The Alliance of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) has announced the debut of a partnership with Kino Lorber to present a film series curated by a number of esteemed female film journalists and critics under the new “AWFJ Presents” banner on Kino Lorber’s digital platform KinoMarquee. Selected by a curatorial team of AWFJ members from Kino Lorber’s vast catalog of hundreds of important titles, the inaugural selections include six exceptionally entertaining and relevant films by women directors.
 
Each film on the AWFJ Presents slate will be available for rent on the KinoMarquee streaming platform under the AWFJ Presents banner. In addition, a pre-recorded, 20-minute discussion of each film by members of AWFJ’s curatorial team can be found on AWFJ’s YouTube channel. The revenue from the sale of every series pass will be shared with the AWJF, supporting the important work that they do.  
 
Jennifer Merin, AWFJ president, said, “The alliance is very proud to partner with Kino Lorber for our inaugural ‘AWFJ Presents’ series to highlight some truly outstanding films by some of the world’s finest women directors. The films tell stories that are true to women’s experiences and represent women’s perspectives, but have universal appeal. We are also beyond appreciative of their enthusiasm and generosity regarding this partnership.”
 
Kino Lorber SVP Wendy Lidell, added, “It is as important to increase the number and presence of female film critics as it is to increase the presence of women filmmakers – in fact the two go hand in hand.  Which is why we are especially gratified to be partnering with AWJF on this initiative to present just a sampling of our deep catalog of great films by women.”  
 
The international slate of films covers a variety of genres—comedy, horror, drama, contemporary, period. They are all finely crafted, original, and entertaining. And, they created passionate debate among the curators who chose them from the 161 female-helmed films in Kino Lorber’s catalog.

Between the Lines

WFJ Presents inaugural selections

Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991)
Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang (2015)
Diane Kurys’ Peppermint Soda (1977)
Caroline Link’s Nowhere in Africa (2001)
Joan Micklin Silver’s Between the Lines (1977) 

The “AWFJ Presents” curators are an international consortium of well-respected film critics: Ulkar Alakbarova, Margaret Barton-Fumo, Betsy Bozdech, Sandie Angulo Chen, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Jennifer Merin, Kristen Page-Kirby, Jeanne Prisyazhnaya, and Susan Wloszczyna.
 
The cost to stream films individually is $8, or viewers can buy a pass to the whole series for $30. Contact [email protected] for more information.
 
About AWFJ
The Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Inc. (AWFJ) in a not-for-profit charitable organization found in New York State in 2006 whose purpose is to amplify the voices of women critics, provide a platform for the expression of women’s perspectives on film, and support work by and about women—both in front of and behind the cameras—through intragroup promotional activities, outreach programs and presentation of EDA Awards at year’s end and at film festivals throughout the year. AWFJ publishes an average of 22 reviews, interviews and news items weekly, including our Movie of the Week feature, and distributes two weekly eNewsletters, in addition to keeping an active and interactive record of fiction feature and documentary films by and/or about women, and/or of particular interest to women because they focus on women’s issues. Articles, eNewsletter subscription sign ups and lists are made available to the general public on our website (awfj.org).
 
About Kino Lorber
With a library of over 4,000 titles, Kino Lorber Inc. has been a leader in independent art house distribution for 35 years, releasing 30 films per year theatrically under its Kino Lorber, Kino Repertory and Alive Mind Cinema banners, garnering seven Academy Award® nominations in nine years. In addition, the company brings over 350 titles yearly to the home entertainment and educational markets through physical and digital media releases. With an expanding family of distributed labels, Kino Lorber handles releases in ancillary media for Zeitgeist Films, Cohen Media Group, Greenwich Entertainment, Artsploitation, Palisades Tartan, Menemsha Films, Raro Video, and others, placing physical titles through all wholesale, retail, and direct to consumer channels, as well as direct digital distribution through over 40 OTT services including all major TVOD and SVOD platforms. In 2019, the company launched its new art house digital channel Kino Now which features over 1000 titles from the acclaimed Kino Lorber library. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kino Marquee initiative was launched in 2020 pioneering “virtual theatrical” releases of art house films with revenue shares that allows audiences to support almost 400 local independent theaters.

Cover photo of “Peppermint Soda”

Note: Lynn Venhaus, St. Louis-based film critic and professional writer-editor, is a member of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. She is the founder of PopLifeSTL.com, in addition to writing reviews for Webster-Kirkwood Times and reviewing movies for KTRS Radio.


 

By Lynn Venhaus
In a powerful feature-length film debut, Shatara Michelle Ford presents a gripping, relevant view of how traumatized women are still treated in the aftermath of sexual assault and the prevailing patriarchy about womanhood and consent.

Ford, who grew up in St. Louis, wrote and directed “Test Pattern,” which was shown at last year’s St. Louis International Film Festival. It won the inaugural Essy Award for best narrative feature, which is given to a film shot in St. Louis or made by a St. Louisan.

It’s about how an interracial couple’s relationship is tested after Renesha (Brittany S. Hall) is sexually assaulted and her live-in boyfriend Evan (Will Brill) drives her to several hospitals in pursuit of a rape kit.

Defying stereotypes, and with its exploration of identity and race, this work has flourished on the festival circuit, and as of Feb. 19, Kino Lorber is distributing it as a video on demand through their Kino Lorber Marquee platform (https://kinomarquee.com)

Ford’s realistic drama veers into psychological horror as everything about Renesha’s girls’ night with best friend Amber (Gail Bean) turns into a nightmare, from the predatory actions of brash e-commerce entrepreneur (Drew Fuller) to its day-after blurry, drugged, foggy trauma.

Not only does Ford delve into these ongoing systemic issues, but also features a frustrating quest to seek answers and justice that serves as an eye-opening indictment of health care inequities.

It is a lot to take on in one film, and Ford has much to say, but she uses one couple’s experiences as an intimate portrait of modern relationships and the framework to look at external forces affecting life today.

Using flashbacks in key moments, self-assured Ford establishes a loving opposite-attracts relationship between an easy-going white tattoo artist, Evan, a superb Will Brill, and a bright, beautiful black development director, Renesha, played shrewdly and delicately by Brittany S. Hall.

Interestingly, they meet during an innocuous girls’ night out of drinking and dancing. Their awkward encounters lead to a first date, then a first night together, then fast-forward to ‘now.’

As their mutual attraction has led to commitment, they have moved in together in a small starter house in Austin. Convincing in every way, their performances are intertwined in a truth.

Bored with the corporate world, Renesha has started a new job working for a non-profit, the Humane Society.  

That night, her pal Amber wants to celebrate, so she reluctantly goes to the Hacienda Social Club. Everything that unfolds screams “bad idea” – Amber, eager to party and already losing her inhibitions, falls prey to a pushy guy, Chris, (Ben Levin), who is toasting a business deal with his friend.

The flashy white guys keep the champagne flowing as they pressure each girl to drink more and dance – and despite Renesha’s repeated attempts at no, and that “I have a boyfriend,” she is stuck in this situation with her fun-loving friend, who is having a good time.

At some point, Renesha is slipped a “roofie,” the illegal date-rape drug Rohypnol, and when incapacitated, she is taken to Mike’s apartment, where he rapes her. She wakes up with little knowledge of how she got there or what happened.

A concerned and devastated Evan wants answers, insistently pursues a rape kit, but Renesha doesn’t want to go through the process. The tense journey does not go well, as each deal with their own emotional responses while facing the bureaucratic red tape of health care hell and a police report.

What is in no doubt is that they have been forever changed as a couple, tested both by gender roles and prejudice.

At only 88 minutes, the film leaves out some pertinent details, and the abrupt ending is not satisfying. But Ford’s flair for dialogue and crafting authentic characters is strong.

Cinematographer Ludovici Isodori’s has contrasted the two storylines masterfully, locations are well-chosen for a low-budget indie, while Robert Oyuang Rusli’s string-heavy score accents an entire gamut of emotions. Tchaikovsky’s “The Waltz of Flowers” from “The Nutcracker Suite” is a clever choice for a compelling scene.

Oscar Wilde’s quote, “Everything is about sex, except sex, which is about power,” is used as the film’s tagline, and Ford has wisely applied it to a modern exploration of how women are conditioned about sex and consent. Add institutional racism from a black woman’s perspective and the power shifts between couples, and you get one potent thought-provoking film.

“Test Pattern” addresses similar territory that “Promising Young Woman” tackles and will add more to the national conversation.

Like the impressive female-directed and written 2020 social commentaries “The Assistant” and “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” with this film, Ford proves she is an exciting new voice. Her name can be included in the growing list of formidable female directors with something to say.

Shatara Michelle Ford

“Test Pattern” is a 2019 drama written and directed by Shatara Michelle Ford, starring Brittany S. Hall and Will Brill. It is not rated and the run time is 1 hour, 22 min. The film is available as a video on demand through Kino Lorber Marquee. Lynn’s Grade: B+