Two Real-Life Dramas from New York City and Colombia

At the Movies

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From left: Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan are crusading journalists in “She Said.” Photo: JoJo Whilden/Universal Pictures - © Universal Studios

She Said

“She Said” is a drama based on the 2017 New York Times investigation that exposed film producer Harvey Weinstein’s history of abuse and sexual misconduct against women who worked at his Miramax Studios in New York City over decades. 

It is based on the 2019 book of the same name chronicling the investigation led by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, both Times reporters. It is a splendid picture in the spirit of its Hollywood forebears (see below). The film stars Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as Twohey and Kantor, respectively, alongside Patricia Clarkson as the duo’s editor-boss, Rebecca Corbet, as well as Andre Braugher (as Times editor Dean Baquet), with Jennifer Ehle and Samantha Morton in supporting roles, and singer Ashley Judd appearing as herself (the film, released mid-November, is rated “R” and runs 128 mins).

Directed by Maria Schrader from a screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, filming took place in New York with cinematographer Natasha Braier. The evocative score was composed by Nicholas Britell (“Moonlight”). The film had its world premiere at the 60th New York Film Festival in October and is being released theatrically in the US this November.

The film triggers immediate comparisons to the classic “All the President’s Men” (1976), especially for its tandem of two dogged journalists wearing out their shoe leather to track down reluctant sources who finally give in to their persistence. Similarly, it evokes the great film “Spotlight” (2015), where the parallel with running down a major, wide-spread sexual scandal among Catholic priests is even more exact. And yes, “She Said” can stand up to those landmark movies through its painstaking, careful pacing as Megan and Jodi seek out and quietly cajole potential witnesses to testify to Weinstein’s crimes.

The film shows, in myriad interviews, how reluctant the abused women were to talk, partly because of their assumption of guilt (most were very young at the time of their assault), and partly because many had signed Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) legally binding them to silence.  Also, many respondents just wanted to forget the whole ghastly thing. (An exception among the celebrities sucked into Weinstein’s orbit was actress Judd). But, drip-by-drip, some of the victims absorb the Twohey-Kantor pressure and decide to challenge the Master Abuser. In the film’s textual finale, a statistic states that eventually, 82 casualties spoke up. (Note: the male focus of the film—Weinstein himself—is never really seen, his broad back appears in one shot and he is heard on tape and on the phone at different points of the investigation.)

Both Mulligan (“An Education”) and Kazan are the core of this excellent film, Mulligan, as the more mature Twohey, stands up to constant rejection with a calm and cool demeanor. Kazan (“The Big Sick”) matches her as a younger, poker-faced grinder with a mission, gently eliciting tears and confessions from her interviewees. Look for them to be nominated at Oscar time. 

From left: Patricia Tamayo as Cecilia and Javier Camara as Héctor (far right), along with their kids listening to dad tell a bedtime story in the drama “Memories of My Father.” Photo Courtesy of the Cohen Media Group

Memories of My Father

”Memories of My Father” (El Olvido que Seremos) is the second film this month about the heroics of an unassuming but dedicated professional in South America struggling against long odds to do the right thing in their troubled countries. In the just-released Argentine drama “Argentina-85,” it is the tough-minded attorney Julio Strassera (Ricardo Darin)  who, with the help of a coterie of smart, young lawyers, takes on the prosecution of vicious senior military commanders responsible for the slaughter of their own countrymen in the so-called “Dirty War.” 

Now, out of the miseries of a gorgeous Andean fallen city (Medellin, Colombia) comes a heartwarming—and heart-rending—true story of a prominent doctor and human rights activist who fights on behalf of his own distressed society and, especially, for his tight-knit family (The film opened in late November in the DC area, runs 136 minutes, and is not rated).

Set in the violent,  drug-ridden city of 1970’s Medellín, Colombia (dubbed locally as  the “City of Eternal Spring”), the narrative outlines the life of the university teaching physician, Héctor Abad Gómez (played by the Spanish actor Javier Cámara), a paterfamilias concerned about both his own children and children from less favored classes. Gómez is a thoughtful free-thinker who has “never kneeled down to anyone” and is occasionally brought down to earth by his more practical-minded wife Cecilia (Patricia Tamayo) and kept sane and sensible by his lively daughter and son, also named Hector and nicknamed Quinquin (Nicolas Reyes Cano). 

After a devastating loss in the family, Héctor decided to dedicate himself ever more intently to the greater cause of public health programs for the poor to the consternation of the city’s autocratic authorities and paramilitary groups (who see him as a vile  “comunista”) and members of his own family, which comes under threat.

This is an intimate and complex story seen through the eyes of a father’s only son, Héctor Abad Faciolince, one of the most outstanding writers in contemporary Colombia. Abad wrote of his family life in his book Oblivion: A Memoir, on which this screenplay—written by Daniel Trueba, the director’s younger brother–is based. Son  Héctor tells his story over two distinct epochs: his curly-haired youth as Quinquin (shot in crisp color) and the years when he returns home from study in Italy (shot in vivid black-and-white) to reunite with the family. Though he adores his father, the young man now frets about the fate of this man who so openly challenges the authorities and can seem more committed to his causes than to his own blood.

Academy Award-winning Spanish director Fernando Trueba, a veteran of the Spanish cinema, helmed the film. His Oscar (for Best Foreign Language film) came in 1992 for “Belle Époque,” a film which earned him international attention.  Trueba released “Memories” in 2021 at the Cannes Film Festival, and it has taken its time to reach our shores—but it was worth the wait. It is a sensitive and touching document, humanizing a piece of Latin American history that is little known to Americans.

Hill resident Mike Canning has written on movies for the Hill Rag since 1993 and is a member of the Washington Area Film Critics Association. He is the author of “Hollywood on the Potomac: How the Movies View Washington, DC.” His reviews and writings on film can be found online at www.mikesflix.com.