The Film Society of Lincoln Center and The Museum of Modern Art have revealed the complete lineup for the 45th annual New Directors/New Films, which will take place March 16-27. Since 1972, the festival has been an annual rite of early spring in New York City, bringing exciting discoveries from around the world to adventurous moviegoers. Dedicated to the discovery of new works by emerging and dynamic filmmaking talent, this year’s festival will screen 27 features and 10 shorts.
“So much of the conversation about the state of cinema skews negative these days. Think of New Directors/New Films as an antidote to that pessimism,” said Film Society of Lincoln Center Director of Programming Dennis Lim. “This year’s lineup is full of new and emerging voices who are taking big risks and pushing boundaries, often against considerable odds, and rethinking the possibilities of the art form, in ways big and small. If this is even a small glimpse into the future of cinema, there are many reasons to be hopeful.”
Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film at The Museum of Modern Art, said, “Sometimes, especially when the industry faces challenges that risk alienating audiences and emerging voices, it’s important to remember that filmmaking is an art form that has the power to inspire, transport as well as entertain. Only when we are allowed to laugh, cry and think at the same time does cinema reach its full potential. I’m thrilled to say that we’ve found a new group of filmmakers firing on all pistons!”
Opening the festival is Babak Anvari’s debut feature Under the Shadow, about a mother and daughter haunted by a sinister, largely unseen presence during the Iran-Iraq War. Brimming with a mounting sense of dread until its ominous finish, this expertly crafted, politically charged thriller was a breakout hit at Sundance, called “the first great horror movie of the year” (Eric Kohn, Indiewire).
The Closing Night selection is Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson, a remarkable chronicle of the cinematographer-turned-director’s life through her collaborations with documentary icons Laura Poitras, Michael Moore, and others. A self-described memoir, Johnson’s first solo directorial effort examines the delicate, complex relationship between filmmaker and subject and is one of nine festival features and four shorts directed by women.
This year’s slate includes a number of films that have won major awards on the festival circuit, including Josh Kriegman and Elyse Sternberg’s Sundance Grand Jury Prizewinner Weiner; Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Happy Hour, for which the main cast shared Locarno’s Best Actress award; Avishai Sivan’s Tikkun and Pascale Breton’s Suite Armoricaine, winners of the Locarno Special Jury and critics’ prizes, respectively; and Bi Gan’s Kaili Blues, which took home both the Golden Horse Award for Best New Director and Locarno’s honors for Emerging Artist and Best First Feature.
Among the feature debuts are Zhang Hanyi’s Life After Life, executive-produced by Chinese master Jia Zhangke; Anita Rocha da Silveira’s psychosexual coming-of-age story Kill Me Please; Tamer El Said’s Cairo-set film within a film In the Last Days of the City; and Ted Fendt’s Short Stay, the only film in the festival to screen on 35mm.
Previously announced titles include Zhao Liang’s Behemoth, Marcin Wrona’s Demon, Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits, Pietro Marcello’s Lost and Beautiful, Yaelle Kayam’s Mountain, Gabriel Mascaro’s Neon Bull, Raam Reddy’s Thithi, and Clément Cogitore’s The Wakhan Front.
The New Directors/New Films selection committee is made up of members from both presenting organizations: from the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Dennis Lim, Florence Almozini, Marian Masone, and Gavin Smith, and from The Museum of Modern Art, Rajendra Roy, Joshua Siegel, and Sophie Cavoulacos.
Film Society and MoMA members may purchase tickets starting at noon on Monday, February 29. Tickets will be available for purchase by the general public at noon on Friday, March 4. To become a member of the Film Society or MoMA please visit filmlinc.org and MoMA.org, respectively.
Under the Shadow
Babak Anvari, UK/Jordan/Qatar, 2016, 84m
Farsi with English subtitles
It’s eight years into the Iran-Iraq War, but the troubles of wife and mother in Tehran have only just begun. Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is thwarted in her attempts to return to medical school because of past political activities. And as Iraqi bombs close in, her husband is sent off to serve in the military, neighbors begin to flee, and she is left alone with her young daughter, Dorsa, who refuses to be separated from her favorite doll. At first, Dorsa’s tantrums seem to simply be the complaints of a cranky child. But soon she’s in conversation with an invisible woman—no imaginary friend, this one—and the cracks in the walls and ceilings of their apartment could just be the result of something more than air raids. And what is that she sees down the hall, from the corner of her eye? Though Shideh is a woman of science, she begins to suspect that a malevolent spirit, a djinn, is stalking them. A political horror story that rises up from the rubble of war, Babak Anvari’s feature debut boasts a terrific performance by Rashidi as a woman with more than one war going on in her home and in her head, who must save her daughter from dangers both physical and supernatural.
Kirsten Johnson, USA, 2016, 102m
How much of one’s self can be captured in the images shot of and for others? Kirsten Johnson may be a first-time (solo) feature-film director, but her work as a director of photography and camera operator has helped earn her documentary collaborators (Laura Poitras, Michael Moore, Kirby Dick, Barbara Kopple) nearly every accolade and award possible. Recontextualizing the stunning images inside, around, and beyond the works she has shot, Johnson constructs a visceral and vibrant self-portrait of an artist who has traveled the globe, venturing into landscapes and lives that bear the scars of trauma both active and historic. Rigorous yet nimble in its ability to move from heartache to humor, Cameraperson provides an essential lens on the things that make us human.
The Apostate / El apóstata
Federico Veiroj, Spain/France/Uruguay, 2015, 80m
Spanish with English subtitles
With wry humor and deep conviction, Uruguayan filmmaker Federico Veiroj (A Useful Life, ND/NF 2010) observes a young Spaniard’s maddening efforts to abandon the Catholic Church. Petitioning the local bishop in Madrid to hand over his baptismal records, the philosophy student is soon confronted with a stubborn bureaucracy and comically agonized tests of his fidelity and patience. Scenes of pithy theological discussion (performed by the film’s excellent ensemble cast) are interspersed with oneiric flights of imagination, cohering to produce a work that is by turns seriously philosophical and irreverently funny. While Veiroj’s tone may be more gently ironic than that of Luis Buñuel (his spiritual forebear), The Apostate nonetheless traces in bracing fashion the competing forces of conformity and rebellion, spiritual yearning and carnal desire, at war within us all.
Concerning the Bodyguard
Kasra Farahani, USA, 2015, 10m
This stylish adaptation of Donald Barthelme’s story, narrated by Salman Rushdie, takes on the power structures of a dictatorship with brio.
Behemoth / Beixi moshuo
Zhao Liang, China/France, 2015, 91m
Mandarin with English subtitles
Political documentarian Zhao Liang draws inspiration from The Divine Comedy for this simultaneously intoxicating and terrifying glimpse at the ravages wrought upon Inner Mongolia by its coal and iron industries. A poetic voiceover speaks of the insatiability of desire on top of stunning images of landscapes (and their decimation), machines (and their spectacular functions), and people (and the toll of their labor). Interspersed are sublime tableaux of a prone nude body—asleep? just born? dead?—posed against a refracted horizon. A wholly absorbing guided tour of exploding hillsides, dank mine shafts, cacophonous factories, and vacant cities, Behemoth builds upon Zhao’s previous exposés (2009’s Petition, 2007’s Crime and Punishment) by combining his muckraking streak with a painterly vision of a social and ecological nightmare otherwise unfolding out of sight, out of mind. Winner of the environmental Green Drop Award at the Venice Film Festival. North American Premiere
Marcin Wrona, Poland/Israel, 2015, 94m
English, Polish, and Yiddish with English subtitles
Newly arrived from England to marry his fiancée Zaneta, Peter has been given a gift of her family’s ramshackle country house in rural Poland. It’s a total fixer-upper, and while inspecting the premises on the eve of the wedding, he falls into a pile of human remains. The ceremony proceeds, but strange things begin to happen… During the wild reception, Peter begins to come undone, and a dybbuk, that iconic ancient figure from Jewish folklore, takes a toehold in this present-day celebration—for a very particular reason, as it turns out. The final work by Marcin Wrona, who died just as Demon was set to premiere in Poland, is an eerie, richly atmospheric film—part absurdist comedy, part love story—that scares, amuses, and charms in equal measure. Winner of Best Horror Feature at Fantastic Fest. An Orchard release.
Kris Avedisian, USA, 2016, 85m
Trust me, you can’t go home again. Kris Avedisian’s unhinged first feature is a brilliant twist on the family-reunion melodrama and the classic buddy comedy. Returning after 20 years to Warwick, Rhode Island, for his grandmother’s funeral, Peter Latang (Jesse Wakeman), now a slick city financier, has to endure a blast from the past and relive some very cringeworthy moments when hanging out with his former high-school bestie, the obnoxious Donald Treebeck (Avedisian). By turns depressing and funny while subtly shifting our sympathies thanks to sharp dialogue and extremely well-written characters, Donald Cried can perhaps best be summed up as The Color Wheel meets Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Salomé Lamas, Portugal/France, 2016, 125m
Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara with English subtitles
Salomé Lamas’s Eldorado XXI immerses the viewer in the breathtaking views and extreme conditions of La Rinconada in the Peruvian Andes, the highest-elevation permanent human settlement in the world. Here, some 17,000 feet above sea level, miners face misery and lawlessness in the hopes of striking gold, chewing coca leaves to stave off exhaustion. They toil for weeks without pay under the inhumane lottery system known as cachorreo, gambling on an eventual fortune if they can survive the despoiled landscape long enough. Life in this remotest outpost of civilization seems to unfold in the grip of an illusion, and the film itself frequently resembles a hallucination, not least in an extended tour-de-force shot that reveals an endless stream of miners trekking up and down the mountain as we hear radio reports and stories of their daily lives. Full of unforgettable images and sounds, Eldorado XXI is a transporting, fundamentally mysterious experience that renews the possibilities of the ethnographic film. North American Premiere
Evolution / Évolution
Lucile Hadžihalilović, France, 2015, 81m
French with English subtitles
On a remote island, populated solely by women and young boys, 10-year-old Nicolas plays with other children, but not in a carefree manner. And while the women may have maternal instincts, something is awry: they gather on the beach at night for a strange ritual that Nicolas struggles to understand, and the boys are taken to a hospital regularly for mysterious treatments. And water is everywhere. This is the stuff nightmares are made of, and Nicolas appears to be living out one of his own. In the follow-up to her directorial debut, Innocence, Lucile Hadžihalilović continues her exploration of growing up—where we’re going and what we’re leaving behind. As Nicolas discovers more, feelings of fear, melancholy, and also eroticism bubble to the surface. Hadžihalilović has created a dark fantasy that we are invited to explore and make our own discoveries, however macabre they may be. An Alchemy release.