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Greta Gerwig's 'Little Women' breathes new life into the age-old classic

(01/04/20 8:33pm)

Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is a beloved Hollywood mainstay, and it has been adapted into film for nearly as long as the medium has existed. Released two years after the well-received “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig’s turn at the 19th-century classic confirms the timelessness of the novel’s narrative while turning a fresh eye on its sisterly relationships. “Little Women” is fundamentally a domestic coming-of-age story, but Gerwig’s rendition beckons a feminist commentary out of the original text that informs an alternative reading of its age-old characters. 

What a horny teen murder drama taught me about myself

(10/17/19 4:01am)

Nadia Shanaa is a Palestinian, hijab-wearing, Virgo energy-radiating character from “Elite,” a show that Vulture aptly described as “Netflix’s best horny teen drama.” It’s the kind of edgy teen show that guarantees a hefty allotment of second-hand embarrassment, much in the vein of “Riverdale” or the cringe-classic “Glee.” It’s also where I least expected to encounter a narrative that centered a hijabi Muslim woman and her gay older brother. What was meant to be an idle, guilty-pleasure show for retaining my Spanish-language skills during off-semesters morphed into a Western treatise on the Muslim teen woman and all of trappings that come with her adolescence: identity, growing pains and, of course, sexuality. 

‘This Taco Truck Kills Fascists’ demonstrates the power of immigrant stories being witnessed

(10/10/19 4:02am)

How do we responsibly depict marginalized peoples’ narratives, particularly those of immigrants, who by necessity must often remain anonymous? It’s a question that concerns journalists and filmmakers alike, and it is one that viewers should critically ask of the media they consume, whether it is a New York Times mini-doc or Netflix’s “Living Undocumented.” In “This Taco Truck Kills Fascists,” screened Sept. 27 at the Rubenstein Film Theater, director Rodrigo Dorfman addresses this question head-on in his profile of an immigrant artist who must bear the burden of migrant narratives. 

'Booksmart' is a heartfelt teen comedy for a generation of dreamers

(06/02/19 4:02am)

The “teen movie” is the Baby Boomer of film genres, harkening back to the James Dean classic “Rebel Without a Cause” and the concurrent cultural emergence of the “young adult” designation. It’s a genre that is perennially reborn, continually updated to fit the zeitgeist. Films like “The Breakfast Club,” “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Mean Girls” each defined their own generation, and “Booksmart,” the feature directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde, has already been deemed Gen Z’s coming-of-age classic. It’s a generous yet deserving title for the all-female-helmed film, which successfully renovates the genre while staying true to its historical foundations, even as those roots are increasingly being called into question. 

'Ramy' asks all the right questions about millennial Muslim identity

(04/16/19 4:05am)

“Ramy” has the familiar trappings of any other dramedy about any other millennial: Our protagonist, Ramy (Ramy Youssef, who is also writer, director and co-producer), is a 20-something working at a sinking tech start-up, stumbling through the last chapter of his bildungsroman and trying to figure it all out before he hits his 30s. He spends his days bantering with buddies Ahmed (Dave Merheje) and Mo (Mohammed Amer) and devotes his nights to pulsing dance parties and soon-to-be hook-ups. But interspersed between these slices-of-life akin to “Girls” or “Master of None,” we see Ramy somewhere else: at home in Jersey, where he lives with his very-Arab parents, and at the local masjid, which is as much a refuge as it is a well-worn pillar in his day-to-day life as a Muslim. The series’ first three episodes, which were advance screened last Friday at White Lecture Hall, make it clear that Ramy is Muslim Muslim. He 100% “buys into it,” and he has only some qualms about it.

AMI Faculty Filmmaker Spotlight showcases professors' latest projects

(04/03/19 4:15am)

Students often come to know their professors over the course of a semester-long class, where instructors serve more as mentors and advisors than writers, researchers or filmmakers. The 2019 AMI Faculty Filmmaker Spotlight, held this past Thursday at the Rubenstein Arts Center, highlighted the role of AMI professors as artists in their own right through a screening of their most recent filmmaking projects. 

On unruly bodies and how to cope with being in-between

(03/20/19 4:25am)

“Orient/Occident, archaic/modern, rural/urban, fundamentalism/enlightenment, Islam/Europe, past/future. By embodying the unstable relationship between these supposed opposites, racialized Europeans occupy a heterotopic space: in the present but at odds with what is considered possible. Their lived reality produces narratives that can only be heterotopic in their focus, not on gaining a legitimate place within the national space/time, but on showing its artificiality and on negotiating various spaces at the same time.” — Fatima El-Tayeb, queer diaspora studies scholar, UC San Diego

M.I.A. and the danceability of contradiction

(03/05/19 5:00am)

Maya Arulpragasam, or M.I.A., has always been blatant and bold. She was a Tamil refugee to London whose rapid rise in fame and fortune found her in stuck in the crosshairs of power and privilege, where using her influence to effect change proved easier said than done. There’s this one clip in Steve Loveridge’s 2018 documentary “Matangi / Maya / M.I.A.” where M.I.A., teetering on the edge of resignation and defiance, forlornly looks into the camera and asks, “If you come from the struggle, how the f*** do you talk about the struggle without talking about the struggle?” 

'Zama' and the ethics of representing colonialism

(01/30/19 5:35am)

Listed by more than a few reputable publications as one of the best movies of the year, Lucrecia Martel’s “Zama” has received praise by the bucketful. The film was screened Jan. 14 at the Rubenstein Arts Center and was introduced by Dr. Keiji Kunigami, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Romance Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. It’s a colonial satire loosely centered around Diego de Zama, (played by Daniel Giménez Cacho), a colonial administrator of imperial Spain who languishes endlessly at a distant Paraguayan outpost, desperately awaiting a promotion and subsequent relocation that never arrive. Zama meanders through his days and years, operating dutifully yet disinterestedly as an arm of the Crown’s official violence. He also attempts, unsuccessfully, to stave off his desire for local women, whom he both lusts after and disdains. 

CDS exhibit 'One Hurricane Season' individualizes climate change

(01/16/19 5:10am)

Climate change is a topic that is at once impersonal and urgent. Although nearly every successive climate change report seems to pull the due date of impending calamity ever closer to the present, climate change coverage has refrained from politicizing the issue, often turning a lens to a small handful of the big players, like national governments. 

What 2018 has given us, and what 2019 should deliver

(12/05/18 5:00am)

The year 2018 has been a year that rocked both our greater culture and our individual self-conceptions as consumers of and contributors to that very culture. Accountability is the mainstay, and self-reflection has become a daily requisite for even the most privileged. I think it is time to ask whether we want the media we consume to be held accountable, too, and to inquire as to what we might want that accountability to look like. 

'Beautiful Boy' is an honest depiction of addiction and loss

(11/14/18 5:25am)

What “Beautiful Boy” lacks in finesse, it makes up for in heart. The film, helmed by Swedish director Felix Van Groeningen, chronicles the true story of journalist David Sheff’s (Steve Carell) desperate attempt to salvage his deteriorating relationship with his son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet), who is addicted to methamphetamines. Both the older and younger Sheffs compiled the history of these tumultuous years into two respective memoirs, each told from their respective point of view. David Sheff’s memoir, “Beautiful Boy,” serves as the baseline for Van Groeningen’s screenplay of the same name, co-written with Luke Davies (who received an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay for “Lion”).   

CDS Dorothea-Lange Taylor Prize recipient discusses vulnerability and immigrant identity

(10/17/18 4:30am)

For identities that are marginalized or frequently denied access to art, the artistic process necessitates as much an adaption of oneself to the art form as it requires a modification of the art form itself to accommodate one’s identity. As a recipient of the Center for Documentary Studies’ annual Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize, Mexican-American photographer Daniel Ramos has crafted a portfolio that can scrupulously capture his life’s winding contours: He was born in Chicago but now lives in Nuevo León, Mexico, and he spent his formative years rotating between these two distinctive places. 

Arts center exhibition 'Cornered' documents the experiences of African migrants

(10/17/18 4:40am)

Migration — whether it be across the U.S.-Mexico border, among states in the European Union or from Africa into Europe — is a topic that is fraught with political tension. The justifications for migration, as well as the rallying cries against it, are embedded in familiar issues ranging from colonialism and capitalism to xenophobia and elitism.