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NYFF Spotlight: The Loneliest Planet

Film: The Loneliest Planet
Director: Julia Loktev
Program: Main Slate
Tickets: Oct 1, Oct 4

Why you should see it:
Acclaimed artist and filmmaker Julia Loktev is back with her second fiction feature, an intimate relationship film starring Gael García Bernal and Hani Furstenberg as young fiancés backpacking through the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia. The two characters are joined by a mountaineer (Bidzina Gujabidze), forming a trio that quietly treks across dramatic landscapes, where there is just as much said as left unsaid. Loktev dramatically expands her scope with The Loneliest Planet and in the gorgeously filmed mountains has found the perfect setting for isolated, at times suffocating drama.

Track record:
2011: Locarno Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival

About the director:
Originally from Russia, Julia Loktev grew up in the United States and studied film at NYU. Her first film was the documentary Moment of Impact (1998), which focused on the consequences of a near-fatal car accident that her father suffered. Her first fiction feature, Day Night Day Night (ND/NF 2007), told the story of a young woman who planned to become a suicide bomber in Times Square. Loktev has also shown work at international art museums including the Tate Modern and P.S.1 and was recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

In an interview with indieWIRE, Loktev explained that the setting of Georgia for The Loneliest Planet was influenced by her Russian background: “For me, it’s a very intimate thing. I’m from the Soviet Union and Georgia was the jewel of the Soviet Union. It’s where my parents traveled to when they were young. My mom hiked for three weeks across the Caucases when she was in university. The place had a mythical proportion in my mind, so it made sense to set it in Georgia.” 

Loktev will take part in the HBO Films® Directors Dialogues on Sunday, October 2. 

What the critics are saying:
"Initially a simple portrait of the playful interactions between a young couple and their guide as they hike through the wilderness, The Loneliest Planet evolves into a riveting drama pregnant with high stakes emotion and profound themes." Mike Goodridge, Screen Daily

Calling The Loneliest Planet a "powerful, exquisitely lensed third feature," Leslie Felperin of Variety wrote: "As with her previous film, "Day Night Day Night," Loktev withholds vital information here about her characters' inner thoughts, a strategy that will provoke passionate arguments over post-screening drinks, perhaps enhancing word of mouth."

"Broadening her storytelling canvas, Loktev displays a strong narrative kinship with Kelly Reichardt. Savants of slow cinema, these filmmakers relish the challenge of allowing evocative stories to emerge from their environments in an organic fashion. It’s not just meant as a stamina test; they create the palpable, occasionally haunting sense that while life may amble along, it always has a destination." Eric Kohn, indieWIRE

What the NYFF programmers say:
"This is a really lovely film that in a way one would call minimalist, but on the other hand that would miss the extraordinary richness that’s happening all around you. It’s a very subtle film. Hani Furstenburg and the Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal are an American couple about to be wed, who are taking a pre-nuptial trip to the Caucusus in Central Asia, in the country of Georgia. They’re simply hiking around there, taking in the incredible landscapes, but gradually it becomes very much a film about their relationship, as it's revealed with subtle gestures and little remarks. There’s one incident that suddenly puts their relationship very much in focus, and then after that film is an attempt to work out that incident, each one responding to it in their own way. Some people might say, ‘well, not much seems to happen’ - perhaps, if you’re not really watching. But if you are, an enormous amount is happening every moment. And I think Loktev gets two incredible performances from these actors, three actors actually because there’s a Georgian mountain guide who’s with them who’s also quite wonderful. I think it’s a great find and we’re pleased to have it." —Richard Peña, Program Director

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