The Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center today revealed the full lineup for the 40th edition of New Directors/New Films. Bookending the festival – which is dedicated to new works by emerging talent – are J.C. Chandor’s feature film debut “Margin Call” and Maryam Keshavarz’s Sundance Audience Award winner, “Circumstance.”
“We are thrilled to have ‘Margin Call’ and ‘Circumstance’ as our Opening and Closing Night films,” said Film Society of Lincoln Center programming director Richard Pena in a statement. “Both are dynamic and riveting dramas from first time feature film directors that give a unique view into the human lives at the core of two vastly different, but very immediate worlds.”
Highlights this year include: Anne Sewitzky’s comedy “Happy, Happy,” winner of the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema at Sundance; Daniel and Diego Vega’s Cannes-winner “Octubre;” Denis Villeneuve’s Academy Award-nominated drama “Incendies;” and Athina Rachel Tsangari’s “Attenberg,” which earned its lead Ariane Labed the Best Actress award at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.
“There is great variety both within the makeup of our filmmakers as well as the subject matter and styles of the films themselves,” commented Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos chief curator at MoMA’s Department of Film. “From very intense drama to clever comedy to some truly fascinating documentaries, New Directors/New Films continues to be a major New York venue for new voices in film.”
New Directors/New Films runs from March 23-April 3, 2011.
Below are some of the 40th New Directors/New Films selections (synopses provided by the festival):
“6,7,8” (2010, 100min)
Director: Mohamed Diab
Diab’s “6,7,8” intersects the stories of three women of very different social and economic status in Cairo as they converge in their collective desire to combat sexual harassment. A wealthy, secular young woman who is molested at football match is revealed to be just as vulnerable as the devout Muslim wife of limited means who must ride the bus with marauding men. Given the cultural and religious implications of family life and gender division, the women look to collective action, the media and even violence as routes to freedom.
“At Ellen’s Age” (2010, 95min)
Director: Pia Marais
Marais’ “At Ellen’s Age” catches a woman at a crossroads following her husband’s confession of having an affair and the loss of her job due to a subsequent panic attack. The film follows the woman’s awakening after she joins forces with a group of animal activists.
“Attenberg” (2010, 95min)
Director: Athina Rachel Tsangari
Tsangari’s “Attenberg” is a fun melding of (new) Nouvelle Vague, musical, melodrama, and nature documentary, symbolically visualizing a change of generation and perspective as a father and daughter gently negotiate their individual rites of passage. The film follows a visionary architect who has come home to die in the vanishing industrial town that is his legacy to his daughter. Meanwhile, his daughter (played by Ariane Labed, in a performance that garnered her the Best Actress award at The Venice Film Festival) is exploring the mysteries of kissing with her girlfriend and the beyond with a visiting engineer.
“Belle Epine” (2010, 80min)
Director: Rebecca Zlotowski
Zlotowski’s “Belle Epine” is a coming of age story about a teenage girl dealing with the death of her mother and absentee father. The girl loses herself in antisocial behavior, turning away from her Jewish heritage personified by her supportive aunt and uncle, and drawn into the orbit of a wrong-side-of-the-tracks classmate and her biker friends, who gather for chaotic, sometimes lethal night-time motorcycle meets on the edge of town.
“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” (2011, 100min)
Director: Göran Hugo Olsson
Olsson’s documentary utilizes never before seen interviews (with Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis among others) filmed by a group of Swedish filmmakers from the late sixties to mid-seventies to chronicle the growth of the black power movement. Thirty years later this lush collection of 16mm footage was found in a basement – and combined with additional commentary by artists and activists who were influenced by the struggle – from Harry Belafonte to Erykah Badu – becomes a powerful chronicle of the birth and life of a movement. “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” is a Sundance Selects release.
“Circumstance” (2011, 107min)
Director: Maryam Keshavarz
Keshavarz’s searing feature debut “Circumstance” follows two young Iranian women as they live life in the shadow of the regime, going to parties and listening to forbidden music while starting to explore their true feelings for each other. “Circumstance” recently won the Audience Award at the Sundance film festival. “Circumstance” is a Participant Media and Roadside Attractions release.
“Copacabana” (2010, 107min)
Director: Marc Fitoussi
Fitoussi’s second film, “Copacabana” is a gentle French comedy about the relationship between a daughter and her single mother, starring real-life mother and daughter Isabelle Huppert and Lotlia Chammah. Embarrassed by her mother, the daughter wants a ‘settled’ life, something she believes her mother is not capable (nor desiring) of achieving. So her mother sets out to prove her daughter wrong, and win her respect by selling time-shares in a seaside resort town.
“Curling” (2010, 96min)
Director: Denis Côté
Set in the dead of winter, Côté’s “Curling” is a tense and darkly comic portrait of a family in a rural Quebec village. The film follows a single father as he seeks to isolate his adolescent daughter from the outside world for fear that it will scar her as much as it has him. “Curling” earned Côté the Silver Leopard for Best Director and Emmanuel Bilodeau the Leopard for Best Actor at the 2010 Locarno Film Festival.
“The Destiny of Lesser Animals” (2010, 90min)
Director: Deron Albright
Albright’s drama “The Destiny of Lesser Animals” follows a Ghanian Police Inspector as he embarks on a dangerous journey through modern Ghana to retrieve his stolen counterfeit passport. Finding his own search linked to a series of violent crimes, he joins forces with a seasoned police veteran who is still optimistic about his country to solve the mystery.
“Gromozeka” (2010, 104min)
Director: Vladimir Kott
Kott’s “Gromozeka” is his follow-up to “The Fly,” which was a selection at New Directors/New Films in 2009. The drama follows three men who played in a pop-music trio during their high-school days, and are now three middle-aged men in different walks of life—surgeon, police officer, taxi driver,living at different levels in Moscow’s socio-economic structure. Aside from their annual reunions, which book-end the film, their lives intersect only glancingly and unknowingly as their respective personal discontents and professional troubles reach crisis points and presents the contrasting ways in which each of them tries to cope.
“Happy, Happy” (2010, 85min)
Director: Anne Sewitsky
Switsky’s directorial debut, “Happy, Happy” is a comedy about a thirty-something couple with a young son, living a rather dull life in the Norwegian countryside. Then new neighbors move in next door, and while at first glance they seem to be their mirror image and perfect friend material, the differences that do exist (the new couple’s son is an adopted African, the husband is full of sexual energy, and the wife is…Danish!) manifest in increasingly disturbing ways. The film was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
“Hit So Hard” (2011, 101min)
Director: P. David Ebersole
Ebersole’s rockumentary “Hit So Hard” is a pull-no-punches portrait of the hell-and-back life of Patty Schemel, drummer for Courtney Love’s band Hole during its peak years. The result is an unprecedented inside look at the one of the Nineties most crucial and controversial groups. Notwithstanding its amazingly candid interviews (Love included), its unflinching accounts of the personal tragedies that plagued the band in its heyday, and a rare look at hardball music-industry politics gives the viewer the lowdown on the recording of Hole’s 1997 record Celebrity Skin.
“Hospitalite” (2010, 96min)
Director: Koji Fukada
Set in the confines of downtown Tokyo, Fukada’s comedy “Hospitalite” is about a man living a mundane life, running a small printing factory and living a quiet life upstairs with his wife and children. Then a man arrives claiming to be the son of a wealthy financier who once helped his business. Soon the stranger has moved in with HIS wife, is running the business, and soon invites guests of his own – a large, eclectic and exotic group – into the apartment, destroying the once orderly and comfortable life of his host.
“Incendies” (2010, 130min)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Villeneuve’s film, “Incendies” focuses on twins grieving their mother’s death who have their world shaken further when the reading of her will reveals that their father, presumed to be deceased, is actually still alive and that they also have a brother. The film follows the twins as they seek to fulfill their mother’s final wish – for them to find their father and brother and deliver to each of them a sealed letter. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
“The Majority” (2010, 111min)
Director: Seren Yüce
Yüce’s “The Majority” features Barta Küçükçaglayan as a man that manages to slide through each day working as an office assistant for his father’s construction company when not gobbling burgers at the mall with his buddies. That is until he meets a shy but charming Kurdish girl, and suddenly his entire approach and outlook to life begin to change. However, he now must face a new conflict with his parents…upon whom he is completely dependent, and who won’t even consider their son settling down with a Kurd.
“Man Without a Cell Phone” (2010, 83min)
Director: Sameh Zoabi
Zoabi’s feature debut, “Man Without a Cell Phone” is a comedy about a young Israeli construction worker with little ambition other than to have fun with his friends and meet girls which is directly at odds with his father’s ambitions to bring down a cell phone tower he is sure is poisoning their Arab neighbors with radiation.
“Margin Call” (2010, 109min)
Director: J.C. Chandor
Chandor’s timely and terrifying dramatic expose, MARGIN CALL tackles twenty-four hours on an investment bank trading floor; a day that brings layer upon layer of human and professional wrongdoing that jeopardizes the entire fabric of the banking system. An all-star ensemble cast, led by Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci and Jeremy Irons, propel this ominous day toward the abyss, preserving just enough pathos to allow us to ultimately recognize these bankers’ humanity.
“Memory Lane” (2010, 98min)
Director: Mikhaël Hers
Hers’ “Memory Lane” is a film about characters caught “in between”-between city and country, friendship and love, life and death, and youthful dreams and the impending realities of growing up. Setting in motion several story lines, Hers allows action to develop and characters to emerge through subtle gestures, quick looks and offhand remarks via a splendid ensemble of actors that truly create a sense of closeness, a kind of familiarity that need not be emphasized as it’s always so present.
“Microphone” (2010, 120min)
Director: Amhad Abdalla
Abdalla’s “Microphone” stars (and is co-produced by) Egyptian heart-throb Khaled Abol Naga as a man who returns to his hometown Alexandria unmoored and restlessly searching for purpose beyond his ex-girlfriend who’s no longer interested and his aging father from whom he feels terminally alienated. Wandering the streets he happens upon a music and art making group of younger people that he stubbornly pursues and eventually becomes part of as his self-involvement changes into a real connection with this new world.
“Octubre” (2010, 93min)
Directors: Daniel and Diego Vega
Co-directed by brothers Daniel and Diego Vega, “Octubre” follows a small-time money-lender living in a Lima barrio who one day discovers a baby left on his doorstep. To care for the child–the product of one of his frequent liaisons with prostitutes–the man engages a female neighbor for help, and soon a new, unexpected family is formed. The film won the Jury Prize of the “Un Certain Regard” section of Cannes 2010. “Octubre” is a New Yorker Films release.
“Outbound” (2010, 87min)
Director: Bogdan George Apetri
Apetri’s “Outbound” is a tense race against time as a young woman, serving a five-year prison sentence for a crime she didn’t commit, attempts to right the wrongs done to her, collect on debts and cleanse herself from her past life after she receives a day pass so that she can attend her mother’s funeral.
“Pariah” (2011, 86min)
Director: Dee Rees
Executive produced by Spike Lee, Rees’ debut feature “Pariah,” is a character study of a seventeen year-old New Yorker (played by Adepero Oduye) whose efforts to explore her lesbian desires are squarely at odd with her middle-class Brooklyn family – and more specifically, her church-going mother (played by Kim Wayans). The film draws an affectionate portrait of a community, one so close everyone knows everyone else’s ‘business’, and dramatizes the longings, disappointments and achievements of a teenager whose ideas of femininity are less traditional than most. A Focus Features release.
“Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure” (2011, 85min)
Director: Matthew Bate
Bate’s documentary “Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure” tells the story of two men who, upon discovering they had rented an apartment next to two men who drank and verbally abused each other every night, decided to record the nightly fights and play them back through their neighbors’ front door. It didn’t quiet the noisy roommates, but somehow the recordings became part of an underground culture that still inspire musicians, poets, graphic artists and disc jockeys.
“Some Days Are Better Than Others” (2010, 93min)
Director: Matt McCormick
McCormick’s debut feature SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS is a poetic character-driven film that asks why the good times slip by so fast while the difficult times seem so sticky. The film follows a trio of stranded characters that seem to be competing for first prize in a Saddest Job in the World contest as McCormick insists on the reality of work, distinctly rebutting the popular image of Portland as a paradise for under-achieving hipsters and the slacker ethos of “the unemployed, blissful lifestyle.”
“Summer of Goliath” (2010, 76min)
Director: Nicolás Pereda
Pereda’s “Summer of Goliath” combines documentary and fiction as it intertwines the stories of people living in a small town in rural Mexico. Those people include: a woman who believes her husband has left her for another woman; her soldier son, who hopes that one day he and his soldier partner will be issued machine guns so that they may intimidate passing motorists; and three brothers whose father left them many years ago in the care of their mother, who can barely support them.
“Tyrannosaur” (2010, 91min)
Director: Paddy Considine
Country: United Kingdom
Actor Considine makes his directorial debut with “Tyrannosaur,” an intense drama about a lonely man with a violent temper and a knack for getting into situations, particularly at pubs, that leave him and others bloody. However, he has a soft spot for a young boy who lives across the street with his feckless mother and her punk boyfriend. Beyond that, he knows better than to seek anyone else’s company until he meets a clerk in a church thrift shop who has some problems of her own. “Tyrannosaur” is a Strand Releasing film.
“El Veldaor” (2011, 72min)
Director: Natalia Almada
Almada’s documentary “El Velador” displays the world of “El Jardin,”, a cemetery in the drug heartland of Mexico. Since the war on drugs began in 2007, the cemetery has doubled in size and some of its mausoleums have been built to resemble gaudy cathedrals, creating a skyline that looks like a fantastical surrealist city more than a resting place for the deceased. The film introduces us to both the lives of the cemetery workers and families of the victims – in the shadow of an increasingly bloody conflict that has claimed nearly 35,000 lives.
“Winter Vacation” (2010, 91min)
Director: Hongqi Li
Hongqi’s “Winter Vacation” is a deadpan comedy about four teenagers during the last day of their winter vacation as they face the prospects of having to return to school and their studies. The kids argue, debate and fight as the clock ticks away on their holiday and they deal with their love lives and question school’s