Alexander Moors' debut "Blue Caprice," is set to open the festival. The film stars Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond as two snipers on a shooting spree heavily inspired by the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks. "Caprice" had its premiere at Sundance last month and was met with a largely positive, albeit controversial, response. Check out Eric Kohn's full review here.
Meanwhile, Penny Lane's found footage documentary "Our Nixon," edited together using hundreds of rolls of Super 8 film from inside the Nixon presidency, will be the festival's closing night film. "Nixon," aims to provide a more intimate portrayal of the disgraced president as he experiences the high and low points of his presidency, including the Apollo moon landing and the events surrounding Watergate.
Among this year's filmmaker debuts are Lyubov Arkus' documentary "Anton's Right Here," Shannon Plumb's Derekn Cianfrance starring comedy "Towheads," and famed Bulgarian cinematographer Emil Christov's directorial debut "The Color of the Chameleon," which was nominated for the Discovery Award at last year's TIFF.
Other highlights of the festival include films from more established filmmakers, such as Sarah Polley's autobiographical Toronto and Venice standout "Stories We Tell," Shane Carruth's long awaited "Primer" follow up, "Upstream Color," and Leonardo Di Contanzo's drama "L'Intervallo," the recipient of the 2012 Venice critics' prize.
For additional information on the festival and this year's ticketing options, visit ND/NF's website at newdirectors.org. Check out the full lineup, below.
The 42nd New Directors/New Films features selections include:
OPENING NIGHT SELECTION
BLUE CAPRICE (2012) 92min
Director: Alexandre Moors
Alexandre Moors’s remarkable debut feature explores the impulse to commit murder, following two snipers, the elder John and 17-year old Lee, who orchestrate an insidious act of gun violence that is seemingly torn from the front pages. Abandoned by his mother, Lee is taken in by John, who becomes a mentor preaching hate and teaching marksmanship. Blind loyalty grows, and death becomes mundane. Masterfully performed by Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond, the characters are disturbingly human. Moors and screenwriter R.F.I. Porto navigate the violence discreetly, focusing on the inner origins of evil. An essential film for our times.
CLOSING NIGHT SELECTION
OUR NIXON (2013) 85min
Director: Penny Lane
As President Richard Nixon tape-recorded his conversations for posterity, so his devoted aides—H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and Dwight Chapin—shot hundreds of rolls of Super-8 film documenting the presidency. Filmmakers Penny Lane (DIR/Co-SCR/Co-PROD) and Brian L. Frye (Co-SCR/Co-PROD) have edited this footage—virtually unseen since the FBI seized it during the Watergate investigation—and interwoven it with period news footage and pop culture, excerpts from the Nixon tapes, and contemporary interviews. OUR NIXON offers an unprecedented, insider’s view of an American presidency, chronicling watershed events including the Apollo moon landing and the path-breaking trip to China, as well as more intimate glimpses of Nixon in times of glory and disgrace.
THE ACT OF KILLING (2012) 116min – theatrical cut, 158min – director’s cut
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
What is one to make of the men who freely admit their involvement—and pleasure—in the mass killing of millions of Indonesians during that country’s bloody anti-Communist campaign in the 1960s? American filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer’s THE ACT OF KILLING bypasses the usual documentary tropes of exposing injustice, instead provoking the viewer to consider the murderers’ sense of responsibility for their crimes. Teetering between sheer horror and grotesque comedy, this is a glimpse into the heart of darkness that’s rarely been achieved in cinema. Both the theatrical version and the longer, director’s cut of the film will be screened at ND/NF. A Drafthouse Films release.
ANTON’S RIGHT HERE (Anton tut ryadom) (2012) 120min
Director: Lyubov Arkus
Critic-turned-filmmaker Lyubov Arkus finds herself becoming the key caregiver for severely autistic teen Anton Kharitonov and documents over six years, in a reflective and fascinating style, the tremendous obstacles and problems of encouraging and supporting a sensitive but barely communicative boy. What sets Arkus’s work apart from so many other documentaries addressing autism is her majestically artful filmmaking (with a huge contribution by cinematographer Alisher Khamidkhodzhaev), her exceptionally close relationship to her subject, and her powerful voice-over commentary, one of the most sublime to be heard in recent cinema.
BURN IT UP DJASSA (Le djassa a pris feu) (2012) 70min
Director: Lonesome Solo
Countries: Ivory Coast/France
Brimming with the fateful energy of the ghetto, this cinema-vérité-shot, noir-tinged drama was shot in 11 days and created collectively by its streetwise protagonists eager to give voice to their present situation. Tony (Abdoul Karim Konate) is stuck in a rut and desperate to get out of the ghetto; the cocky youth hangs out gambling and hawking cigarettes until bad luck pushes him into an irrevocable dead-end situation. Narrated by a storyteller in Nouchi slang and set to slam poetry this vibrant snap-shot will have you cheering for cosmic justice.
LES COQUILLETTES (2012) 75min
Director: Sophie Letourneur
Girls gone wild! Filmmaker Sophie brings her film and friends Carole and Camille to the Locarno Film Festival. The festival is a merry-go-round of parties, and these girls are boy crazy—when Sophie’s not stalking Louis Garrel, ineffectual attempts to hook up with unimpressed guys and emotional meltdowns ensue. Sophie Letourneur’s comedy of arrested development is a delightfully giddy, screwball lark, a self-mocking, thirty-something French counterpart to Lena Dunham’s Girls. Are Letourneur, Camille Genaud, and Carole Le Page playing themselves? Espérons que non!
THE COLOR OF THE CHAMELEON (Tsvetat na hameleona) (2012) 114min
Director: Emil Christov
Unfolding in the years before and after the fall of Communism, this black comedy
about a rogue secret police informant goes down a rabbit hole into a realm of twisted absurdity. The scenario by Vladislav Todorov, adapting his 2010 novel Zincograph, centers on young misfit Batko Stamenov, who’s recruited to infiltrate…a book club. After being dropped for his strange ideas, Batko embarks on his own private investigation and targets the intellectuals of the “Club for New Thinking,” hatching a scheme that fully exposes the ludicrous reality of secret policing. With its first film at ND/NF in thirty-five years, Bulgaria is back!
DIE WELT (2012) 80min
Director: Alex Pitstra
In his smart debut feature, director Alex Pitstra announces himself as a neo-Tarantino, employing an arsenal of cinematic techniques to explore a life he imagines he could have lived. The director sets his story in post–Jasmine Revolution Tunisia, where young Abdallah (Abdelhamid Naouara), Pitstra’s stand-in and a Tarantino-esque, head-strong twenty-something, dreams of leaving the video store where he works for Europe. Based loosely on his father’s story of coming to Holland, Pitstra's semi-autobiographical voyage is set against the backdrop of a contemporary yet traditional Tunisia trying to find a way forward.
EMPEROR VISITS THE HELL (Tang huang You Di Fu) (2013) 71min
Directors: Li Luo
Winner of the Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema at the Vancouver Film Festival, Li’s crafty reworking of part of the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West is one of the most inspired recent works from an independent Chinese filmmaker. Emperor Li Shimin is now a bureaucratic boss in a big city, where the crooked Dragon King’s attempt to change the weather has backfired and condemned him to death. Li pulls the rug out from under everyone, from the audience to those whose power has gone to their heads.
A HIJACKING (Kapringen) (2012) 99min
Director: Tobias Lindholm
On its way to harbor, cargo ship MV Rozen is seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean. Moving between claustrophobic life on the ship and negotiations by the freight company in Denmark, Lindholm creates a climate of unbearable tension with an unexpected climax. The narrative is based on a true event, and his use of actual locations and people who have been in similar situations create palpable authenticity. Augmented by a terrific cast, Lindholm explores the danger of the disparity between impoverished nations and the developed world. A Magnolia Films release.
JARDS (2012) 93min
Director: Eryk Rocha
The celebrated composer and musician Jards Macalé is in the recording studio where director Eryk Rocha captures him in a wide variety of poses and states of creating, imaginatively varying style and shooting formats. Fashioning an intimately attuned portrait of an artist, Rocha uses his camera as an instrument to riff with Jards in a poetic exchange between images and music. The repetitive, time-stopping process of rehearsal and the flow of energy between the two art forms create an elegiac vision of the creativity of some of Brazil’s most beloved singers and musicians.
JISEUL (2012) 109min
Director: O Muel
Country: South Korea
As part of a brutal anticommunist purge of the island of Jiju in 1948, Korean troops hunt down the inhabitants of a village caught in the crossfire. The villagers hide out in a mountain cavern, enduring an extended ordeal of cold and hunger, 120 souls crammed together below ground like the potatoes alluded to in the film’s title. Recounting a forgotten chapter in postwar Korean history, Jiju native O Muel draws out amazing performances from his nonprofessional cast, in an austere, beautifully composed, and deliberately paced requiem.
KÜF (2012) 94min
Director: Ali Aydin
A railroad inspector spends his days in the gorgeous Anatolian outback looking for cracks on the line and his evenings writing letters to the government looking for news about his son who disappeared 18 years ago. Basri (Ercan Kesal) fights bureaucracy and secrecy in the person of police inspector Murat (Muhammet Uzuner) and the spellbinding character study, with shades of Raskolnikov, is completed by a third man, Cemil, whose anti-social behavior begs confrontation. As tension mounts Aydin shows his considerable talent bringing this poignant tale to its heartbreaking finale. Winner of the Lion of the Future Award at the Venice Film Festival 2012.
LEONES (2012) 80min
Director: Jazmin Lopez
Is this a story about five friends wandering through a forest, or is it about a forest that receives five visitors? In this metaphysical trance film, the verdant environment is as much a character as the youngsters, enfolding them as they move through it, their playful banter, word games, and ruminations filling the air. In a succession of long takes, a gliding camera follows this enigmatic hike to nowhere. Nothing is what it seems, but a malfunctioning tape recording may contain an explanation.
L’INTERVALLO (2012) 86min
Director: Leonardo Di Costanzo
Winner of the Critics’ Prize at the 2012 Venice Film Festival, this portrait of two adolescents thrown together under the eye of the Neapolitan Camorra has an air of menace and sexual tension. A shy ice-cream vendor (Alessio Gallo) guards a feisty girl (Francesca Riso) who has allegedly wronged a local gangster. Holed up in an abandoned building, they warily share dreams of escaping their fate. Director Di Costanzo brings documentary realism and a poetic eye to this quietly intense drama; his nonprofessional actors give beautifully shaded performances in Neapolitan dialect.
PEOPLE’S PARK (2012) 78min
Directors: Libbie D. Cohn & J.P. Sniadecki
An immersive, inquisitive visit to the People’s Park in Chengdu, China, this film was created in a single virtuoso tracking shot. The joys of communal play, exercise, and leisure time come under intense scrutiny from the relentless gaze of the directors' lens, creating alternate states of unease and exhilaration.
RENGAINE (2012) 75min
Director: Rachid Djaïdani
The French title of this no-budget urban drama translates as “refrain,” and repetition is what it embodies—in this case the well-worn story of Romeo and Juliet. Sabrina (Sabrina Hamida) accepts the marriage proposal of struggling actor Dorcy (Stéphane Soo Mongo), but Dorcy is a black Christian and Sabrina a Muslim Arab. Her eldest brother, Slimane (Slimane Dazi), enlists the 39 “brothers” in their extended clan to prevent the taboo union. Shot in the streets, this film is part love letter to the irresistible energy of Paris, part call for interracial tolerance.
THE SHINE OF DAY (Der Glanz des Tages) (2012) 90min
Directors: Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel
Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel have amply demonstrated, with their previous semi-fictional, semi-documentary films, a generous perspective on people struggling at the fringes of showbiz—namely, the circus. In their latest film, vagabond performer Walter Saabel embraces what he calls “Der Glanz des Tages” (the shine of day) as a personal North Star. His nephew, the great theater actor Philipp Hochmair, finds Walter arriving at his Hamburg home unannounced, and the two begin a fascinating, testy, and wholly unpredictable relationship.
SOLDATE JEANNETTE (2012) 79min
Director: Daniel Hoesl
Fanni buys clothes from an upscale boutique and lives in a beautifully appointed apartment. But something—well, everything—seems askew in her world, and she leaves town when her games with commerce are discovered. Hiking through the mountains, she encounters Anna, a young woman who has spent her life on a pig farm. Their worlds could collide—or they could help each other find brave new ones. In his first feature, director Daniel Hoesl fashions an absurdist morality play that pits an urban, manufactured world against nature.
STORIES WE TELL (2012) 108min
Director: Sarah Polley
What is real? What is true? What do we remember, and how do we remember it? Actor/director Sarah Polley turns from fiction to nonfiction, in the process cracking open family secrets. Using home movies, still photographs, and interviews, Polley delves into the life of her mother, a creative yet secretive woman. But while she is talking to her own relatives, Polley’s interest lies in the bigger picture of what families hold onto as truth. STORIES WE TELL is a delicately crafted personal essay about memory, loss, and understanding. A Roadside Attractions release.
THEY’LL COME BACK (2012) 105min
Director: Marcelo Lordello
In this gentle, understated drama, an upper-middle-class 12-year-old learns how Brazil’s other half lives when she and her sullen older brother are left behind by their parents in a rural backwater. Soon, Cris (ably played by Maria Luiza Tavares, who carries the film from beginning to end) is taken in by a family living in a squatter farming community, where she waits for mom and pop to return. And waits and waits. Another fine debut from the Recife film scene, source of last year’s ND/NF hit NEIGHBORING SOUNDS.
TOWER (2012) 78min
Director: Kazik Radwanski
For his feature debut, Kazik Radwanski has opted to train his camera with great intensity and control on a character who utterly lacks a center or direction, even an identity. In his mid-thirties yet still living at home with his parents, Derek (Derek Bogart) struggles to make a small animation about a green creature building rock towers. He can’t maintain any real friendships, let alone romantic involvements, until he encounters Nicole (Nicole Fairbaim), who offers a glint of promise. Radwanski‘s single-minded vision suggests filmmaking of uncommon discipline combined with unmistakable empathy.
TOWHEADS (2013) 86min
Director: Shannon Plumb
The Brooklyn mother of two boys and the wife of a harried theater director, Penelope barely has time to stay sane, much less create art. She finds comic relief from domestic drudgery by inhabiting the world in guises—drag king, pole dancer, Santa Claus—managing to find moments of grace even on thankless days. Accomplished video and performance artist Shannon Plumb makes a wincingly funny feature debut that strikes awfully close to home. The writer-director stars opposite her real-life husband (Derek Cianfrance, director of BLUE VALENTINE) and her talented, towheaded sons (Cody and Walker Cianfrance).
UPSTREAM COLOR (2012) 96min
Director: Shane Carruth
Ever since his 2004 debut, filmmaker Shane Carruth has prompted curiosity over what he’d come up with next. UPSTREAM COLOR meets expectations but is also starkly different and markedly advanced. It represents something new in American cinema, exploring life’s surprising jumps and science’s strange effects. A love story embedded in a kidnap plot, UPSTREAM COLOR leaps with great audacity through its sequences, a cinematic simulacrum of the way we reflect on our lives, astonished at, as in the title of Grace Paley’s fiction collection, our Enormous Changes at the Last Minute. UPSTREAM COLOR opens in NY on April 5.
VIOLA (2013) 63min
Directors: Matías Piñeiro
Matías Piñeiro is one of contemporary Argentine cinema’s most sensuous and sophisticated new voices. In his latest film, VIOLA, he ingeniously fashions out of Shakepeare’s Twelfth Night a seductive roundelay among young actors and lovers in present-day Buenos Aires. Mixing melodrama with sentimental comedy, philosophical conundrum with matters of the heart, VIOLA bears all the signature traits of a Piñeiro film: serpentine camera movements and slippages of language, an elliptical narrative and a playful confusion of reality and artifice. A Cinema Guild release.