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Movie Pick: Frozen River

Movie Pick: Frozen River

Is there such a thing as a “female sensibility” in film? Certainly, there are male filmmakers and writers who are gifted at representing women on the screen.

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Lila (Misty Upham) and Ray (Melissa Leo) form an unlikely alliance as border smugglers

Is there such a thing as a “female sensibility” in film? Certainly, there are male filmmakers and writers who are gifted at representing women on the screen. (Pedro Almodóvar is an oft-cited example.) It’s the prerogative of the artist to represent humanity through different identities, to embody those of a different gender, age, race, class, etc., but is there something that only a woman can bring to the table?

I asked myself this question as I was watching Courtney Hunt’s “Frozen River” at the opening of New Directors/New Films last spring. I felt that the story was undeniably estrogen-inspired, beyond the fact that there are two female leads. The film follows Lila, a Mohawk widow whose child is taken from her, and Ray, a single mother struggling to keep her family afloat. Out of necessity, the two partner in a smuggling operation that involves transporting illegal immigrants over a frozen river across the US/Canadian border. Ultimately, one makes a sacrifice for the other, despite their antagonistic relationship.

I don’t think that all films by and about women evoke the distinctly female sensibility that I felt here.

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