By Peter Knegt and Eric Kohn | Indiewire March 19, 2014 at 12:32PM
The 43rd edition of New Directors/New Films kicks off tonight at MoMA and continues through March 30th. Presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA, the event will offer 27 feature films from around the world -- all of which are first or second features.
Indiewire's team has 10 suggestions for what to take in at the festival below. For more information, check out the New Directors/New Films website.
Australian director Jennifer Kent's increasingly frightening portrait a single woman (Essie Davis) whose husband died years earlier and her young child Sam (Noah Wiseman) is a haunting psychological horror show. Early on, when the mother reads her son the titular bedtime story she discovers in their new home, both become immediately spooked by the possibility of its subject — a shadowy, monstrous figure called The Babadook — could invade their lives at any moment. While the characters grow increasingly terrified, it's never quite clear if we're seeing the lonely woman's version of events or a bonafide haunted house story. Equal parts "Rosemary's Mary" and "Insidious," Kent's tense debut delivers on the frights while riddling them with ambiguity. Ultimately, "The Babadook" refuses to determine whether we're watching a monster movie or the perils of an overactive imagination, which might be worse. Read our full review here.
Joel Potrykus' nutty debut feature "Ape" followed the exploits of a deranged standup comedian struggling to make ends meet. "Buzzard" is similarly focused on a man at the bottom of the economic food chain battling to get by while stirring up trouble in every direction. It's also a genuinely brilliant contemporary satire of workplace frustrations. Like "Office Space" on crack, the movie revolves around a wry young schemer ("Ape" star Joshua Burge) who casually steals money from the bank that employs him while wasting his days with an equally directionless pal eating chips and playing videogames in a basement lair dubbed "the party zone." But when his scams catch up to him, the character gradually loses his mind in a series of increasingly surreal and surprising developments that involve -- among many other things -- a treadmill, a makeshift Freddy Krueger glove, and one very long take involving pasta. By the end, like Martin Scorsese's "After Hours," Potrykus' labyrinthine farce is so compellingly weird you just have to roll with it and accept it for what it is: an astute look at what it means to attempt an escape from the system and wind up devoured by it.
"Dear White People"
A bonafide satire of the Obama age, writer-director Justin Simien's persistently funny "Dear White People" perceptively skewers virtually every facet of racial confusion in modern American society. While black comedians like Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock have provided searing insight into the absurdities of lingering racial tensions, Simien consolidates much about the paradoxes explored in those acts and many others into a wildly enjoyable and scathing farce. By exploring the heated debates between white and black students at an upscale college, Simmien both mocks and provokes the nature of our seemingly progressive times by illuminating misguided assumptions and fears embedded in forward-thinking discourse. But Simien's relentless screenplay is never too self-serious or didactic, instead pairing culturally-savvy brains with a goofy grin. Read our full review here.
Following up his wonderful directorial debut "Submarine," British comedian and filmmaker Richard Ayoade literally doubles up for his darker follow-up, "The Double." Loosely based on Dostoevsky’s 1846 novella, the film stars Jesse Eisenberg as both miserable introvert Simon James and James Simon, his affable doppelgänger and essential polar opposite. As the relationship between the two men spirals out of control, "The Double" confirms Ayoade as a considerable new voice in comedic cinema. It's also aided by a remarkable supporting cast, including the likes of Wallace Shawn, Mia Wasikowska, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, and Chris O’Dowd.
"A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night"
For centuries, vampires have provided handy metaphors for social and physical dilemma, but in the stylishly muted deadpan romance "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," the threat is personal. Writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour's stunning debut, produced by Elijah Wood, follows the experiences of a small Iranian town haunted by a vampiric presence who's just as lonely as the other locals. Shot in gorgeously expressionistic black-and-white and fusing multiple genres into a thoroughly original whole, Amirpour has crafted a beguiling, cryptic and often surprisingly funny look at personal desire that creeps up on you with the nimble powers of its supernatural focus. The director combines elements of film noir and the restraint of Iranian New Wave cinema with the subdued depictions of a bored youth culture found in early Jim Jarmusch…the comparisons go on and on, but the result is wholly original. A hip new discovery in desperate need of the cult attention it deserves. Read our full review here.