The Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center has today announces their complete lineup for the 46th annual New Directors/New Films (ND/NF), running March 15 – 26. Dedicated to the discovery of new works by emerging and dynamic filmmaking talent, this year’s festival will screen 29 features and nine short films. This year’s lineup boasts nine North American premieres, seven U.S. premieres, and two world premieres, with features and shorts from 32 countries across five continents.
The opening, centerpiece, and closing night selections showcase three exciting new voices in American independent cinema that all recently debuted at Sundance: Geremy Jasper’s “Patti Cake$” is the opening night pick, while Eliza Hittman’s “Beach Rats” is the centerpiece selection and Dustin Guy Defa will close the festival with “Person to Person.” Other standouts include “Menashe,” “My Happy Family,” “Quest” and “The Wound.”
“Authenticity is an elusive thing these days, and without it we risk ruin. This is particularly true in cinema,” said Rajendra Roy, the Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film at The Museum of Modern Art in a statement. “The filmmakers selected for this year’s festival share a common commitment to honest personal vision and integrity in storytelling. We’re honored that these artists will share their true optimism for film with our audiences this March.”
Film Society Director of Programming Dennis Lim added, “At this point in its long history, it goes without saying that New Directors/New Films is very much about discovery and revelation, but I think this year’s lineup, full of fresh takes on established genres and subtly new forms of expression, is an especially invigorating and timely illustration of the uses of imagination — as acts of resistance and renewal. These are distinctive voices you will be hearing a lot from in the years to come.”
The full lineup is listed below, with all descriptions provided by ND/NF.
“Patti Cake$,” Geremy Jasper, USA, 2017, 108m, New York Premiere
Make way for the year’s breakout star: newcomer Danielle Macdonald is Patti Cake$, aka Killa P, a burly and brash aspiring rapper with big plans to get out of Jersey. Patti lives with her mother (Bridget Everett), a former singer who drinks away her daughter’s wages, and ill grandmother (an epic Cathy Moriarty); meanwhile Patti is assisted in realizing her dreams by her hip-hop partner and BFF Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay) and their mysterious new collaborator Basterd (Mamoudou Athie). This raucous and fresh tale from first-time writer-director Geremy Jasper—a musician and former music video director from Hillsdale, NJ—follows Patti from gas station rap battles to her shifts at the lonely karaoke bar, while empathetically portraying the aspirations and frustrations of three generations of women. With homegrown swagger and contagious energy, Patti Cake$ announces Jasper and Macdonald as major talents. A Fox Searchlight release.
“Beach Rats,” Eliza Hittman, USA, 2017, 95m, New York Premiere
Eliza Hittman follows up her acclaimed debut It Felt Like Love with this sensitive chronicle of sexual becoming. Frankie (a breakout Harris Dickinson), a bored teenager living in South Brooklyn, regularly haunts the Coney Island boardwalk with his boys—trying to score weed, flirting with girls, killing time. But he spends his late nights dipping his toes into the world of online cruising, connecting with older men and exploring the desires he harbors but doesn’t yet fully understand. Sensuously lensed on 16mm by cinematographer Hélène Louvart, Beach Rats presents a colorful and textured world roiling with secret appetites and youthful self-discovery. A Neon release.
“Person to Person,” Dustin Guy Defa, USA, 2017, 84m, New York Premiere
This understated yet ambitious sophomore feature by one of American independent cinema’s most exciting young voices follows a day in the lives of a motley crew of New Yorkers. A rookie crime reporter (Abbi Jacobson of Broad City) tags along with her eccentric boss (Michael Cera), pursuing the scoop on a suicide that may have been a murder, leading her to cross paths with a stoic clockmaker (Philip Baker Hall); meanwhile, a precocious teen (Tavi Gevinson) explores her sexuality while playing hooky, and an obsessive record collector (Bene Coopersmith) receives a too-good-to-be-true tip on a rare Charlie Parker LP while his depressed friend (George Sample III) seeks redemption after humiliating his cheating girlfriend. With Person to Person (exquisitely shot in 16mm by rising-star DP Ashley Connor), Defa matches the sophistication of his acclaimed shorts and delights in the freedoms afforded by a bigger canvas.
“4 Days in France” / “Jours de France,” Jérôme Reybaud, France, 2017, 141m, French with English subtitles, North American Premiere
An erotic road movie like no other, Jérôme Reybaud’s fiction feature debut begins in the dark, as Pierre (Pascal Cervo) uses his smartphone to snap photos of his lover’s sleeping body. Then, as if in a trance, he hits the road without any clear destination, drawn this way or that only by the connections he forges with strangers on a hookup app. Soon, his lover will set out in hot pursuit of Pierre across four long days and nights, crossing paths with a succession of curious characters. In the sophisticated angle he takes on the state of modern Eros, Reybaud evokes the work of Stranger by the Lake director Alain Guiraudie, imbuing the proceedings with mystery, humor, and a restrained yet pronounced sensuality.
“Albüm,” Mehmet Can Mertoglu, Turkey/France/Romania, 2016, 105m, Turkish with English subtitles, New York Premiere
In this shrewd and visually accomplished social satire from Turkish filmmaker Mehmet Can Mertoglu, a taxman named Bahar (Şebnem Bozoklu) and his history teacher wife, Cüneyt (Murat Kiliç), adopt a child, only to find they feel no emotional connection to the kid. Further complicating their own situation, the self-involved couple initiates an elaborate ruse, with the assistance of contemporary social media, to alter the facts about how they came to have a family. Stunningly photographed on 35mm by Marius Panduru (DP of Romanian New Wave cornerstone Police, Adjective), Mertoglu’s debut feature uses biting black humor to lampoon present-day Turkish society, capturing in equal measure the absurdity of reality and the reality of the absurd.
“Arábia,” João Dumans & Affonso Uchoa, Brazil, 2017, 97m, Portuguese with English subtitles, North American Premiere
Arábia begins by observing the day-to-day of Andre, a teenager who lives in an industrial area in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. After a local factory worker, Cristiano, has an accident on the job, he leaves behind a handwritten journal, which the boy proceeds to read with relish. The film shifts into road-movie mode to recount the story of Cristiano, an ex-con and eternal optimist who journeys across Brazil in search of work, enduring no shortage of economic hardship but gaining an equal amount of self-knowledge. Invigorating and ever surprising, Arábia is a humanist work of remarkable poise and maturity.
“Autumn, Autumn / Chuncheon, chuncheon,” Jang Woo-jin, South Korea, 2017, 78m, Korean with English subtitles, North American Premiere
With a surprising structure that recalls the work of both Hong Sang-soo and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, this delicate sophomore feature by Jang Woo-jin is a tale of human connection and searching for one’s place in the world. It begins simply enough, with a young man sitting next to an older couple on a train from Seoul to the city of Chuncheon. From there, we follow the man as he copes with the anxiety of trying to find a job, and then the couple, who, as it turns out, don’t know each other as well as it seems. With funny and moving scenes that play out in understated yet bravura long takes, Autumn, Autumn is as attuned to the passage of time and fluctuations of light as it is to everyday human drama.
“Léthé,” Dea Kulumbegashvili, 2016, France/Georgia, 15m, Georgian with English subtitles, U.S. Premiere
A lonely horseman wanders past the river of forgetfulness and through a rural Georgian village where both children and adults explore life’s more instinctual pleasures.
“Boundaries / Pays,” Chloé Robichaud, Canada, 2016, 100m, English and French with English subtitles, New York Premiere
Chloé Robichaud’s sophomore feature centers on three women trying to square their political careers with complicated personal lives. Besco, a fictitious island country off the eastern coast of Canada, possesses vast natural resources that foreign companies would love to tap into, which occasions negotiations between Besco’s president (Macha Grenon) and Canadian government reps (including Natalie Dummar as a junior aide from the Ottawa delegation), mediated by a bilingual American (Emily Van Camp). As these three suffer through endless condescensions and mansplanations, they must also contend with an array of outside threats, from lobbyists, terrorists—and their own families. The performances are impeccable, and Robichaud stylishly renders the often absurd mundanity of her heroines’ political ordeal.
“By the Time It Gets Dark” / “Dao Khanong,” Anocha Suwichakornpong, France/Netherlands/Qatar/Thailand, 2016, 105m, Thai with English subtitles, U.S. Premiere
In the beguiling, mysterious second feature by Thai director Anocha Suwichakornpong, the story of a young film director researching a project about the 1976 massacre of Thai student activists at Thamassat University is just the beginning of a shape-shifting work of fictions within fictions, featuring characters with multiple identities. Drifting across a dizzyingly wide expanse of space and time, By the Time It Gets Dark offers a series of narratives concerning love, longing, the power of cinema, and the vestiges of the past within the present. Asking quietly profound questions about the nature of memory—personal, political, and cinematic—this self-reflexive yet deeply felt film keeps regenerating and unfolding in surprising ways. A KimStim release.
“The Challenge,” Yuri Ancarani, Italy/France/Switzerland, 2016, 69m, Arabic with English subtitles, New York Premiere
If you have it, spend it: Italian artist Yuri Ancarani’s visually striking documentary enters the surreal world of wealthy Qatari sheikhs who moonlight as amateur falconers, with no expenses spared along the way. The Challenge follows these men through the rituals that define their lives: perilously racing blacked-out SUVs up and down sand dunes; sharing communal meals; taking their Ferraris out for a spin with their pet cheetahs riding shotgun; and much more. Ancarani’s film is a sly meditation on the collective pursuit of idiosyncratic desires.
“Diamond Island,” Davy Chou, Cambodia/France/Germany/Qatar/Thailand, 2016, 101m, Khmer with English subtitles, U.S. Premiere
In this stylish coming-of-age story, an 18-year-old from the Cambodian provinces arrives at Diamond Island luxury housing development outside Phnom Penh to work a construction job transporting scrap between building sites. He makes friends and courts a local girl, but things grow ever more complicated when his long-estranged brother resurfaces. Making his feature-length fiction debut, Chou (whose documentary Golden Slumbers explored the vanished past of Cambodian cinema) creates an intoxicating blend of naturalism and dreamy stylization, rendering the ecstasies and agonies of late youth with remarkable attention to detail.
“The Dreamed Path” / “Der traumhafte weg,” Angela Schanelec, Germany, 2016, 86m, English and German with English subtitles, New York Premiere
The Dreamed Path traces a precise picture of a world in which chance, emotion, and dreams determine the trajectory of our lives. In 1984 in Greece, a young German couple, Kenneth and Theres, find their romantic relationship tested after his mother suffers an accident. Thirty years later in Berlin, middle-aged actress Ariane splits with her husband David, an anthropologist. Soon, these two couples’ paths cross in unexpected ways, short-circuiting narrative conventions of cause and effect as well as common conceptions of the self. Angela Schanelec, part of the loose collective of innovative German filmmakers that came to be known as the Berlin School, puts her signature formal control to enigmatic and subtly emotional ends in a film of mesmerizing shots and indelible gestures.
“The Future Perfect” / “El Futuro perfecto,” Nele Wohlatz, Argentina, 2016, 65m, Spanish and Mandarin with English subtitles, New York Premiere
Winner of the Best First Feature prize at the 2016 Locarno Film Festival, Wohlatz’s assured debut is a playful, exceptionally idea-rich work of fiction with documentary fragments. Seventeen-year-old Xiaobin arrives in Argentina from China unable to speak Spanish. Employed at a Chinese grocery store, she saves up enough money to pay for language classes, and enters into a secret romance with a young Indian man, Vijay. As she begins to grasp the Spanish language’s conditional tense, she imagines a constellation of possible futures.
“Three Sentences About Argentina” / “Tres oraciones sobre la Argentina,” Nele Wohlatz, Argentina, 2016, 5m, Spanish and Mandarin with English subtitles, U.S. Premiere
Nele Wohlatz transposes archival footage of Argentinian skiers into prompts for language exercises in this short made as part of an omnibus feature for the Buenos Aires Film Museum.
“The Giant” / “Jätten,” Johannes Nyholm, Sweden/Denmark, 2016, 86m, Swedish with English subtitles, U.S. Premiere
Rikard lives to play petanque (a kind of lawn-bowling played with hollow steel balls). But his severe physical deformity, coupled with autism, makes communication with the world beyond a very small group of family, friends, and petanque teammates nearly impossible. As Rikard’s team gears up for a prestigious tournament, his fantasies—some involving his mother, who lives in squalor with her pet parrot, and some imagining himself as a giant stomping across a kitschy, romanticist landscape—transport him beyond the confines of the long-term care facility where he lives. Nyholm’s debut feature is a true original: a provocative, grittily realist sports movie, suffused with compassion and humor.
“Happiness Academy” / “Bonheur Academie,” Kaori Kinoshita & Alain Della Negra, France, 2016, 75m, French with English subtitles, U.S. Premiere
Uncannily melding fiction and documentary, Happiness Academy transports us to a hotel retreat for the real-life Raelian Church, a religious sect devoted to the transmission of knowledge inherited from mankind’s extraterrestrial ancestors. As the new candidates for “awakening” (two of whom are played by actress Laure Calamy and musician Arnaud Fleurent-Didier) spend time together at meals, out by the pool, at bonfires, and participating in new age-y group exercises, an unexpected humanism emerges amid the absurd spirituality. Humorous and moving, direct and enigmatic, this singular film meditates on the peculiar ways in which people strive to give their lives meaning.
“Happy Times Will Come Soon” / “I Tempi felici verranno presto,” Alessandro Comodin, Italy/France, 2016, 102m, Italian with English subtitles, North American Premiere
Two young fugitives out in the wild, a series of talking heads recounting a local legend about a wolf on the prowl, a loose dramatization of that same myth… With a narrative that enigmatically leaps from one hypnotic passage to another, Alessandro Comodin’s sophomore feature, set deep in the northern Italian woods and drawing on local folklore, is the work of a true original. This beautiful and haunting meditation on the relationships between imagination, desire, and violence is a dreamlike fable with the weight of documentary reality.
“Lady Macbeth,” William Oldroyd, UK, 2016, 89m, New York Premiere
The debut feature by accomplished theater director William Oldroyd relocates Nikolai Leskov’s play Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District to Victorian England. Florence Pugh is forceful and complex as Lady Katherine, who enters into an arranged marriage with the domineering, repressed Alexander (Paul Hilton), and must contend with her husband’s even more unpleasant mine-owner father (Christopher Fairbank). In this constrictive new milieu, she finds carnal release with one of her husband’s servants (Cosmo Jarvis), but there are profound consequences to her infidelity. Boasting deft performances by an outstanding ensemble cast, Lady Macbeth is a rousing parable about the price of freedom. A Roadside Attractions release.
“The Last Family” / “Ostatnia rodzina,” Jan P. Matuszynski, Poland, 2016, 124m, Polish with English subtitles, New York Premiere
This sort-of biopic of Polish surrealist artist Zdzisław Beksiński, renowned for his stark, unsettling, postapocalyptic paintings, focuses as much on the rest of the funny and reclusive Beksiński family: his religious wife Zofia, a perennially steadying presence; and his son Tomasz, a DJ/translator always on the verge of spiraling out of control. Jan P. Matuszynski’s fiction feature debut renders Beksiński’s home life as a vivid and affecting succession of near-death experiences and psychodramatic blowouts, and shows the brilliant artworks that emerged from all the sturm und drang.
“The Last of Us” / “Akher Wahed Fina,” Ala Eddine Slim, Tunisia/Qatar/UAE/Lebanon, 2016, 95m, North American Premiere
Two men silently traverse a vast, flat landscape; they get in the back of a smuggler’s truck, and soon after they’re attacked by men with guns; one of them escapes to sea, perhaps headed to Europe. He soon then finds himself in an endless forest, where a kind of spiritual journey unfolds. In Ala Eddine Slim’s mysterious, entrancing, dialogue-free film, the political significance of the unnamed protagonist’s journey is given a metaphysical twist. Urgent and evocative, The Last of Us speaks powerfully about both contemporary migration and the ancient struggle between man and nature.
Courtesy of Sundance
“Menashe,” Joshua Z. Weinstein, USA, 2017, 79m, Yiddish with English subtitles, New York Premiere
Something like Woody Allen meets neorealism in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Menashe follows its titular hapless protagonist through a host of existential, spiritual, and familial crises. In the wake of his wife’s recent death, Menashe must care for his ten-year-old son—despite the fact that he knows bupkis about parenting—at the same time that he finds himself straying from the rigid norms of his Hasidic community. His friends and family insist that he remarry as soon as possible, but since he can’t get over his deceased wife or make enough money to feed his son, an uncle attempts to intervene. Joshua Z. Weinstein’s fiction feature debut is a poignant and funny parable about the tension between our best intentions and our efforts to make good on them. An A24 release.
“My Happy Family” / “Chemi bednieri ojakhi,” Nana Ekvtimishvili & Simon Gross, Georgia/France, 2017, 120m, Georgian with English subtitles, New York Premiere
The second feature by Ekvtimishvili and Gross subtly and sensitively follows a middle-aged woman as she aims to leave her husband and escape from the multi-generational living situation she shares with her aging parents, the aforementioned husband, her son, her daughter, and her daughter’s cheating live-in boyfriend. Lacking both personal space and free time, she breaks out on her own, building a new life for herself piece by piece while contemplating the family structure she has left behind. My Happy Family is a funny, perceptive, and sociologically rich work about the myriad roles we play in life and the obligations we endlessly strive to fulfill.
“Pendular,” Julia Murat, Brazil/Argentina/France, 2017, 108m, Portuguese with English subtitles, North American Premiere
A male sculptor and a female dancer live and work together in their big, barren loft, a mere strip of orange tape serving as the boundary between his atelier and her studio. Here, the stage is set for a low-key psychosexual drama centered around the couple’s erotic, artistic, and everyday rituals. This absorbingly intimate third feature by Julia Murat (her second, Found Memories, was a ND/NF 2012 selection) is a moving portrait of a couple caught between rivalry and the desire to build a future with each other.
“Quest,” Jonathan Olshefski, USA, 2017, 105m, New York Premiere
Jonathan Olshefski’s documentary chronicle of an African-American family living in Philadelphia is a powerful and uplifting group portrait rooted in today’s political realities. Beginning at the dawn of the Obama presidency, the film follows the Raineys: patriarch Christopher, who juggles various jobs to support his family and his recording studio; matriarch Christine’a, who works at a homeless shelter; Christine’a’s son William, who is undergoing cancer treatment while caring for his own son, Isaiah; and PJ, Christopher and Christine’a’s teenage daughter. A patient, absorbing vérité epic, Quest covers eight years filled with obstacles, trials, and tribulations.
“Sexy Durga,” Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, India, 2017, 85m, Malayalam with English subtitles, North American Premiere
Sasidharan’s third feature, main competition winner at this year’s International Rotterdam Film Festival, is a wildly tense nocturnal thriller with a razor-sharp political message. Late one night, Kabeer and Durga, a young couple on the run, are picked up by two strange men in a minivan who offer them a lift to a nearby train station. However, these men reveal themselves to be anything but benevolent, and so begins a long, claustrophobic drive that feels like Funny Games meets The Exterminating Angel. Sasidharan renders this bad trip with precision and an economy of style.
“Strong Island,” Yance Ford, USA/Denmark, 2017, 107m, New York Premiere
A haunting investigation into the murder of a young black man in 1992, Yance Ford’s Strong Island is achingly personal—the victim, 24-year-old William Ford Jr., was the filmmaker’s brother. Ford powerfully renders the specter of his brother’s death and its devastating effect on his family, and uses the tools of cinema to carefully examine the injustice perpetrated when the suspected killer, a 19-year-old white man, was not indicted by a white judge and an all-white jury. As a work of memoir and true crime, Strong Island tells one of the most remarkable stories in recent documentary; as a political artwork, its resonance is profound.
“The Summer Is Gone” / “Ba yue,” Dalei Zhang, China, 2016, 106m, Mandarin with English subtitles, New York Premiere
Dalei Zhang’s atmospheric debut feature is a portrait of a family in Inner Mongolia in the early 1990s that doubles as a snapshot of a pivotal moment in recent Chinese history. As the country settles into its new market economy, 12-year-old Xiaolei stretches out his final summer before beginning middle school, while his father contends with the possibility of losing his job as a filmmaker for a state-run studio, and his mother, a teacher, worries about her son’s grades and future. Beautifully shot in shimmering black-and-white, The Summer Is Gone is intimate and far-reaching, creating ripples of uncertainty from the microcosm of one family’s everyday life.
“White Sun” / “Seto Surya,” Deepak Rauniyar, Nepal/USA/Qatar/Netherlands, 2016, 89m, Nepali with English subtitles, New York Premiere
The second feature by Nepalese filmmaker Deepak Rauniyar sensitively explores the damage done to the fabric of Nepalese society by the decade-long civil war between the Maoists and Nepal’s monarchical government. On the occasion of his father’s funeral, Chandra returns to the village he left years earlier to join the Maoists, and finds himself united with the daughter he never met and revisiting uneasy relations with family members and neighbors. Past traumas return and cause tensions to boil over. Finding the political within the everyday, White Sun uses one village’s complex tribulations to speak to an entire national history. A KimStim release.
“The Wound,” John Trengove, South Africa/Germany/Netherlands/France, 2017, 88m,Xhosa with English subtitles, New York Premiere
In a mountainous corner of the Eastern Cape of South Africa, an age-old Xhosa ritual introducing adolescent boys to manhood continues to this day. This is the backdrop for this stark and stirring first feature by John Trengove, in which Xolani, a quiet and sensitive factory worker (played by musician Nakhane Touré), guides one of the boys, Kwanda, an urban transplant sent against his will from Johannesburg to be toughened up, through this rite of passage. In an environment where machismo rules, Kwanda negotiates his own identity while discovering the secret of Xolani’s sexuality. Brimming with fear and violence, The Wound is an exploration of tradition and masculinity. A Kino Lorber release.
“Wùlu,” Daouda Coulibaly, France/Mali/Senegal, 2016, 95m, Bambara and French with English subtitles, New York Premiere
A gangster picture with political resonance, Wùlu tracks the rise to power of Ladji, a 20-year-old van driver in Mali who takes to crime so that his older sister can quit a life of prostitution. He calls in a favor from a drug-dealer friend and soon finds himself deeply involved in a complex and illicit enterprise; as he discovers his knack for his new profession and his lifestyle ostensibly improves, the stakes grow higher and deadlier by the day. Set during the lead-up to 2012’s Malian Civil War, Wùlu is more than an exciting and superbly made thriller—it offers a powerful glimpse at the complexities of a particular historical moment.
The New Directors/New Films selection committee is made up of members from both presenting organizations. The 2017 feature committee was comprised of Rajendra Roy (Co-Chair, MoMA), Dennis Lim (Co-Chair, FSLC), Florence Almozini (FSLC), Sophie Cavoulacos (MoMA), La Frances Hui (MoMA), and Dan Sullivan (FSLC), and the shorts were programmed by Izzy Lee (MoMA) and Tyler Wilson (FSLC). Josh Siegel (MoMA) and Rachael Rakes (FSLC) served as program advisors.