MSPIFF 2019 Spotlight: Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story & interview w/ filmmaker Louise Woehrle

There are countless of stories of war that have been depicted on screen, whether narratives or documentaries. They are inherently fascinating to me, and I’m especially intrigued by stories of survival, especially when told by the survivors themselves, as in the case of this remarkable WWII documentary with a Minnesota connection.

Told by U.S. Eighth Air Force Bombardier Lt. Charles Woehrle, one of 10,000 prisoners in Stalag Luft III – depicted in the movie ‘The Great Escape.’ At age 93 this remarkable man, a gifted storyteller, relives his experiences with vivid detail. His personal account of being shot down, captured by the Nazi’s and surviving two long years of tremendous hardship is filled with grit and grace.


MSPIFF Screenings:

Parkway TheaterTue, Apr 9 7:00 PM

St. Anthony Main Theatre 2 – Sun, Apr 14 4:15 PM (RUSH ONLY)

Marcus Rochester Cinema – Fri, Apr 19 7:00 PM


Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story Review:

In the promotional material for the film fest, the film is billed as ‘saga filled with grit and grace.’ I couldn’t agree more after seeing the film, I feel that it was how the late Lt. Charles Woehrle lived all his life… up until he passed away at the age of 98. It’s truly a good thing that Mr. Woehrle’s niece Louise is a gifted filmmaker, as she brought her uncle’s story to life so beautifully.

Though this film depicts a harrowing story, it has such hopeful, uplifting tone, a certain quiet grace that shines through when the then 93-year-old Charles Woehrle told his story on camera. Director Louise Woehrle used footage from 13+ hours of interviews with her late uncle, and combined them with various photos, real footage, countless memorabilia, plus re-enactment scenes to tell an inspiring tale of survival.

Lt. Woehrle capture shot with fellow comrades in Allied prison camp

Lieutenant Woehrle spent 22 months at Stalag Luft III prison camp along with other Allied officers. This film allowed him to provide the voice for his fellow comrades who couldn’t tell their own stories. There’s also a delightful story about how he received an unexpected gift from Patek Philippe, the luxury watch company from Geneva while he was a prisoner of war. I was so invested in the soldiers’ stories that when I saw the footage of General Patton liberating the Allied prison camps, I literally cheered. As a movie fan, I was amused to see footage of classic Hollywood star Clark Gable who joined the Army Air Force and was part of the 351st Bombardment Group.

This is a film told with passion and care. The amount of meticulous details is astounding, and they’re woven together seamlessly with the ‘talking head’ interviews and re-enactments to tell a cohesive story that’s suspenseful, thrilling, deeply-touching and inspiring. I have to mention the wonderful music which mixes the classic theme from The Great Escape by Elmer Bernstein, as well as those made specifically for this film. Great music adds such richness to the whole experience and that is definitely the case here.

I’m glad I got to see this film and learn more about a real life hero, as well as others whose stories are told through him. A brilliant showcase of the triumph of the human spirit. Lt. Woehrle’s and his comrades’ experience certainly gives me a whole new appreciation about life and the freedom we enjoy every day.

Q&A with filmmaker Louise Woehrle

Q1. What sparked the idea that you wanted to tell your uncle’s story?

The idea was sparked after my dad died in 2006. I was still working on my feature documentary Pride of Lions (co-directed with my brother John Woehrle) so I knew it couldn’t happen right away. By 2010 when my uncle was age 93, I could wait no longer, and that’s when I got busy. I knew that even if my uncle passed away after I shot his interviews in the studio, I could still tell his story.

Q2. Sounds like you filmed this five years before your uncle passed (when he was 93), how long was the interview process with him specifically? 

The interview process happened in 3 in-studio interview sessions, lasting 3-4 hours each. I had subsequent interviews at his apartment later.

Q3. Did you learn new things about his tale you didn’t know before? 

Yes, I learned a lot of new things. The one that stands out the most is the watch story. We had been shooting at a Stalag Luft III reunion in Detroit. I was interviewing a PoW who was on oxygen. He was wearing a Rolex watch that was broken and he said he never took it off because he had it in prison camp. So, when my uncle and I were flying back to Minneapolis, I asked him if he had a watch in camp? He looked at me and said, “Let me tell you a story about a watch.” That’s the first time I heard about the Patek Philippe. I think it was never mentioned because his house was robbed in the 70s and the watch was one of the stolen valuables. He just moved on and did not talk about it. I knew, at that moment, what that watch meant to him and so began my search for the watch and ultimately a replacement watch from Patek Philippe.

Q4.When watching the film, I was astounded by the amount of details of footage, photos, memorabilia, etc. that really makes for effective documentary storytelling. Would you share a bit about the research and process of collecting all of those items?

My uncle held on to his WWII documents, logbook, journal, artifacts, letters from home, Patek documents and the negatives from the photos he took at the end of the war with the Voigtlander camera that ended up in the Nuremberg Trials. I also attained scans from Col. Clark’s photo collection from the Air Force Academy Library. Those photos were taken with clandestine cameras by the PoWs. I also worked with the Minnesota Military Museum at Camp Ripley in Little Falls, MN. They provided uniforms, tin cups, red cross parcels, the French Box car and more.

Charles Woehrle’s POW ID card

I was able to attain 2 film reels from the footage that was used in William Wiley’s 1944 documentary film Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress. 16 mm reels from an archival film licensing online platform, Critical Past. I did a deal with them. If they sent me the reels of film, we would do the digital transfer for them. My colorist, Dave Sweet at Pixel Farm specializes in the transfer of 16mm and 35mm. Because we worked out an even trade, Critical Past did not charge for the use of the film. I also scored on the use of the B-17 from EAA in Wisconsin. That’s a whole other story of convincing them why they should work with me. All things led back to Uncle Charles and his true story. He lived it and we get to document that story!  It was a 95-degree day when they landed for 4 hours at Anoka Airport. I had to rent commercial air conditioning units so none of our re-enactors would pass out from heat stroke with all that gear on.

Q5.I thought the re-enactment scenes were well-crafted and looked very believable. How’s the process of casting the actors and recreating those air battle scenes? 

We used green screen while shooting the B-17 on the ground at the Anoka airport. The goal was to shoot as much as we could with the limited time that we had. VFX were always going to be a part of the equation but I had no idea how far we could take it. I saw this sequence as being critical to the film. I was working with one of my several shooters on the project, Alex Fournier, who also assisted in some editing too. He studied art at the Chicago Institute of Art so he had a real talent for learning VFX. Alex fell down the rabbit hole learning what he needed to make a bullet coming through the fuselage look real, taking a still image and animating it and creating a scene of jumping out of the B-17 look real. He must have worked for 3 months, straight. I was very involved in editing that sequence. I knew it had to have the right rhythm to work and so did Jim Stanger, my editor who seamlessly connected each piece. Splice came in and took the VFX to the next level with their contributions.

For the B-17 air battle sequence, I had to rely on Minnesota Military Museum’s help, specifically historians Doug Thompson and Charlie Pautler. I told them that I wanted young guys for the roles who were in shape and could wear their hair short. My historians delivered a great group. I also used some of the same guys on the forced march sequence. Three of the PoWs were family, my son Luke Enyeart (age 19), nephew, Dylan Woehrle and my uncle Charles grandson, George Kelly. Keep in mind, none of my reenactors were actual actors. The only true actor in the film was the voice over for Charles mother, Anna. That was voiced by veteran actor Sally Wingert. The woman who played the mother role, Joan Lambert had acted in high school and she was a mother, therefore, she could relate to the story. How I found Joan is yet another serendipitous event.

Q6. Did you make contact with any of Charles’ former crew that you’re making this film?

Actually, it was a family member of one of my uncle’s fellow crew members who contacted me. The daughter of Sgt. Charles Eaton (Top Turret) who is standing next to Charles in the photo of the 4 PoWs standing after they were captured. Eaton is standing next to my Uncle. They pretended they did not know each other. The daughter called me because her dad did not talk about the war and she hoped that Uncle Charles could shed some light on some unanswered questions. I arranged a conference call with Charles, the daughter and her sister and myself. They asked what their dad was like back then because the man they grew up with seemed fractured emotionally from the war. Their dad could never get over the fact that he could not get the radio operator to jump. The kid was too scared so he went down with the plane. After Uncle Charles told them about want a great guy he was and how you could always count on him, etc. they started to cry. Later they wrote to us and said how healing it was to talk to my Uncle and that it explained a lot. Uncle Charles also told them that their dad did everything he could to help the radio operator but had to jump at the last second to save his own life.

Lt. Woehrle cooking with his bunkmates

Q7. And was it Charles’ idea to honor their stories, as in providing a voice for those who didn’t make it?

Uncle Charles honored his fellow airmen, always. When he went to France as the last survivor of the crew, he took it upon himself to represent all his crew in the best way he knew how. He documented every part of the trip and put together books for each family of the crew and sent to them. He felt it was his duty as the last man standing. That’s just how he lived his life. So when you ask, was it his idea to provide a voice for those who did not make it, I would have to say yes. Was it my idea to include that theme in the film? Yes. The mission for Whirlygig Productions from inception in 2002: “Telling stories that help us see ourselves and others in new ways, promote healing and connect us as human beings.” I have shortened the tag line to “Shining a light on stories that need to be told.” For me, there always needs to be the purpose of a greater good that can come from a story. Uncle Charles lived his story, I was lucky enough to document it through this film.

Q8. Sounds like your uncle lives his life with ‘grit and grace.’ Would you share one personal moment of you and your uncle that you’ll always carry with you?

Yes – one day we were talking over dinner and I asked him who in the family reminded him of my Dad (his identical twin). I was thinking one of my 4 brothers, maybe my sons. He gently pointed his finger at me. I was moved. Uncle Charles and I were there for each other – at that moment, I understood our connection on another level.

Louise at age 14 with her uncle Charles at the piano

Q9. The moment where Charles went to a Detroit Air Show is very moving, esp when he got inside the bomber airplane similar to his B-17. Please tell me one of your favorite moments making this film.

Well, that was one of my favorite moments because up until that point he was telling me there would be no way he would ever get into a B-17 again after all he had been through. So when the young captain on the tarmac asked Uncle Charles if he wanted to go up into the plane and he said “no, no, no,” and the guy driving the golf cart said “yes, yes, yes,” or something like that…something switched in him and he did it! I was blown away. It brought a lot of joy to not only him, but the rest of us watching him.

Lt. Woehrle with Louise at the Detroit Air Show

Q10. I love the music used throughout and you’re credited as the Music Supervisor. I noticed that you used the theme from The Great Escape film by Elmer Bernstein.

Thank you. Music is the bedrock of my storytelling. I studied music growing up and into college. I became a music therapy major at the U of Minnesota. Music is integral to every story. When we were editing the Stalag Luft III prison camp sequence my editor, Jim Stanger asked if we could use the music from the Great Escape movie to get us in the spirit of being there. Of course, I said yes but was worried we would get so attached that I would never be able to find music to replace it. Elmer Bernstein composed beautifully to the spirit of that film. Well, as I thought, I got attached to the music so much that I reached out to the Elmer Bernstein Family Foundation. They referred me to Sony ATV. It took 4 months of emails back and forth with detailed examples of how the music cues would work with the sequences. Finally, they said yes and allowed me to use 4 cues at a minimal fee. They understood this was an independent film about a pretty impressive man who lived the real Stalag Luft III. I am very grateful that they got on board.

Q11. How did you select the music for this film?

I have a good sense of what a scene or sequence needs emotionally and musically. I used that inner knowing when diving into the various music libraries. The right music sort of jumps out at me. I lost myself for days looking for various music cues. There were a few cues that my editors used to cut to that we left in too. My music editor Ken Chastain did a great job providing transitional music or creating certain classics, like Silent Night, Amazing Grace or tonal segues.

My son Luke Enyeart composed 4 cues after Uncle Charles capture and during his time in the cold and hardship in prison camp. Luke wrote a couple of the cues with his good friend Will Honaker. Luke’s primary instrument is the guitar. He has composed music for 4 of my film projects and possesses great emotional intelligence in his music. You can’t teach that.

Q12. Lastly, what would you want people to take away from after seeing this film?

I hope they feel like their hearts have been opened and tended to by the life of Charles Woehrle. I hope they can walk away feeling inspired by kindness, compassion, and love for our fellow man. I want future generations to know how much we owe the Greatest Generation and hope that my Uncle’s story starts a conversation and offers some healing for families like the Charles Eaton’s.


Follow the film journey online:


Thanks so much Louise Woehrle for chatting with FlixChatter!

Three days away until #MSPIFF38 – Check out the MINNEAPOLIS ST. PAUL INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2019 lineup!

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival returns for its 38th year, presenting more than 250+ bold, exciting, and moving works from new and veteran filmmakers from around the globe.ar, presenting more than 250+ bold, exciting, and moving works from new and veteran filmmakers from around the globe. #MSPIFF38

OPENING NIGHT: ICÍAR BOLLAÍN’S YULI

Yuli is a dazzling dramatization of the early life and work of legendary Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta. Inspired by Acosta’s 2007 memoir No Way Home, which detailed his rise from the streets of Havana to the heights of classical ballet. The film was helmed by the distinguished Basque director Icíar Bollaín and adapted for the screen by her frequent collaborator Paul Laverty. The Opening Night Ticket includes the film screening, complimentary champagne and popcorn, and the after-party.

WOMEN + FILM INITIATIVE

The MSP Film Society also announces the expansion of their WOMEN & FILM INITIATIVE for the 38th Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival and the launch of a new Fiscal Sponsorship Program for local women filmmakers, which will charge a mere 1.9% fee, instead of the industry standard of 5- 10%.

“When we read that women accounted for only 1.9% of the directors of the 100 top-grossing US films in 2014, this statistic propelled us to find ways within our organization to begin to address this disparity and inequity,” says Susan Smoluchowski, Executive Director of the MSP Film Society. “In 2015, we developed and launched a major MSPIFF program entitled Women & Film to highlight the work of women filmmakers from around the globe. Every year since, a growing number of films directed by women and programs highlighting the work of women directors have been included in our annual MSPIFF line-up, and in 2019 we expand that commitment.”

The 38th MSPIFF will include 75+ films directed by women filmmakers spanning all programs, from the Opening Night film Yuli, directed by Spanish actress, director and screenwriter Icíar Bollaín, to the Nextwave program of shorts directed by aspiring teen filmmakers.

LUMINARY TRIBUTE to the ORIGINAL WOMAN IN FILM:
ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ – Saturday, April 13, 2019

The MSPIFF Luminaries Tribute will include a screening of the riveting documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice GuyBlaché, directed by Pamela B. Green and narrated by Jodie Foster, followed by the MSPIFF Centerpiece Party at the A-Mill Artist Lofts to celebrate all the women filmmakers and special guests attending this year’s festival, including Ann Hornaday, Chief Film Critic from the Washington Post.

BROWSE THE FULL LINEUP

The 38th MSPIFF runs April 4 – 20, 2019 and showcases over 250 dynamic narrative films, engaging documentaries, and innovative shorts by both emerging and veteran filmmakers hailing from 70+ countries around the world.

WOMEN & FILM FEATURE TITLES

RAISE HELL: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins

Six feet of Texas trouble, Molly Ivins took on Good Old Boy corruption wherever she found it. Director Janice Engel charts her early days, from the Minneapolis Tribune, where Ivins was the first woman police reporter covering the turbulence of the late 60s, to joining the New York Times in the mid-70s, and freelancing everywhere from The Nation to TV Guide. Ivins served up her quality reportage with a heaping dollop of humor, and by the height of her popularity in the early 2000s, she was a best-selling author of seven books, and over 400 newspapers around the country carried her column. Raise Hell premiered last month at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

PERSONAL STATEMENT

Director, Producer and Cinematographer Julie Dressner’s debut feature-length documentary follows three seniors from Brooklyn who are determined to get their entire class to college, even though they aren’t sure they are going to make it there themselves. They are working as peer counselors because many of their friends have nowhere else to turn for support. They struggle and they stumble, but refuse to succumb to the barriers that prevent so many low-income students from attending and graduating from college. Personal Statement premiered at the 2018 AFI Docs, where it was the Opening Night Film. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

HUGH HEFNER’S AFTER DARK: Speaking Out in America

In the wake of both Hefner’s death and the #MeToo movement, Academy Award-winning Filmmaker Brigitte Berman returns to a familiar subject, Hugh Hefner, this time focusing on the Playboy icon’s brief but impactful television ventures. Penthouse and Playboy: After Dark were talk shows that aired in the late 50s and 60’s, respectfully, and featured numerous celebrity guests, musicians, public figures and more. Told through interviews and a collection of riveting archived footage, this documentary makes it clear how and why Hugh Hefner deserves a spot in television history. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

CRYSTAL SWAN / Хрусталь

The year is 1996. Young Belarusian DJ Velya dreams of starting a new life in Chicago, the place that first inspired her love of music. Desperate to claim her own version of the American Dream, young Velya is instead stuck in farcical limbo. From Director Darya Zhuk, who previously directed the documentary Gogol Bordello NonStop, Crystal Swan is her first narrative feature film, and premiered at the 2018 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. *DIRECTOR WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE!

HAIL SATAN?

Director Penny Lane charts the meteoric rise and influence of The Satanic Temple, a religious group catapulted to the spotlight in 2015 after pleading for the removal of the Ten Commandments from the Oklahoma State Capitol in exchange for an 8-foot tall statue of occult deity Baphomet. Both controversial and widely misunderstood in the public consciousness. Lane follows members of the religion with an unbiased gaze as they tell the real story. Hail Satan? premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival.

AFTERWARD

An examination of the trauma shared between victims and victimizers alike, director and trauma expert Ofra Bloch serves as her own subject director as she visits to Germany, Israel and Palestine to confront her own demons in the wake of the recent surge of anti-Semitism. Afterward premiered at 2018 DOC NYC.

4 KATE NASH: Underestimate The Girl

Director Amy Goldstein’s unfiltered documentary follows English punk renegade-turned-TV wresting star Kate Nash through the tumultuous highs and lows in her life, alternating between explosive live performances and vulnerable moments of personal betrayal and insight. Kate Nash: Underestimate The Girl premiered at the 2018 Los Angeles Film Festival.

ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch

Travelling across twenty countries and six continents, filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky explore and investigate the vast, undeniable and lasting human impact on the planet. Anthropocene premiered at 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, followed by Sundance and Berlin.

CORE OF THE WORLD / Serdtse Mira

Egor is a vet at a training facility for hunting dogs in a remote region of Russia, where he is surrounded by foxes, deer, and badgers. He cleans the kennels, oversees the workers, and meets with the clients and treats their dogs. Egor is willing to take on any job to get closer to the facility’s master, and his near and dear. He wants the impossible —to become a member of that family. Core of the World premiered at 2018 San Sebastian, followed by Toronto and Rotterdam International Film Festivals.

THE DAY I LOST MY SHADOW / Yom Adaatou Zouli

In the war torn Damascus countryside, a Syrian pharmacist named Sena is separated for her son. Forced to venture outside of town alongside to siblings, Sena navigates a landscape of brutality, loss and trauma. Working primarily with exiled Syrian cast and crew, first-time director Soudade Kaadan’s cinema vérité style is melded with touches of magic realism. The Day I Lost My Shadow premiered at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, where Kaadan received the Lion of the Future award.

FIG TREE

Ethiopian-Israeli writer-director Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian makes a startlingly confident feature debut with this story of 16-year old Mina, whose Jewish family is planning to flee war-torn Ethiopia for Israel. But this plan leaves out the person Mina loves most: Eli, her Christian boyfriend. Fig Tree premiered at the 2018 Haifa Film Festival, followed by Toronto International Film Festival.

GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY / 柔情史

A hilarious and heartfelt telling of the relationship between mothers and daughters, Yang Mingming’s feature film debut follows duo Wu (played by Yang) and her mother (Nai An) as neurotic writers who are as rebellious as they are codependent. Girls Always Happy premiered at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.

THE GOOD GIRLS / Las Niñas Bien

This stunning feature from director Alejandra Márquez Abella highlights the stark reality of Mexico’s financial crisis of 1982 through the eyes of a young couple, Fernando and his socialite wife Sofia (beautifully portrayed by Ilses Sala.) With the world now spinning on its head, they are forced to adjust to a life without wealth. Las Niñas Bien premiered at 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

THE LITTLE COMRADE / Seltsimees Laps

This poignant coming-of-age story shows the effect of the Stalinist terror visited on the Baltic countries in the 1950s from the point of view of a traumatized six-year-old Estonian girl, who sees her school principal mother arrested and taken away at gun-point. Based on autobiographical novels by Tungal, who is one of Estonia’s most beloved writers.

LOVE THEM FIRST: Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary School

Principal Mauri Melander Friestleben grew up just blocks from the school she now leads, Lucy Laney Elementary School in North Minneapolis, which is facing the state’s harshest penalty for failure in a state where the achievement gap between black and white students is the largest in the nation. By building a culture of unconditional love and high expectations, test scores rise for the first time in two decades. World Premiere.

NOTE: My personal friend and composer of my short film Hearts Want, Charlie McCarron, is one of the two composers working on this film!

MUG / TWARZ

Carefree metalhead Jacek is engaged to beautiful Dagmara and working construction on what is supposed to be the world’s tallest statue of Jesus when a shocking accident completely changes his life. This tragi-comedy offers a powerful indictment of provincial Poland’s hypocrisy, prejudice and fear of difference, as a young man’s face transplant brings out the worst in his small town neighbors. Mug premiered at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival.

THE SHARKS

Director Lucía Garibaldi’s film features the unusual conceit of a rumor of actual sharks storming the beach where a pair of young lovers also happen to be taking their first measured steps towards a lasting romance. Unfazed, Rosina pursues Joselo as a self-aware heroine of her own hopes and agency. The Sharks premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

THE SILENCE OF OTHERS / El Silencio de Otros

Filmed over six years, Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar’s gripping documentary explores the aftermath of General Franco’s 40-year dictatorship of Spain through a group of citizens whose parents were disappeared, whose newborn children were taken, or who were imprisoned and tortured by the regime, as they pursue the groundbreaking ‘Argentine Lawsuit’ against the Spanish government. The Silence of Others premiered at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival.

SOFIA

Honor and social appearance prove more important than the truth in this caustic look at contemporary Moroccan society, where it is still a crime for a woman to give birth out of wedlock. Faced with this dilemma, the title character, a 20-year-old from a middle-class family, has little choice. Sofia premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

THE THIRD WIFE

In 19th century Vietnam, 14-year old May has been married off to a rich landowner, becoming his third wife. Her husband is kind to her, so long as May produces the male heir she is all but expected to. But when May witnesses a taboo affair happening behind closed doors, the discovery spurs a flood of new emotions that she never knew existed. The Third Wife premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG / Tarde Para Morir Joven

Chilean director Dominga Sotomayor Castillo third feature-film is a dynamic tale of adolescence set in a rustic community of artists. It’s almost New Year’s Eve and Sofía, Lucas and Clara are navigating the complicated road of growing up, a road littered with first loves, dysfunction and all-too adult stakes. Too Late to Die Young premiered at the 2018 Locarno International Film Festival.

VISION

From auteur Naomi Kawase, whose work spans over three decades and includes numerous award-winning and nominated documentaries and narrative features, Vision tells the story of Jeanne (celebrated French actress Juiliette Binoche) as a travel writer in search of a healing herb who is joined on her journey by a young translator and a local skeptic. Vision premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

WORKING WOMAN / Isha Ovedet

This riveting drama about workplace sexual harassment centers on a young Israeli mother of three whose successes on the job are accompanied by increasingly overt advances by her boss, a luxury real estate developer not used to hearing the word “no.” Director-writer Michal Aviad is widely acclaimed for her portraits of Israeli society seen through the prism of gender. Working Woman premiered at the 2018 Jerusalem Film Festival, followed by the Toronto International Film Festival.


7 MORE FILMS I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE

These films are made by female filmmakers or featuring strong female protagonists, which are in keeping with WOMEN & FILM INITIATIVE. But then again, I’ve always been a huge of supporter of #womeninfilm since I started this blog more than a decade ago!

Go Back To China – Emily Ting

Actor, filmmaker and Youtube sensation Anna Akana stars in this hilarious dramedy about wealth, heritage and overdue adulthood. After burning through her trust fund, Sasha Li (Akana) is commanded by her father (Richard Ng) to “go back” to China, where she will be forced to work at her family’s toy company. While the order seems like a devastating sentence at first, Sasha gradually takes steps beyond the self-serving life she’d known and grown accustomed to while living large in Los Angeles. Blending coming-of-age themes with family drama, Ting’s film sees Sasha reconnect with both her cultural heritage and her family, which includes her half-sister (Lynn Chen) and mother (Kelly Hu).

I love Emily’s first film Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, one of my favorites from Twin Cities Film Fest 2015. This film debuted at SXSW so I’m thrilled that it’s playing here at MSPIFF!

Red Joan – Trevor Nunn

Widely named as the “most important female agent ever recruited by the USSR” the story of Melitta Norwood (known in the film as Joan Stanley) is infamous. Here, Academy Award-winner Judi Dench brings history to life alongside famed theater and film director Trevor Nunn. Together, Dench and Nunn masterfully illustrate the life and career of “Red Joan”, including the various hardships and dangers she faced during her time of service. Dench plays Joan in the year 2000, where she is met with a danger she’s never faced before–a charge of treason. After the death of one of her former colleagues brings to light her work as a spy decades prior, Joan is forced to tell her side of the story. We are then transported to Cambridge shortly before the war, where a young Joan (Sophie Cookson) is about to take her first steps into the world of espionage.

Dame Judi as a former spy? YES PLEASE!! As a huge fan of the British thespian and a lover of the spy genre, this is a movie NOT to be missed!

NON-FICTION – Olivier Assayas

A literary editor is propelled into the future by changing industry demands and one particularly determined new employee. The editor in question, Alain (Guillaume Canet), is about to reject the latest from his longtime client, Léonard (Vincent Macaigne), due to its overweight narrative–to be frank–it’s a story he’s heard before. Pulling from the internet to pad his experiences, Léonard’s writing methods have not only bored Alain, but confused him. Alain’s wife, Selena (Juliette Binoche), is a famed television actress who is more accustomed, than her husband, to the modern age, and is also in the midst of a casual affair with Léonard. When Laure (Christa Théret) is hired by Alain’s publishing company to help propel them into a new age of modernity, the older characters find themselves in her orbit, which only complicates their relationships.

It’s tradition that I see a Juliette Binoche film nearly every year at MSPIFF. She always have something intriguing to watch, and I like two of Olivier Assayas films so far, so yeah I’m up to see this one!

OPHELIA – Claire McCarthy

A vivid retelling of Shakespeare’s classic drama, Hamlet, from the perspective of Ophelia, Claire McCarthy’s breathtaking drama stars Daisy Ridley (Star Wars) as the titular protagonist in a film that reinvisions the doomed young woman as the heroine of this tragic tale of love, loss and prophecy. Packed with a powerhouse cast that includes Naomi Watts, Clive Owen and George McKay, Ridley’s Ophelia is caught in a web of royal machinations and dark prophecies, all of which threaten the blossoming love between herself and McKay’s Prince Hamlet.

Not sure why there isn’t a trailer yet since this film premiered at Sundance last year, but The Hollywood Reporter called this a “…vigorous, colorful and clever melodrama smartly rethinks both the play and the character, making her a far more proactive figure than Shakespeare did in addition to entirely re-imagining her fate.”  I quite like re-imaginings of classic tales and this cast is pretty awesome.

Claire Darling – Julie Bertuccelli

Director Julie Bertuccelli’s spirited adaptation of Lynda Rutledge’s novel brings mother/daughter duo, Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni (Deneuve’s own daughter), to the big screen. On a gorgeous summer day in the village of Verderonne, Claire Darling (Deneuve) makes a decision. She places various items from her spacious estate out on her front lawn for the garage sale of a lifetime, with no spoken reason other than the sunny weather. This prompts her neighbors to swarm her property, barreling over each other to swoop up the lavish items Claire has marked for sale at suspiciously low prices. As her neighbors shop, the reason for Claire’s abrupt change in lifestyle comes into view–she has decided to die. After alternating between Claire’s memories of love, loss, and an altogether eccentric life, the film takes another turn when Claire finds a long-lost face at her door, one that she has not seen in over 20 years; her daughter, Mary.

I enjoy French films (just listening to them speak is delightful). I haven’t seen Deneuve in ages, and I love Laure Calamy in Call My Agent! series, too!

This Changes Everything – Tom Donahue

Building upon the long-overdue Me Too movement and revelations of the rampant sexism in Hollywood, This Changes Everything continues the movements mission by breaking down and exposing the true depth of Hollywood corruption. Tackling the central, often unspoken, injustices that have plagued the industry for over a century, this documentary doesn’t leave anything under the table. Sexism, the unequal and often distorted representation of women in film, both in front of and behind the screen, and the big question of “what now?” serve as the the film’s main themes. While there is an understandable amount of anger associated with the Me Too movement and its cause, the film isn’t marred by conjecture–instead, it presents the factual and well-documented examples of corruption in film in order to inspire a brighter future.

This sounds like a well-balanced documentary about a timely topic that any female filmmakers and their allies should watch. I’m also curious as to find out more about ‘what now?’ now that this movement has been evolved since 2017 when sexual-abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein were first widely reported.

Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story – Louise Woehrle

Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story is told by WWII U.S. Eighth Air Force Bombardier Lt. Charles Woehrle, one of 10,000 prisoners in the German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III, depicted in the iconic film “”The Great Escape.”” At age 93, this remarkable man and gifted storyteller takes us from Pine City, Minnesota to war-torn Europe as he relives his experiences with vivid detail that include his B-17 getting shot down, capture by the Nazis, an unexpected parcel from Geneva, and surviving two long years of uncertainty and tremendous hardship as a prisoner of war.

I LOVE World War II films and this documentary is billed as ‘A saga filled with grit and grace’ AND it has a Minnesota connection! Apparently the filmmaker Louise Woehrle is the niece of Charles Woehrle himself, one of the countless heroes from the Greatest Generation who has much to teach us about war and about life.


The Film Society programming screens at the St. Anthony Main Theatre 115 SE Main Street, Minneapolis, MN 55414 Film Society

Tickets: $15.00 General Admission | $11.00 Film Society Members | $8.00 Students

*special ticket pricing may apply for special presentations and other events

MSPIFF is presented by the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul, a dynamic 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to fostering a knowledgeable and vibrant appreciation of the art of film and its power to inform and transform individuals and communities.

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My Minnesota friends, I hope to see you at MSPIFF this year! As for the rest of you, which of these film(s) are you looking forward to seeing?