Ana Lily Amirpour's ND/NF Opening Film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Details of this year's New Directors/New Films festival were unveiled by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and The Museum of Modern Art on Thursday. Opening the 43rd edition of the fest is Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, while Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard's unconventional Nick Cave "documentary" 20,000 Days On Earth will close out the event. In all, 27 international features and 13 shorts will screen at this year's New Directors/New Films, which runs March 19 - 30 and is dedicated to the discovery of new works by emerging filmmaking talent. The lineup will feature three North American and four U.S. Premieres.
A debut at this year's Sundance Film Festival, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a romance-thriller based on a graphic novel by Amirpour. It centers on a young female vampire who stalks the streets of a fictional Iranian ghost town whose inhabitants are unaware they're being stalked by an undead loner. 20,000 Days on Earth, meanwhile, follows a fictitious 24 hours in the life of musical and cultural icon Nick Cave as he is writing his 2013 album Push the Sky Away. The film also debuted at Sundance in January, where it won directing and editing awards in the World Cinema Documentary section.
Obvious Child by Gillian Robespierre is this year's ND/NF Centerpiece selection. Starring Jenny Slate, the film is an uproarious yet thoughtful riff on reproductive rights. The film will have a screening and reception at MoMA PS1 in addition to its showing at Film Society.
"A festival like New Directors/New Films strives to be at once diverse and cohesive," said Dennis Lim, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Director of Programming and co-chair of the 2014 ND/NF selection committee. "This year’s lineup represents a wide range of styles, voices, interests, and points of view, but it also amounts to a statement on what truly matters in world cinema today. These are filmmakers who are breaking new ground or reviving old forms, reinventing genres or inventing them from scratch—all vital and exciting in their own way."
Thrillers, comedy, drama and non-fiction join this year's eclectic lineup. First-time Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent's The Babadook is a smart "things that go-bump-in-the-night" flick about a sinister figure that menaces a mother and son. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, meanwhile, serves up a delirious, blood-splattered haunted-house movie that pays homage to classic Italian horrors.
Locarno International Film Festival Golden Leopard winner Story of My Death by Albert Serra also joins the roster. The costume drama imagines a tussle between two legendary figures, Casanova and Dracula.
Benedikt Erlingsson’s Of Horses and Men is an Icelandic take on the relationship between humans and animals, and Justin Simien’s satirical feature debut Dear White People is a provocative dissection of U.S. race relations, focusing on black students at an Ivy League college and a riot that breaks out over an African-American-themed party.
Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard's ND/NF Closing Night film 20,000 Days On Earth
Emerging filmmakers using documentary to tell compelling stories will again be a major component of ND/NF. Hubert Sauper’s We Come as Friends is a chilling follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Darwin’s Nightmare. The feature is an exploration of modern colonialism that details the absurd horrors in war-torn Sudan. Talal Derki’s Return to Homs, winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance, is an immersive inside account of the Syrian civil war. Told first-hand in a story that is reminiscent of this year's Oscar-nominated The Square, Homs follows two close friends whose lives are altered when their beloved city is bombed into a ghost town. It had its World Premiere at IDFA in November.
Films dealing with personal awakenings include a Cannes favorite set deep in the Texas Bible Belt. Roberto Minervini’s Stop the Pounding Heart centers on a devout Christian goat-farming family and follows Sara and Colby, two 14-year-olds who are quietly drawn to each other. Also exploring adolescent sexuality is Abdellah Taïa’s Salvation Army, a personal film based on his autobiography that offers a bracing, poetic look at a young gay Arab man’s sexual and personal awakening.
"ND/NF has always been proudly committed to international cinema at its most inventive and progressive," said Jytte Jensen, Curator of Film, The Museum of Modern Art and co-chair of the 2014 ND/NF selection committee. "This year's representation of 29 countries in our selection is a testament to that dedication. Whether looking from the ‘outside-in’ on a culture or event or creating their own immersive world for their stories, each film has a personal style and vision that marks its director as an important cinematic storyteller: talented, intrepid, resourceful, and committed."
Tickets go on sale to Film Society and MoMA members Monday, March 3 at noon. General public tickets go on sale Monday, March 10 at noon. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for more ticket information.
The 43rd New Directors/New Films lineup descriptions, and schedule:
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Ana Lily Amirpour, USA, 2014, DCP, 107 min.
This super-stylish and spellbinding Persian take on the vampire genre doubles as a compact metaphor for the current state of Iran. Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature guides us on a dreamlike walk on the wild side, into the nocturnal and sparsely populated underworld of “Bad City,” an Iran of the mind that nevertheless rings true. In a cool and brooding scenario that involves just a handful of characters, an alluring female vampire stalks potential victims with a judgmental eye—but isn’t immune to romantic desire when it presents itself in the form of a young hunk who’s looking for a way out of his dead-end existence. With to-die-for high-contrast black-and-white cinematography and a sexy cast that oozes charisma, horror has seldom seemed so hot.
Persian with English subtitles
Wednesday, March 19, 7:00pm & 8:00pm – MoMA
20,000 Days on Earth (Closing Night)
Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, 2014, U.K., DCP, 95 min.
This unclassifiable immersion in the twilight world of polymath musician Nick Cave is a portrait worthy of a great self-mythologizer. In their feature debut, artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard combine footage of Cave and the Bad Seeds recording their 2013 album Push the Sky Away with alternately telling and teasing scenes that fall somewhere between fact and fiction. As Cave visits a shrink, digs into his archives, and reminisces with friends (like Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue) who pop up in the backseat of his Jaguar, 20,000 Days on Earth evokes Godard’s One Plus One and Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There in its playful deconstruction of stardom and identity. This enthralling film offers a glimpse of an icon at his most exposed, even as it adds another layer to his legend. A Drafthouse Films release.
Sunday, March 30, 7:00pm, 9:30pm – FSLC
Obvious Child (Centerpiece Film)
Gillian Robespierre, USA, 2014, DCP, 83 min.
A girl walks into a bar…and starts telling jokes about her vagina and her boyfriend. But it turns out the joke’s on her: the boyfriend’s been sleeping with her friend, and he takes advantage of her public, extremely off-color verbal antics to dump her. Basting in misery (she’s also about to lose her job) and alcohol (with a gay wing-man on hand to enable her), she attempts to find solace in family, friends, more stand-up, and ultimately a casual hookup. What comes next (no spoilers here) represents a brave new frontier in comedy, and director Gillian Robespierre tackles it head-on, with side splitting results. Truly a “choice” comedy, the film features a star-making lead performance by Jenny Slate, who allows herself to laugh along with the joke called life. An A24 release.
Thursday, March 27, 9:00pm – MoMA PS1
Saturday, March 29, 3:00pm – FSLC
Gillian Robespierre's ND/NF Centerpiece film Obvious Child
Jennifer Kent, Australia, 2014, DCP, 95 min.
Young widow Amelia lives with her seven-year-old son, Samuel, who seems to get odder by the day. His father’s death in an accident when driving Amelia to the hospital to give birth to him may have something to do with the boy’s unnerving behavior, which scares other children and perhaps even his own mother. But when a sinister children’s book called Mister Babadook mysteriously appears—and keeps reappearing—Amelia begins to wonder if there’s a presence in the house more disturbed than her son. Jennifer Kent’s visually stunning debut genuinely frightens us with the revelation that the things that go bump in the night may be buried deep inside our psyches, not just in the basement. An IFC Midnight release.
Satuday, March 22, 9:30pm – FSLC
Sunday, March 23, 9:00pm – MoMA
Joel Potrykus, USA, 2014, HDCam, 97 min.
Winner of the Locarno Film Festival’s 2012 Best Emerging Director award for his debut feature Ape, Joel Potrykus makes a brazen leap forward with his sophomore effort, Buzzard, a darkly comical look at a slacker office temp who gets by on cold SpaghettiOs while getting off on stealing refund checks from his employer. Filmed on a shoestring budget, often guerrilla-style, in the writer-director’s native Grand Rapids and Detroit, Michigan, Buzzard stars an unforgettable Joshua Burge as an angry young man who, through a series of small, increasingly unhinged mutinies, sticks it to corporate America on behalf of the great unsung 99%. Citing Alan Clarke, Jim Jarmusch, Michael Haneke, and Kelly Reichardt among his influences, Potrykus offers a barbaric yawp for truly independent regional American cinema.
Person to Person
Dustin Guy Defa, USA, 2014, HDCam, 18 min.
A man is baffled when he finds a beautiful woman sleeping on his floor the morning after a party—and becomes even more so when she refuses to leave.
Sunday, March 23, 6:15pm – FSLC
Monday, March 24, 8:30pm – MoMA
Dear White People
Justin Simien, USA, 2014, DCP, 108 min.
Welcome to Winchester University where, in the name of diversity, the all-black residence hall Parker/Armstrong is about to be dismantled. In the middle of an Ivy League campus, all racial hell breaks loose: Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) uses her campus radio show to call out the administration as well as her fellow students, while Afroed geek Lionel (Tyler James Williams) writes for the all-white college newspaper hoping to expose hypocrisy campus-wide. No one is safe in the culture wars that follow. In his feature debut, Justin Simien riffs on groundbreaking films of the black experience of a generation ago (yes, really) to playfully explore the gray areas of race in America, and his satirical take challenges our ideas of identity in our supposed post-racial world.
Friday, March 21, 9:00pm – FSLC
Sunday, March 23, 6:00pm – MoMA
Richard Ayoade, U.K., 2013, DCP, 93 min.
Richard Ayoade has built a loyal following with his hilariously “off” characters, notably the one he plays in the TV series The IT Crowd and those that inhabit his 2010 directorial debut, Submarine. His cerebral, visually arresting follow-up, The Double, based on Dostoevsky’s 1846 novella, enters slightly darker territory, and recalls the stylizations of Terry Gilliam. Starring Jesse Eisenberg as both Simon James, a humdrum worker drone, and his gregarious doppelgänger, James Simon, the film is set within both the claustrophobic confines of Simon’s bureaucratic workplace and his paranoid mind. Aided by a stellar supporting cast (including Wallace Shawn, Mia Wasikowska, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, and Chris O’Dowd), The Double firmly establishes Ayoade as a leading voice in contemporary cinematic comedy. A Magnolia Pictures release.
Monday, March 24, 9:00pm – FSLC
Saturday, March 29, 6:30pm – MoMA
Fish & Cat (North American Premiere)
Shahram Mokri, Iran, 2013, DCP, 134 min.
A bold experiment in perpetual motion with an enigmatic time-warp narrative, Fish & Cat plays out as one continuous shot, with the camera moving among a host of characters at a remote forest and a nearby lake. Gradually subverting a gruesome premise drawn from a real-life case of a backwoods restaurant that served human flesh, the film builds an atmosphere of tension as a menacing pair descend on a campsite where a group of college kids have gathered for a kite-flying festival. But as the camera doubles back and crisscrosses between characters in real time, subtle space-time paradoxes suggest that something bigger is going on. Brilliantly sustained, Fish & Cat is further evidence of a new generation of filmmakers emerging in Iran.
Persian with English subtitles
Thursday, March 27, 6:00pm – MoMA
Friday, March 28, 9:00pm – FSLC
Shahram Mokri's Fish & Cat
History of Fear (Historia del miedo) - North American Premiere
Benjamín Naishtat, Argentina/Uruguay/France/Germany/Qatar, 2014, DCP, 79 min.
How strong does a fence need to be, or how loud must an alarm blare, or how brightly should an open field be lit for us to feel safe? The impossibility of a definitive answer to these kinds of questions lies at the heart of Benjamín Naishtat’s unsettling feature debut. Set in an economically destabilized Argentina, the film weaves stories of characters from multiple social strata into an interlocking narrative of paranoia and fear. The isolation of wealth and detachment from neighbors causes insecurities to fester, feeding a “security consumption” culture and all its incumbent paraphernalia. As we begin to recognize and sympathize with the situations depicted, the most troubling realization of all arrives: we are doing it to ourselves.
Spanish with English subtitles
Friday, March 21, 9:00pm – MoMA
Sunday, March 23, 9:15pm – FSLC
The Japanese Dog
Tudor Cristian Jurgiu, Romania, 2013, DCP, 86 min.
Offering a striking departure from the gallows humor of the Romanian New Wave, Jurgiu’s Chekhovian The Japanese Dog instead pays loving homage to the tender and gently comical family dramas of Yasujiro Ozu, Late Spring and There Was a Father in particular. Victor Rebengiuc, a legendary veteran of stage and screen, imbues the elderly Costache Moldu with a stoic, yet fragile dignity as he reunites with his estranged son after losing his wife and home in a devastating flood. Exquisitely attuned to the rhythms of nature and rural life—and the melancholy beauty of transient things—The Japanese Dog comes by its emotions honestly and poignantly.
Romanian with English subtitles
Friday, March 21, 6:30pm – FSLC
Sunday, March 23, 1:00pm – MoMA
Mouton (Sheep) - U.S. Premiere
Gilles Deroo & Marianne Pistone, France, 2013, DCP, 100 min.
Mouton (“Sheep”) is the nickname of Aurelien (David Mérabet), who at 17 is granted independence from his troubled family and goes off to live on his own in a seaside town. Hired as a chef’s assistant, Sheep fits in well with his coworkers and makes new friends. Life is finally good. Shot in 16mm, Gilles Deroo and Marianne Pistone’s first feature studies the quotidian aspects of Mouton’s life through his eyes as well as those of the town’s residents. Though fiction, the story is filmed as if it were a cinéma vérité documentary, the camera wandering from scene to scene, character to character. And just when audiences get into the groove of this town, something happens that changes things irrevocably. So two acts, not equally divided, bring us closer to the reality of living than many other films do, simply through small moments and gestures. Winner of two prizes at the Locarno Film Festival, Mouton is a lovely evocation of the pleasures and pain of small-town existence.
French with English subtitles
Thursday, March 20, 9:00pm – MoMA
Saturday, March 22, 6:30pm – FSLC
Of Horses and Men
Benedikt Erlingsson, Iceland/Germany, 2013, DCP, 80 min.
The debut feature by celebrated stage director Benedikt Erlingsson announces the arrival of an innovative new cinematic voice. Set almost exclusively outdoors amid stunning Icelandic landscapes, the film features in equal parts a cast of exquisite short-legged Icelandic horses and human characters—including the terrific Ingvar E. Sigurdsson and Charlotte Bøving as meant-for-each-other but put-upon lovers—illuminating with great inventive flair the relationship between man and beast. Several narrative strands defined by the way each character relates to their horse recount a variety of situations according to the particulars of the seasons, resulting in a surprising and sometimes humorous symbiosis between horses, humans, and nature.
Icelandic, Swedish, Spanish, Russian, and English with English subtitles
Saturday, March 22, 6:15pm – MoMA
Monday, March 24, 6:30pm – FSLC
Quod Erat Demonstrandum (North American Premiere)
Andrei Gruzsniczki, Romania, 2013, DCP, 107 min.
Romania, mid-1980s. Sorin (Sorin Leoveanu), a gifted mathematician whose career advancement is blocked because he is not a member of the Communist party, comes to the attention of the security services after he secretly arranges for an academic paper on his new theorem to be published in an American journal. With practiced insidiousness, the Securitate start their investigation, led by Voican (Florin Piersic, Jr.), who sets about pressuring Sorin’s friends and colleagues to inform on him. Making a strong and engrossing addition to a body of films from the New Romanian Cinema that delve into the years of dictatorship, Andrei Gruzsniczki’s low-key but quietly tense drama of compromise and betrayal re-creates the period with painstaking accuracy and captures both the atmosphere of mistrustful cautiousness and resigned discontent of its populace and the petty banality of the regime’s methods of surveillance and control.
Romanian with English subtitles
Thursday, March 20, 9:00pm – FSLC
Saturday, March 22, 3:30pm – MoMA
Return to Homs
Talal Derki, Syria/Germany, 2013, DCP, 90 min.
As immersive a documentary of active war as has ever been made, this unsparing account of the struggle for Homs follows—from August 2011 to August 2013—two close friends whose lives are completely altered when their beloved city is bombed into a ghost town. We witness Basset, a charismatic 19-year-old soccer player and iconic performer of protest songs, and Ossama, a 24-year-old media activist who captures the revolution with his camera, transform from peaceful protesters to armed resistance fighters. Derki’s camera, placed inside bombed-out buildings, records insurgents defending their city under siege as battles intensify, panicked civilians run for shelter, and a rising number of comrades are injured or killed. The soundtrack features Basset’s songs interrupted by gunfire and the occasional comment from the director. The images speak for themselves.
Arabic with English subtitles
Tuesday, March 25, 6:15pm – MoMA
Wednesday, March 26, 9:00pm – FSLC
Talal Derki's Return to Homs
Salvation Army (L’Armée du salut)
Abdellah Taïa, France/Morocco/Switzerland, 2013, DCP, 81 min.
Like the book it’s based on—Abdellah Taïa’s own 2006 landmark novel—the Moroccan author’s directorial debut is a bracing, deeply personal account of a young gay man’s awakening that avoids both cliché and the trappings of autobiography. First seen as a 15-year-old, Abdellah (Saïd Mrini) habitually sneaks away from his family’s crowded Casablanca home to engage in sexual trysts with random men in abandoned buildings. A decade later, we find Abdellah (now played by Karim Ait M’hand) on scholarship in Geneva, involved with an older Swiss professor (Frédéric Landenberg). With a clear-eyed approach, devoid of sentimentality, this wholly surprising bildungsfilm explores what it means to be an outsider, and with the help of renowned cinematographer Agnès Godard, Taïa finds a film language all his own: at once rigorous and poetic, worthy of Bresson in its concreteness and lucidity.
Thursday, March 27, 6:30pm – FSLC
Friday, March 28, 6:15pm – MoMA
Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza, Italy/France, 2013, DCP, 104 min.
In their supremely assured debut feature, writer-directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza breathe new life into the time-honored genre of the Mafia thriller. While hunting down a rival who has ordered a hit on him, the titular gangster (a smoldering Saleh Bakri) invades a Palermo home, only to discover his prey’s blind sister, Rita (Sara Serraiocco), in the basement. The nail-biting, magnificently orchestrated game of cat-and-mouse that ensues, with its evocative use of sound, darkness, and offscreen space, sets the tone for the rest of this richly atmospheric work. When Rita’s sight is restored—from shock or perhaps some kind of miracle—Salvo is left to determine the fate of his prisoner turned love interest. Winner of the top two prizes at the 2013 Cannes Critics’ Week, Salvo tweaks the conventions of its genre without betraying them and, in the grand tradition of Jean-Pierre Melville, wrings blindsiding depths of emotion from the sparest of means. A Film Movement release.
Saturday, March 29, 9:00pm – MoMA
Sunday, March 30, 4:00pm – FSLC
She’s Lost Control
Anja Marquardt, 2014, USA, DCP, 90 min.
In a world of increasing layers between people, intimacy is perhaps the most elusive ingredient of human interaction. A person can either take the plunge and emotionally connect with their OS (à la Spike Jonze’s Her) or, in the case of She’s Lost Control, psychotherapists can refer patients to sex surrogates. Engaging in that line of work, NYC-based Ronah (fearlessly played by Brooke Bloom) puts to use her considerable psych-studies experience, as well as her natural solicitous warmth, to engage in close but professional relationships. Until, that is, she meets Johnny, and her already fraying control dissolves the thin line between professional and personal intimacy. First-time feature director Anja Marquardt, however, never loses control, delivering a stylish, deeply unnerving, and profound film on an intangible modern issue.
Saturday, March 29, 9:00pm – FSLC
Sunday, March 30, 4:30pm – MoMA
A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness
Ben Rivers & Ben Russell, Estonia/France, 2013, DCP, 98 min.
As collaborators, Ben Rivers and Ben Russell, two intrepid and nomadic talents of experimental film and art, have created one of the most bewitching cinematic experiences to come along in a great while. In A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, Robert A.A. Lowe, the celebrated musician behind Lichens and Om, gives a strangely affecting, perhaps even trance-inducing performance as the film’s Parsifal figure, a quixotic man who embarks on a quest for utopia—the holy grail of infinite truth, self-knowledge, and spiritual connectedness. He finds some measure of it in three seemingly disparate contexts: in a small collective community on a remote Estonian island, in isolation in the northern Finnish wilderness, and onstage fronting a black metal band in Norway. While his experience seems to be a perpetual one of home, exile, and return, for us, it is purely magical. A KimStim release.
Saturday, March 22, 9:00pm – MoMA
Tuesday, March 25, 6:30pm – FSLC
Stop the Pounding Heart (U.S. Premiere)
Roberto Minervini, Belgium/Italy/USA, 2013, DCP, 100 min.
Sara (Sara Carlson, playing herself) is part of a devout Christian goat-farming family with 12 children, all home-schooled and raised with strict moral guidance from the Scriptures. Set in a rural community that has remained isolated from technological advances and lifestyle influence—no phones, TVs, computers, or drunken-teen brawls—the subtly narrative film follows Sara and Colby, two 14-year-olds with vastly different backgrounds who are quietly drawn to each other. In Minervini’s intimate documentary-style portrait—the third in the Italian-born filmmaker’s Texas trilogy—Sara’s commitment to her faith is never questioned. It’s the power of the director’s nonintrusive handheld-camera style that reveals his protagonist’s spiritual and emotional inner turmoil about her place in a faith that requires women to be subservient to their fathers before becoming their husbands’ helpers. By also presenting an authentic, impartial portrayal of the Texas Bible Belt, Minervini allows humanity and complexity behind the stereotypes to show through.
Friday, March 21, 6:15pm – MoMA
Sunday, March 23, 3:30pm – FSLC
Justin Simien's Dear White People
Story of My Death (Història de la meva mort) - U.S. Premiere
Albert Serra, Spain/France, 2013, 35mm, 148 min.
No one else working in movies today makes anything remotely like the Catalan maverick Albert Serra, a cerebral oddball and improbable master of cinematic antiquity. Known for his unconventional adaptations of Cervantes’s Don Quixote (Honor of the Knights) and the Biblical parable of the Three Kings (Birdsong), Serra here stages the 18th-century passage from rationalism to romanticism as a tussle between two figures of legend, Casanova and Dracula. Against a backdrop of candlelit conversation and earthy carnality, Serra sets in motion contrasting ideas about pleasure and desire, alternating between winding philosophical dialogue and wordless passages of savage beauty. Winner of the top prize at the 2013 Locarno Film Festival, the film is both a painterly feast for the eyes, abounding with art-historical allusions, and an idiosyncratic, self-aware revamping of the costume melodrama.
Catalan with English subtitles
Wednesday, March 26, 9:00pm – MoMA
Saturday, March 29, 5:30pm – FSLC
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, Belgium/France/Luxembourg, 2013, DCP, 102 min.
Deepening and amplifying their super-fetishistic remix of Italian giallo and horror tropes in Amer (ND/NF 2010), Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani here create a delirious and increasingly baroque pastiche of the trance film and cinéma fantastique—and then push it to breaking point. Returning home from a business trip, Dan (Klaus Tange) finds that his wife has disappeared. When the police are of no help, he begins to obsessively investigate their singular and increasingly surreal art deco apartment building in search of clues to her whereabouts. Traditional narrative dissolves into mise en abyme in this kaleidoscopic, vertiginous adventure in sound and image, sadism and eroticism, and the real and the imagined. The unwary may be shaken up by the Belgian duo’s overpowering and percussive stylistic shocks, but in this haunted-house movie, one thing’s for sure: the eyes have it. A Strand Releasing release.
French and Dutch with English subtitles
Friday, March 28, 9:00pm – MoMA
Sunday, March 30, 1:15pm – FSLC
The Strange Little Cat (Das merkwürdige Kätzchen)
Ramon Zürcher, Germany, 2013, DCP, 72 min.
In the hands of masters like Jacques Tati, Lucrecia Martel, and Chantal Akerman, cinema that at first appears to merely observe and record is in fact masking intricately constructed commentaries, built from seemingly mundane experiences. In the case of The Strange Little Cat, an extended family-dinner gathering becomes an exquisitely layered confection ready for writer-director Ramon Zürcher’s razor-sharp slicing. A mother, desperately trying not to implode, and her youngest daughter, who explodes constantly, form the poles between which sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, cats and cousins weave in and around each other in the tight domestic space of a middle-class Berlin flat. Fans of Béla Tarr and Franz Kafka will find much to love, as will devotees of the Berlin School, of which this film represents a third-generation evolution. This comedic examination of the everyday has been captivating audiences since its premiere at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival. A KimStim release.
German with English subtitles
Tuesday, March 25, 9:00pm – MoMA
Wednesday, March 26, 6:30pm – FSLC
To Kill a Man
Alejandro Fernández Almendras, Chile/France, 2014, DCP, 82 min.
Bullying is a phenomenon that doesn’t just take place in the schoolyard. In Alejandro Almendras’s raw, unnerving psychological thriller, bullies and their victims live side by side in a working-class neighborhood. Passive Jorge tries to ignore the cruel taunting of some local thugs who would be considered juvenile delinquents if they weren’t full-grown adults. But when the worst of the bunch steals Jorge’s insulin syringe, and his son winds up in the hospital with a gunshot wound after attempting to get it back, Jorge and his wife seek redress legally—to no avail. The family is humiliated again and again, and when his teenage daughter is sexually threatened, Jorge, pushed over the edge, decides to take matters into his own hands. A Film Movement release.
Spanish with English subtitles
Thursday, March 20, 6:30pm – FSLC
Sunday, March 23, 3:30pm – MoMA
Trap Street (Shuiyin Jie)
Vivian Qu, China, 2013, DCP, 94 min.
Notions of surveillance and observation are turned inside out in Trap Street, producer Vivian Qu’s first turn as a director. While surveying city streets for a digital-mapping company, engineer Qiuming catches sight of Lifen, a beautiful young woman. Immediately smitten, he follows her to a street that doesn’t appear on any map or even a GPS. In between his other gigs—installing security cameras, sweeping hotel rooms for electronic bugs—he tries to get to know this alluring stranger. And he does—sort of. But as he tries to learn more about her, events take on disturbing overtones, and the mystery, as well as the paranoia, deepens from there. Noir in tone, and a great representation of the newest generation of Chinese filmmakers, Trap Street is a bold story of who is really watching who that, while firmly embedded in the current cultural context of China, could happen to any one of us.
Mandarin with English subtitles
Friday, March 28, 6:30pm – FSLC
Saturday, March 29, 4:00pm – MoMA
Jessica Oreck's The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga
The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga
Jessica Oreck, USA/Russia/Ukraine/Poland, 2013, HDCam, 73 min.
Deep in the forest, wedged in cracks in the bark and under moss-covered rocks, memories and myths are hidden. These subconscious tales and reminiscences, drawn from the natural world, inform the societies we build. Jessica Oreck’s fantastical work combines animation, traditional storytelling, and contemporary nonfiction filmmaking styles to recount the Slavic folktale of the frightful Baba Yaga, a witch said to live in a woodland hut perched on chicken legs who roasts her guests for dinner. But as modern conflicts and scourges encroached, and their refugees fled to the forest, the implications of her presence began to shift. An impressive contemporary allegory on progress, the past, and the power of nature.
Saturday, March 22, 1:30pm – FSLC
Monday, March 24, 6:15pm – MoMA
We Come as Friends
Hubert Sauper, France/Austria, 2014, DCP, 110 min.
Hubert Sauper’s masterful exploration of modern colonialism, with war-ravaged Sudan as a focus, offers devastating insights into the most premeditated, casually insidious ways of taking possession of Africa today. The scenarios of clueless Texan missionaries, shallow UN case workers, and Chinese oil-company CEOs living in gated communities while polluting the local drinking water are like a collage of postcards from hell. It takes a particularly gifted filmmaker to construct from these horrors something that can also engage one’s sense of beauty; with an air of science fiction aided by otherworldly scenes captured from the self-manufactured flying machine in which Sauper and his co-pilot arrive in Africa, the documentarian has created an indelible and righteously alarming second film in a planned trilogy that began with the Oscar-nominated Darwin’s Nightmare.
English, Chinese, Arabic, Ma’di, and Toposa with English subtitles
Thursday, March 20, 6:15pm – MoMA
Saturday, March 22, 3:45pm – FSLC
Youth (U.S. Premiere)
Tom Shoval, Israel/Germany, 2013, DCP, 107 min.
Tom Shoval’s gripping, haunting feature debut depicts the ill-advised kidnapping scheme of two Israeli brothers (real-life siblings Eitan and David Cunio) from preparation to aftermath. With their father’s unemployment threatening the stability of their comfortable middle-class existence, older brother Yaki takes advantage of his recently acquired assault rifle, courtesy of his compulsory military service, to put into action a plan inspired equally by desperation and a lifelong diet of violent mainstream American cinema. But the brothers might have bitten off more than they can chew: it’s Shabbat, and their victim’s wealthy orthodox family won’t pick up the phone to take the ransom call. This sharply observed study of familial attachment and fraternal psychology broadens into a tough-minded generational portrait that subtly addresses many aspects of contemporary Israeli life, from the role of the military to the recent economic protests to the enduring fault lines of class and gender.
Hebrew with English subtitles
Shlomo X (שלמה איקס)
Ruth Patir, Israel, 2013, HDCam, 9 min.
A car mechanic is at the nexus between fictional and real-life stories.
Tuesday, March 25, 9:15pm – FSLC
Wednesday, March 26, 6:00pm – MoMA
ND/NF Shorts Program 1 (76 min.)
At the Door (An den Tür)
Miriam Bliese, Germany, 2013, DCP, 5 min.
A divorced couple rediscovers a long-lost intimacy via an apartment-building intercom.
German with English subtitles
You Can’t Do Everything at Once, But You Can Leave Everything at Once (Man kann nicht alles auf einmal tun, aber man kann alles auf einmal lassen)
Marie-Elsa Sgualdo, Switzerland, 2013, DCP, 15 min.
Archival footage stands in for childhood memories, with family history unfolding like a tall tale.
French with English subtitles
Face in the Crowd
Alex Prager, USA, 2013, HDCam, 12 min.
Characters appearing in intimate interviews and ethereal crowd scenes seem both anonymous and oddly familiar.
Frances Bodomo, USA, 2014, HDCam, 14 min.
The story of the first Afronaut, a 17-year-old Zambian girl training for a moon launch.
The Island (La isla)
Dominga Sotomayor and Katarzyna Klimkiewicz, Chile/Poland/Denmark, 2013, DCP, 30 min.
The mood of a family gathering on a beautiful island darkens when one of the guests fails to show up.
Spanish with English subtitles
Saturday, March 22, 1:00pm – MoMA
Sunday, March 23, 1:15pm – FSLC
Benjamín Naishtat's History of Fear.
ND/NF Shorts Program 2 (72 min.)
Matias Umpierrez, Argentina, 2013, DCP, 13 min.
In the aftermath of tragedy, a woman seeks solace in nature.
Spanish with English subtitles
The Wild (Wildnis)
Helena Wittmann, Germany, 2013, DCP, 12 min.
The quiet home of an elderly couple comes alive through projections of animals-in-the-wild footage shot by the husband.
German with English subtitles
Dania Reymond, France/Taiwan, 2012, HDCam, 9 min.
An unlikely collision of animation, the Arctic, and Antonioni.
Bunun with English subtitles
Xacio Baño, Spain, 2012, DCP, 7 min.
A young man assembles fragments of his mother’s life.
Galician with English subtitles
Sarah-Violet Bliss, USA, 2013, HDCam, 2 min.
A mother and daughter come home to a disturbing surprise.
The Reaper (La Parka)
Gabriel Serra, Mexico, 2013, DCP, 29 min.
An exploration of a man’s relationship with death, and what one must do to live.
Spanish with English subtitles
Saturday, March 29, 12:30pm at FSLC
Sunday, March 30, 2:00pm at MoMA
Tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday, March 10 at noon. 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 (W. 65th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue) and The Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd Street). There is an advance ticketing opportunity for members of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Museum of Modern Art. Film Society and MoMA Members may purchase tickets starting on Monday, March 3 at noon. To become a Member of the Film Society or MoMA please visit: FilmLinc.com and MoMA.org respectively.
Tickets are $15, $12 for members of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Museum of Modern Art. Tickets for Opening Night, Centerpiece, and Closing Night screenings are $20, $15 for members. Save with a 3-film package: $36, $30 for members! Note: Opening Night, Centerpiece, and Closing Night screenings excluded. Package option applies to the purchase of three films or more; minimum purchase requirement of three films.