By: Ellis Nassour
Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 54th New York Film Festival (NYFF), running September 30 – October 16, is expanding daily for the biggest fest ever. For 17 days and nights, thanks to the totally-renovated Walter Reade into a state-of-the-art [projection, sound, comfort] theatre, the anchor of the Festival campus, and the three venues of the Eleanor Bunin Munroe Film Center, film lovers will find more, more, more than ever before.
The Festival highlights the best in world cinema, with works from celebrated filmmakers as well as new talent. Starting September 11, just step up to the NYFF box offices at Alice Tully Hall to purchase tickets [or order and/or become a FSLC members online at www.filmlinc.org] to one of the most outstanding lineups in years. There’ll be choices galore, with more world and North American premieres than ever, to appeal to every taste.
NYFF previously announced Main Slate world premieres of Ava DuVernay’s documentary The 13th for Opening Night, Mike Mills’s 20th Century Women as its Centerpiece, and James Gray’s The Lost City of Z as the Closing Night selection – with a very special world premiere: Oscar-winner Ang Lee’s eagerly-anticipated Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (TriStar Pictures, Studio 8), adapted by Jean-Christophe Castelli from the acclaimed best-seller by Ben Fountain about the state ofAmerica in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It’s the first full-length narrative film shot in 4K — 3D at the ultra high rate of 120 frames-per-second.
Lee has a long history with the Festival. Most recently, his Oscar-winning Life of Pi was Opening Night of NYFF50 in 2012. His 1997 film The Ice Storm opened NYFF35, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was Closing Night of the 38th festival in 2000.
The complete Main Slate lineup can be found at www.filmlinc.org, along with the complete programs for Special Events, Convergence, Projections, Spotlight on Documentary, Revivals, Retrospective, Shorts, the new series Explorations, panels, free events, and a series of “Meet the Makers” conversations with Convergence storytellers.
Special Events includes Jim Jarmusch’s second film to NYFF (Main Slate selection Paterson), the U.S. premiere of Gimme Danger, a documentary chronicling the proto-punk band The Stooges; the world premiere of Alex Horwitz’s Hamilton’s America (PBS Great Performances), which goes behind the history of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony, Drama Desk and Pulitzer Prize–winning musical, Hamilton; Film Comment Presents Terence Davies’s A Quiet Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon as poet Emily Dickinson; and Lonny Price’s Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened, an account of Stephen Sondheim, George Furth, and Harold Prince’s 1981 Broadway musical-flop-turned-cult-favorite Merrily We Roll Along.
As always, on hand will be special guests. Among those slated to appear are Jarmusch, Stooges front man Iggy Pop, Davies, Nixon, Price, Prince, cast members of Merrily…and, among others, Sondheim.
The honorees for “An Evening with…,” one of the Festivals premier social events are Kristen Stewart and Adam Driver. This screening event with dinner recognizes the work of individuals who have made significant artistic contributions to film culture. Stewart shines in three 54 titles, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women and Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shoppe. Driver gives a remarkable performance in Jarmusch’s Paterson.
Spotlight on Documentary selections include three works on performing arts figures: the fearless, often hilarious mother-daughter duo of Carrie Fisher and legendary Debbie Reynolds in Alexis Bloom andFisher Stevens’ Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds; Wendy Whelan: Restless Creature, which follows former NYC Ballet prima ballerina as she faces the limitations of her own body; and I Called Him Morgan, alook at the brilliant jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan and the tragically toxic relationship that ended his life.
Returning filmmakers include Steve James, whose Abacus: Small Enough to Jail concerns the only bank prosecuted after the 2008 financial crisis, and Errol Morris, whose The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography is an intimate look at his longtime friend’s 50-plus years as a photographer working in rare large-format 20×24 Polaroid.
Many selections challenge historical and political oppression in unique, personal ways, including: Whose Country?, which follows an Egyptian policeman whose perspective on his country’s turmoil becomes our own; Patria O Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or Death, a look at Cuba through its citizens’ eyes; and Raoul Peck’s essay I Am Not Your Negro, an examination of race in America based on James Baldwin’s final, unfinished manuscript.
Two selections focus on the personal connection between filmmaker and subject: Uncle Howard, Aaron Brookner’s intimate survey of archival footage of his uncle, filmmaker Howard Brookner (whose Burroughs was screened atNYFF53, reveals vibrant ‘70s and ‘80s New York life; and Petra Epperlein and Michael TuckerKarl Marx City looks back at her East German childhood and the possibility her father was a Stasi informer.
Also featured in the lineup are: The North American premiere of Bill Morrison’s haunting look at the town that became the epicenter of the Yukon gold rush, Dawson City: Frozen Time, made with long-forgotten archival footage; Sam Pollard’s musically, historically rich Two Trains Runnin’, about parallel quests, one musical, the other political, that end during Mississippi’s ’64 “Freedom Summer”; and the U.S. premiere of Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya’s The Cinema Travellers, which follows the itinerant projectionists bringing film to rural Central Eastern India.
FSLC also announces Explorations, a new section featuring bold selections from the vanguard of contemporary cinema, and Main Slate shorts.
NYFF Director Kent Jones says, “It seemed interesting to add a new section of films linked by a common spirit of filmmakers’ adventurousness. I love the range and extremity of these movies, the feeling of an artist sparked by an intuition or a desire, no matter how fugitive or fleeting, and pursuing it all the way to its end point.”
The new section, with some films delicate, others more forceful, but which dive directly into the heart of their material, kicks off with six features, including Albert Serra’s latest, The Death of Louis XIV, featuring a tour de force performance by French cinema legend Jean-Pierre Léaud; Douglas Gordon’s portrait of avant-garde icon Jonas Mekas, I Had Nowhere to Go; and João Pedro Rodrigues’s The Ornithologist, which won Best Director at the Locarno Film Festival.
The Main Slate Shorts Program showcases 23 shorts in five programs:
Narrative, which includes emerging filmmakers such as New Directors/New Films alum Terence Nance and Oscar winner for Best Documentary Short Roger Ross Williams, a co-creator of Convergence’s Traveling While Black; International Auteurs, with new shorts from acclaimed directors; New York Stories, featuring the directorial debut of NY actress Chloë Sevigny; Genre Stories; and Documentary.
The Selection Committee is made up of Jones; Dennis Lim, NYFS’s director of programming; Florence Almozini, NYFS’s associate director of programming; Amy Taubin, contributing editor, Film Comment and Sight & Sound; and Gavin Smith.
NYFS receives year-round support from American Airlines, The New York Times, HBO, The Kobal Collection, Variety, Loews Regency Hotel, Row NYC Hotel, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the N.Y. State Council on the Arts. Support for the NYFF is provided by Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and the N.Y. Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Tickets for the 54th NYFF go on sale September 11. Becoming a Film Society member at the Film Buff Level or above provides early access to screenings and events, along with ticket discounts. Learn more at filmlinc.org/membership.
For more access, VIP passes and subscription packages offer early opportunities for ticket purchases and securing seats at the Opening, Centerpiece, and Closing attractions. VIP passes provide access to events, including the invitation-only Opening Night party, “An Evening With…” dinner, Filmmaker Brunch, and VIP Lounge. VIP passes and subscription packages are on sale at filmlinc.org/NYFF.