By Peter Knegt, Eric Kohn, Bryce J. Renninger and Nigel M. Smith | Indiewire March 21, 2012 at 11:21AM
The 41st edition of New Directors/New Films kicks off tonight at MoMA and continues through April 1. Presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA, the event will offer 29 features and 12 short 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.
Winner of the Camera d'Or for a debut film at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and secured by Outsider Pictures for US distribution, "Las Acacias" already has a lot of good things going for it. It's also garnered stellar reviews in the UK since opening in London last December. The film, from first-time feature director Pablo Giorgelli, centers on Ruben (German de Silva), a truck driver who regularly hauls lumber from Paraguay to Buenos Aires. His frequented route gets a much-needed change of scenery when he agrees to let a young woman named Jacinta (Hebe Duarte) ride in the passenger seat along with her five-month-old baby. Not much reportedly happens for most of their relatively silent journey, but the payoff is rumored to be both surprising and extremely moving. I for one can't wait to see where this tale takes me. [Nigel M. Smith]
In Mad Brügger's follow-up to his Sundance Film Festival award-winning "The Red Chapel," "The Ambassador" takes the director's remarkable hands-on approach to investigative journalism a controversial step further. In "The Red Chapel," Brügger headed to North Korea with two Danish-Korean comedians under the guise of a cultural exchange. With "The Ambassador," he makes his way solo to the Central African Republic, posing as a Liberian Consul simply by purchasing a diplomatic passport. Almost exclusively via hidden cameras, the audience watches as Brügger -- with remarkable effect -- disappears into the character his new passport has brought forth: With a bizarre, almost Karl Lagerfeldian look, Brügger gives his diplomat the cover story of wanting to open a brand-new match factory that will bring lots of jobs to the area. In addition to, of course, being in the midst of an investigation of blood diamonds. It's a risky setup, but Brügger pulls it off, allowing "The Ambassador" to become a unique entry into the sub-category of documentaries about African politics. [Peter Knegt]
"Crulic: The Path to Beyond"
The stunning collages that Anca Damian has put together for her sophomore feature tells the story of the Romanian Claudiu Crulic, who, through someone else's voice, tells the story of his life in a Poland Prison. After being falsely accused of stealing credit cards in Poland, Crulic eventually dies in prison in the midst of a hunger strike. Damian challenges the documentary form and stuns with her cut-out animation in a film that is sure to intrigue ND/NF audiences. [Bryce J. Renninger]
Joining the ranks of "Tarnation" in the films-made-too-cheaply-to-be-this-good category, "Donoma" is rumored to have been made for $200. (Surely someone paid for those cameras!) Shot in the Parisian banlieues, Haitian-born director Djinn Carrenard documents the lives of three women as they search for the answers to some of life's most confounding mysteries: the allure of sex, the presence of God, the thoughts of others. To do this, he watches his protagonists as they become deeply entrenched with their environments -- the people and spirits around them. [Bryce J. Renninger]
"Fear and Desire"
Stanley Kubrick is not a new director and "Fear and Desire" is not a new film. But when this first feature came out in 1953, the opposite was true. Kubrick's legendary initiation behind the camera -- excluding his background as a photographer -- came together when the filmmaker was 24. Although Kubrick himself felt the movie was lacking and tried to suppress it, the minimalist war drama about five soldiers dealing with a native woman behind enemy lines illustrates the seeds of inspiration for the director's first widely acclaimed masterpiece, "Paths of Glory." No longer a question mark of the past, these new screenings of "Fear and Desire" will finally fill in a major gap thanks to Kino Lorber's restoration of the film. [Eric Kohn]
"Gimme the Loot"
Things are happening fast for Adam Leon's debut feature. Days after premiering at SXSW, it got picked up by IFC's Sundance Selects label. Now it bows in New York with a ND/NF screening. The film, which follows two teenage graffiti artists in the Bronx, has been compared to a contemporary take on "Kids." The two meander through the city's streets gaining the resources to take revenge on rivals who destroyed one of their masterpieces. [Bryce J. Renninger]
"How To Survive a Plague"
David France's powerful documentary "How To Survive a Plague" debuted at Sundance earlier this year and is having a homecoming via New Directors/New Films. A chronicle of AIDS activism in New York, the film shows how a group of men and women fought against a remarkably homophobic establishment to help bring life-saving drugs to America. It's a story too few are aware of, and one that comes to New York almost exactly 25 years after ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) -- the activist group at the core of "Plague" -- had their first demonstration. [Peter Knegt]
"Oslo, August 31st"
Norwegian director Joachim Trier first made a name for himself with his directorial debut "Reprise," a jovial story about a group of friends growing up together. He takes a drearier approach for his sophomore effort: "Oslo" is about the challenge of leaving one's past behind, and it explores that theme with a powerfully grim character study in which a recovering junkie named Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie, also the star of "Reprise") spends a day out of rehab trying to rekindle relationships he had previously mucked up. It's no easy task, and Trier follows it with such an unflinching focus that the result is both devastating and profound. [Eric Kohn]
"An Oversimplification of Her Beauty"
Terence Nance may not consider himself a filmmaker per se, but the mixed-media artist has made a standout feature-length film. Told with live action footage of Nance negotiating a relationship with a young woman, accented with animation and an insightful voiceover, "An Oversimplification of Her Beauty" explores that gray space between romance and friendship and the confusion that often attends it. Nance's film debuted in Sundance's experimental/new media New Frontier section and the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts' Pixelated series to rave reviews. [Bryce J. Renninger]
"The Raid: Redemption"
Gareth Evans' Indonesian action movie won the midnight section at the Toronto International Film Festival and it's easy to see why: The fastest, most viscerally involving martial arts experience this side of "The Bourne Ultimatum," this tense story of an elite task force's attempt to permeate a safe house filled with criminals in the slums of Jakarta is relentless in its quest to keep the forward motion in flux. Fists and bullets fly in equal measures; the description "bone-rattling" never seemed more appropriate than it does here. "The Raid" earns that clichéd term, as it has earned the right to the two sequels and an American remake, both in the works. [Eric Kohn]