×
Back to IndieWire

New Directors/New Films 2019 Full Lineup: ‘Clemency,’ ‘Monos,’ ‘Share,’ and More Festival Hits — Exclusive

The annual New York City event will play home to a number of festival favorites, including Chinonye Chukwu’s Sundance winner.

Clemency

“Clemency”

NEON

The Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center has revealed the complete lineup for the 48th annual New Directors/New Films (ND/NF), running March 27 – April 7 in New York City. Throughout its rich, nearly half-century history, the festival has celebrated filmmakers who represent the present and anticipate the future of cinema, daring artists whose work pushes the envelope in unexpected ways.

This year’s lineup boasts 35 features and shorts from 29 countries across four continents, with 10 North American Premieres and two World Premieres, 15 films directed or co-directed by women, and 11 works by first-time feature filmmakers.

The Opening, Closing, and Centerpiece selections are the New York premieres of three Sundance award winners: opening the festival is Chinonye Chukwu’s “Clemency,” which won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and features a masterful performance from Alfre Woodard as a prison warden struggling with her work; Centerpiece is Alejandro Landes’ “Monos,” a new reimagining of “Lord of the Flies” and winner of a World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize; and closing ND/NF is Pippa Bianco’s “Share,” a contemporary portrait of a sexual assault victim, which took home U.S. Dramatic prizes for Breakthrough Performance and Screenwriting.

Other standouts include Yeo Siew Hua’s “A Land Imagined,” cinematographer Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s feature directorial debut “Manta Ray,” Shengze Zhu’s “Present.Perfect.,” and Luke Lorentzen’s doc about family-run ambulances, “Midnight Family” (which recently won a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography).

“Demanding our attention and exemplifying the vitality of contemporary cinema, this year’s class of emerging directors is one of the most courageous in years,” said Rajendra Roy, the Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film at The Museum of Modern Art, in an official statement. “Ready to investigate the deepest pain as well as celebrate profound humanity, these filmmakers are the brave new champions of our beloved artform.”

Added Film Society Director of Programming Dennis Lim, “Spanning the globe and a wide spectrum of styles and concerns, the bold and brilliant films in this year’s New Directors lineup are collective proof that cinema is still as supple a medium as ever.”

The New Directors/New Films selection committee is made up of members from both presenting organizations. The 2019 feature committee was comprised of Rajendra Roy (Co-Chair, MoMA), Dennis Lim (Co-Chair, FSLC), Josh Siegel (MoMA), Florence Almozini (FSLC), La Frances Hui (MoMA), and Dan Sullivan (FSLC), and the shorts were programmed by Brittany Shaw (MoMA) and Tyler Wilson (FSLC).

Check out the full list of films playing at New Directors/New Films, with all synopses provided by the festival.

Opening Night
“Clemency,” Chinonye Chukwu, USA, 2019, 113m
Winner of the Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Chinonye Chukwu’s sophomore feature is an enthralling drama anchored by a powerhouse performance from the great Alfre Woodard. Bernadine (Woodard) is a prison warden whose psychic toll has been wrought by years working on death row, and which has caused tensions with her husband Jonathan (Wendell Pierce). After a harrowing botched procedure, her growing investment in the inmate who is next to be executed, Anthony (a mesmerizing Aldis Hodge), encourages her to take a long overdue look in the mirror… “Clemency” is an immersive, atmospheric film as well as a haunting, tough-minded inquiry into the dignity of work and the morality of capital punishment.

Centerpiece
“Monos,” Alejandro Landes, Colombia/Argentina/Netherlands/Germany/Sweden/Uruguay, 2018, 102m
English and Spanish with English subtitles
Monos, which won a Special Jury Award at Sundance is sure to be one of the most hotly debated films of 2019—one critic called it “Apocalypse Now on shrooms.” In Alejandro Landes’s intensely thrilling twist on Lord of the Flies, Julianne Nicholson plays a terrorized American engineer held captive by teenage guerilla bandits in an unnamed South American jungle. Leaderless and rootless, the child soldiers puff themselves up with names like Rambo, Smurf, and Bigfoot (the latter a brutal Moises Arias), and survive the tedium and predation of the wilderness through sexual games and cult-like rituals. As they wage physical and psychological warfare on perceived enemies—and, inevitably, among themselves—they are reduced to a state of desperate barbarism. The film’s sense of surreal menace is amplified by Mica Levi’s discordant soundscape and Jasper Wolf’s cinematography.

Closing Night
“Share,” Pippa Bianco, USA, 2019, 87m
A double prizewinner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Pippa Bianco’s unnerving feature debut is a profound and powerful examination of sexual assault and the increasingly volatile role the Internet plays in contemporary American society. Sixteen-year-old Mandy (a brilliant Rhianne Barreto) wakes up on her parents’ lawn with no recollection of where she’s been or how she got there. She is soon shown a cell-phone video in which she is undressed by a stranger while passed out at a party; the uncertainty of whatever followed (and produced the large bruise on her back) weighs on her as she struggles to figure out what to do next. A stylistically assured, engrossing mystery with real political and moral stakes, Share establishes Bianco as a bold and incisive new voice in American cinema. An HBO Films/A24 release.

Rhianne Barreto appears in Shareby Pippa Bianco, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Josh JohnsonAll photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Share”

Picasa

“All Good / Alles ist Gut,” Eva Trobisch, Germany, 2018, 90m
German with English subtitles
Eva Trobisch’s poised and formally restrained feature directorial debut poses questions about how one can resist victimization following sexual assault. Does one attempt to move past it or confront the crime and trauma head on? Aenne Schwarz (Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe) delivers a gut-wrenching performance as a woman trying to stay composed as she deals with the aftermath of a nightmarish evening that leaves an unerasable scar and affects all aspects of her life. This Best First Feature winner from the Locarno Film Festival puts on raw display a woman’s fight for her own dignity and sanity. A Netflix release.

“Angelo,” Markus Schleinzer, Austria/Luxembourg, 2018, 111m
French and German with English subtitles
Based on historical fact, Angelo charts the career of an African slave sold into 18th-century Viennese court society. Captured as a young boy, Angelo becomes the pet project of a wealthy countess (Alba Rohrwacher), who carries out what she believes is her Christian duty to civilize him. As the years progress, Angelo rises to become her surrogate prodigal son and the beloved Court Moor of the Habsburg empire: the projection of every European fantasy of the noble savage. When an astonishing secret is exposed, Angelo is banished, leading to a horrifying, dehumanizing fate. Markus Schleinzer traces Angelo’s life with a clinical sobriety, but also with an artifice (painted sets, blackface, exoticizing costumes and dioramas, sudden contemporary intrusions) that serves to reinforce the idea of race as a persistent prejudicial construct.

“Bait,” Mark Jenkin, UK, 2019, 99m
North American Premiere
A celebration of cinema as a physical medium, this delirious whatsit from Cornish director Mark Jenkin is quite unlike any feature film you’re likely to see this year. Martin (Edward Rowe) is a cove fisherman whose brother has started using their father’s boat to shuttle tourists, soon causing latent familial tensions—not to mention antagonisms between tourists and locals—to explode in ever-surprising fashion. Shot on tactile hand-processed black-and-white 16mm and unfolding with the staccato rhythms of avant-garde cinema, Bait marks a singular achievement: an idiosyncratic work of social realism fascinatingly pitched somewhere between documentary and political melodrama.

“Belonging,” Burak Cevik, Turkey, 2019, 72m
Turkish with English subtitles
North American Premiere
A murder investigation is flipped inside out in Burak Cevik’s second feature, a spellbinding and surprising work that questions whether we can ever truly understand criminal motives. We begin in the present, as two young murder suspects give statements to the police, their voices accompanying hauntingly vacant images of urban alienation and garish city lights; we then flash back to witness the first encounter between the two suspects, their mutual attraction and world-weariness emerging across a sleepless night and morning after. Cevik imbues the proceedings with a stylistic confidence and willingness to bend the conventions of cinematic form to arrive at a complex, gripping double meditation on love and death.

“The Chambermaid,” Lila Avilés, Mexico, 2018, 102m
Spanish with English subtitles
In her feature debut, theater director Lila Avilés turns the monotonous workday of Eve (Gabriela Cartol), a chambermaid at a high-end Mexico City hotel, into a beautifully observed film of rich detail. Set entirely in this alienating environment, with extended scenes taking place in the guest rooms, hallways, and cleaning facilities, this minimalist yet sumptuous movie brings to the fore Eve’s hopes, dreams, and desires. As with Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA, set in the same city, The Chambermaid salutes the invisible women caretakers who are the hardworking backbone of society. A Kino Lorber release.

“End of the Century,” Lucio Castro, Argentina, 2019, 84m
Spanish with English subtitles
World Premiere
An Argentinian man from New York and a Spanish man from Berlin hook up by chance while in Barcelona. What seems like a one-night encounter between two strangers (played by Juan Barberini and Ramón Pujol) becomes an epic, decades-spanning relationship, which Lucio Castro depicts in a nonlinear fashion, and in which time and space refuse to play by the rules. Castro’s inventive and enigmatic debut feature is consistently surprising, turning a love story into a cosmic voyage with no clear beginning or end.

“A Family Submerged,” María Alché, Argentina/Norway/Germany/Brazil, 2018, 91m
Spanish with English Subtitles
Best known for her mesmerizingly obsessive performance in Lucrecia Martel’s The Holy Girl, the Argentine writer-director-photographer María Alché proves with A Family Submerged that she’s also a talent to reckon with behind the camera. Her debut film evokes the interior life of a middle-aged wife and mother of three (Mercedes Moran) who’s set adrift by the death of her sister. Though there are shades of Martel in Alché’s disorienting use of sound and fragmented narrative, the film’s hallucinatory mood and dreamlike interweaving of memory and experience  are entirely her own. The passage of light itself—whether gently filtered through curtains or nakedly harsh—plays a central role in the family drama; in this, Alché benefited from the great cinematographer Hélène Louvart, who has also helped realize the visions of such auteurs as Agnès Varda, Wim Wenders, and Claire Denis.

monos sundance

“Monos”

“Fausto,” Andrea Bussmann, Mexico/Canada, 2018, 70m
Spanish, English, French, and Arabic with English subtitles
The legend of Faust mingles with local folklore in Andrea Bussmann’s strikingly original shape-shifter, which dissolves the boundaries between reality and myth, fiction and documentary, and the visible and invisible. Filmed on Mexico’s Oaxacan coast, Bussmann’s film introduces a host of Faustian characters whose interactions effectively exhume a history of colonization marked by magic and oppression alike. Full of aesthetic surprises—textured, low-light cinematography and unexpected combinations of sound and image—Fausto is a rich and beguiling investigation into the role that fiction plays in the construction of history.

“Genesis,” Philippe Lesage, Canada, 2018, 130m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Following his autobiographical 2015 narrative debut The Demons, Philippe Lesage continues to chronicle the life of young Felix (Édouard Tremblay-Grenier), now diverging to capture the romantic trials and tribulations of two Quebecois teen siblings. While the charismatic, Salinger-reading Guillaume (Théodore Pellerin) wrestles with his sexual identity at his all-boys boarding school, the more ostensibly grown-up Charlotte (Noée Abita) discovers the casual cruelty of the adult world that awaits her post-graduation. Lesage and his young actors depict the aches of becoming oneself with nuance, honesty, and compassion, and the result is one of the most beautiful coming-of-age stories in years.

“Honeyland,” Tamara Kotevska & Ljubomir Stefanov, Macedonia, 2019, 85m
Turkish with English subtitles
In an abandoned Macedonian village, Hatidze tends to her precious bee colonies while also caring for her ailing elderly mother in their candlelit stone hut. The delicious, curative honey that Hatidze produces, known for miles around, is a labor of love, borne of patient sensitivity to the seasonal rhythms of nature and to the needs of her beehives. Suddenly, Hatidze’s life is upended by the invasion of thankless new neighbors: a clueless mother and a comically abusive father, with seven squalling, foulmouthed children; 150 head of cattle; and predatory bee colony in tow. Winner of this year’s World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Honeyland is an evocative, often outrageously funny modern-day parable of the Good Samaritan. A NEON release.

“Joy,” Sudabeh Mortezai, Austria, 2018, 99m
English, Nigerian Pidgin, and German with English subtitles
A staggering work of compassionate realism, Sudabeh Mortezai’s second fiction feature follows Joy (Joy Anwulika Alphonsus), a young Nigerian sex worker living in Vienna, struggling to simultaneously create a better life for her family and pay off her madame. Joy finds herself increasingly implicated in the vicious cycle of human trafficking, and when she is tasked by her madame with mentoring a teenage Nigerian girl, she begins to understand her role within this dehumanizing machine and consider the possibility of a life outside of it. Sensitive yet unsentimental, intelligent and viscerally affecting, Joy is a politically incisive work and a moral act. A Netflix release.

“A Land Imagined,” Yeo Siew Hua, France/Netherlands/Singapore, 2018, 95m
English, Mandarin, and Bengali with English subtitles
Winner of the top prize at last year’s Locarno Film Festival, Yeo Siew Hua’s third feature is a clever, evocative shape-shifter that begins as a kind of dreamy noir and ends up a sober, politically incisive work of social realism. First we follow gruff, disenchanted detective Lok (Peter Yu) as he searches for Wang (Liu Xiaoyi), a missing construction worker from mainland China. We’re then ushered back in time to see Wang’s life before his disappearance—and what had seemed a typical noir scenario instead turns out to be far more in line with reality as we know it today. A Netflix release.

“The Load,” Ognjen Glavonić, Serbia/France/Croatia/Iran/Qatar, 2018, 98m
Serbian with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Ognjen Glavonić’s wintry road movie concerns a truck driver (Leon Lucev) tasked with transporting mysterious cargo across a scorched landscape from Kosovo to Belgrade during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. A companion piece to the director’s 2016 documentary Depth Two, The Load is a work of enveloping atmosphere that puts a politically charged twist on the highway thrillers it recalls: Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear and Williams Friedkin’s retelling, Sorcerer. The streamlined premise gives way to a slow-dawning reckoning, in which implications of guilt and complicity slowly but surely sink in. A Grasshopper Film release.

“Long Way Home / Temporada,” André Novais Oliveira, Brazil, 2018, 113m
Portuguese with English subtitles
The everyday takes on a profound and touching resonance in André Novais Oliveira’s sophomore feature. Juliana (an excellent Grace Passô) moves from her Brazilian hometown of Itaúnas to the larger and more sprawling Contagem to take a job within a public-health program combating the spread of dengue fever. While waiting for her husband to join her, she sets about making the rounds, inspecting people’s homes for mosquito hiding places and becoming acquainted with a new cast of characters who will lead her to look beyond her past and toward an uncertain future. A deft and deeply felt character study, Long Way Home establishes Oliveira as a great emerging talent of contemporary Brazilian cinema.

"Midnight Family"

“Midnight Family”

Submarine

“Manta Ray,” Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, Thailand/France/China, 2018, 105m
Thai with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
An impressive feature directorial debut by veteran cinematographer Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, this mysterious, intoxicating work centers on the friendship between a fisherman and the mute refugee he rescues from a swamp. After the fisherman disappears at sea, the refugee’s mourning is interrupted by the return of the fisherman’s ex-wife, and sure enough, the past bleeds inexorably into the present. A visionary take on the refugee parable, in which mystical elements disrupt the drudgery of everyday life, Manta Ray won the Orizzonti Prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival.

“Midnight Family,” Luke Lorentzen, Mexico/USA, 2019, 81m
Spanish with English subtitles
In Mexico City, there are fewer than 45 government-run ambulances to serve the city’s population of nine million. Filling the void are family-run private “operations” (often little more than a single, beaten-down van), who race to the scene of an accident or a crime while also dodging police shakedowns, cutthroat competitors, and standstill traffic. Arguably the most exhilarating documentary to come out of Sundance this year, Midnight Family follows the Ochoa family—the gruff but compassionate Fer and his two underage sons, Juan and Josué—at intensely close range on these Sisyphean missions of mercy. Though their wages of fear bring the scarcest of financial rewards, the Ochoas persevere, knowing they alone can save the girl with the traumatic brain injury or the teenage victim of domestic abuse from tragic ends.

“MS Slavic 7,” Sofia Bohdanowicz & Deragh Campbell, Canada, 2019, 64m
North American Premiere
In Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell’s clever comedy, a young woman (Campbell, a wryly hilarious leading lady) tasked with executing the estate of her great-grandmother, a renowned Polish poet, takes a trip to Harvard University to research a correspondence between her deceased relative and another poet who seems to have been her lover. What initially seems a purely scholarly investigation into her family’s literary history proves a lightning rod for the various disputes, resentments, and tensions bound up in the business of enhancing a family member’s legacy. Bohdanowicz and Campbell push the narrative in ever-amusing directions without relinquishing artistic restraint and delicacy of touch.

Screening with:

“The Plagiarist / Les idées s’améliorent,” Léo Richard, France, 2018, 22m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
A young researcher, whose job involves assigning a peculiar kind of metadata to randomly generated media, delves deeply into researching an elusive image.

“The Plagiarists,” Peter Parlow, USA, 2019, 76m
North American Premiere
Co-written by experimental filmmakers James N. Kienitz Wilkins and Robin Schavoir, The Plagiarists is at once a hilarious send-up of low-budget American indie filmmaking and a probing inquiry into race, relationships, and the social uncanny. A young novelist (Lucy Kaminsky) and her cinematographer boyfriend (Eamon Monaghan) are waylaid by a snowstorm on their way to visit a friend in upstate New York and are taken in by the kindly yet enigmatic Clip (Michael “Clip” Payne of Parliament Funkadelic), who puts them up for the night. But an accidental discovery months later recasts in an unnerving light what had seemed like an agreeable evening, stoking resentments both latent and not-so-latent. Exhilaratingly intelligent and distinctively shot on a vintage TV-news camera, The Plagiarists is a work whose provocations are inseparable from its pleasures.

Screening with:

“Levittown,” Nelson Bourrec Carter, USA/France, 2018, 13m
U.S. Premiere
The lull of a prototypical American suburb turns nightmarish while a man recites lines of dialogue that sound oddly familiar.

“Present.Perfect.,” Shengze Zhu, USA/Hong Kong, 2019, 124m
Mandarin with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Shengze Zhu’s third feature shines a light on the curious world of live streaming, a singularly contemporary form of human connection and commerce wherein “anchors” document their lives and interact with a virtual audience. Cobbled together from 800 hours of live-streaming footage, Present.Perfect. advances a fascinating documentary portrait of Chinese society by focusing on the most marginalized of these anchors: a chain-smoking burn victim, an uncoordinated street dancer, a man with growth-hormone deficiency, a cattle farm worker, and many others. What emerges is an indelible vision of the world we live in today, when the boundaries between the real and the virtual have never been more porous.

“Sauvage / Wild,” Camille Vidal-Naquet, France, 2018, 99m
French with English subtitles
Seething with a feral energy that masks genuine tenderness, Camille Vidal-Naquet’s feature debut took the 2018 Critics’ Week at Cannes by storm. Anchored by a piercing, peripatetic lead performance by Félix Maritaud, Sauvage makes vivid a gay street hustler’s knife’s-edge existence. Both brutal and brutalized, sweet and savage, Maritaud’s prostitute roams from john to john in search of a fix (in the form of sex, drugs, and possibly even love), desperate for both intimacy and freedom, destabilized but ultimately resilient. The intimacies of male bodies both connected and colliding is sensitively captured by cinematographer Jacques Girault, guided by Vidal-Naquet’s assured direction. A Strand Releasing release.

“The Plagiarists”

“Suburban Birds,” Qiu Sheng, China, 2018, 118m
Mandarin with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Qiu Sheng’s feature debut is an entrancing, enigmatic work in which multiple plotlines run tantalizingly in parallel before intersecting in surprising ways. In one, a team of surveyors tries to figure out why a suburban landscape seems to be subsiding before construction on a new transit begins, sparking politically charged tensions among the group. Meanwhile, a gang of children loiter and set out on youthful adventures, until one of them disappears… Adopting a subtly radical approach to exploring memory (and forgetting) and rich with visual ideas, Suburban Birds promises a major new voice in Chinese cinema. A Cinema Guild release.

Shorts Programs

Program 1 (TRT: 94m)

“Big Bridge / La máxima longitud de un puente,” Simón Vélez López, Colombia/Argentina, 2018, 14m
Spanish with English subtitles
North American Premiere
After a daring dive in Colombia’s Cauca River, a young man steals a motorcycle to take his girlfriend for a ride in this subdued yet mesmerizing work.

“Hector Malot: The Last Day of the Year / Ektoras Malo: I Teleftea Mera Tis Chronias,” Jacqueline Lentzou, Greece, 2018, 23m
Greek with English subtitles
A young woman spends New Year’s Eve reflecting on a foreboding dream in this wistful portrait of loneliness and alienation. Winner of the Leica Cine Discovery Prize at the 57th Cannes Critics’ Week.

“Misericórdia,” Xavier Marrades, Brazil/Spain, 2019, 21m
Portuguese with English subtitles
World Premiere
Filmed around Brazil’s Itaparica Island, this oneiric documentary evokes the rich, complicated ancestry of Bahia—considered the African heart of Brazil—through the dreams of its present-day inhabitants.

“A Million Years,” Danech San, Cambodia, 2018, 21m
Khmer with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Combining naturalism and dreamy stylization, this intoxicating, personal film follows a man and a woman as they wander through a rainforest.

“Echoes / Resonancias,” Lucila Mariani, Argentina, 2019, 15m
Spanish with English subtitles
North American premiere
In this ruminative snapshot, a swimmer with a clogged ear finds herself drawn back to the sea.

Program 2 (TRT: 79m)

“The Golden Legend / Leyenda dorada,” Chema García Ibarra & Ion de Sosa, Spain, 2019, 11m
Spanish with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
This sunlit, mystical hybrid offers a unique glimpse of a summer’s day at Montánchez’s public swimming pool.

“Past Perfect,” Jorge Jácome, Portugal, 2019, 23m
English subtitles
North American Premiere
In this humor-laced essay film about nostalgia, a silent unseen narrator negotiates a distinct kind of yearning for the past with a present-day melancholia.

“Altiplano,” Malena Szlam, Chile/Argentina/Canada, 2018, 35mm, 16m
U.S. Premiere
A mountainous landscape is rendered in vibrant, flickering color, creating an otherworldly study of Earth while recalling a ruthless planet that existed before humankind.

“America,” Garrett Bradley, USA, 2019, 29m
Inspired by the recent release of Lime Kiln Field Day, a once-lost feature film from 1913 featuring a predominantly black cast, America masterfully captures moments of black artistry in sublime black-and-white 35mm.

Popular on Indiewire

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged ,


Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox

Newswire