Ahhh yes, it’s that time of the year, when the early film festivals debut/premiere some of the films that we’ll be talking about later on in the year.
Sundance is done; the Berlin, Pan African and the New Voices In Black Cinema Film Festivals are also done; the South By Southwest Film Festival just shut its doors! And today, March 21, the 41st installment of the New Directors/New Films Film Festival here in New York City, begins!
Can’t you just feel the excitement in the air? I can! :)
Press screenings for ND/NF have been going on for at least a week+ now, but I’ve missed much of it, because I was at SXSW for 6 of those days, and since returning last week, have been really busy with so much else; so if you’re wondering why you haven’t seen any ND/NF 2012 reviews yet, that’s why. I didn’t go to SXSW last year, so I was able to attend press screenings for ND/NF in 2011. Not this year; gotta do something about that timing.
Anyway… the lineup of the New Directors/New Films Film Festival which runs from March 21st though April 1st, includes a number of films we’ve covered quite a bit on this blog (including reviews by yours truly).
Specifically, Terence Nance’s ode to the complexities of love and relationships, An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty, which I saw at Sundance at reviewed enthusiastically; French/Moroccan actor/director Roschdy Zem’s Omar m’a tuer (aka Omar Killed Me) which is based on the real-life trial of Moroccan gardener, Omar Raddad, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the alleged murder of his employer, a wealthy white French widow; Mads Brügger’s The Ambassador, a documentary (or is it a mockumentary) that claimes to expose the “bizarre and hidden world of African diplomacy, where gin and tonics flow and diamond hustlers and corrupt politicians run free” (a film that I was to see at Sunadnce but didn’t get to); and Gimme The Loot, the SXSW-award winning film; Hatian Djinn Carrénard’s guerrilla triptych Donoma; Indonesian actioner The Raid, and more.
29 feature films in total will screen at Nd/NF 2012.
I should note that it was at this festival that I first saw Night Catches Us and Bilal’s Stand, amongst other films in 2010 (both debuted at Sundance that year), and where many New Yorkers first got to see Dee Rees’ Pariah last year (it also debuted at Sundance last year). So it’s like ND/NF is the New York edition of the Sundance Film Festival, without all the pomp and circumstance.
The festival promises a “special surprise screening” as the closing night selection, which won’t be revealed until the day it screens on April 1st. I really wonder what it could be; likely something high-profile, although this is the New Directors/New Films Festival, so it likely won’t be any studio releases. I’m dying to find out.
Tickets have been on sale to the general public since Sunday, March 11, 2012, so pick up yours now if you haven’t already.
New Directors/New Films tickets can be purchased online at newdirectors.org, or in person at the box offices of The Film Society of Lincoln Center (Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th Street, near Amsterdam Avenue) and The Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd Street).
Here’s the full lineup below:
The 41st New Directors/New Films features selections include:
THE AMBASSADOR (Ambassadøren) (2011) 94min
Directed by Mads Brügger
The consummate agent-provocateur–his method fittingly described as “Graham Greene meets Borat”–Brügger (THE RED CHAPEL, NDNF 2010) shocks and mightily entertains by performing an artistic intervention in reality using role-playing and hidden cameras to expose an awful truth about life in central Africa.
BREATHING (Atmen) (2011) 90min
Director: Karl Markovics
The remarkably assured directorial debut from veteran Austrian actor Karl Markovics (THE COUNTERFEITERS) creates a slipstream between the perilousness of youth and the inevitability of death as it tells the story of an inmate at a juvenile detention center whose last hope of parole rests on his ability to hold down a job…as a morgue assistant. A Kino Lorber release.
CRULIC: THE PATH TO BEYOND (2011) 73min
Director: Anca Damian
Anca Damian’s documentary utilizes hand drawn, cutout and collage animation techniques, combined with some very dark humor to create a striking documentary about a young Romanian’s hunger strike in a Polish jail.
DONOMA (2011) 133min
Directed by Djinn Carrénard
Rumored to have been shot for about $200, DONOMA announces the arrival of an intriguing new talent on the French scene, Haitian-born, Paris based Djinn Carrénard. Devised, shot (often guerrilla-style) and edited over a period of years, the film is a choral piece that chronicles the romantic destinies of three women, offering a fresh, funny portrait of an emerging French generation.
FEAR AND DESIRE (1953) 72min
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Directed, photographed, and edited by the talented and ambitious 24-year-old Kubrick, FEAR AND DESIRE was written by his high school classmate, Howard Sackler, who would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize in playwriting. Some Kubrick scholars see this wartime drama of five soldiers behind enemy lines and their encounter with a native woman as a dry run for PATHS OF GLORY; others see it as the original to the second half of FULL METAL JACKET. A Kino Lorber release.
5 BROKEN CAMERAS (2011) 90min
Directors: Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
Emad Burnat’s and Guy Davidi’s documentary began five years ago in the Palestinian town of Bil’in when Burnat bought a camera to record the birth of his son Gibreel. Gibreel’s arrival, however, coincided with a period of great unrest in the area, which is witnessed by five video cameras, each subsequently damaged by bullets or rocks. A Kino Lorber release.
FOUND MEMORIES (Historias Que So Existem Quando Lembradas) (2011) 98min
Director: Julia Murat
The original title, which translates as “stories that only exist when remembered,” beautifully expresses the theme and core sentiment of Julia Murat’s poetic rendering of the fictive town of Jotuomba. A magical confluence of generations and cultures is occasioned by the visit of Rita, a young photographer, to this place where time has seemingly stood still and life is rooted in the fixed roles of tradition soon to be rendered obsolete. A Film Movement release.
GENERATION P (2011) 116min
Director: Victor Ginzburg
Ginzburg’s GENERATION P could be described as a metaphysical Mad Men from the go-go 1990s – a wonderland of images and ideas that emerged from the rebirth of a nation as a marketer’s paradise. The film offers a “view” of post-Communist Russia as the arrival of democracy and Pepsi-Cola brought the advance of capitalism with all of its mechanisms and fuzzy messages.
GIMME THE LOOT (2012) 81min
Director: Adam Leon
In his feature film debut, Adam Leon has created a raucous, car-less road trip that is an homage to street-smart kids and New York City. Malcolm and Sofia, two determined teens from the Bronx, are the ultimate graffiti writers. When their latest masterpiece is wiped out by a rival gang, they must hustle, steal and scheme to get spectacular revenge and become the biggest graffiti writers in the city.
GOODBYE (Bé omid é didar) (2011) 104min
Director: Mohammad Rasoulof.
In his latest film, celebrated Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof creates a dramatic and tense tale set in Tehran, where a young woman is desperately attempting to acquire a visa to leave the country. The beautifully shot film uses the confinement of space to cinematically express claustrophobia, its precise framing catching every subtle expression on the face of the astonishing Leyla Zareh, who plays the disbarred human rights lawyer, Noora, looking for a way out.
HEMEL (2012) 80min
Director: Sacha Polak
Country: The Netherlands/Spain
Sacha Polak’s HEMEL features Hannah Hoekstra as a strong-willed, complicated, and vulnerable heroine who longs (perhaps too much) to connect with her elusive father and ultimately find herself. The film is a powerful investigation of a sexually-empowered woman and her search for physical and intellectual intimacy.
HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE (2012) 109min
Director: David France
David France’s immersive moving-image document chronicling the rise of AIDS activism shows a movement though the lenses of those who captured it firsthand. Desperate people leveraged the skills they had—some wrote, some lobbied, many marched, and all mobilized—to flight a plague that vast swaths of society saw as just punishment for immoral actions. A Sundance Selects release.
HUAN HUAN (2011) 90min
Director: Song Chuan
Song Chuan’s first feature captures the dreams and desires, disappointments and regrets, of a life not fully lived via the title character. In a rural Chinese village, a young woman who is the local doctor’s mistress struggles against her family, government bureaucracy and social mores to move away and create a life for herself.
IT LOOKS PRETTY FROM A DISTANCE (Z daleka widok jest piekny) (2011) 77min
Directors: Anka and Wilhelm Sasnal
Anka and Wilhelm Sasnal’s film is set in a Polish village effectively cut off from civilization, where rough and impassive Pawel makes a living scavenging for scrap metal. There’s bad blood between him and the “community” (a more spiteful collection of individuals would be hard to imagine), and when he goes AWOL his neighbors loot and vandalize his home. What if he returns? A brooding, almost wordless drama vision of a world in an advanced state of entropy.
LAS ACACIAS (2011) 85min
Director: Pablo Giorgelli
One of the discoveries of the 2011 Cannes Critics Week, Pablo Giogelli’s road movie with a difference takes a 900-mile trip from Asunción in Paraguay to Buenos Aires in the company of Rubén, a gruff, taciturn truck driver and the two illegal immigrants—a young woman, and her new-born daughter—he is reluctantly transporting.
Director: Pierre Schöller
Pierre Schöller’s political thriller focuses on a cabinet minister (Olivier Gourmet) in charge of national transportation who believes himself to be a man of the people. He wants both to be and do good, but in order to get anything done he must, given the exigencies of compromise, cajole, bend and even betray.
NEIGHBORING SOUNDS (O som ao redor) (2012) 124min
Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
A thrilling debut from a breakout talent, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s NEIGHBORING SOUNDS delves into the lives of a group of prosperous middle-class families residing on a quiet street, close to a low-income neighborhood. A private security firm hired to police the street becomes the catalyst for an exploration of the neighbors’ discontents and anxieties, which are exacerbated by a palpable sense of unease over their society’s troubled past and present inequities.
NOW, FORAGER (2012) 93min
Directors: Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin
A quiet tale about the search for integrity and the perfect mushroom, Jason Cortlund’s and Julia Halperin’s NOW, FORAGER follows Lucien and Regina, an urban couple living off the land foraging for fungi in upstate New York with a dream of following the seasonal emergence of exotic varieties across the country. That is, until Regina’s decision to take a job in the kitchen of a hip restaurant offers a more solid opportunity, even as it betrays Lucien’s off-the-grid ethos.
OMAR KILLED ME (Omar m’a tuer) (2011) 85min
Director: Roschdy Zem
Actor-turned-director Roschdy Zem’s OMAR KILLED ME tells a story of racism, politics, and injustice with the clarity of a documentary and the pacing of a thriller. When a rich widow was murdered in the south of France 20 years ago, her Moroccan gardener was convicted and jailed with no evidence; it took a committed journalist to try to unravel the rush to judgment that laid bare the racism that was hidden in the French justice system.
OSLO, AUGUST 31ST (2011) 96min
Director: Joachim Trier
Daylight lingers at the end of August in Oslo, but sunlight is not a friend to Anders, a semi-recovered addict, facing a new life, which may not be appealing without former habits. Adapted from the same novel as Louis Malle’s THE FIRE WITHIN (1963), Joachim Trier’s OSLO, AUGUST 31ST follows Anders as he tries to adjust – making love, wandering through Oslo, having a job interview, seeing old friends, and trying to get comfortable with his situation. A Strand Releasing Film.
AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF HER BEAUTY (2011) 95min
Directed by Terence Nance
Frank, funny, and bracingly contemporary, visual artist Terence Nance gleefully bends the cinematic rules for his personal meditation on love in the new millennium with his film, AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF BEAUTY. Passages of live action sequences and direct-to-camera interviews are accented with a wide variety of animation styles as Nance analyzes his amorous history as well as his current circumstances.
PORFIRIO (2011) 101min
Director: Alejandro Landes
Paralyzed from the waist down by a stray police bullet, the title character in Alejandro Landes’ remarkable film spends his days selling minutes on his cell phone when not flirting with his comely neighbor, and secretly plotting his revenge. Landes worked on the film for five years, creating a tale that joined the most intimate details of Porfirio’s day-to-day life with an astonishing re-creation of his attempt to hijack an airplane.
THE RABBI’S CAT (Le chat du rabbin) (2011) 89min
Director: Antoine Delesvaux
Adapted from the graphic novels by Joanne Sfar, THE RABBI’S CAT is a vivid, lively, and imaginative animated film co-directed by Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux . Set in 1920’s Algiers, a widower rabbi lives with his voluptuous and dutiful daughter and their pesky cat who swallows a parakeet and begins to speak, driving everyone crazy and moving the plot ahead by insisting on having a bar-mitzvah.
THE RAID (2011) 100min
Director: Gareth Huw Evans
In Gareth Huw Evans’ sensational thriller, THE RAID, a police SWAT team storms a housing project ruled by gangsters and inhabited by machete-wielding lowlifes—but the mission has been leaked, the tables are turned, and a dwindling band of elite fighters find themselves massively outnumbered in a lethal game of cat and mouse. What ensues is a relentless and savage succession of close-quarters shoot-outs and punishing martial-arts combat sequences, each jaw-dropping smackdown unbelievably topping the previous one. This film is wild! A Sony Pictures Classics release.
ROMANCE JOE (Ro-maen-seu Jo ) (2011) 115min
Director: Lee Kwang-Kuk
Country: South Korea
In his playful first feature, Lee Kwang-Kuk expertly weaves several narrative strands into an elegant web and a meditation on storytelling. A teasing and pleasing portrait of a filmmaker in search of a story to tell, ROMANCE JOE begins as a young, self-possessed barmaid in a remote inn recalls the time she met the title character.
TEDDY BEAR (2012) 92min
Director: Mads Matthiesen
Mads Matthiesen’s character-based and understated comedy, TEDDY BEAR tells the story of a gentle giant of a body builder who self sculpts his muscles by day and lives quietly at home with his mom at night. But at 38, he really wants a proper girlfriend, and despite his mother’s resistance (she is a master of emotional manipulation) and his own profound awkwardness, he draws up the courage to find one–even if he has to leave Denmark to do so.
TWILIGHT PORTRAIT (2011) 105min
Director: Angelina Nikonova
TWILIGHT PORTRAIT is a powerhouse collaboration co-written and co-produced by Angelina Nikonova, who directed, and Olga Dihovichnaya, who stars in this very dark, provocative and constantly surprising debut feature film. In a modern Russian city where corruption, apathy and class warfare are the norm, a woman is raped, rather casually, by the police. What follows explodes the conventions of sexual politics—and will certainly have filmgoers talking.
WHERE DO WE GO NOW? (2010) 100min
Director: Nadine Labaki
Labaki’s film focuses on a group of women of different religions in a remote Lebanese village that band together and invent schemes to prevent their men from killing each other in the intractable religious conflict that surrounds their community. This entertaining and unlikely near-musical tears down stereotypes of women in the Middle East and uses humor to explore serious subjects, with one eye toward Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and the other toward Bollywood. A Sony Pictures Classics Release.
The 41st New Directors/New Films shorts selections include:
PROGRAM 1 (In alphabetical order) 84min
CHICA XX MUJER (2011) 12min
Director: Isabell Šuba
In a country with the highest percentage of cosmetic surgery and beauty queens per capita, a Venezualian girl prepares to be celebrated like a princess on her quinceañera.
THE CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT (Les enfants de la nuit) (2011) 26min
Director: Caroline Deruas
Girl meets boy, the oldest story in the book: but it’s France in 1944, and he’s German.
GIONGO (2011) 8min
Director: Colin Elliott
What did Shakespeare know of love? How many words are there in Japanese for rain? Can anyone really dance the Mashed Potato?
MEANING OF ROBOTS (2011) 4min
Director: Matt Lenski
“I’ve been working on this robot movie… and over the years it developed into a sex movie.” Seriously.
THE ROOM (Soba) (2011) 5min
Director: Ivana Jurić
Stop motion animation explores sensuality and sex through the eyes of a doll.
STREET VENDOR CINEMA (Cine camelô) (2011) 16min
Director: Clarissa Knoll
When a filmmaker and his team set up a shop that makes and sells short films on demand, wild fantasies come to life in the middle of a bustling marketplace.
SUMMIT (2011) 13min
Director: Medeni Griffiths
A chance encounter on a mountain road can lead to friendship and understanding or mistrust and betrayal.
PROGRAM 2 (In alphabetical order) 96min
THE END (2011) 16min
Director: Didier Barcelo
A respected actress’ work gets refurbished.
OH SORROW (Ay pena) (2011) 20min
Director: Elisa Cepedal
When you lose your last connection to the place you once called home, what’s to keep you there?
THE PLAIN (A chjána) (2011) 21min
Director: Jonas Carpignano
Based on real events in Italy, an African immigrant discovers an unexpected cost to his activism.
REVOLUTION REYKJAVIK (2011) 20min
Director: Isold Uggadottir
As Iceland sinks into economic meltdown, 58-year-old Gudfinna tries, against all odds, not to do the same.
ROLLING ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING (2011) 19min
Director: Russell Harbaugh
Two sons become over-protective with their mother at a dinner to celebrate her birthday.