In this episode, I talk about RaMell Ross’s 2018 documentary, “Hale County This Morning, This Evening.” In 2009, RaMell Ross moved to Hale County in Alabama to teach photography and coach basketball. While living there, he started to film the people around him. He recorded over 1300 hours of footage. From that material, he culled and mined images that are startling, poetic, and beautiful–images that bear witness to the complexities and struggles of black life in the rural South. Through the documentary, we are introduced to two men: Quincy Bryant and Daniel Collins. As the film unfolds, we come to know their dreams, their hardships, and the world they live in–a world of basketball, catfish plants, friends, sunsets, storm clouds, rain, and all the details that make up their ordinary lives. This is a contemplative, lyrical, and unforgettable documentary. There are spoilers in this episode.
In this episode, I’m talking about Julie Dash’s 1991 film Daughters of the Dust. This is a dreamlike film that focuses on the Peazant family who live on the sea islands off the coast of the Carolinas. They gather together for one last time on the eve of their departure from the island. It’s a stunning cinematic achievement that looks at the bonds of family, the ghosts of history, and the rich lives of African American women. Dash has the distinction of being the first black woman to direct a feature film that was distributed in movie theaters. I talk all about this gorgeous film, including the grueling process of getting it made and I use an interview between Dash and feminist scholar, bell hooks, as a roadmap through the different themes and subjects that the film explores. There are spoilers in this episode.
In this episode, I talk about George Sluizer’s 1988 film “The Vanishing.” It’s about Rex and Saskia, a Dutch couple who go on vacation in France and have their lives turned upside down when Saskia is abducted. To give away more would be to spoil this masterpiece of suspense. There are spoilers in this episode.
In this episode, I talk about Lynne Littman’s 1983 film, “Testament.” It’s about how a mother and her children in a California town survive the aftermath of a nuclear bombing. We don’t know who dropped the bombs, what has happened in the rest of the country, and we’re not provided any political details. The film is solely about this family and how they confront the gradual and horrifying deterioration of their bodies due to radiation poisoning and the breakdown of society. Without a doubt, this is the most terrifying film I have ever seen. I talk about grief and loss, what makes the film so emotionally powerful, and the difference between watching it before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. There are spoilers in this episode.
In this episode, I talk about Olivier Assayas’s 2014 film “Clouds of Sils Maria.” It’s a complex film starring Juliette Binoche as Maria Enders, an actress who shot to stardom in her youth when she acted in a play about an older woman who is seduced by a younger woman. 20 years ago, she played the younger woman but now, in a revival of the play, she is set to play the older woman. This role brings up her fears about aging. Kristen Stewart stars alongside Binoche as an assistant to Maria Enders. To me, the heart of the film is the complicated relationship between these two women and the different ways they see life and the world. I also think this is a fascinating film about the process that an actress goes through to get into character. I talk about all that and much more. There are spoilers in this episode.
In this episode, I talk about John Cassavetes’s 1977 film, “Opening Night.” It’s about an actress named Myrtle Gordon (played by the magnificent Gena Rowlands) who witnesses the death of one of her fans and begins to spiral into a breakdown as she struggles to do a play that forces her to confront her feelings about aging. I talk all about why I love this film and Gena’s performance but I also talk about some complicated and overwhelming feelings I’ve had since turning 30 last year and how women can feel anxiety about getting older in a world that worships youth. There are spoilers in this episode.
In this episode, I talk about Nicolas Philibert’s 2002 documentary, “To Be and To Have.” It focuses on a small school in rural France where the kind and patient teacher, Georges Lopez, instills a sense of worth in all of his students and connects with them one-on-one. The film shows the dynamics between the students who range in age, from kindergartners to teenagers and also looks at some of their struggles. I talk about childhood, separation, nostalgia, the importance of school in my own life, and the impact that various teachers had on me.
For decades, the work of Kathleen Collins languished in obscurity. She was a writer, filmmaker, and professor who is considered one of the first black women to direct a feature-length film. That film is ‘Losing Ground,’ an extraordinary portrait of a marriage in turmoil and a complex representation of a deeply intellectual woman in search of ecstasy and magic. In this episode, I explore Collins’s life, discuss the barriers that have made it difficult for black women to make films both in the past and today, and I provide an in-depth analysis of ‘Losing Ground.’
In this episode, I explore Ounie Lecomte’s moving 2009 debut feature film, “A Brand New Life.” The film is based on Lecomte’s own life and centers around a 9-year-old girl who is abandoned by her father at an orphanage in Seoul in 1975. I discuss the film’s themes of abandonment, loss, loneliness, and the marginalization of women. I also talk about more general things at the beginning of the episode, like why the Her Head in Films podcast means so much to me and why I am putting so much of myself into it.
For the month of April, I’m focusing on debut feature films by women directors. I’m kicking off the series with Joanna Hogg’s 2007 debut film, “Unrelated.” The film explores the emotional crisis of a woman who escapes ostensible marriage problems by going on a vacation in Italy with a friend. It’s a subtle but devastating look at loneliness, ageing, and disconnection. There are spoilers in this episode.