Film Society/MoMA Presents the 43rd Annual New Directors/New Films Series March 19 – 30
By: Ellis Nassour
For 43 years the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art’s New Directors/New Films series, dedicated to the discovery of new works by emerging filmmakers, has been a rite of spring, bringing exciting discoveries from around the world to adventurous moviegoers. All aspects of cinema, from production to exhibition, have changed dramatically over the years; however, the spirit of innovation and the element of surprise that have always defined this festival remain intact.
Thrillers, comedy, drama and documentaries are among the 27 features and two programs of shorts screening, many with two showings, from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Chile, China, France, Germany, Iran, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Morocco, Romania, Spain, Syria, the United Kingdom, and, among others, the U.S. Many will have Q&As with creative teams. Featured will be three North American and four U.S. Premieres.
Opening the fest is Ana Lily Amirpour’s super-stylish black-and-white A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, which debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, a romance-thriller based on her graphic novel about an alluring female vampire who stalks a fictional ghost town. It’s a cinema metaphor for the current state of Iran. Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child, an uproarious yet thoughtful riff on reproductive rights, is the Centerpiece attraction. Jenny Slate gives a hilarious, star-making performance as a woman, reeling from being both dumped and fired, who seeks solace in family, friends, stand-up, and a hookup resulting in her greatest predicament yet.
Closing night’s is Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s unconventional "documentary 20,000 Days on Earth, which also debuted at Sundance [winning won World Cinema Documentary directing and editing awards], a "playful deconstruction of stardom and identity" during a fictitious 24 hours in the life of musical and cultural icon polymath musician Nick Cave as he is writing his 2013 album Push the Sky Away.
Films dealing with personal awakenings include a Cannes favorite set deep in the Texas Bible Belt: Roberto Minervini’s Stop the Pounding Heart, which centers on a Christian goat-farming family’s two 14-year-olds who are quietly drawn to each other; and a film already with worldwide buzz, Abdellah Taïa’s Salvation Army, based on his landmark 2006 landmark autobiography exploring adolescent sexuality, offers a bracing, poetic look at a young gay Arab man’s sexual and personal awakening.
Highlights are: Talal Derki’s Return to Homs, winner of Sundance’s World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, is a first-hand account of the Syrian civil war following two close friends whose lives are altered when their city is bombed into a ghost town; Locarno International Film Festival Golden Leopard winner Story of My Death by Albert Serra is a costume drama that imagines a tussle between two legendary figures, Casanova and Dracula; Australia’s Jennifer Kent’sis a smart "things that go-bump-in-the-night" flick about a sinister figure that menaces a mother and son; Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, serves up a delirious, blood-splattered haunted-house movie that pays homage to classic Italian horrors; Hubert Sauper’s We Come as Friends is an exploration of modern colonialism detailing the absurd horrors in war-torn Sudan, is a chilling follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Darwin’s Nightmare; and Justin Simien’s satirical Dear White People is a provocative dissection of U.S. race relations, focusing on Ivy League black students and a riot that breaks out over an African-American-themed party.
Venues will be the Film Society’s Walter Reade and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center on the Lincoln Center campus; and MoMA. Admission is $20 general public for the Opening, Centerpiece, and Closing nights; otherwise $15 general public, $12 FSLC and MoMA members. Save 15% for three or more films. Purchase at www.filmlinc.com [service fees apply] and the Reade box office. For complete rosters of films, dates, and showtimes, visit website.
Another Big Series Coming Soon: Art of the Real 2014, April 11-26
This new series Art of the Real is a nonfiction showcase founded on the most expansive possible view of documentary film. The inaugural edition, co-programmed by Director of Cinematheque Programming Dennis Lim and programming advisor Rachael Rakes, features new work from around the world alongside retrospective selections.
There’ll be 35 unique films, many with two showings, from Algeria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Middle East, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, and the U.S. Many will have Q&As with creative teams.
Opening the series will be Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Second Game is a revisit by Porumboiu and his soccer referee father of a snowy 1998 match, a year before the fall of Ceaușescu in which their real-time commentary explores the slippery middle ground where the personal meets the historical; and Raya Martin and Mark Peranson’s La Ultima Pelicula, a tribute to and critique of Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie, where a grandiose filmmaker scouts locations for a production "that will involve exposing the last extant celluloid film stock on the eve of the Mayan Apocalypse."
Closing the series will be Robert Greene’s Actress, about Brandy Burre of HBO’s The Wire, who gave up her career to start a family and the bumpy road in her return to work, but it’s never clear whether this film may simply be the next role.
Venues will be the Film Society’s Walter Reade and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center on the Lincoln Center campus. Admission is $13 general public, $9 students and seniors, and $8 FSLC members. Save 15% for three or more films. Purchase at www.filmlinc.com [service fees apply] and the Reade box office. For complete rosters of films, dates, and showtimes, visit website.