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.
What happens when cinema becomes an obsession? I explore that question and many more in this episode on Abbas Kiarostami’s 1990 genre-blending film, “Close-Up.” It revolves around the true story of Hossein Sabzian, a passionate cinephile who deceives a family by impersonating the director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and is charged with fraud in an Iranian court. All the people involved in the story play themselves in the film, but, at every turn, Kiarostami blends documentary and fiction and raises questions about the nature of truth and the construction of reality. Not only that, this film is an unforgettable portrait of a man willing to sacrifice everything for cinema.
In 1960, Michelangelo Antonioni released “L’avventura,” a film that would make him world-famous and that would change cinema forever. Antonioni was crucial in elevating cinema to an art form and expanding the language of film by constructing a deeply visual style that would influence filmmakers for decades to come. In this episode, I talk about the mysterious power of “L’avventura,” why it has haunted me for years, and why it matters so much.
In this episode, I talk about Agnès Varda’s 1962 film “Cléo from 5 to 7.” It’s about a French pop singer who is waiting for test results that will confirm if she has cancer. This film was my introduction to Varda and got me interested in her unique and important body of work. I talk about time, loneliness, and mortality in “Cléo from 5 to 7”. I also provide a brief overview of Varda’s life and work.
In this episode, I explore all the many facets of Chris Marker’s landmark and influential 1962 short film, “La Jetée.” Told almost exclusively through black-and-white still photographs and set in a post-apocalyptic Paris, it tells the story of how the survivors of World War III harness the memory of one man who is haunted by a scene from his childhood. I talk about time, memory, grief, nostalgia, and so much more. This film is responsible for sparking my interest in European art house cinema.
I would not be a cinephile without Carl Theodor Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc.” This silent film from 1928 awakened me to the power of cinema and changed my life forever. On this episode, I discuss the life and times of Joan of Arc, provide behind-the-scenes information about how the film was made, and offer my own analysis of the film itself and why it made such a monumental impact on me.
For thousands of years, stray cats have roamed the streets of Istanbul, becoming an integral part of the city. Ceyda Torun’s extraordinary 2016 documentary, “Kedi,” is not just a touching look at the cute and scrappy cats, it’s also a beautiful portrait of the people of Istanbul who take care of them. Woven into my discussion of the film is my own experience of losing my beloved cat, Bella, in 2016. I talk about how she taught me to love and impacted my life in profound ways.