MoMA’s Department of Film, in collaboration with Independent Film Project and Filmmaker Magazine, will screen the five nominees competing for the Gotham Awards’ Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You title. This year’s screenings, running November 16-19, include David Zellner’s “Kid Thing,” Terence Nance’s “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty,” Alex Karpovsky’s “Red Flag,” Amy Seimetz’ “Sun Don’t Shine” and Frank V. Ross’ “Tiger Tail in Blue.”
The nominees were selected by Filmmaker’s editorial staff and MoMA associate film curator Joshua Siegel. The films represent a sampling of the best currently undistributed works from the American festival circuit. The winner gets the sweet deal of a $15K grant, ad support in the New York Times and a one-week run of his or her film at Cinema Village.
Descriptions of the five nominated films:
Director: David Zellner
The Zellner Brothers have been making loopy yet emotionally piercing independent films for years, but the bizarre and haunting Kid-Thing contains a new level of gravity. Ten-year-old Annie is left by absent parents to her own devices in rural Texas, filling her days with random moments of solitary vandalism. One afternoon, from a hole in the ground, she hears the voice of an old woman trapped in an underground well. Unsure of whether she’s the devil or just someone who might like a PB&J—to say nothing of a ladder—Annie finds herself thrust into an unexpected metaphysical crisis.
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
Director: Terence Nance
Nance’s inventive and charming An Oversimplification of her Beauty defies easy categorization. Using documentary footage, animation, and Nance’s own hypnotic score, it playfully ponders, reenacts, and explodes the director’s own unrequited love affair, even drafting in Nance’s would-be paramour as co-star. Formally audacious, utterly sincere, and impossibly cool, Oversimplification yokes themes of romantic indecision and interpersonal communication in the digital age to larger dialogues about the nature of memory and the meaning of life.
Director: Alex Karpovsky
The version of himself that Karpovsky plays in his laugh-out-loud comedy Red Flag is an even more hilarious reinvention of the filmmaker-actor’s inimitable on-screen persona—familiar from his comic turns in Lena Dunham’s Girls and Tiny Furniture, and in Madeleine Olnek’s Co-Dependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (a Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You nominee in 2011). Newly single thanks to his aversion to marriage, Karpovsky embarks on a road trip throughout the American south to screen his second feature Woodpecker at college campuses and indie cinemas. He conscripts his reluctant friend Henry to go along for the ride (Onur Tukel, all shaggy-dog warmth). Inevitably, they get mixed up in series of madcap misadventures, including Karpovsky’s one-night stand with a congenial stalker. Gleefully indulging the myriad indignities of a life in microbudget cinema, Karpovsky’s self-deprecating star turn and docu-fictional style transcend the very limitations the movie spends much of its time sending up. 84 min.
Sun Don’t Shine
Director: Amy Seimetz
Combine Bonnie and Clyde, Wanda, Badlands, Panic in Needle Park and True Romance, then throw them all into the steamy backwoods of the Florida Everglades, and you’ll have a taste of what’s going on in Sun Don’t Shine, Seimetz’s plaintive ballad of doomed lovers veering off the blacktop. Leo and Crystal are drifters in a desperate embrace, running from something awful, with something even worse hidden in the trunk of their car. Inspired by 1970s American cinema, Seimetz relishes the overwrought pleasures of genre filmmaking while capturing something authentic and romantic along the way.
Tiger Tail in Blue
Director: Frank V. Ross
A subtle and affecting naturalistic drama, this sixth feature by Chicago-based mumblecore writer-director Ross focuses on a recently married couple—Chris (played by Ross himself), an aspiring writer who waits tables at night, and Melody (Rebecca Spence), a high school teacher—whose conflicting work schedules keep them apart. Chris finds a more palpable kinship, and glimmering sexual tension, with Brandy (Mercier), a sassy restaurant colleague. Shot by Mike Gibisser (the director of the excellent but little seen Finally, Lillian and Dan), this is a beautifully calibrated piece of observational cinema that is emotionally compelling without ever imposing itself upon the viewer.