Akil & Friends

Akil and Friends

Akil & Friends

Getting into college doesn’t have to be confusing, stressful and overwhelming. Education and Admissions expert Akil Bello and special guests will help students and parents navigate college admissions in the new Facebook Live series “Getting In!”

Remnants of Memory

Remnants of Memory

Remnants of Memory

Fine Art Photographer Charles Johnstone explores the vivid canals and ancient passageways of Venice, Italy in search of a new book project. A meditation on artistry and craft, “Remnants of Memory” celebrates beauty in the overlooked, anonymous objects we pass every day.

Remnants of Memory will be screened at the 11th Session of the World Urban Forum in Katowice Poland June 26-30, 2022. Organized and convened by UN-Habitat, the World Urban Forum has become the world’s largest and most important conference on urban issues. It is held every two years, and attracts thousands of participants including ministers, mayors, policy makers, academics, activists, artists and journalists. UN-Habitat is a United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. It promotes transformative change in cities and human settlements through knowledge, policy advice, technical assistance and collaborative action to leave no one and no place behind.

Additional Info

Producers / Director
Michael Arlen Davis
Jyll Johnstone

Producer/ Editor
Sherry Daniel

Christian Figueroa
Federico Rodelli

Original Score
James Everett

Charles Johnstone
Martino Mardersteig

Running Time

Ischia Laurel

Festival Screenings

DC Independent Film Forum
Washington, D.C. – March 5, 2022

Master of Art Film Festival
Sofia, Bulgaria – April 13 & 16, 2022

Myrtle Beach International Film Festival
Myrtle Beach, S.C. – April 20, 2022

Julien Dubuque International Film Festival
Dubuque, IA – April 22 & 24, 2022

Arizona International Film Festival
Tucson, AZ – May 1, 2022

Gulf of Naples Independent Film Festival
Naples, Italy – May 27, 2022

Beverly Hills Film Festival
Beverly Hills, CA – June 2, 2022

UN-Habitat Better Cities Film Festival
Katowice, Poland – June 28, 2022



“I just watched Remnants of Memory. It was beautiful and I had never watched a book being made. I loved the music, the sound of the water, watching Charlie navigate the corridors. I remember seeing the kiosks but never saw them as did Charlie. I hope you are proud of this film.”

–  Dr. Nadine Brinton, DC

The Test & The Art of Thinking

The Test & The Art of Thinking

Parents and students understand the energy and emotions conjured by the SAT, which is not only part of the college admissions process, but also a true rite of passage for teenagers in the United States. Most of us never forget our score, or how we feel about it. This film endeavors to support individuals—especially young people—by examining what the test measures and means, and asking a range of visionaries, admissions professionals, and interested parties to discuss the use and ramifications of the test


“Explains everything that’s wrong with using the SAT in the college admissions process”


“Finds only more grounds for controversy — including the exams’ encroaching effect on what gets taught in high school…”


“Doggedly questions an exam that affects the futures of millions”


“A brutal takedown of a practice now warping K-12 education”



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“The Test and the Art of Thinking” – In Conflict

“The Test and the Art of Thinking,” a probing documentary by Michael Arlen Davis, explores the complicated history of the ...
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“The Test and The Art of Thinking” – The Unecessary Struggle to Ace an Unecessary Test

The SAT and its cousin, the ACT, is one of, if not the, most daunting trials for students. These admissions ...
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“The Test and the Art of Thinking” featured on FMI Media Review Show

The third episode of our Fall 2020 Film & Moving Image (FMI) Media-Review Show, in which FMI Chair Chris Reed ...
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Film Review: A “Standardized” Test, and a Nation, Exposed in ‘The Test & The Art of Thinking’

In this well-researched, compelling, and surprisingly human documentary The Test & The Art of Thinking, filmmaker Michael Arlen Davis takes ...
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SAT and ACT flunk out in documentary “The Test & the Art of Thinking”

The Los Angeles Times is the latest publication to pick up on "The Test & the Art of Thinking": Michael ...
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Film Asks If SAT Tests Fail or Help Students

From Voice of America, some notes on "The Test & the Art of Thinking": Students and parents worldwide bemoan the ...
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“The Test & the Art of Thinking”: The Problem With College Entrance Exams

Village Voice had this to say about "The Test & the Art of Thinking": College entrance exams remain a source ...
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Review: ‘The Test and the Art of Thinking’ Is About A) The SAT

From the New York Times: “Mathematics, science, being able to use the English language: These tests don’t measure it and ...
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Morning Joe talks The Test & the Art of Thinking

Test prep professional Akil Bello appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe this week to talk about The Test & the Art ...
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KCRW 89.9FM interviews Michael Arlen Davis on “Press Play” with Madeleine Brand

The director of a new documentary about the SAT and ACT found there is near agreement -- from tutors to ...
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Additional Info

Date: September 2015
Producers: Michael Arlen Davis and Jyll Johnstone

Hats Off

Hats Off

Hats Off profiles one extraordinary woman, Mimi Weddell, in all her glory, beauty and eccentricity. With a Katherine Hepburn-like grace and style, Mimi Weddell’s slogan to live by is “rise above it.”

The film captures the essence of this truly iconic personality: a 92 year old woman whose daily routine mocks the traditional American image of old age, and instead flaunts a ‘can-do, will-do’ attitude without bowing to convention. From her daily trips to auditions for small roles in television, movies and print campaigns, to her weekly gym and dance workouts, Mimi Weddell rises above the mundane confines of daily life to reach for the stars and fulfill her dreams. At age 90, Mimi was named one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in New York” by New York Magazine.

A gentle examination of family, commitment, and ultimately the dreams that drive us, Hats Off is a documentary to inspire, celebrate and cheer for all the Mimis in our lives.

Watch now

Additional Info

Jyll Johnstone

Kate Stilley Steiner, Bill Weber

Frankie Spellman and Stevie Buzzell

Mimi Weddell, Sarah Dillon, Kit Dillon, Tom Weddell, Anna Weddell

Running Time
1h 24m


Capping a Career – New York Post Review of “Hats Off”

"Jyll Johnstone’s irresistible “Hats Off” documents Mimi Weddell, a Manhattanite who, at 93, has pretty much cornered the market playing ...
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Sir Ken Robinson Praises “Hats Off”

Sir Ken Robinson—the globally recognized expert and bestselling author on creativity and education—has included an extensive reference to our film Hats ...
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Ari Cohen’s Muse: Mimi Weddell

We are really excited for Ari Seth Cohen whose fabulous blog, Advanced Style has inspired a documentary of the same ...
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Mimi Weddell: A View from Abroad

Serendipity. We left our Swiss hotel thinking it was a Mimi Kind of Day, bright and cool. Imagine our surprise ...
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“Hats Off” Review in the Los Angeles Times

Originally published in the Los Angeles Times May 2,2008 "And in the end, there is something to be said for ...
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What the Press is saying about “Hats Off”

"Mimi Weddell is one of a kind and perhaps even a freak of nature, albeit an irresistibly charming one. It's ...
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An Aristocratic Look and a Powerhouse Personality

Mimi Wedell in "Hats Off" Originally published in The New York Times By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS Published: March 28, 2008. Widowed ...
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About the Film

Hats Off, a feature-length documentary, profiles the beauty and eccentricities of an extraordinary woman, 93-year-old actress Mimi Weddell.

With the style and grace of Katharine Hepburn, the smoky wit and wisdom of Dorothy Parker, and her own personal philosophy, “rise above it,” Mimi is truly an iconic American original, rising above the mundane and difficult confines of her own daily life to reach for the stars and fulfill her dreams.

Hats Off captures the essence of this most unusual woman, named at age 90 by New York Magazine as one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in New York,” whose full-time acting career began at age 65 upon the passing of her husband, and whose daily routine mocks the traditional image of old age. From grueling 14-hour days at cattle call auditions to her weekly gymnastics and dance workouts, Mimi Weddell exudes a ‘can-do, will-do’ attitude in the face of life’s trials and tribulations, and moves through her challenges with grace, encouraging us all to be more than we are.

Shot over the course of 10 years, by award-winning director Jyll Johnstone, (Martha & Ethel, Throwing Curves) Hats Off covers a time span when most seniors are planning their funerals and estate bequests. Instead, Hats Off follows the breathtaking pace of Weddell, a bohemian free spirit now forced to share her east side Manhattan apartment with her two more traditionally-minded grown children and a grandchild. Like most families, their relationship is complex, and the mother-daughter/mother-son dynamic adds a fascinating layer of depth to an already compelling and entertaining film.

When her beloved husband Dick dies, “leaving nothing behind but bills, poor man,” Mimi does what she has to do to stay afloat, even attending an audition on the way to his memorial and landing the lead role in the cult film Dracula’s Last Rites, which marks the beginning of her career.

Since that time, 25 years ago, Mimi has been seen in print ads for companies Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Juicy Couture, and Nike, to name a few; in photo spreads for Vanity Fair and Vogue; on TV series including Sex and the City and Law and Order; and in feature films such as: Across the Universe, Hitch, and The Purple Rose of Cairo.

But Weddell isn’t a star. She never wanted to be. She just wants to work.

“There’s a lot more to be learned, and I’m going to learn
all the way up to the stairway to the stars.”
– Mimi Weddell

An examination of family relationships, love, and ultimately the dreams which drive us, Hats Off is a compelling and entertaining documentary that inspires, and urges us to celebrate the underdog, and the Mimi in us all.

Hats Off is a Canobie Films Production starring Mimi Weddell. Directed by Jyll Johnstone and produced by Jyll Johnstone & Michael Arlen Davis.

Co-starring Sarah Dillon, Kit Dillon, Tom Weddell, and Anna Weddell, Hats Off running time is 84 minutes.

Throwing Curves – Eva Zeisel

Throwing Curves – Eva Zeisel

You may not know Eva Zeisel yet, but you certainly know her work.

“Throwing Curves – Eva Zeisel” explores the life and art of a brave & adventurous woman who conquered the 20th century with her curvilinear style to become one of the most famous industrial designers of the modern era. She thought of her designs as gifts to others. Her motto was “the playful search for beauty.”

Working primarily in porcelain and ceramic tableware, Eva Zeisel’s pioneering work introduced her trademark sensuous curves to mass-production. Her one woman show at the Museum of Modern Art. (MoMA) in 1946 put her on the map. Her many years of teaching at Pratt Institute influenced generations of designers. With over 80 years in the field, Eva was one of the best-selling tableware designers of all time and her highly-collectable designs have changed the face of modern design in the 20th century.

“Throwing Curves – Eva Zeisel” explores Eva’s life from her birth in Hungary in 1906 through her career working in Berlin in the 20s, the Soviet Union in the 30s, and New York from the 40’s on. She was a witness to all the major art and political movements of the 20th century, which she thought of as “her” century. The film interweaves her design work with her dramatic life-history, which includes sixteen months in a Soviet Union prison (falsely accused of conspiring to kill Stalin), escaping the Nazis, and setting up a new life as an immigrant in post-war New York City. Finally, in a testimony to one of America’s earliest “super moms”, the film explores the tension between modern motherhood and a career in the arts.

“Throwing Curves – Eva Zeisel” is a lesson in longevity and perseverance. Eva continued to design until her death in 2011 at the age of 105. Her work is represented in most major museums, and her designs for furniture, lamps, flatware and dinnerware continue to be sold at such retailers as Crate and Barrel, Design Within Reach, and EvaZeiselOriginals.com.

“Throwing Curves – Eva Zeisel” has been screened at thirty major museums in the U.S. and Europe including the MET.

More information about Eva can be found at EvaZeiselForum.com

Additional Info

Producer / Director
Jyll Johnstone

Director of Photography
Don Lenzer

Kate Stilley

Running Time


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‘Throwing Curves’ Relates The History of Many Eras In The Life Of One Creative Woman

From The Ark: "...Throwing Curves delves into the life and art of Eva Zeisel, a Jewish woman born into the ...
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Martha & Ethel

Martha & Ethel

Martha & Ethel is a documentary story that you don’t see very often, perhaps because it shows the flip side of the privileged lifestyle.  It is the story of 2 lifelong nannies and the two families they worked for in Manhattan and Greenwich, Connecticut from the 1940’s up to the 1990’s.  The film follows the nannies and their relationship to the families’ children for a lifetime.

It is a look at mothering from not only a sociological, but also a very personal and emotional point of view.

“Martha & Ethel” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994. It was shot in 16mm, blown up to 35mm and distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. It had a theatrical run across Europe and the United States.

Watch Now

Additional Info

Jyll Johnstone

Director of Photography
Joseph Friedman

Toby Shimin

Alysha Cohen, Barbara Ettinger, Christina Houlihan, Jyll Johnstone, Frank Ortega, Sharon Wood, Sharon Woods

Martha Kneifel, Ethel Edwards, Ruth Fuglistaller


Running Time
1h 18m


Critic’s Notebook; Sundance: Some Surprises Amid the Frivolity

From the New York Times: "One of the most revealing, eloquent and well-received films at the festival, a documentary about ...
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WSJ calls Martha & Ethel “a powerfully absorbing film”

From the Wall Street Journal: "...the two have produced a powerfully absorbing film. On one level, "Martha & Ethel" is ...
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“Martha & Ethel embodies a universal dimension”

From Variety: "Highly personal and original, "Martha & Ethel" deals with a subject rarely seen onscreen before: nannies and their ...
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Rolling Stone: “Unique and unforgettable”

From Rolling Stone: "Delicate work is being transacted in this unique and unforgettable documentary about two nannies. Producer and director ...
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International Documentary (IDA): Cover Story on Martha & Ethel

"A documentary about two aged nannies and the Baby Boomer girls they raised might seem an unlikely sort of film ...
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“A stirring exploration of individual relationships”

From the LA Village View: "The family is the perennial site of neurotic conflict and artistic examination, the very font ...
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Vanity Fair Features Filmmakers Jyll Johnstone and Barbara Ettinger

"Johnstone and Ettinger have created a filmic reflection on their own nanny-controlled youth, called Martha & Ethel, a paean to ...
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Director Jyll Johnstone Featured in Vogue for her first documentary, Martha & Ethel

From Vogue: "What happens when your mother hires another woman to raise you? Two filmmakers examine the nature and nurture ...
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ELLE: Martha and Ethel Tell All

"Imagine a documentary so smart it sweeps any resistance into its own story by tackling difficult questions, a film so ...
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Avenue Magazine: A Tale of Two Nannies

"When Ettinger and Johnstone began their film odyssey in 1989, neither dreamed their home-movie homage to their nannies, Martha Kneifel ...
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About the Film

“Martha & Ethel” is a 16mm, color film that examines the inner dynamics of the American family. By focusing on the long-term roles of two nannies, this 80-minute documentary explores the complex relationships that develop when an outsider is hired as a child’s caretaker and nurturer. The film touches on a variety of related topics as well — the benefits and drawbacks of hiring outside childcare, the changing roles of women, and the inherent responsibilities of parents.

“Martha & Ethel” is particularly unique because of the way in which the film was developed.  The title characters, now both 88 years of age, were the real-life nannies for the directors, Jyll Johnstone and Barbara Ettinger. Their methods of discipline and supervision were very different — Ethel was an affectionate, caring nurturer of the Ettingers, whereas Martha was a strong, unsympathetic disciplinarian who never hesitated to hit the Johnstone children when they disobeyed. These intrinsic differences and their long-term effect are, in part, what makes this film so compelling.

Within these large families — there were five Johnstone and six Ettinger children — all the children are interviewed. These discussions are revealing because now these children are grown and are making decisions about how to best raise their own families.  One of Barbara’s sisters, for instance, made a conscious decision to employ a younger nanny to care for her three children: “I wanted [her] to be a lot younger, so I clearly was the older, maternal figure and she clearly was the playmate, sororal figure.” Interviews are woven together using film footage from home movies, still photographs, newspaper clippings, and other pertinent personal memorabilia.

“Martha & Ethel” is a fresh look at the complex relationships that develop not only between a nanny and the children she cares for, but also a nanny and the children’s mother. Whereas Martha has little contact with Mrs. Johnstone, Ethel still lives with Mrs. Ettinger in Greenwich, Connecticut. As the eldest Ettinger child admits, “It’s as if [after forty years together] Ethel and Mom are addicted to each other, almost like a married couple.”

Before accepting their long-term nanny positions, both women had unique personal journeys which are explored in “Martha & Ethel.” Martha was born into a large, Catholic family in Baden-Baden, Germany. Trained as a baby nurse, she began work in 1930 as a nanny for an affluent Jewish couple with one child. With the threat of Hitler, Martha tried to work for other, gentile families, yet was not allowed to work because of her past Jewish employment. So, in order to remain self-supporting, she emigrated to the United States — away from her country, her family, and her language. In 1941 she began to work in New York City for Mr. and Mrs. Johnstone, shortly before the birth of their first child, and remained an integral part of the family for 30 years. She retired in 1971 and moved to Queens.

In 1990 she was persuaded by the Johnstone’s eldest daughter to relocate to a retirement home in California. “Martha & Ethel” traces this emotional move to what is perhaps Martha’s final home. A highlight of the “Martha” segment is a trip taken with Jyll in June 1991 to Martha’s hometown in Germany. It had been forty years since Martha last visited and the trip gives both historical and personal insight into Martha’s difficult past.

Ethel was born and raised in a working family in rural South Carolina. Similarly, she left her home in the 1930s and had a variety of jobs, mostly domestic work, in the South before becoming a nanny. She willingly embraced the responsibility of raising the Ettinger children and was virtually the cornerstone of the family, through divorce, several relocations, and deaths. The film includes a poignant scene when Barbara and Ethel visited Ethel’s hometown — Starr, South Carolina — and attended Ethel’s family reunion.

“Martha & Ethel” is a personal view of a universal topic. The theme of childrearing is especially relevant today with so many women in the work force who, particularly out of financial need, must give up their childrearing responsibilities to hired employees or other family members. With escalating concerns about day care and the often absent “mother-nurturer” in today’s family, the film is of contemporary interest. Also, “Martha & Ethel” looks at a profession that is gradually becoming obsolete. Although there are still nannies or au pairs, rarely do women today devote their entire lives to their employer’s family.