First Time Fest, a new festival that celebrates first-time filmmakers and awards a grand prize of theatrical distribution by Cinema Libre Studio, kicks off its first edition in New York City from March 1 – March 4. The festival will honor Darren Aronofsky with its very first John Huston Award for Acheivement in Cinema.
Hosted by The Players Club, an arts organizations founded by Edwin Booth and Mark Twain, the festival will show debut films from Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Chile, Israel, Mongolia, and the United States. Each of the 12 festival finalists will receive industry mentorship and a one-year membership to The Players.
The competition films include "Headfirst," Amelie van Elmbt's coming-of-age road movie which premiered at Cannes; the world premiere of Dmitry Martin and Andrey Kureychik's "Horizon Sky" about a young musician who battles AIDS; Sophie O'Connor's drama "Submerge" in its world premiere; and Fredrik Stanton's docuementary on the Egyptians revolution, "Uprising."
The festival will also feature "First Exposure," a section featuring first films from now prominent filmmakers. Selections here include Darren Aronofsky's "PI," John Huston's "The Maltese Falcon," Stanley Kubrick's "Killer's Kiss," Philip Seymour Hoffman's "Jack Goes Boating," and more.
See the full competition line-up below.
"Blumenthal" – New York Premiere. USA, 86 minutes. Written and directed by Seth Fisher. With Fisher, Brian Cox, Mark Blum, Laila Robins, Mei Melançon.
Can oversized egos and romance peacefully co-exist in modern-day New York? Manhattan neuroses gets a fresh, bracing new twist in Seth Fisher’s delightfully acerbic "Blumenthal." The death of playwright Harold Blumenthal (Brian Cox) sets in motion a tangled web of family and relationship drama in a polished film distinguished by Zak Mulligan’s crystalline cinematography, a strong ensemble cast, and multi-talented Seth Fisher’s razor-sharp script.
"Headfirst (La Tete La Premiere)" – U.S. Premiere. Belgium/France, 89 minutes. Written and directed by Amélie van Elmbt. With Alice de Lencquesaing, David Murgia, Jacques Doillon.
Two attractive teens meet while hitchhiking across Belgium. Deceptively simple and beautifully made, Amélie van Elmbt’s quietly and deeply observed coming-of-age road movie, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, will linger long after it is seen, thanks to its remarkable lead performances. Rising star Alice de Lencquesaing (familiar from films by Olivier Assayas and Mia Hansen-Løve) won Best Actress at Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema for this role, and David Murgia won the Belgian Magritte award for Most Promising Actor.
"Horizon Sky" – World Premiere. Belarus, 133 mins. Written and directed by Dmitry Martin, Andrey Kureychik. With Leonid Pashkovsky, Tatyana Bovkalova, Viktor Rybchinsky, Anna Sirotina.
An exciting discovery from an unlikely corner of the world, "Horizon Sky" is the first independent feature film from Belarus in a decade. Its theme — the generational battle between rebellion and oppression, played out in the arena of sex and rock music – is universal. "Horizon Sky" tells a keenly dramatized story about a young musician stricken with AIDS who battles discrimination and addiction.
"I Love You All (Los Quiero A Todos)" – U.S. Premiere. Argentina, 75 mins. Written, directed, and produced by Luciano Quillici. With Ramiro Aguero, Santiago Gobemori, Diego Jalfen, Valeria Louis, Leticia Mazur, Margarita Molfino, Alan Sabbagh.
Imagine some combination of Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill and François Truffaut’s Day For Night, and you’ll have some idea of the exceptional nature of Luciano Quillici’s lyrical and contemplative I Love You All. A group of thirty-something friends reunite for a trip to the country where they mull over lost opportunities and their disaffection with the present, in this accomplished film that offers further proof that Argentina is one of the most exciting hotbeds in world cinema today.
"Junction" – USA, 90 mins. Written and directed by Tony Glazer. With Tom Pelphrey, Neal Bledsoe, Harris Doran, Summer Crockett Moore, Anthony Rapp, David Zayas, Michael O’Keefe
A group of junkies get more than they bargained for when they rob the house of a man who turns out to be a pedophile. Gritty urban drama? No… the intense action in Tony Glazer’s riveting drama, with a dynamite ensemble cast including Rent star Anthony Rapp and "Smash" actor Neal Bledsoe, takes place in the idyllic upscale neighborhood of Verterra Hill, a community full of manicured lawns and sprawling colonials. Along the way, hard choices must be made, and the only certainty is that all decisions come with a price.
"Mongolian Bling" – U.S. Premiere. Australia/Mongolia, 90 mins. Documentary, directed by Benj Binks.
In an ancient country undergoing a 21st-century identity crisis, hip-hop music is at the center of a thriving music scene in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Beyond the customary bling of babes, cars, and jewels lie the remnants of a dying culture. Benj Binks’ lively documentary looks at the fascinating tension between Mongolia’s rich musical history and modern-day beats and rhymes.
"Sal: – New York Premiere. Chile/Argentina, 112 mins. Written and directed by Diego Rougier. With Fele Martínez, Patricio Contreras, Sergio Hernández, Javiera Contador.
A Spanish film director obsessed with making a western in Chile travels south to find a story that will salvage his screenplay; a case of mistaken identity makes him a marked man. This gorgeous widescreen film pays loving homage to Sergio Leone while playfully subverting the western genre.
"Submerge" – World Premiere. Australia, 90 mins. Directed by Sophie O’Connor. With Lily Hall, Christina Hallett, Kevin Dee, Georgia Bolton.
In Sophie O’Connor’s absorbing, sensual drama, an ambitious, beautiful and tightly wound history student – who is also an Olympics-bound swimmer – falls in love with the girlfriend of her thesis advisor. The protagonist is surprisingly drawn into a sexual underworld and is submerged in feelings that she doesn’t understand. Lily Hall’s performance powerfully captures the transformation in this memorable “Generation Y” love story.
"Summertime" – New York Premiere.USA, 90 mins. Written and directed by Max Weissberg. With Lethia Nall, Eric Garcia, Rob Hollander, H.R. Britton, James Eason, Jenny Grace, Olivia Horton, Michele Cesari.
Two actresses are unknowingly cast in the same role; and that is just the starting point for one of the most enchanting and witty romantic New York roundelays in recent memory. Talented debut writer/director Max Weissberg follows furtive attempts at friendship, love, and sex among eight people including Julia, an actress who lands the role of Anya, daughter of a Russian arms dealer and an unconventional director who thinks she must truly become Anya. This graceful, multilayered film knowingly examines the nature of performance in our “real” lives.
"Uprising" – USA/Egypt, 85 mins. Documentary directed by Fredrik Stanton.
As timely as today’s headlines, with the added element of historical context and thoughtful analysis, Uprising is a vivid and much-needed documentary that captures the drama, chaos, and complexity of a revolution in the making. Produced by an extraordinary Academy Award-winning team including the executive producer of "Taxi to the Dark Side" and the editor of "Inside Job," "Uprising" looks at the inside story of the Egyptian revolution from the perspective of its principal leaders and organizers, including four Nobel Peace Prize nominees.
"Urban Tale" – U.S. Premiere. Israel, 90 mins. Written and directed by Eliav Lilti. With Barak Friedman, Noa Friedman, Esti Yerushalmi, Zohar Shtrauss, Ohad Knoller, Michal Shtamler.
After the death of their mother, an incestuous brother and sister search for their father who abandoned them as infants. Eliav Lilti’s startling, audacious, and surprisingly polished micro-budget feature film could seem unbelievable — if it wasn’t based on a true story. A series of to-the-camera dialogues and explicit sex scenes, with a dry sense of humor and captivating performances, "Urban Tale" heralds the emergence of an important new director, and perhaps a new direction for Israeli cinema.
"Zipper" – USA, 77 mins. Documentary directed by Amy Nicholson.
The eternal showdown between old-fashioned urban tradition and modern commercial development is played out on an unlikely battlefield—the beloved Zipper ride at Coney Island—in Amy Nicholson’s thoroughly entertaining and engaging new documentary. In 2007, a real estate mogul and the Bloomberg administration begin rezoning the amusement park within an inch of its life. Nicholson paints an intriguing portrait of one of New York City's last cultural enclaves on the cusp of gentrification.