and-wine theater experience, the female-centered selections are fierce and plentiful in 2020. All films are available through Thursday, Oct. 29.
Here are four of my faves, so far, that give the most screen time to women. They are randomly listed; not ranked in order of appreciation.
- So Late, So Soon
OK, I lied. This film appears first on the list and it’s also my favorite from the fest (again, so far). This bittersweet documentary invites us into the daily life of Chicago-based artists Jackie and Don Seiden who have been married for 50 years. Shot mostly from inside their quirky, colorful and well-kept home in the Rogers Park neighborhood, the film explores tough themes like aging and imperfect love. But it's also full of joy as we watch Jackie – with Don’s assistance – string up a plastic cow with dental floss, euphorically dancing to Sade, rearrange vintage suitcases and attempt to trap a house mouse without wanting to injure it or really wanting it to leave. Jackie struggles to find the same beauty in her deteriorating body that she sees in her beloved, tarnished vintage items, but at the same time, cherishes the jewels that remain sparkling in what's left of her and Don's life. Get a ticket here.
- Ahead of the Curve
This doc tributes the longest running and most commercially successful lesbian magazine, Curve (originally called Deneuve until uppity French actress Catherine Deneuve sued the magazine in 1996). "Curve is not straight. Curve is elegant. Curve is exciting. Curve is feminine. Curve implies fullness,” said Frances “Franco” Stevens, the publisher and editor-in-chief who renamed the magazine. Stevens, who lived in her car after her family rejected her for coming out as gay because she was married to a man at the time, started the magazine thirty years ago with credit cards and a streak of luck at the horse racetrack. Throughout the film, the driven and adaptable Stevens, who now gets around in a wheelchair after a devastating freak accident, finds herself forced to decide if it’s time to let the magazine go or if it's still something valued by a new generation of lesbians. Grab a ticket here.
As a person who once wrote a poem about going on a romantic date with the Bronze Fonz, I was immediately drawn to this French film about object sexuality. Jumbo is a bizarre, heartwarming love story between a young female carnival worker, Jeanne, and an amusement park ride. Based on a true story about a woman who married the Eiffel Tower, Jumbo debunks the idea that object sexuality is a fetish disorder and is instead a harmless love attraction that shouldn’t be judged or forbidden. (“It’s weird, but it harms no one,” says Jeanne’s mother’s voice-of-reason boyfriend). Jumbo also explores a complicated-yet-classic mother/daughter relationship, and offers up sweet and strange coming-of-age scenes including an oily, unforgettable sex scene between human and machine. For a ticket, click here.
This incredible documentary about legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday was created from more than 200 hours of interviews of Holiday’s friends and colleagues. Journalist and mega-fan, Linda Lipnack Kuehl, taped the interviews in the early 1970s with plans to write Holiday's definitive biography. Kuehl died – she might have been murdered – before she could complete the project. But because of the many hours of recordings, the documentary fleshes out Holiday’s extraordinary and tragic life with previously undisclosed details. Holiday was threatening to – and therefore feared by – men, the police and society in general. She was a victim of rape and abuse. She was an alcoholic and addict who died from sclerosis of the liver at 44. And yet, this documentary reveals her strength over her victimhood and illuminates how she spoke her truth via controversial lyrics like “Strange Fruit” and did what she wanted to do despite the consequences. Get a ticket here.
Female-centric films on my list for next week:
- Made in Bangladesh
- Golden Arm
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.