Dedicated to the discovery of new works by emerging and energetic filmmaking gift, this season’s New Directors/New Movies festival will display shorts and features from 29 countries across five continents, together with 10 North American premieres, 13 movies directed or co-directed by girls, and 14 works by first time feature filmmakers.
The opening and closing night selections in this year’s festival attribute Sundance award-winning documentaries, both observing their New York premieres as part of this occasion. Stephen Loveridge’s “Matangi/Maya/M. I.A.,” a romantic long-term look within the life of international rap feeling through her own video diaries, will open the festival, even coming from its World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award at Sundance in January.
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RaMell Ross’s “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” billed as “a visionary and poetic look in resilient African American households at the titular Alabama area,” will close the festival, its second major event after winning the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Spiritual Vision in Sundance.
Currently in its forty-seventh year, ND/NF has played home early movies from such heavy hitters like Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Chantal Akerman, Pedro Almodovar, Richard Linklater, Darren Aronofsky, Christopher Nolan, Laura Poitras, Andrea Arnold, Ben Wheatley and that is only the tip of the talent it has embraced. It is a proving ground — and also you using a established history.
ND/NF runs March 28 — April 8. Ahead, take a look at the 10 titles we’re most excited to check out in this year’s event.
“An Elephant Sitting Still”
The easiest sell in this season’s program (but perhaps the funniest movie to watch), “An Elephant Sitting Still” is impossible to separate from the conditions of its existence. A four-hour epic about a day in the life of a teenage boy who grievously injures his bully, the film is the first feature by 29-year-old Chinese director Hu Bo, and unfortunately also the final — the young filmmaker took his own life shortly after finishing the film. Despite this brief resumé to his title, he is left behind a remarkable legacy. “An Elephant Sitting Still” traces four different characters as their lifestyles criss-cross into an unforgettable mosaic of pain and isolation. —David Ehrlich
“The Great BuddhaFactory”
No, the title isn’t a typo — it’s a reference to a smartphone version, digital camera technologies being in the cold, dark center of Huang Hsin-yao’s morbidly funny fiction introduction. Introducing us into a bored security guard named Pickle along with his very best buddy Belly Button, the film kicks into gear when the two of them begin watching the astonishingly high-quality dash cam footage which Pickle’s boss has saved inside his Mercedes. What begins as a lark quickly gives way to a acidic swirl of high-class shenanigans, as the automobile’s hard drive is concealing all kinds of damning sleaze. Spooky and ridiculous in equal amount, “The Great Buddha+” offers a uniquely 21st century look at the trail that corruption leaves in its aftermath. —DE
Danish thriller “The Guilty,” Gustav Moller’s riveting primary attribute, would do the job just fine as a radio drama. We fulfill 911 operator Asger (Jakob Cedergren) coping with a real-time emergency within his claustrophobic office, juggling calls in real-time as he gets a desperate effort to save many lifestyles. No angel himself, Asger pushes back on the bureaucratic procedure of reporting incidents to shoot a seemingly dire kidnapping situation into his hands with mixed results.
Together with Cedergren’s frenzied performance driving the story forward, “The Guilty” is an economic chamber piece which never slows down, and it’s simply a matter of time until Hollywood snatches up the movie rights. Especially, Asger’s no hero, and he is on shaky ground from the beginning. “The Guilty” is as much about his dire scenario because the one at the other end of the line. –Eric Kohn
“Notes on an Appearance”
ND/NF is often an perfect spot for discoveries, including a great deal of experimental narratives which make up for their lack of commerciality with genuine creative danger. “Notes on an Appearance” is one such example. Ricky D’Ambrose’s second attribute runs a succinct 60 minutes rather than wastes a framework, exploring the quantified story of a cultured young New Yorker called David who immediately vanishes, leaving a streak fragmentary particulars in his wake.
His pals (such as perennial Cartoon confront Keith Poulson) search for him throughout town, while driving the wave of their ephemeral resides in coffee shops and high-minded literary occasions. D’Ambrose imports the accuracy of Robert Bresson into an acerbic, cosmopolitan milieu, causing a fascinating little picture about people trapped by the particulars of daily life and hunting for a bigger image that always eludes them. –EK
Two real life mother-son pairings anchor this function of fiction. Off-camera, teenage celebrity Severine Jonckeere resides at a shelter for single mothers; her young son Ethan performs her character kid. Meanwhile, the writer-director Valérie Massadian appears as a onscreen pal, scenes taken by Massadien’s cameraman son, Mel. The film starts with literary couple — Milla (Jonckeere) and Leo (Luc Chessel) — squatting in a home within the English channel. Preparing for parenthood, Milla loses Leo two: he takes a job on a fishing boat, then perishes in an crash.
Yet instead of surrendering to grief, she begins working at a hotel and wiping out a corner of material domesticity, complete with a scene-stealing kitty. A two-time Locarno International Film Festival prize-winner and 2017 AFI Fest selection, Massadien’s second feature after the well-reviewed “Nana” requires little dialogue, thanks to lush cinematography. “Milla” comes courtesy of Grasshopper Film, the distributor behind a set of recent Academy-feted titles (Documentary Short Subject winner “Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405,” along with Documentary nominee “Last Men at Aleppo”). —Jenna Marotta
Kantemir Balagov’s debut feature film inspired a slew of walkouts as it premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, walkouts motivated not by the old-fashioned Cannes tradition of just not liking a film, but with serious moral reservations using its articles. The film, set in Russia’s North Caucasus, is bleak enough from the get-go, chronicling fraught familial dynamics at a closeknit Jewish clan, that simply get more complicated when among their own are kidnapped and held for ransom ( that they certainly do not possess).
But by its midpoint, its darkness bleeds right into the actual universe, as a group of characters watch real footage from the 1999 Dagestan massacre, including Chechens torturing and cutting down the throats of troops, all caught on video and played onscreen into a mostly unaware audience. Nonetheless, the film was great enough to acquire against the FIPRESCI Award in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar and even testimonials that balk in its content can not help but only outside breakout Darya Zhovner’s riveting performance as the film’s greatest strength. —Kate Erbland
It might not be at the center of the road, but “Our House” sounds worth a trip yet. Yui Kiyohara’s feature introduction takes equivalent inspiration from David Lynch, Jacques Rivette, along with Bach’s fugues — a special mix matched by the film’s odd premise, which concerns parallel tales happening at exactly the exact same house at exactly the exact same time (although not necessarily at exactly the exact same fact). “Our House” previously screened at the Berlinale and, even whether it’s as compelling as it sounds, either it and its director demand focus. –Michael Nordine
The photographer-turned-director behind the stunning “Field Niggas” and who provided the New Orleans documentary vision and songs for Beyonce’s “Lemonade” was exploring and working out his own distinct method to nonfiction filmmaking for the past couple of years and this job is one, large refined step forward. Allah investigates Jamaica, his mother’s home country, as he catches fleeting, poetic moments of a large cross-section of its own citizens to paint a spiritual and nearly musical portrait of this island’s rebellious soul. —Chris O’Falt
“Matangi / MAYA / M.I.A.”
In addition to getting one of the very tongue-twisting titles of this program, this documentary about the musician M.I.A. stems from Sundance through a paper airplane agreeing with controversy. The film pushes beyond the limits of conventional documentary, with intimate video footage shot by the artist himself, awarded title Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam.
Directed by a schoolmate from university, Stephen Loveridge, the film focuses less on the songs and much more on the enigmatic man making it. Back in post-screening talkbacks and interviews throughout Sundance, there was a definite rift between filmmaker and subject, who’s outspoken about regretting handing her over her footage to Loveridge. But she encouraged the film along with him, despite the quantifiable distress between both friends. Keeping this in your mind, “Matangi/Maya/M. I.A.” will be one of the most controversial movies at New Directors/New Movies. Provided that audiences know the entire story, it’s sure to be a fascinating watch. –Jude Dry
Iranian-Canadian filmmaker Sadaf Foroughi was created in Tehran, studied film in France, and currently resides in Montréal. After creating 10 short movies, Foroughi’s debut feature arrives fresh from its TIFF premiere, and after winning Best First Feature in the Canadian Screen awards, the nation’s Oscars. Set in Tehran, “Ava” follows a upper-middle-class teenage girl who dreams of a career as a classical violinist. Adhering to a rigorous daily routine, she begins to feel feel stifled by parents who appear more concerned with social optics than with her joy. As Ava loses trust in the adults around her, and she acts out in much more rebellious techniques could have long term consequences on her life. Foroughi wraps a searing social critique in closely written frames along with a swelling classical score, announcing herself as a vital new cinematic voice. –JD