From Dash to Coppola, highlights from TCM’s Women Make Film

Associated Press Film Writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle pick some programming highlights from Turner Classic Movies’ four-month Women Make Film series, airing every Tuesday night through December.

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“Harlan County, U.S.A.”: Today’s vibrant documentaries owe much to Barbara Kopple. In her 1976 film (airing Sept. 15 on TCM), Kopple intimately documents a grueling, 13-month coal miner’s strike in a small Kentucky town. The film, hauntingly scored by bluegrass and country music, captures the struggle and sacrifice of the miners and their families as they faced down a thuggish corporation. “The Duke Power people didn’t take me seriously,” Kopple once said. “I was free to talk to anyone. They just thought I was a funny little girl who carried a tape recorder and a camera.” The film won Kopple her first Oscar. — Coyle

“The Virgin Suicides”: An adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel, Sofia Coppola’s 1999 feature debut (airing Sept. 15) about the melancholic inner lives of suburban girls in the 1970s played at the Cannes Film Festival to critical raves, but “nobody saw it in America.” It was only recently that she realized that despite that fizzled start, the film had taken on a second life with a new generation of teens who weren’t even born when she was making it but were drawn to the dreamy images and themes thanks to the internet. Great films will always find an audience, eventually. — Bahr

“Daughters of the Dust”: Julie Dash’s 1991 lyrical, dreamlike drama about the Gullah women of the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina in the early 1900s, was the first film directed by an African American woman to get a nationwide theatrical release. “Daughters of the Dust” (airing Sept. 23) continues to hold a special place in cinema history and in the hearts of moviegoers; it’s believed to have strongly inspired Beyonce’s “Lemonade.” Dash, inexplicably, was never given the chance to make another feature film. — Coyle

“Beau Travail”: Claire Denis’ loose adaptation of “Billy Budd” is a hallucinatory and balletic meditation on masculinity. Taking place at a French Foreign Legion outpost in Djibouti, “Beau Travail” (recently restored and currently playing in virtual theaters; airing Sept. 30 on TCM) uses the framework of Herman Melville’s fable for a study of ritual and repression. (Barry Jenkins has exalted the film’s influence on “Moonlight.”) The dialogue is spare and the story is secondary; it’s all in the movement and the bodies beneath the desert sun. — Coyle

“Daisies”: Chech director Věra Chytilová’s anarchic, exhilarating 76-minute feminist bacchanalia “Daisies” (airing Oct. 6), from 1966, has always been an acquired taste. Although loved by some from the beginning, it was banned from the major cinemas in her country and cut down by the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther who called it “pretentiously kookie and laboriously overblown.” But after being largely unavailable for years it too found a second life thanks to a 2009 restoration, a subsequent Criterion release and a new generation of fans. — Bahr

“Meshes of the Afternoon”: Maya Deren’s 1943 surrealist black and white experimental film (airing Oct. 6) is only 14 minutes long, but the haunting, avant-garde masterpiece has had an enormous influence on artists and filmmakers from Janelle Monae to David Lynch. — Bahr

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