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Maestra movie review & film summary (2024)

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Maestra movie review & film summary (2024)

That’s where “La Maestra” comes in. It’s an annual competition for female conductors, and it aims to shine a light on their talents and boost their profile within these rarefied, male-dominated circles. In directing her first feature, Contreras takes a straightforward approach to documenting the 2022 contest. She follows a handful of conductors from various points on the globe as they get ready for their big moment on the Paris stage. But within this traditional structure, she’s chosen her subjects well. They have a variety of experiences, personalities, and home lives that inform their art. 

And make no mistake, conducting is an art, one that allows for a wide range of dramatic expression and individual interpretation. “Maestra” leaves us in awe of everything conductors must do at once, from knowing the intricate pieces intimately before they even step on the stage to connecting with every single musician to get the best possible performance out of them. It requires a lot of detail-oriented plate-spinning under intense scrutiny and pressure—thorough preparation, coupled with the ability to improvise. No wonder women are so good at it. We do this kind of complex juggling every day of our lives. 

Contreras introduces us to five women: Zoe Zeniodi, a fierce Greek who laments having to leave her twin son and daughter for weeks at a time to conduct in New Mexico; Tamara Dworetz, a chatty American who ponders balancing her professional ambitions with her desire to have a child with her husband; Ustina Dubitsky, a Ukrainian mother who’s competing with a heavy heart as she follows the Russian invasion of her country from afar; Anna Sułkowska-Migoń, a Polish prodigy in her mid-20s who’s competing for the first time; and Mélisse Brunet, a Frenchwoman who teaches at the University of Iowa and is returning to Paris with memories of a traumatic past. Each has a distinct method of preparation: Dworetz practices while lying down on the rug in her Georgia living room, while Dubitsky shows us the adorable, colorful stick figures her daughter drew in the margins of her sheet music.  

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