Women’s History Month – “Mary and Martha” documentary review


Mary and Martha is a documentary directed by Phillip Noyce and stars Hillary Swank.  I found this gem on Amazon Prime and was deeply moved by it.

The first part of the movie starts out showing Mary, a mother, wife and business woman who begins to realize how her son is withdrawing from her and that her lifestyle might not be helping. She finds out he is being bullied in school and she wants to find a way to help. She realizes that her husband is often busy with work, she in hers and her son plays his video games. She wants to find a way to connect to him and she decides she doesn’t just want to be a mom, she wants to be an “amazing” mom for her son. So she decides she wants to take him out of school and spend six months in South Africa and homeschool him there while giving him an amazing experience. With the support of her husband who stays in the US to continue his work, she takes her son to South Africa.  Initially he doesn’t want to go but as time passes he grows into his new environment and is very happy. You watch him really embracing the experience and thrive. Without much more spoilers, the movie goes on to show how Malaria affects the population in South Africa.


Eventually Mary meets another mother, Martha, who’s son went to South Africa, and their chance meeting leads to a beautiful friendship. They decide they want to do something to help the people in Africa fight Malaria.  Again, another film that captures the possibility to make change in the world.

I smiled, I laughed  a little and I cried a lot during this film.

The talented James Wood plays Mary’s, estranged, rich and powerful father. There is a scene in the movie where she goes to him for help and he starts to rattle off numbers that absolutely took my breath away. He said:

“Did you that if you take every single person killed in terrorist act around the world in the last 20 years and you add to that all the lives lost in the Middle East since 1967, the Six Day War, and you add to that every single American life lost in Vietnam, in Korea and in every single American engagement since then –Iraq, Afghanistan. If you take all those lives and you multiply it by two, that’s the number of children that die of Malaria every single year.”

Now I am not sure where to begin to verify the accuracy of this statement but I do know it captured my attention.  Every life is important and sometimes we only focus when large numbers are present. That isn’t good but if that statistic is correct, wow…I feel deeply sad that I have only come to this problem, this late in my life. I feel some guilt. I have a lot of emotions but I think the important thing is that I focus on now, not my lack of knowledge in the past but what I can do in the present.

So inspired by this movie I have located a few organizations that are working towards eradicating Malaria. I want to know: What the current state is? What is being done? How I can help? How I can keep abreast of new developments.

So I urge you to watch the film then decide for yourself if you want to be in the dark moving forward or if you want to know more. I know I sound “preachie” but I think when you feel moved, you tend to act with more purpose.

At this time, the most effective means to prevent malaria is sleeping under a mosquito net, specifically a long-lasting insecticide treated net.

I googled Malaria Charities and found a few and then I found Give Well.org, an organization that reviews charities to see who transparent they are and if donors money is allocated well. I know, like many others, I use caution when donating to charities.  So this might be helpful.

Through them I found out that they found Against Malaria Foundation to be a fairly good charity.  Please check it out.

There are good people doing great things out there and this film was inspired by Harry and Jo Yirrell, a woman who lost her son to Malaria when he gave away his pills to save another person. She is part of a charity called Malaria No More UK.

I have more to learn but with the help of the internet that process is possible.

Have a blessed day friends!


Women’s History Month: “Amy” a documentary about Amy Winehouse

I watched another brilliant documentary about the amazing Amy Winehouse called, “Amy” and directed by Asif Kapadia on my Amazon Prime account. Wow.

I remember when I first heard Amy sing, I thought it was an old black jazz singer. When I first saw her sing, I had to help my brain wrap around the fact that that beautiful sound was coming from this young petite, girl’s mouth. She had such a soulful sound and this movie gives you a glimpse of this young girl before the fame and how she really had no guidance from her parents. Drugs, depression and the over exposure at such a young age, seemed to lead to her demise.

I remember exactly where I was when I found out the news that she had died and it took my breath away. It felt like she was just getting started and had so much to offer. Many try to dismiss her death and oversimplify the complexity of all the things that lead to her death.  I think this film gives views a better chance to see how misunderstood she often was and that she didn’t have the strength of her parents to continually insist on treatment. I realize she was an adult and I am not simply blaming the parents but I am saying that they were a part of her demise as well as her husband, the producer and all of the management as well as Amy herself.

I listen to her songs differently now that I know more of the backstory. Another great talent gone too soon.

These music management companies need to learn from these losses and work to help artists if they fall off the path.  Sometimes, I think that fear and greed take the front seat too often.

Have a blessed day!


Women’s History Month: Documentary Review – “What Happened, Miss Simone”

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1950: Photo of Nina Simone Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1950: Photo of Nina Simone Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

I have been enjoying my immersion into women’s history this month via books, documentaries, music, magazines and whatever I can get my hands on and it has been fun.

I recently watched the documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone” a Netflix documentary directed by Liz Garbus on my Kindle. I have a few of Nina’s music on CDs (yup, I’m old school too!) and was eager to learn more about this talented woman.

In the very beginning of the documentary is a quote from Maya Angelo:

“Miss Simone, you are idolized,                                                                                                                                     even loved, by millions now.                                                                                                                                        But what happened, Miss Simone?”

I think that this film begins to answer this question.

The film had so many footages from different performances.  It begins in 1968 and has interviews with her as well as hear her music. I began listening to Nina Simone right after I finished college and I hadn’t known much about her but I heard one of her songs in a movie and then went on a hunt to find one of her CDs. I remember playing it softly in my office while I worked. But what I didn’t know then that I have learned from watching the documentary is that she was so much more than simply a jazz singer. Everyone has a backstory right? I just didn’t bother back then to find out.

It seems that a common thread of brilliance when it comes to some of the most well-known artists, is tragedy. This video helps us explore many aspects such as racism, poverty and mental illness and their role in creating this amazing woman. Well this documentary puts things in perspective by placing the viewer back in the time when Nina was alive and first developing her talents. The first shocker is that she never wanted to be a Jazz Singer because she was a trained classical pianist and that was her first love. She even had aspirations to become the first African American female classical pianist.  I didn’t know that it was her playing the piano when I listened to the CDs but the documentary let you see just how gifted she was. The second thing, I learned that while she was becoming an accomplished Jazz singer, she was actively involved with the Civil Rights movements. She was connected with all of the “well-known” and not so well-known activists.  I also found out that she suffered from severe depression but due to bi-polar mental illness.

This movie had interviews with her, her daughter, her husband, and people who worked closely with her so I felt it was able to give a more well-rounded perspective.

The film shows the downward spiral and I felt heart broken watching at times. My only criticism is that I would have liked them to go into more depth in some areas – particularly her activist work.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film and highly recommend it. I will now forever remember her as one of the most remarkable African American Classical pianist, Jazz singer and Civil Rights Activist.

Click the photo at the beginning of the post to hear a popular song by Miss Simone called Feeling Good. Enjoy!

Happy Woman’s History Month!



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