French Enough (NFB), Glass Life (MUBI), The Martha Mitchell Effect (Netflix), Anastasia (MTV Documentary Films), Ain't No Time for Women (Hot Docs)

Five Shorts Docs for International Women’s Day

Includes an Oscar nominee and two more docs the Academy should have given further consideration

6 mins read

March 8 is International Women’s Day and, once again, the occasion is mere days away from an Oscar ceremony in which women filmmakers are sorely underrepresented. Spend a few minutes this International Women’s Day, then, by watching stories by and about women. Here are five curated picks for International Women’s Day streaming, including two consecutive blunders from the Oscar doc branch!

 

French Enough

What does it mean to be a linguistic minority in the Canadian prairies? Director Alexis Normand considers her identity and that of her family as French Canadians in Saskatchewan. She engages her family in conversations as they unpack the challenge of navigating mother tongues as kids with an Anglophone mother and a father of French descent. Even the reluctance to use the word “Francophone” in this film speaks volumes about the relationship between language and identity. French Enough features honest, candid, and revealing discussions built with a foundation of trust and love.

Watch it for free below from the NFB.

French Enough, Alexis Normand, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

 

Glass Life

Vancouver-born artist Sara Cwynar explodes the film essay form in Glass Life. This short doc unpacks a mosaic of images, found works, and immediate on-the-ground verité footage from the thick of recent protests. As she thoughtfully reflects upon the power these images hold, Cwynar also considers what it means for images to be meditated and what’s at stake when one experiences so much of life at a remove and filtered through a screen. “Cwynar’s film is a kaleidoscopic poem about visual archives we create and maintain,” wrote Justine Smith while reviewing the film at IndieLisboa. “Cwynar’s form liberates her filmmaking and the audience from preconceptions about what documentary means.”

Watch it on MUBI. [Get a free trial via POV!]

 

The Martha Mitchell Effect

Use your International Women’s Day screening to check off a doc on the Oscar list. My vote for the contenders among the short docs this year goes to The Martha Mitchell Effect, directed by Anne Alvergue and co-directed by Debra McClutchy. The film is a tautly constructed archival doc about Martha Mitchell, who was Washington’s gal about town in the Nixon era as the wife of Attorney General John Mitchell. The doc recaps Mrs. Mitchell’s rise as a truth-teller who sounded the alarm about Nixon’s dirty tricks with the Watergate affair, especially when the White House tried to silence her. It’s a whipsmart and gripping tale of gaslighting and the price women often pay for speaking up.

Watch it on Netflix.

 

Ain’t No Time for Women

Speaking of the Oscars, Tunisian-Canadian director Sarra El Abed was totally hosed last year for Ain’t No Time for Women. She made the shortlist but missed a nomination for her beautifully composed celebration of women talking. The film takes audiences inside a Tunis hair salon on the eve of an election. Women of all generations discuss the progress for women’s rights in Tunisia and the effects of Arab Spring and the disillusionment of young voters who are cynical about the nation’s corrupt politics. El Abed offers an intimate portrait of these spirited conversations and captures much of the dialogue by filming the exchanges through the images reflected in the mirrors of the salon. Ain’t No Time for Women poetically conveys the significance of reflecting women’s stories as it gives voice to the women in the salon and artfully links the personal with the political.

Watch it on Tënk.

 

Anastasia

For me, one of the biggest surprises of this year’s Oscar nominations was the omission of Anastasia from the shorts category. I thought Sarah McCarthy’s doc was the one to beat. It says something about the dominance of male perspectives in the Academy that this strong film about a Russian dissident was overlooked when Navalny is likely the (very worthy) winner. McCarthy’s film gets similarly intimate access to Russian activist Anastasia Shevchenko who was placed under house arrest as the first Russian prosecuted for a 2015 law against undesirable organizations. The film gives Shevchenko a platform to share the tragic losses she faced because of Putin’s might, including being denied her right to be with her dying daughter. Anastasia is an exceptionally powerful doc.

Watch it on Paramount+.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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