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This is the free version of our weekly newsletter. The premium version has 21 excellent recommendations, on top of these, of what to watch at festivals, virtual cinemas, VOD, and via streaming. We also spotlight several virtual film festivals worth catching worldwide, featuring films we love that have yet to secure distribution (so this may be your only chance to see them!).
In our premium newsletter for members this week, we recommend more virtual film festival screenings, plus additional VOD, virtual cinema, and streaming recommendations. If you become a member now, shoot us an email, and we'll be happy to send you these recommendations, too!
This week, we're recommending a couple of illuminating films about Jewish history + a lovely little LGBTQ+ romance. There couldn't be a better time to get a handle on the roots of 21st century antisemitism, so we highly recommend the incisive doc Antisemitism. Meanwhile, fans of Chantal Akerman can rejoice that her previously impossible-to-find gem Letters Home, about letters between Sylvia Plath and her mother, is now streaming on Mubi pretty much everywhere you can get Mubi.
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St. Louis Jewish Film Festival
Antisemitism - available worldwide - until June 14
This was a highlight of last year's Toronto Jewish Film Festival.
Here's my review:
Letters Home - Mubi worldwide
This Chantal Akerman film has been nigh impossible to find for a long time, but you can now watch it on Mubi!
Here's Contributing Editor Lindsay Pugh on the film:
Fans of Chantal Akerman (and/or Sylvia Plath) rejoice! Letters Home is finally available on Mubi. After Plath’s suicide in 1963, her mother, Aurelia Schober Plath, published a selection of letters from her daughter called Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963. Playwright Rose Leiman Goldemberg used those letters as the basis for her 1984 off-Broadway play, Letters Home, directed by Françoise Merle during the Paris staging. Akerman filmed an adaptation of Merle’s rendition for French TV in 1986 with the same actors: Delphine Seyrig as Aurelia and her niece, Coralie Seyrig, as Sylvia. As Portland’s NW Film Center describes it, “Letters Home is therefore an object passed from a poet to her mother, from her mother to a woman playwright, then to a woman theatre director, and finally to Akerman, a woman filmmaker.”
It’s impossible to watch this film after Akerman’s death and ignore the parallels between her and Plath. Both vacillated between manic energy for their art/life and a desperate desire to escape it. Both used their mothers as a lens through which to understand their own identities. At one point, Plath writes to Aurelia, “The core of life has fallen apart,” which sounds like something Akerman herself might have said. With minimal staging to serve as a distraction, all attention is on the mother-daughter dynamic. Unlike the common fixation on Plath’s depression and subsequent death, Goldemberg places emphasis on her life. Plath’s letters to her mother show what she was like when she wasn’t in the throes of depression.
It’s hard to find much information on the production of this film, so it’s unclear how much Akerman was able to put her stamp on Merle’s direction. From a technical perspective, Letters Home does not feel like an Akerman film. The content, however, is perfectly aligned with her larger body of work. I suggest pairing your viewing with News from Home (available on the Criterion Channel) to see what Akerman does with similar material when she has full creative control.
Listen to our podcast on Jeanne Dielman and Les Rendez-vous d'Anna
The Strong Ones - Dekkoo and VOD US/Canada
This highlight of the LGBTQ+ festival circuit last year is now on VOD/Dekkoo streaming. It's a lovely little film with gorgeous settings.
Here's my review from last year:
Alex Heeney, Editor-in-Chief
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