Feb 17

"Hale County This Morning, This Evening" written by Gregory Mann

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(Release Info London schedule; February 19th, 2019, Curzon Bloomsbury, London WC1N, The Brunswick, London, WC1N 1AW, 14:45 PM)

 

 

 

"Hale County This Morning, This Evening"

 

 

An inspired and intimate portrait of a place and it's people, "Hale County This Morning, This Evening" follows Daniel Collins and Quincy Bryant, two young 'African American' men from rural 'Hale County', Alabama, over the course of five years. Collins attends college in search of opportunity while Bryant becomes a father to an energetic son in an open-ended, poetic film that privileges the patiently observed interstices of their lives. The audience is invited to experience the mundane and monumental, birth and death, the quotidian and the sublime. These moments combine to communicate the region’s deep culture and provide glimpses of the complex ways 'The African American' community’s collective image is integrated into America’s visual imagination. It's a refreshingly direct approach to documentary that fills in the gaps between individual black male icons. The film allows the viewer an emotive impression of 'The Historic South', showing the consequences of the social construction of race, while simultaneously trumpeting the beauty of life and offering a testament to dreaming despite the odds.

Director RaMell Ross earned a 'BA' in both 'English' and 'Sociology' from 'Georgetown University' and an 'MFA' from 'The Rhode Island School Of Design'. His photographs have been exhibited internationally and his writing has appeared in such outlets as 'The New York Times' and 'Walker Arts Center'. He was part of 'Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces Of Independent Film' in.2015, and a 'New Frontier Artist' in 'Residence' at 'The MIT Media Lab'. In 2016, he was a finalist for 'The Aperture Portfolio Prize', winner of an 'Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer’s Fellowship Grant' and a 'Sundance Art Of Nonfiction Fellow'. In early 2017, he was selected for 'Rhode Island Foundation's Robert And Margaret MacColl Johnson Artist Fellowship'. RaMell is currently on faculty at 'Brown University’s Visual Arts Department'. While teaching in a 'GED' program in Greensboro, Alabama RaMell Ross met Quincy, and coaching basketball at the local high school he met Daniel. Filming start after about three years. "Hale County This Morning, This Evening" is his first feature documentary.

With a large format '8x10' inch camera, the view of Southern poverty was crystallized in the summer of 1936. The documentation of poor white sharecropping families became the landmark book 'Let Us Now Praise Famous Men'. Two years later, 'The Farm Security Administration' commissioned the effects of 'The Great Depression' in the southern states. The photographic perspective established a new documentary aesthetic and defines a region. In the history of documentary practice, 'Hale County' is a mythical place. On the one hand it's part of the rarefied cannon of black and white photojournalism. The descriptive prose poetry and reflexive questioning of whether documentation can ever represent such social misery. Today, 'Hale County' is a different place. While the current residents subsist with comparable economic hardship, the racial demographics of the region have shifted. These forgotten, isolated, famous men in 'Hale County' are now people of color. Largely disenfranchised, 'The African American' population and communities subsist under conservative political structures determined to maintain a ritual of peaceful cohabitation an unequal distribution of and access to resources. The cycle of poverty in this region persists not only through mainstream political inaction, but also through the absence of progressive initiatives that deconstruct, intervene and disrupt this bogeyman region existing in the American consciousness.

The film avoids the tropes of traditional documentary to get at these issues while reacting to the historic, cultural imaging of 'African Americans', in pursuit to exalt the lives of Daniel and Quincy. The film is more than the sum of it's images. The entirety of impressions which constitute the film that take shape in our minds, are something else and more than the film itself. An idea which "Hale County This Morning, This Evening" invites us to experience in a free-form, impressionistic and at times almost surreal montage of cinematic snapshots from 'Hale County', Alabama. But also in a brilliantly edited, up-to date report from the heart of black America, which through it's images tells of racism in 'The USA' and about black self-perception right here, right now. It's not just about what we see, but also how. The film has a sharp eye for the beauty and significance of fleeting moments, but also for organising his images into a larger movement of forms and critical experiences. An artistically eminent and politically urgent intervention at the very right time; and with a cast of protagonists whose company we feel privileged to be in. "Hale County" investigates the return to home of a 'Northern Black American'. The film looks closely at vast stretches of Quincy and Daniel’s lives and to witness the ephemera of the human project; the latter in the context of 'The Historic South', the origin of 'Black American' aesthetics, and in that, the film strove toward engaging the visual complexity of being black.

The intentions is quite simple; to exalt Daniel and Quincy’s lives from our centrality, the looking out from 'The Black Community', in the documentary genre’s language of truth. Immediately the problem of agency and historical imaging emerged. You can not faithfully represent the lives of Daniel and Quincy without acknowledging the trouble of representation, that any viewer’s engagement with their lives without first confronting that influence of racism on our perception, is irresponsible. It's the trappings of representation that called for a responsive form; the use of an almost claustrophobic subjectivity and associative editing techniques to give the film a double consciousness. The historical imaging of 'African Americans' is a passive aggressive content of the film. It's important to understand the lives of Quincy, Daniel, and the people of 'Hale County' through glimpses rather than the conventions of a detailed narrative arc. When someone sees another person making a decision, they naturally judge the decision. But if you refuse the viewer that moment, removing judgment, they’re forced to consider a person and their life through other means, through the bigger picture, one that requires the filling in of blanks and active thought. This relieves a burden from the protagonist, perhaps the burden to succeed and/or make the right decision to earn compassion, or escape the odds. In this case, "Hale County" avoids the convention of narrative in order to highlight the greater forces at work in the lives depicted.

The music in the film is used to initiate a spry, fleeting experience in line with the film’s itinerary. "Hale County" takes inspiration from both the music and it's desired effect, as well as from forms of musical structure. You could say it’s composed by a series of movements. In that a series of images unite together to have a cumulative effect, a self-determined montage of sorts. The film calls them movements because of their musical relation, and they've a similar quality in that they cultivate a state of being. These movements organize the audience’s journey with the film, allow them to engage with a sense of progress yet encourage the visuals to function the way music does; for that moment of engagement, the pleasure of that single exchange. The global structure of the film is sun up-sun down, all images relating to each other by time of day. As the film is composed of almost completely single moments, the characters do not appear as much as they would normally, which not only increases the weight of that appearance but also makes the moments more susceptible to influence by what comes before it. Adhering to the form of the film while balancing the micro shifts of feeling and mood while balancing the clarity ambiguity, the story takes a collective brain. The film is in some ways itself an effort to answer that question. It's an attempt to create the reality, a reality of film as strategic inquiry, while representing the pre-existence of that world.

There are visual moments so intimate in this film that the look itself feels embodied to the point of a sense of participation or involvement. The camera isn’t there to point to a person or something and say to the audience; look at that, this is what's happening. It’s really the proximity to things that determines how much of them we understand. And so the film takes a radically subjective approach to bring people closer together. Cinema is still very young. "Hale County" offers the audience a cinematic experience of perspective and place. Shared experience brings people together and while those onscreen are the other participants, cinema acts as their medium of exchange. The film closes the distance between people by inviting close looking, and in turn close feeling, and allows the audience the feeling of witnessing something, linking wonder and awe to the encounter with the protagonist. There's an element of cosmic and environmental wonder that enters the film. 'Popular American' culture’s relationship to time and memory is distorted. Days, months, years, when does one thing cease to influence another? The past doesn’t fade, it's absorbed into the present. In the same way we're all made of stars, we're all made of history. All of human history has happened under the same sun. It's important to bring the audience back to the origins of cinema’s early declarations of 'Blackness', in order to allow the audience to adjust their bearings, and consider the ways their encounters with media’s 'Blackness' determined their lived reality.

 

 

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  • (Release Info London schedule; November 14th, 2019, Everyman Broadgate, Finsbury Ave, London EC2M 2PF, United Kingdom, 21:00 pm) "Le Mans '66" From James Mangold comes a film inspired by a true-life drama about a powerful friendship that forever changed racing history. In 1959, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is on top of the world after winning the most difficult race in all of motorsports, 'The 24 Hours Of Le Mans'. But his greatest triumph is followed quickly by a crushing blow, the fearless Texan is told by doctors that a grave heart condition will prevent him from ever racing again. Endlessly resourceful, Shelby reinvents himself as a car designer and salesman working out of a warehouse space in 'Venice Beach' with a team of engineers and mechanics that includes hot-tempered test driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). A champion British race car driver and a devoted family man, Miles is brilliant behind the wheel, but he’s also blunt, arrogant and unwilling to compromise. 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'Marketing Executive' Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) suggests that if Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) wants to appeal to the young people of the day looking to buy their first cars, the company should focus on speed, if Ford has winning race cars, their consumer automobiles would become that much more attractive by association. Since no company produced faster or sexier cars than Enzo Ferrari, an acquisition of 'The European' carmaker seems like the answer. An envoy of top executives is dispatched to Ferrari headquarters to negotiate the purchase of 'The European' carmaker only to return to Michigan empty-handed. Outraged, Ford immediately places his right-hand man, senior vice president Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), in charge of a new high-tech race car division, 'Ford Advanced Vehicles', tasked with quickly building a car that will beat Ferrari at their own game, defeating them at 'The Mount Everest Of Motor Racing', 'Fhe 24 Hours Of Le Mans'. 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The vehicle changed the perception of both Ford, and America itself, when it takes part in one of the most infamous racing showdowns in history, the 1966 running of 'Le Mans'. The most challenging sequence to capture by far is the restaging of the 1966 running of 'The 24 Hours At Le Mans' race. The last 40 minutes of the film is this race predominantly, and you really feel like you're hunkered down and living in the race. The film loves that idea of racing for 24 hours to start to dawn on you, to feel what that really would be like trying to drive faster than any man for longer than you ever can stay awake. The magic of that, of driving 200 miles per hour in the most cutting-edge race-car prototypes on a series of French country roads over and over again through day, night, rain, sleet, dawn, dusk, doing that for 24 straight hours in one vehicle seemed like the most powerful thing we could try to convey. 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Shelby just feels Miles is indispensable to this mission, and Ken is known for not suffering fools. He's irascible and not afraid to speak his mind and did not want to just fall into step with everybody else. If he thinks an idea is stupid, he’d tell you, and he has very little political skill or diplomatic skill. In terms of costume, Miles spends much of his time wearing a racing suit and coveralls. They refer to him as a beatnik, even though he never dressed as a beatnick. And so he's a constant source of frustration to Shelby because he couldn’t get out of his own way. But Shelby really needed him to help build the car and to then subsequently drive it at 'Le Mans'. It's one of the most legendary tales in the history of motorsports. Carroll Shelby, working closely with his spirited test driver Ken Miles, develops a revolutionary car that bests a fleet of vehicles built by Italian racing legend Enzo Ferrari at the 1966 running of 'The 24 Hours Of LeMans'. This is the story of a group of unconventional thinkers who overcome incredible odds to achieve something extraordinary through sheer inventiveness, determination and force of will. The film offerers the opportunity to stage thrilling racing sequences that essentially puts the audience inside the cars with these fearless drivers, and the chance to chronicle the turbulent friendship between Shelby and Miles. Both had quite distinct, larger-than-life personalities, Shelby, tough yet eminently likable; Miles, prickly and unfiltered, but they're united by a passion for innovation and an abiding love for racing. Quite simply, Shelby and Miles are driven to excel, even if it means putting their lives on the line every time they got behind the wheel. They understand each other at the most profound level. When Shelby’s confronted with the fact that he can’t race anymore, he reinvents himself from a driver into a car salesman and designer, and Ken becomes a vessel for Shelby’s dreams. 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Mollie Miles (Caitriona Balfe) is Ken’s wife, and mother to their young son, Peter (Noah Jupe). Even though she’s a stay-at-home mom in the film, she’s very much an equal partner in the relationship. She wears old 'Wranglers' from the 1960s and cotton sweaters or shirts. She's’s a little rough around the edges with his personality and his people skills may not be that great. But this is where their relationship is strong. She tells him when he needs to pull up his boot straps and to also encourage him. There’s this real sense that they’re a team who supports each other. Detroit auto legend Henry Ford II is 'The CEO Of Ford Motor Company' from 1960 to 1979. It’s a classic story of man versus machine, man versus man, and man versus himself. It touches upon a lot of the points of a sports story, but at the same time the historical story that’s being told here's a good one. A lot of the cars that we know now, and a lot of the advancements we’ve seen with technology, starts with this period. By contrast, they’re ample archival images of Henry Ford II available to create a full picture of the auto titan’s fashion style. The film outfits Ford himself in classic 'Brooks Brothers' suits. Old money, button-down shirts, blue blazer, it’s recreating what they really wore. And he always wore navy blue with plain navy blue ties. His clothes are very traditional. Leo Beebe, is 'The Ford Motors Company' executive who's given control over Ford’s racing program. He has a shadier color palette, a little bit darker, a little bit oiler. Like his father, Peter Miles is completely consumed with the sport of car racing. Peter is a happy boy, but he’s also a kid whose dad could die at any point in a race. From an early age, he’s been brought into the racing world and wants to be a racer when he’s older just like his dad. It’s all he’s ever known. 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The visual inspiration comes more from the films of the ’60s and ’70s, rather than contemporary interpretations of race car films, no exaggerated movement, keeping it intimate with the use of close-ups and always maintaining a character’s point-of-view. The film sticks to camera techniques of the period. The production design follows suit and is much in sync with realism and plausibility and keeping the audience in the magic trick of this world that has been created. You’re both hearing and seeing the bolts rattling in the chassis of the car. You’re feeling the vibration of the engine. You’re understanding how hard they’re pushing this vehicle and how close to exploding it's. Today, we've computer-aided design. We can postulate with much greater accuracy what’s going to work. There was no way with a pencil and an abacus you could know that. You just had to build the car and drive the car and see if it just blew up around you. 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  • In Gotham City, mentally-troubled comedian Arthur Fleck embarks on a downward-spiral of social revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his infamous alter-ego: "The Joker". “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? You get what you f****n’ deserve!” The big question asked by Todd Phillips’ Joker. The answer; an in-depth character study unveiling the myth behind one of pop culture’s most twisted creations. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this film upon its release. People state that it mishandles the representation of mental health and that it’s a dangerous film which could potentially insight violence. I believe Phoenix and Phillips handle Arthur’s descent into madness with great nuance and with masterful direction. The same controversy surrounded one of the film’s clear influences; Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of Travis Bickle represented the disillusionment and PTSD of war veterans and how society abandoned them and people still regard it as a masterpiece and one of Scorsese’s finest films. The time and setting are irrelevant as the issues and society depicted in period-time Gotham wreak of Trump’s America which has been embodied by Thomas Wayne. This is an angry film with so much to say. One of the reasons why I loved this film is not only is it a great genre film (calling it a genre insults the quality) but a modern-day masterpiece which will be dissected for years to come. As for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, it’s pretty much self-explanatory. It’s a masterclass in physical and emotional artistry, we truly see an actor pushing his body and mind to its limits. It does not overshadow the magnificent work achieved by the late Heath Ledger, but is in fact a deeper psychological study to the myth behind the character. The use of the unreliable narrator only adds to Arthur’s fragile state of mind and a masterstroke by Phillips. Overall, yes this film is controversial and yes this film is a commentary on today’s society but with Hildur Guônadóttir’s haunting and mesmerising score and an all-time, Oscar-winning performance from Phoenix and Phillips has crafted one of the best films of the past ten years.
  • Release Info London schedule; November 26th, 2019 (Picturehouse Central, Piccadilly Circus, Corner of Great Windmill Street and, Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 7DH, UK, 18:20 pm) (Clapham Picturehouse, 76 Venn St, Clapham, London SW4 0AT, UK, 20:30 pm) https://www.google.de/search?oq=&aqs=mobile-gws-lite..&source=hp&q=Lucy+in+the+sky+showtimes+London "Lucy In The Sky" How does life change after such a transcendent experience? What would inspire such disturbing behavior, particularly from someone who’d been the image of space-worthy perfection? By 34, Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) has achieved her every dream and has to find a new dream. None of this stuff is easy to navigate. And, you know, she spirals out a bit, which is human. Lucy is a strong woman whose determination and drive as an astronaut take her to space, where she’s deeply moved by the transcendent experience of seeing her life from afar. As astronaut Lucy floats alone in the vastness of space, the blue marble of 'Earth' reflecting in her eyes, she’s overcome with wonder and awe. Precious few ever behold the planet from this perspective. Lucy senses the majestic enormity and relative insignificance all at once. She's an astronaut whose penchant for excellence earns her a coveted spot in the tight-knit boy's club at 'NASA'. But after realizing her dream of going to space, Lucy’s everyday Earthly existence suddenly feels stiflingly small. Back home as Lucy’s world suddenly feels too small, her connection with reality slowly unravels. Laser-focused on training for her next mission, her life slowly falls apart as she loses touch with what’s real, and what’s really important. That adjustment of having gone up to see the celestial everything and then you come back and go to 'Applebee’s', it’s a very weird transition that seems really interesting. Studies show astronauts can experience personality changes and a feeling of disconnection, and even cellular changes, after spending time in space. For Lucy Cola, that mental unraveling leads her to frantically drive across the country to confront a former lover Drew Cola (Dan Stevens) and his new girlfriend Kate Mounier (Tig Notaro). It's a story of a brilliant and determined woman nearly undone by her own dreams. The film has three main settings; outer space, 'NASA' headquarters and Lucy’s Texas home. Deep blues and crisp whites denote space; a dash of vivid red and yellow set things apart at 'NASA'; while Lucy’s Earthly life is rich with natural hues of green and brown. As she begins to go a bit mad, the colors brighten. So that when the movie goes to a darker place emotionally, it doesn’t go to a darker place physically. At the beginning of the movie Lucy wants success, to be happy for the fact that she got to do this and to want her to go back to space. The script focuses on Lucy and how her life on 'Earth' changes after seeing the planet from afar. The story is told from the perspective of the protagonist, who believes he has psychic abilities but may also be suffering from a mental illness. The film uses experimental visual techniques to convey Lucy’s mental state. One example is treating aspect ratio as a storytelling device, shrinking the frame when Lucy is on 'Earth' and broadening it when she’s in space. When she’s in space, we’re in our widest aspect ratio. But when she comes down, her world shrinks. As she dreams of and trains for her return to space, she gradually loses her personal tethers. Butterworth uses elements of magical realism to show Lucy’s grip on reality slipping. You’re in these crazy places telling these stories, and then you go home and you’re doing the school route and it’s kind of back to normal. The film explores her emotional experience. It’s really to try to get inside her state of mind. She’s facing the biggest questions of life because of this experience of being exposed to the vast nothingness of space. She’s confronting her relationships, her desires and her own major flaws. When you've to look at yourself in the mirror like that, it’s kind of the rawest human experience you can havet, o face your own ugliness. And literally the film uses the screen as a tool. We go down to a smaller aspect ratio, so suddenly she’s in a box. The intention is to make Lucy’s perspective feel deeply personal, even as she makes illogical and impulsive decisions. We're deeply related to the plight of an overachiever like Lucy. The story’s in a box. The film takes a little license and aesthetic liberty in order to create the perspective from Lucy’s eyes. We're in full widescreen when we’re in space, then when we’re on Earth, we shrink the box. Now the movie is literally more claustrophobic, and she’s living in a world that’s physically smaller. It’s a way to very clearly show the audience what the feeling is. When she’s at her freest and most comfortable, the frame will open up to 240 widescreen. And when she’s feeling more constrained, it closes down to 4:3. The 5:1 aspect ratio is a device that the film uses to show her isolation from the world at large. It helps to feel the difference in Lucy’s emotional state. Another innovative visual technique the film creates is the 'Infinite Zoom' in which character and background appear to move independent. A tiling technique that appears to stretch images to impossible dimensions. The approach is conceived to reflect Lucy’s emotional state when she learns that her grandmother is in the hospital. You know when you've a really traumatic event and you've to go somewhere, and you can’t really remember how you got there because it's all such a blur? So she’ll actually travel from her house to the hospital throughout the 'Infinite Zoom', and the shot continues to take her into her grandmother’s room at the end. The three most prominent relationships in Lucy’s life undergo dramatic changes after she returns from space, and each contributes to her decline. She begins an affair with her colleague Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamms), leaves her loyal husband Drew Cola (Dan Stevens), then loses her grandmother Nana Holbrook (Ellen Burstyn), the stalwart maternal figure in her life. Mark Goodwin, is the strapping, recently divorced astronaut whose flirtation with Lucy becomes an affair. Much more than the story being about a love triangle or a relationship, it’s really more about how we, as human beings, and especially as people that have seen 'The Earth' from a different perspective; have to adapt to that in our daily lives and how difficult that's. Mark has firsthand experience with how space flight can change one’s worldview. He’s about to go back up into space and he has his fears and doubts about it? How many times can you ride the rocket and survive? So there’s a certain self-destructiveness that he’s going through as well. Mark embodies the quintessential pilot trope; a tremendously confident, take-charge guy. There’s that kind of swagger that comes not only with that but being from Texas, and truly having the pressure of having people’s lives in your hands and needing to get the job done. In contrast to the swaggering astronaut is Lucy’s endearingly devoted, ever-supportive husband, Drew Cola. Drew is a faithful man in every sense, to his wife, to 'NASA' and to doing what’s right. And when Lucy goes off the rails and leaves him, that fundamentally rocks Drew and the world of his belief. Drew is the guy who has this sort of leather 'BlackBerry' holster, you know, a mustache. The rock in Lucy’s life is her Nana, a hard-drinking, tough-minded woman. Nana raised Lucy to be hard-working, responsible and diligent. Lucy has an ingrained resilience and strength that's endowed from her grandmother. She's someone who's always told by her grandmother that she would have to work harder than everybody else. And she did, and it takes her to space. It’s kind of no-nonsense, no-frills. Get the job done. Lucy develops an unexpected connection with another female astronaut, Erin Eccles, (Zazie Beetz). The character is a role, sort of, in Lucy’s disintegration of self. Initially poised to be adversaries, the two women develop a more nuanced relationship throughout the film. There’s also a point of a deeper rivalry that can exist, too, if there’s a feeling that there can only be one of us and there are so few spots on upcoming missions. It's more of a mentorship than a catfight. Because we don’t need to see that, and it’s not really what this is about. Another key relationship in Lucy’s life is with her 16-year-old niece Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson), who serves as a grounding reality-check. As Lucy’s world falls apart, Blue Iris is dragged along on this adventure in a way that allows us to see her journey through somebody else’s eyes. We’re watching a little bit of a train wreck with what’s happening with Lucy, and Blue Iris has this beautiful observational quality about her. Magical realism is the subjective experience that Lucy goes through on her return to Earth. An otherworldly feel through narrative metaphors, like the chrysalis-to-butterfly theme throughout the film, along with experimental camerawork and subtle image shifts that correspond with Lucy’s emotional trajectory. The idea of magical realism is you've to create reality in a way that’s completely realistic and familiar to people. Then when you take these magical turns, these slightly surreal turns, they've real impact. Much of the magic in the magical realism comes through creative camera techniques, including two experimental approaches developed specifically for the film. It's important to bring together all of these technical elements of magical realism the audience is able to go into Lucy’s mind and experience her distorted reality as she does. It really helps us to understand, through metaphors, what she’s experiencing and the struggles she’s going through. When you spend a year in space, every single thing that you do demands constant focus, because if you don’t, you die or someone on your team dies or something catastrophic happens. You get home and you’re completely drained, and it takes a little while to kind of ramp back up into just living a normal life where you’re not hyper-focused. The human experience is kind of always searching; searching for meaning, searching for who you're, searching for relationships with other people. The transportation captain is a woman. We've a female grip! It’s a female-centric film. In a scenario where the guys with the right stuff, you know, typically have been really daring and done kind of crazy and courageous things, and that’s what makes them fit to be astronauts. And a woman with the same kind of behavior might be called erratic or crazy, where the guys get high-fived for it. It’s a story in which a woman ends up doing things that ordinary people might look down on or judge her for. Because it’s very easy to root for people when they’re making good choices. It’s harder when they’re making bad choices. But that’s exactly the moment when they need empathy the most. The film takes this sort of feminist road, as it explores how gender stereotypes may have affected personnel relations and opportunities at 'NASA'. 'The New York Times' recently reported about the particular challenges female astronauts face at 'NASA' even today as the organization prepares for another moon landing in 2024.