What Ails Democracy?: An Interview with Astra Taylor

In Miami, the struggle to stay above water is manifest. Model buildings are built to test hurricane force winds,[i] while defensive sea walls, high-capacity pumps, and stormwater drainage systems are installed in those areas most at risk.[ii] The menace of rising sea levels and extreme weather events is felt more concretely by some more than […]

More Habits Than Dreams: The Hottest August

“The Sick Woman is the starving. The Sick Woman is the dying. And, crucially: The Sick Woman is who capitalism needs to perpetuate itself. Why? Because to stay alive, capitalism cannot be responsible for our care – its logic of exploitation requires that some of us die.” ~ Johanna Hedva, “Sick Woman Theory,” Mask Magazine […]

Revisiting Araya

Margot Benacerraf’s 1959 film Araya opens with a horizontal pan over freeze-framed clouds: movement within stillness. It’s an apt first image for a film portraying a community in motion, frozen in time. Over aerial shots of arid land as alien as a moonscape, the narrator intones, “On this land nothing grew. All life came from […]

The Value of a Woman’s Work in Roma and Finding Vivian Maier

“What are you doing? Just tell me!” says young Pepe.  “I can’t, I’m dead,” replies Cleo, lying still on the rooftop. Pepe rolls over and shuts his eyes. “Hey, I like being dead,” Cleo says. This small scene near the start of Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-nominated Roma although brief is one of its most insightful. In […]

Who We’re Watching: Sandi Tan

There’s a moment in the 2018 documentary Shirkers when narrator and filmmaker Sandi Tan says, “We were no longer magical kids who made a movie. We were just kids.” She’s referring to what happened after her friend and mentor, an American filmmaking instructor named Georges Cardona, disappeared in 1992, taking her movie with him. Tan, […]

Remembering Portia White

Portia White_Think on Me_Sylvia D. Hamilton

Canadian filmmaker and writer Sylvia D. Hamilton reflects on the subject of her 2000 documentary Portia White: Think On Me. Portia White, Contralto (June 24, 1911- February 13, 1968) Portia White was a Nova Scotian classical concert performer who was born in Truro, N.S. and raised with her siblings in Halifax by her parents, Rev. […]

P4W: Prison for Women and Hookers on Davie: The Documentaries of Holly Dale and Janis Cole

P4: Prison for Women documentary 1

Documentary filmmaking has long been celebrated as a distinctly Canadian art form, yet the works of radical women documentarians like Holly Dale and Janis Cole remain overlooked. Their feature documentaries P4W: Prison for Women (1981) and Hookers on Davie (1984) were both landmark films: P4W was one of the earliest on-screen representations of incarcerated Canadian […]

An Interview with Aminatou Echard about her documentary Djamilia

Fictional characters, as with the people we encounter in our own lives, morph over time in the annals of our memory. They become, like most things, a reflection of our relationship to them. This is the paradox central to French filmmaker Aminatou Echard’s 2017 documentary Djamilia, which explores the relationship that women in contemporary Kyrgyzstan have to […]

“Curiosity is a good thing”: An Interview with Agnès Varda

For some 50 years, Agnès Varda has worked and lived in the 14th arrondissement in Paris, in a pink-painted atelier on rue Daguerre. (Her love of this milieu is well-known: she documented her fellow inhabitants of the small street in 1976’s Daguerréotypes, and in 2003 filmed a short surrealist rom-com, Le Lion Volatil, around the iconic […]

Beyond the Photo Album: Relocating Varda’s Salut les Cubains

Salut les Cubains

The English-language critical response to Agnès Varda’s Salut les Cubains, a 1963 photo-montage documentary short exploring post-revolution Cuba, has largely positioned the film as a historical stepping stone on the concurrent paths of Varda’s political engagement and filmic preoccupation with still photography. These discussions often take as their jumping-off-point Salut les Cubains’ inclusion in Cinévardaphoto […]

Soft, Scrappy Survivors: Kedi’s Melancholic Ode to the Street Cats of Istanbul

“Everything is beautiful when you look at it with love.” The statement comes a third of the way into Kedi—Ceyda Torun’s 2016 documentary about Istanbul street cats—as an older man describes a mindful, open-hearted approach to life: seek happiness in small things (a cat, a flower) and “all the world will be yours.” This philosophy […]

Shear Work: The Global Labour Trade in Hair India

The observational documentary Hair India (2008), which tracks the multibillion-dollar global industry in Indian hair, by Italian filmmakers Raffaele Brunetti and Marco Leopardi, moves dizzyingly between the subjects who sacrifice their hair in religious devotion and the women who buy it. Hair India mimics not only the rapid, peripatetic flow of global capital, but also the dynamic medium of […]