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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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A photo of a little girl, and memories of two beloved aunts

I did a review for our TV show this week of a new film named "I Will Follow," written and directed by Ava DuVernay. I admired it very much. It told the story of a woman who spends a day packing up the house where her beloved aunt has recently died. It was inspired by the director's Aunt Denise, who the film is dedicated to, and stars Salli Richardson-Whitfield as the "favorite niece" who must therefore be inspired to some degree by DuVernay.

Writing the review, I assumed I had never met Ava DuVernay. It turns out I had, back in the 1980s. Today she sent me an e-mail with this photo:

She explained: "When I saw you look into the camera with a smile and give your 'thumbs up,' I felt a joy and a pain, desperately missing my aunt, my love Denise, on whom the film's central relationship is based...and celebrating the approval that I've hoped for. Both emotions at the very same time. I didn't know that was possible.

"I just wanted to let you know. And to show you the attached picture of us, from many years ago. I was a little girl whose aunt took her to stand outside the Shrine Auditorium to watch the stars go to Oscar rehearsal. It was one of our many silly rituals."

I wrote her back that the dedication of one of my books reads, "For my Aunt Martha, who took me to the movies."Here is my Sun-Times written review for "I Will Follow." The film opens March 11 in AMC theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta and Philadelphia, and March 18 in Chicago. It will then open wider.

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