The word "Manara" means lighthouse in Arabic. Zayn Alexander's short film "Manara" takes place in a Lighthouse, following a family as they try to deal with the loss of their patriarch. The purpose of a Lighthouse is to offer light and guidence to us, so we can somehow navigate of way through rough waters. With "Manara" Alexander proposes the question: what happens when that light has become extinguished? What happens to those who now find themselves plunged into darkness, and now completely blind? How do we find hope when the very light that once offered us guidence has now been cruelly snatched away? Often the strongest of short films centre around a simple premise which is carefully executed. "Manara" is a perfect example of how to carefully construct a short film narrative and Alexander along with writer Pascale Seigneurie manage to weave together a story which feels so real and genuine that we forget we are watching a film.
The first Mexican actress to work in Hollywood during the silent era was Dolores Del Rio. Born on August 3, 1904, in Durango, Durango, Mexico, Dolores was born into an elite family raised surrounded by expensive gifts, grand haciendas, where she was treated like a princess. At a very young age, she would be nicknamed "Lolita" by close family and friends.
Many women have been called “The It Girl” throughout the past century, but it’s Clara Bow that the term was created for. The actress who helped define what it meant to be a flapper in the 1920s played a shop-girl who wins the heart of her employer in the 1927 box office hit “It” and soon was being called “The It Girl.” Bow had “It” in spades: that sex appeal and vivacious charm that defined the modern woman. And yet, for all her success, Bow had a challenging life and struggled with mental health problems. She once said: “All the time the flapper is laughing and dancing, there’s a feeling of tragedy underneath. She’s unhappy and disillusioned and that’s what people sense.”
Earlier this year, “Miss Americana” (2020) was released on Netflix. The documentary delves into Taylor Swift’s status as “America’s sweetheart” and the pressures it puts on her. What it also shows is how this perception of her sometimes masks what a brilliant businesswoman she is and how she’s built her own empire from the ground up. But Swift isn’t the first curly-haired blonde to be called “America’s sweetheart” and whose impressive business acumen is often overlooked. Mary Pickford might be best known as the original ingénue and the “girl with the curls,” but she was also a founder of the United Artists film studio and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was one of the most powerful figures in the early days of Hollywood and achieved so much in her eighty-seven years. Not only beautiful and talented, she learned to negotiate pay raises for herself to reflect her wild popularity and became a producer of both her own and other films.
Gloria Swanson literally created the concept of a “movie star.” She lived as large and dramatically as the heroines she portrayed. In her career, she saw the birth of film, the introduction of sound and the invention of television. She fearlessly embraced them all, and inspired women around the world with her style and ambition. Gloria grew up as an Army brat traveling the country with her parents but fell into acting as a teenager when she tried out for work as an extra. She moved to California after her parents divorced and found herself working for Mack Sennett along with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand. Gloria didn’t care for comedy and moved on to work for Cecil B. DeMille at Paramount Pictures. This was the beginning of her transformation into a fashionable trendsetter that captured the imagination of silent film audiences.
As a self-proclaimed true-crime junkie, I have seen and heard many stories about missing women, whether it be from a documentary, podcast, or headline on the evening news. The assumption that the answer is obvious: the husband or boyfriend did it—duh! This is so NOT the case with “Finding Yingying” 2020. Yingying is a 26-year old Chinese woman who went missing shortly after she moved from China to Champaign, Illinois to pursue her PhD at The University of Illinois. This story is raw and real, heartbreakingly told through many voices: news stories, authorities, the family, boyfriend, friends and colleagues. Through Yingying’s diary entries, we are able to learn more about her, creating a backstory of her first 6-weeks in the United States. The words of her diary entries appear mostly in her native language—revealed over images of her; while a voiceover in English tells us her inner thoughts. She is independent, kind, caring, and incredibly smart.
"The GoGo's" is a documentary following the all-female rock band from the 1980s who wrote and played their own songs. They were also the first all-woman band to be managed by a woman. Told from the GoGo's themselves (the original members and the current ones too), this documentary dives into the beginnings, hits, highs, lows, their disintegration, and their comeback.
"The Hunt" is one of the few films currently on-demand after the majority of movie theatres have mandatorily closed due to COVID 19. It's no secret this film comes with a small wave of controversy as it was pushed back after an unfortunate mass shooting. Also, another layer of discussion was added after the plot of the film was revealed.
Creating a short film is a completely different feat than filming a feature. With a feature film, you have the luxury of time in order to build up plot and characters whereas with a short every second counts. Over the years, I have seen many short films and filmmakers attempt the horror genre and failing. Many forgo the plot and character for a 'cheap' and lazy jump scare and a complicated plot twist. Yad Deen's "Carga" is a perfect example of how to use the short film format to weave together an electrifying, tense and dramatic short narrative which doesn't sacrifice on character or background. We fully believe that the events taking place in the film could happen in reality. The horror of "Carga" works because it's not supernatural, but human. The tension builds up slowly, as the narrative unfolds and plays out in a natural manner which doesn't feel forced. Not a single shot is wasted here, a testament to Deen's direction and the flawless script by Deen and fellow writer Chesco Simón. Coming in at just under 20 minutes in length, this is a film that maintains the tense atmosphere throughout until the film's satisfying ending.