Roooaaaar! Tales of courage, activism and finding one’s own voice.

There can hardly be any more extraordinary story from the Hollywood golden age than that of Hedy Lamarr; a very beautiful star with a moderate acting talent but an untutored brilliance in science and engineering that should by now be getting her compared to Nikola Tesla, or maybe even a neglected female scientist like Rosalind Franklin. Her tragedy was that she was in the wrong business, precisely that business that promotes beauty over brains – the movie business. Alexandra Dean’s excellent and important documentary about her is very instructive – a parable of modern sexual politics and assumptions about science. Even now, many can’t believe in their hearts that movie star Hedy Lamarr really was a scientist, or scientist manqué. The accomplishment simply doesn’t square with the accepted female star biography narrative into which Lamarr otherwise fits: movies, husbands, poignant reclusive decline etc. Many film encyclopedias and reference books simply
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A woman walks in front of a transfixed audience, drops a white scarf behind her and stares off into the distance. Even though the number has only started, the strong charisma of Bettie Blackheart—Finland’s perhaps best-known burlesque artist—leads the audience amidst winter and snow. She lures even director Iina Terho under her hypnotic spell. As clothes start to come off and the icy figure melts into a wild summer, Terho becomes equally hopeful; maybe burlesque could warm her as well. Full of Love is a combination of autobiography and Finnish burlesque. It’s a story of personal growth, but also a study of inhibitions and gender—of everything that has accumulated over the years and open for examination through burlesque. When Petra Innanen a.k.a. Bettie Blackheart guides Terho, the audience can rest assured that glimpses of both Finnish and foreign stars, from Erochica Bamboo to Satan’s Angel, can be caught during the
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Girl (2018)

A 15-year-old transgender girl from Belgium starts training to become a ballerina in Girl, a film with a title that’s simultaneously straightforward and anything but. This intriguing debut feature from Flemish director Lukas Dhont […] looks terrific, is not afraid to tackle a number of difficult subjects and features a star-making performance from acting and dancing talent Victor Polster. […] [Dhont’s] heart – and that of the audience – goes out to Lara, whom Polster plays in such piercingly relatable terms, trying to navigate her own journey. One thing that perhaps a part of the transgender community will look at more closely is Dhont’s decision to cast a cisgender boy in the role, though it might be next to impossible to find a transgender actor to play a pre-op girl who is the right age and who can also act and is a trained ballet dancer. Another issue is the
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Many years in the making, this [is a] definitive documentary on political musician [M.I.A.] […]. [She] is the controlling spirit of this enjoyable documentary: always the centre of attention, performing and setting the mood with absolute magnetism. It’s clear she’s the director of her own life and [director Stephen] Loveridge just happens to occasionally be in the right place at the right time. [M.I.A.] and her siblings had to be tough and reinvent themselves in the absence of a father who was away as an activist in the Tamil resistance movement. Her music, artwork, fashion and general angry-rave aesthetic appears to have come to her with little effort; she just knew it would work. Toughness is a recurring theme. Arulpragasam never takes an easy route, composing her own music and conceptualising her own music videos from the start […]. The film comes from a place of deep admiration for [M.I.A.],
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Human beings, reflects Sir Ian McKellen in Joe Stephenson’s winsome new doc McKellen: Playing the Part, are acting all day long. It’s not yourself you offer to the world, but part of yourself. This insight is characteristic of a film that continually racks focus to the man behind the famous actor who, at the age of 78, has thought deeply about his work and life and whose attitude toward himself appears bracingly unpretentious and down-to-earth. With his hypnotic blue-green eyes shining under tweedy brows on a well-weathered face, Sir Ian is still an attractive man able to seduce and manipulate an audience at his pleasure. […] This is clearly not a tell-all autobiography, but the story of a wildly successful career as seen through the protagonist’s own eyes. Later in the film, biography alternates with the social issues that have preoccupied McKellen for decades, particularly his outspoken championing of LGBT
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Minding the Gap (2018)

As cinematographer on Minding the Gap, Bing Liu follows his longtime friends as they skateboard through the frequently abandoned streets, parks and parking lots of Rockford, Illinois. When they weave, he weaves. When they leap a curb, he catches air, too. When they take a corner too tight, he teeters precariously. The camerawork feels free and improvisational, but never thoughtless and unstudied. The same traits carry over to Liu’s work as director, co-editor and co-star in Minding the Gap, which premiered as part of the U.S. Documentary competition at Sundance and marks an audacious feature debut on all levels. Liu had been filming his friends and their skateboarding antics for years, capturing every spectacular stunt, every scary face-plant, and hours and hours of boys-will-be-boys banter and bickering. The friends are at a transitional point, especially fun-loving Zack, who finds himself facing adulthood in unexpected ways when his girlfriend Nina gets
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RBG (2018)

RBG gives legendary Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg the pop-doc treatment and pays tribute to the feminence grise badass. [Political commentator] Rachel Maddow declares her a “liberal hero,” right-wing radio pundits refer to her as “this witch, this evildoer, this monster” and her granddaughters call her “bubbe.” To her childhood friends, she’s still the girl they called “Kicky.” Brooklynites claim her as one of their own; Cornell and Harvard Law list her as an alumna. […]. You may love or hate her, badmouth her or bow down to her. But you have to recognize the impact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made to the fabric of [the United States]. It is practically incalculable and completely invaluable. Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s docuportrait of this Women’s Rights pioneer and feminist icon lays out a strong case for considering the 85-year-old Supreme Court justice as a real-life American superhero. […] [W]e
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