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The Reeler Blog

New Directors/New Films Stays Close to Home

Melissa Leo in Frozen River the opening night selection of this year's New Directors/New Films (Photo: Frozen River Pictures)

By S.T. VanAirsdale

The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Museum of Modern Art this morning announced the line-up for the 37th edition of New Directors/New Films, and they didn't have to look very far for a good chunk of their selections. New Yorker Courtney Hunt's Sundance-winning Frozen River -- adapted from a short that screened at the 2004 New York Film Festival -- will open the festival March 26 at MoMA, with fellow locals Azazel Jacobs (Momma's Man), Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer), Michelange Quay (Eat, For This is My Body), Jackie Reem Salloum (Slingshot Hip Hop), Godfrey Cheshire (Moving Midway), Emily Hubley (The Toe Tactic), Lee Isaac Chung (Munyurangabo), Tia Lessin and Carl Deal (Trouble the Water), Myna Joseph (Man) and Patty Chang and David Kelley (Flotsam Jetsam) joining her through April 6.

Other notable Sundance alums include Lance Hammer's sensation Ballast and Daniel Robin's Jury Prize-winning short my olympic summer, while international selections range from Constantina Voulgaris' offbeat dramedy Valse Sentimentale to Lucía Puenzo's hermaphrodite saga XXY to the Korean horror opus Epitaph and way beyond. The programmers are also welcoming back ND/NF alums including Charles Burnett, Lodge Kerrigan, Gregg Araki, Todd Solondz and Kevin Smith for revivals of their films screened here and at the NYFF; a Mar. 30 panel discussion featuring Kerrigan, Su Friedrich, Michael Almereyda, Tamara Jenkins and others will track the trajectory of ND/NF's legacy over the last two decades.

Follow the jump for the full program; tickets go on sale March 7 at MoMA and the Walter Reade Theater box office as well as at the Film Society's Web site.

OPENING NIGHT

Frozen River
Courtney, Hunt, US, 2007; 97m
Wed Mar 26: 7:00pm (The Museum of Modern Art)
Thu Mar 27: 6:15pm (Walter Reade Theater)

In awarding Courtney Hunt the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, Quentin Tarantino said of her debut feature, “It put my heart in a vise and proceeded to twist that vise until the last frame.” That’s pretty significant praise from a filmmaker whose work is as hyperbolic as Hunt’s is restrained. But like her supporter, Hunt packs a wallop. Two women in upstate New York—one recently left with two sons to raise, the other a widow on the Mohawk reservation straddling the U.S./Canadian border—need money fast, and they become unlikely, uneasy and even unwilling partners in a perilous and illegal enterprise. In portraying women determined not go over the edge, Melissa Leo (Detective Howard in television’s Homicide) and Misty Upham give exquisite, hard-edged and vulnerable performances. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

Ballast
Lance Hammer, US, 2007; 96m
Sat Mar 29: 8:00pm (MoMA)
Sun Mar 30: 3:00pm (WRT)

A man’s suicide irrevocably alters the already fraught relationship of three people in a rural Mississippi Delta township. First-time director Lance Hammer sensitively traces the innumerable ways one radical act affects life’s larger issues and daily details for those left behind. Nonprofessionals all, the three main actors’ nuanced performances accentuate the tentative ties that uneasily bind together a solitary bachelor, his brother’s embittered ex-girlfriend and her troubled 12-year-old son. The slow-burn trajectory of this story gradually unfolds, anchored in psychological truth and the authenticity of locale. Improvising scenes with his actors, Hammer makes his debut with a strong emotional impact. His is a distinct and courageous new voice in American cinema. An IFC First Take release.


Correction
Thanos Anastopoulos, Greece, 2007; 83m
Thu Apr 3: 6:15pm (WRT)
Sat Apr 5: 6:00pm (MoMA)

Referencing Ulysses’s mythic meandering and the contemporary realities of immigration, xenophobia and hooliganism, director Thanos Anastopoulos crafts a subtle yet haunting portrait of a broken man. Yorgos, released from prison, wanders Athens from the half-way house to places that seem familiar to him, yet remain as enigmatic as his past. A woman and her daughter are objects of his fascination, but it is unclear if they are his estranged family, strangers stalked by a predator or merely cohabitants of a conflict-ridden society. Winner or the Best Screenplay award at the 48th Thessaloniki International Film Festival, the film is a journey through urban chaos and decay that mirrors the brave inner search for national identity and responsibility.



Eat, for This Is My Body

Michelange Quay, Haiti/France, 2007; 105m
Thu Mar 27: 9:00pm (MoMA)
Sat Mar 29: 3:30pm (WRT)

Michelange Quay’s extraordinary first feature invites us to abandon the rules of traditional storytelling and embrace a poetic cinematic language uniquely his own, as was evident in his ferocious short The Gospel Of The Creole Pig (ND/NF 2004). This seductive and radical film begins with a breathtaking aerial traveling shot over a tropical island where nature’s bounty vies with images of poverty and suffering. A woman with a huge belly undergoes a difficult birth; the sound of a rushing waterfall quells her plaintive cries. A voodoo ceremony erupts with fervor. A white woman serves an imaginary dinner to a group of black boys forced to reiterate “merci.” Vibrant musical sequences give way to contemplative tableaux of sexual ambiguity. More than playing the race card, Quay reflects on the political and sexual politics of a country with a stormy past and an uncertain future in a film you are not likely to forget.


Epitaph
Jung Bum-Sik and Jung Sik, South Korea, 2007; 98m
Sat Apr 5: 8:30pm (MoMA)
Sun Apr 6: 7:00pm (WRT)

“K” horror rules, as powerfully evidenced by this sensational debut feature by South Korea's Jung Brothers. The impending demolition of a hospital conjures up memories of inexplicable events for one doctor. In the first episode, the doctor, then a young intern assigned to the morgue during World War II, feels that a beautiful corpse is beckoning him to join her in the beyond. In the second, the sole survivor of a car crash can't shake the presence of those who perished. In the final episode, a man feels his overworked doctor wife is drifting away—but he's shocked to discover how far. Visually inventive and full of narrative twists and turns, Epitaph has more than enough chills for fans of the genre while offering a provocative meditation on the idea of haunting in recent Korean cinema. A TLA Releasing Release.


Falling from Earth

Chadi Zeneddine, Lebanon/France, 2007; 65m

SCREENING WITH

Cinema Mundial (1958-2007)
Carles Ascensio, Spain, 2007; 21m
Tue Apr 1: 6:15pm (WRT)
Wed Apr 2: 8:45pm (MoMA)

A true cinema poet, Chadi Zeneddine’s poignantly surrealist debut film pays tribute to four lonely people trying to survive their own private wars in Beirut. These seamlessly woven chapters each reflect their own particular time and place. In 1958, a solitary little girl exchanges her world of toys and make-believe for a camera that captures the harsher reality outside. In 1975, a security official grieving over the loss of a loved one finds solace in the graffiti he reads and scrawls in a men’s room. In 1982, a woman dances and weeps, waiting in vain for a missing lover. And in the present, Joussef has a magical encounter. Falling From Earth is a moving elegy for a lost homeland from a director whose talent and sensitivity imbue every frame.

Cinema Mundial (1958-2007)
: Carles Ascensio’s featurette about a film theater in Madrid is seen through the eyes of projectionists and the theater’s disillusioned owner. A collection of nostalgic images about the tactile joys of handling film become a passionate ode to cinema.


Foster Child
Brillante Mendoza, Philippines, 2007; 98m

SCREENING WITH

The Wind’s Stories
Javier Beltran Ramos, Venezuela, 2007; 12m
Wed Apr 2: 6:15pm (WRT)
Thu Apr 3: 8:45pm (MoMA)

International adoption has become international big business; every year, hundreds of thousands of children move from their native lands in the poor, developing world to what are assumed will be more advantageous homes far, far away. In the Philippines, John-John is a mischievous tyke who has been under the foster care of Thelma and her family for most of his three years. Hard-working and respected in her field, Thelma—Foster Mother of the Year, several times—must prepare John-John today to meet the American couple that is going to adopt him. Brillante Mendoza’s heart-rending Foster Child is a powerful look at the end of the baby business cycle, and a cool and sober study that avoids sensationalism but never lets you forget the emotional toll the adoption business takes on all of these characters.

The Wind’s Stories: A young boy living with his family on a remote farm grasps the connection between nature and nurture in the course of a typical day in Javier Beltran Ramos’s lyrical idyll in which only the sound of the wind punctuates the silence.


La France
Serge Bozon, France, 2007; 102m
Fri Apr 4: 8:45pm (WRT)
Sat Apr 5: 3:15pm (MoMA)

It’s the fall of 1917 and war is raging across Europe. Far from the conflict, Camille spends her time awaiting news of her husband, who is at the front. One day she receives a note from him ending their relationship. Distraught, she disguises herself as a man and goes to the front to find him. On the way, she encounters a small band of soldiers as they trudge through a war-torn countryside that is a no man’s land in more ways than one. Traveling in the shadows of the war, these soldiers add to the surreal quality of their trek by breaking into song and playing homemade folk instruments. Only as the men discover Camille’s true identity does Camille realize the soldiers have secrets of their own. Director Serge Bozon, who won the Prix Jean Vigo for this first feature, has fashioned a truly original war film that has aspects of an eerie fairytale. With Sylvie Testud as Camille and Pascal Greggory as the leader of the rag tag regiment.


Japan Japan
Lior Shamriz, Israel, 2007; 65m

SCREENING WITH

Camels Drink Water
Nathalie Djurberg, US, 2007; 4m
Fri Mar 28: 8:45pm (MoMA)
Sun Mar 30: 8:00pm (WRT)

A young man adrift and in search of stimulation leaves his small-town home and moves to the fertile sexual terrain of the big city. Director Lior Shamriz takes this age-old scenario and updates it for an era when the unimagined limits of adventurousness arrive and dissolve at light speed online. His hero, Imri, unable to concentrate on the frivolity of a pointless job, cruises cinemas for boys, chills with aspiring artists and surfs the Web for fantasies in foreign lands. Set in the ultimate 21st century cutting edge-city, Tel Aviv, Shamriz’s film creates a post-exotic cinema where a war zone borders a metropolis, precision redirects to chaos, and subtle grace links to graphic pornography. Japan Japan is the fabricated land that, unlike a metaphor, delivers the real potential for instant escape from the familiar.

Camels Drink Water: Nathalie Djurberg, a Berlin-based artist whose short animations are in many public and private collections, receives her New York theatrical premiere with this curious view of camels and liquids.


Jellyfish
Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, Israel/France, 2007; 78m

SCREENING WITH

my olympic summer
Daniel Robin, US, 2007; 12m
Thu Mar 27: 6:15pm (MoMA)
Sun Mar 30: 5:30pm (WRT)

At Cannes last year Jellyfish stood out, winning the Camera d’Or for best debut feature. Co-directors Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, each a celebrated Israeli writer, explore life in Tel Aviv, a densely populated metropolis where determining one’s destiny is an illusion rather than a promise. Here the sea becomes a place of refuge, shelter and comfort for many—including Karen, a bride whose honeymoon is threatened when she breaks her leg at the wedding; Batya, into whose life comes a little girl who may or may not be real; and Joy, a Filipino caregiver who plays reconciler between estranged mother and daughter. Hapless and attractive, the characters try to make sense of what’s happening to them but like jellyfish they keep floating on the whim of tides and currents, bemused but determined. A Zeitgeist Films Release.

my olympic summer: Daniel Robin’s curiously resonant film about mothers, fathers and internal and exterior events won the Grand Jury Prize for Short Film at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.


A Lost Man
Danielle Arbid, Lebanon/France, 2007; 97m
Sat Apr 5: 6:15pm (WRT)
Sun Apr 6: 7:00pm (MoMA)

In the chaos of the Lebanese civil war, a man is seen running through the streets of Beirut. Twenty years later, his erotic encounter with a woman at a border crossing is captured on film by Thomas (Melvil Poupad), a French photographer who travels the globe in search of extreme experiences to document. Thomas and Fouad (British-Sudanese actor Alexander Siddig) strike up a friendship and embark on a sensual journey through the Middle East. Fouad, suffering a trauma, remembers nothing of the past, and Thomas tries to uncover the mystery of his missing life. In her second feature film, Danielle Arbid explores the sexual taboos of the Arab world, focusing on issues of memory and loss while creating a dynamic pas de deux that begs the question, who is really the lost man?


Megane
Naoko Ogigami, Japan, 2007; 106m
Mon Mar 31: 9:00pm (WRT)
Wed Apr 2: 6:15pm (MoMA)

Screenwriter/director Naoko Ogigami’s third feature is a comedy as refreshing as shaved ice on a warm afternoon. A propeller ride away, where the sky is deep blue and the sandy beaches curve into the ocean, stands a unique seaside inn. Taeko, a serious young woman and the first client of spring, rolls in her gigantic suitcase, unaware that her needs will be minimal. She is greeted in a curious manner by the staff and is soon confounded by the customs, cuisine and general oddity of her hosts. Are they quite sane? Zen in spirit, gentle in plot, and absolutely cinematic in style, Megane offers the joys and delights of a Shangri-La with sushi on the side.


Momma’s Man
Azazel Jacobs, US, 2008; 94m
Fri Mar 28: 6:15pm (MoMA)
Sat Mar 29: 1:00pm (WRT)

The narcissism and inherent freedom of adolescence can have addictive properties. For Mikey, a thirty-something father of a newborn who works a nothing job, a moment of adolescent relapse becomes a rabbit-hole of immobility. Visiting his New York artist parents (portrayed with heart-breaking depth and impressive naturalism by director Azazel Jacobs’s real-life parents, Ken and Flo) on a business trip away from his family in California, Mikey finds himself unable to leave his childhood home (the Jacobs’ own downtown loft, a true character unto itself). His actions are not based in malice, though his indecisiveness and the natural, sweetly overbearing concern of his family cause him to spiral down a path of untruth and abandonment. Filled with wry humor and an authenticity that once defined independent film, Momma’s Man is superbly crafted, funny, and utterly poignant.


Moving Midway
Godfrey Cheshire, US, 2007; 98m
Sat Mar 29: 8:30pm (WRT)
Sun Mar 30: 4:45pm (MoMA)

New York-based film critic Godfrey Cheshire’s richly observed documentary film about his colonial roots in the American South begins with the impending move of Midway, the old family plantation in Raleigh to a new location to make room for a shopping mall. This coincides with the news that Godfrey and his cousins are kin to the Hintons, an African-American branch of the family. What starts as an investigation of heritage and change develops into an eye-opening family drama. How will the anticipated upheaval affect the family “ghosts,” principally Mary Hinton, eccentric former doyenne of Midway, not to mention Godfrey’s delightfully patrician mother to whom the revelation of newly discovered black relatives is a source of astonishment and possible amusement? A thoroughly entertaining, informative, and stimulating film about the Southern plantation as both a symbol and a fading reality.


Munyurangabo
Lee Isaac Chung, US/Rwanda, 2007; 97m
Thu Mar 27: 9:00pm (WRT)
Sat Mar 29: 2:30pm (MoMA)

Set in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, Lee Isaac Chung’s impressive debut feature is story of two young men—one a Tutsi, the other a Hutu—trying to create futures by putting their pasts behind them. For Munyurangabo, this means seeking justice for his parents, who were killed during the fighting. For his friend Sangwa, resolution might come once he’s able to re-visit the lands he fled so long before. The two reach the home of Sangwa’s parents, but the parents are scared of the intentions of their son’s companion—after all, “Hutus and Tutsi are supposed to be enemies.” Chung, a Korean-American, traveled to Rwanda with a small crew and a nine-page script outline. Working with the cast, he completed his script with their real experiences. The result is fresh, immediate and utterly authentic.


Sleep Dealer
Alex Rivera, US/Mexico, 2008; 90m
Fri Mar 28: 9:00pm (WRT)
Sat Mar 29: 5:30pm (MoMA)

Sometime in the not too distant future, big corporations control the water supply and international borders are truly airtight. In a Mexican village, Memo, a young man who loves to tinker with technology, hacks into the wrong system and finds himself in big trouble. When he runs off to a border town, he finds a job and a girl—but no guarantee of a happy ending. In his debut feature, director Alex Rivera creates a chilling scenario that is not so far-fetched. With the look and energy of a futuristic computer game, the film treats us to a world where migrant workers’ nervous systems are plugged into a global network, allowing them to do menial jobs in the U.S. for the same low wages but without setting foot north of the border. A thriller of a ride that is a chilling indictment of global capitalism and a look at the lost promises of the World Wide Web.


Slingshot Hip Hop
Jackie Reem Salloum, US, 2007; 89m
Sat Apr 5: 9:00pm (WRT)
Sun Apr 6: 4:30pm (MoMA)

While America’s image abroad has been battered of late, its music remains a unifying force in global culture. New York filmmaker Jackie Reem Salloum’s first feature documentary on Palestinian rap, is an exuberant mix of live-action and animation. Beginning in Lyd, Israel, where Tamer Nafar heard Tupac Shakur and, influenced by Shakur’s protest lyrics and fierce rhythms, formed DAM, the first Palestinian hip hop group, the filmmaker travels to West Bank communities and to Gaza to record what, in spite of poverty and military checkpoints, DAM hath wrought. That includes PR (Palestinian Rapperz), whose members hope someday to meet fellow rappers outside the confinements of Gaza; and the female rapper Abeer and the group Arapeyat, who are redefining gender roles in their societies. Slingshot Hip Hop is a rousing testament to the power of music and the aspirations of youth.


Soul Carriage
Conrad Clark, China/UK, 2007; 88m
Thu Apr 3: 8:45pm (WRT)
Sat Apr 5: 1:00pm (MoMA)

Desperately in need of cash, Xinren, a young worker at a Shanghai construction site, takes on the onerous task of returning the body of a co-worker who died on the job to his family. Nasty as the chore may be, it seems simple enough—but nothing is simple in a changing China. As Xinren works his way from the city to the countryside – in opposition to the direction most workers go for jobs – looking for someone, anyone, who will acknowledge the dead man, we witness his growing isolation, as his only companion is the body in the back of his van. First-time filmmaker Conrad Clark (who received the New Directors Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival) spent two years in China researching the country’s shift towards urbanization and has created a daring work in which the environment is a major character. Beautifully shot, this story of modernity overtaking tradition serves as a metaphor for Chinese migrant workers searching for material – and spiritual – fulfillment.


The Toe Tactic
Emily Hubley, US, 2008; 85m
Sat Mar 29: 6:00pm (WRT)
Mon Mar 31: 9:00pm (MoMA)

Mona Peek is a young woman engulfed by loss. Her father has passed away, her wallet disappears, and those around her are on their own. Through the nimble creativity of animator Emily Hubley, we discover a layered world of live action and illustrated images. Mona’s life, her grieving and searching, and the lives of those in her neighborhood are manipulated by four capricious dogs playing a game of cards. Winsome newcomer Lily Rabe, joined by the voices of Eli Wallach, Marian Seldes, Andrea Martin and Mary Kay Place, melds with the animated forms that push, pull and caress the film’s flesh-and-blood cohabitants through a journey of renewal. The unique kinetic flow of Hubley’s remarkable feature debut is enhanced by the music of the equally innovative band, Yo La Tengo.


Trouble the Water
Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, US, 2007; 90m
Thu Apr 3: 6:15pm (MoMA)
Sun Apr 6: 4:30pm (WRT)

This astonishingly powerful documentary, at once horrifying and exhilarating, won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at this year’s Sundance. Two weeks after Katrina made landfall, New York filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal flew to Louisiana to make a film about soldiers returning from Iraq who were now homeless. But the National Guard closed off access. Just when the filmmakers were ready to disband their crew, Kim and Scott Roberts, streetwise and indomitable, introduced themselves. Kim had bought a camcorder the day before the hurricane, and using it for the first time, she captured the devastation and its pathetic aftermath, including the selfless rescue of neighbors and the appalling failure of government. The strong center of Trouble The Water, though, are the Roberts themselves who, says Deal, “survived all the storms of their lives not because they were lucky, but because they had intelligence, guts, and the kind of hope that is based in will rather than experience.”


Valse Sentimentale
Constantina Voulgaris, Greece, 2007; 109m
Mon Mar 31: 6:15pm (MoMA)
Tue Apr 1: 8:45pm (WRT)

Constantina Voulgaris’s first feature film is a delightful anomaly in contemporary cinema, sort of like a Cat Power song. Raw, earnest, melancholy, awkward in parts, razor sharp in others, it’s lyrical, yet with an undercutting touch of offbeat humor. And more than anything it’s unapologetically a girl's bedroom song, an utterly sincere home movie. Made with the ever-generous currency of a cast and crew of friends, and the ample downtime that Greek summer-in-the-city affords, when everybody else is sunning and hooking up out in the islands, it's a film about two exiles -- in Athens, in summer, in love. A sentimental dance between a girl and a boy who could be stuck in downtown any-ville, yearning to be with each other but too cool to dare, too chicken to admit it, too clumsy not to step on each other's Doc Martins, and too damn sentimental not to surrender, in the end, to that old-fashioned thing called love.


Water Lilies
Céline Sciamma, France, 2007; 85m

SCREENING WITH

Man
Myna Joseph, US, 2007; 15m
Fri Mar 28: 6:15pm (WRT)
Sun Mar 30: 2:00pm (MoMA)

Emphatically imagined from a female perspective, Water Lilies delves into the mysterious world of teenage girls. Marie (Pauline Acquart) is a lanky teenager content to hang out with Anne (Louise Blanchere), an awkward chubbette and her devoted slave, until blonde dazzler Floriane (Adele Haenel) captures Marie’s interest and lures her into a murkier pool of desire and disenchantment. Céline Sciamma’s precisely rendered first feature is devoid of adults and by design, boys appear only in relation to the female trio and the backdrop of synchronized swimming that is their daily summer activity. Water Lilies captures the dynamics of the girls’ shifting relationships and brilliantly navigates a psychological terrain rarely if ever captured on film with this degree of honesty. While most cinematic examinations of teenage life are full of aimless conversation, this one plays like a thinking person’s action film. A Koch Lorber Films Release.

Man: Two sisters—rivals and friends—bond in a dramatic encounter with a young man. Directed by Myna Joseph.


We Went to Wonderland
Xiaolu Guo, UK, 2008; 76m

SCREENING WITH

Flotsam Jetsam
Patty Chang and David Kelley, US, 2007; 30m
Sun Mar 30: 7:30pm (MoMA)
Mon Mar 31: 6:15pm (WRT)

A Chinese man who has lost his voice after an operation for cancer now communicates through the written word. Despite his age and frail health, he has always dreamed of visiting Europe. Now he and his delightfully pragmatic wife embark on a long awaited great adventure, first stopping at their daughter’s home in England and continuing on to the Continent. There are some amusing encounters along the way, as well as some surprising revelations about the husband. In minute detail director Xiaolu Guo follows the couple on their adventure, with subtle digs at the consequences of globalization as well as capturing the confusion of the pair as they confront an alien culture for which they have few reference points.

Flotsam Jetsam: In 2005 an American nuclear submarine crashed into an uncharted underwater mountain in the Pacific Ocean. Two years later, artists Patty Chang and David Kelley constructed their own submarine and launched it in the Yangtse River in China, just below the Three Gorges Dam. With members of a Chinese opera troupe on board, the sub’s journey becomes an imaginative performance exploring space, identity and memory.


Wonderful Town
Aditya Assarat, Thailand, 2007; 92m
Wed Apr 2: 9:00pm (WRT)
Fri Apr 4: 6:15pm (MoMA)

With an unerring feeling for lives on hold, director Aditya Assarat creates an atmosphere of guardedness, uneasiness, and mystery to highlight the story of two lonely people attempting a fragile emotional connection. The film’s saturated colors reinforce the lifelessness of a location that suffered immensely during the tsunami three years ago. An architect from Bangkok pulls up to a motel in a near-ghost town of deserted streets and beaches. His obscured past finds symmetry in the repressed history of the girl he meets and pursues. Each is trying to discover how to give way and function in the present. This quiet narrative of suggestion and hushed emotions has an unexpected denouement that is as shocking as it is earned. A Kino International Release.


XXY
Lucía Puenzo, Argentina/Spain/France, 2007; 90m
Fri Apr 4: 6:15pm (WRT)
Sun Apr 6: 2:00pm (MoMA)

For just about everybody, slipping past adolescence means having to confront a number of choices and life decisions, but rarely any as monumental as the one facing Alex (Ines Efron). Born a hermaphrodite, Alex has been raised as a girl, but the moment has come when a decision must be on the surgery that will define her future. Some family friends come to visit Alex’s family, bringing along their teenage son, Alvaro (Martin Piroyanski). Alex immediately feels some kind of attraction to the young man—adding yet another level of complexity to Alex’s personal search for identity. Debut director Lucía Puenzo handles such potentially explosive material with extraordinary grace and tact, probing past the sensational outward appearances to uncover the rich, emotional core of this story. Efron and Piroyanski both give brave, deeply touching performances, and Ricardo Darin is superb as Alex’s father, a man of logic and science trying to make sense of a situation for which reason offers few answers. A Film Movement Release.


La Zona
Rodrigo Plá, Spain/Mexico, 2007; 97m
Fri Apr 4: 9:00pm (MoMA)
Sun Apr 6: 2:00pm (WRT)

The privileged isolation of wealthy people in gated communities does little to insulate them from the dangers of a society where the gap between rich and poor increases with dizzying haste. As in a horror movie, the unnaturally perfect ‘zona’ is as much a character as the inhabitants, a premise filmmaker Rodrigo Plá exploits with impressive dramatic flair. After a robbery goes awry and one of the young robbers goes on the run inside the gates, vigilante justice and private contractors conspire to keep the police at bay. The disaffected, powerless teens on both sides forge a bond against the older generation’s vulgar displays of wealth and entitlement. The pitch-perfect direction and well-honed script of this edge-of-the-seat suspense film provide a perfect backdrop for the three-dimensional characters.


HBO FILMS ROUNDTABLE
New Directors and Beyond
Sun Mar 30: 12:30pm (WRT)

Since its inception in 1972 New Directors/New Films has been an exhibition platform for new directorial talent. This year’s HBO Films Roundtable focuses on a group of ND/NF alums who have pursued their film careers outside of the main stream and found opportunities and challenges in their hard won independence from the limited possibilities of traditional distribution. For aspiring artists in the new millennium of media, the experiences of these diverse film and video makers may shed light on their own trajectories. At press time, panelists include Michael Almereyda (Another Girl, Another Planet, ND/NF 1993); Su Friedrich (The Ties that Bind, ND/NF 1985; Rules of the Road, NDNF 1993); Philip Haas (A Day on the Grand Canal with the Emperor of China, ND/NF 1988; Music of Chance, ND/NF 1993); Tamara Jenkins (Family Remains, NDNF 1994); Tom Kalin (Swoon, ND/NF 1992); Lodge Kerrigan (Clean Shaven, ND/NF 1994); and Jim McKay (Our Song, ND/NF 2000; Everyday People, ND/NF 2004). A more talented and diverse collection of independent spirits would be hard to find! Please join us as we look at the various ways to make your way in media in a new century.

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ND/NF CLASSICS

KEVIN SMITH

Monday, March 31

Clerks
Kevin Smith, US, 1994; 92m
Mon Mar 31: 1:00pm

“Hilarious and terrifically smart, Clerks is a foul-mouthed, deadpan, no-budget comedy that gives unexpected new meaning to the idea of absurdity. Dante Hicks works at the Quick Stop, a convenience store in lower New Jersey where every customer is antisocial, and where Dante’s romantic biography seems to be in continual replay. Compounding Dante’s angst is Randal, from a nearby video store. Dante’s best buddy and a friend from Hell. Clerks describes in lunatic detail what should have been the poor guy’s day off. With a debut as witty and elegantly simple as this, Kevin Smith has reaffirmed the vitality and virtues of the American independent cinema.”—ND/NF #23

Dogma
Kevin Smith, US, 1999; 130m
Mon Mar 31: 3:00pm

“Kevin Smith brings his decidedly absurdist sensibility to a comedy of truly cosmological proportions. Two renegade angels (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) long ago tossed out of heaven discover what they think is a loophole in church dogma that will allow them to return to paradise. All they have to do is pass through a certain portal at a certain time in a certain New Jersey cathedral; the problem (ours, not theirs) is that by doing so they’ll upset the divine order and obliterate humanity.... Deliriously imaginative and full of offbeat, outrageous humor, Dogma nevertheless conveys a very human, very touching sense of awe in the face of the eternal mysteries of faith.”—37th NYFF

TODD SOLONDZ

Tuesday, April 1

Welcome to the Dollhouse
Todd Solondz, US, 1995; 88m
Tue Apr 1: 1:00pm

“Dawn Wiener is a middle child in middle school in the middle of suburban New Jersey. In Todd Solondz’s masterfully controlled pitch-black comedy, we come to know intimately Dawn’s world, that unforgettable (and unavoidable) period called adolescence, in which each day the question is ‘Is It Me or the World That Makes no Sense?’ Winner of the Grand Prize at this year’s Sundance Festival, Dollhouse features an astoundingly assured performance by Heather Matarazzo as Dawn, at times heart-breaking, at times terrifyingly familiar.”—ND/NF #25

Storytelling
Todd Solondz, US, 2001; 87m
Tue Apr 1: 3:00pm

“A two-part film from Todd Solondz, who delights as usual in making his audience as uncomfortable as possible. Part one, ‘Fiction,’ is a sketch about a college student (Selma Blair) who sexually submits to her African-American writing teacher out of a sense of political correctness. The second part, ‘Non-Fiction,’ is a frontal attack on American independent filmmaking in its ghoulish, exploitive mode, with Paul Giamatti as a talentless documentary director who seizes on a clueless New Jersey teen as the subject of his contemptuous new film. Strong medicine, but good for you and funny, too.”—39th NYFF


CHARLES BURNETT

Wednesday, April 2

My Brother’s Wedding
Charles Burnett, US, 1983/2007; 82m
Wed Apr 2: 1:00pm

“Pierce Mundy may not be Watts’ favorite son, but he certainly is a native one. He is an original character––complex, conflicted and so strongly realized that Pierce Mundy could very well become the symbol of his generation. His friends are street-tough and fast dying off; his brother, an upwardly mobile lawyer, is about to marry a doctor’s daughter. With his community and family Pierce carries on a love-hate relationship, and Charles Burnett, the writer-director, rather than proposing any easy resolution for Pierce, presents him with an exquisite climatic situation. In the meantime, he has also fashioned a very special film that is as warm and humorous as it is serious.”—ND/NF #13

To Sleep with Anger
Charles Burnett, US, 1990; 102m
Wed Apr 2: 2:45pm

“Director Charles Burnett focuses on a black family originally from the deep South who have relocated to Los Angeles, and are starting to unravel from the cultural tensions between old and new ways. Into the household bursts Harry (charismatically played by Danny Glover), an unexpected visitor from back home, who exploits the family’s strains out of self-interest and pure devilment. Teaching their younger son to cheat at cards one moment, quoting Pushkin the next, Harry is both charmer and menace, like Joseph Cotten in Shadow of a Doubt. Burnett brings a uniquely gentle, relaxed, humane touch to this bitter comedy, made all the more convincing by its deceptively casual, transparent style of realism.”—28th NYFF

LODGE KERRIGAN

Thursday, April 3

Clean, Shaven
Lodge Kerrigan, US, 1993; 74m
Thu Apr 3: 1:00pm

“This striking debut film by Lodge Kerrigan examines the disintegration of a man plagued by schizophrenic hallucinations as he searches for his missing daughter. The firm is exacting and focused, powerfully communicating the destructive nature of his condition. Peter Greene’s extraordinary portrayal of the disturbed character is brilliant, the camerawork is unswerving, the soundtrack is riveting and they all combine to create a portrait of madness of unforgettable intensity.”—ND/NF #23

Keane
Lodge Kerrigan, US, 2004; 100m
Thu Apr 3: 2:45pm

“Lodge Kerrigan stays close, very close, to William Keane, the eponymous hero of his new film. As this troubled young man, dynamically incarnated by British actor Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers), stalks his way through Port Authority and the strange industrial landscapes outside the Lincoln Tunnel, endlessly searching for the daughter snatched away from him months before, Kerrigan puts us squarely in Keane’s profoundly unsettled universe.... When Keane is entrusted with the care of another little girl at his hotel, the film moves to a whole new level of grief-stricken poignancy––not to mention hair-raising tension. Kerrigan...has made a vivid film about spiritual desperation and loss.”—42nd NYFF

GREGG ARAKI

Friday, April 4

The Living End
Gregg Araki, US, 1992; 92m
Fri Apr 4: 1:00pm

“Two horny gay guys, both HIV-positive, hit the road. The Living End is underground cinema resurrected west of the Rockies. Like the flashing neon on a cheap motel, The Living End is rude, colorful, and missing some letters––which is not surprising considering it was made on virtually no money, the considerable talent and invention of its director/writer/photographer/editor, and everyone’s energy and anger. Whether Gregg Araki’s third L.A. feature is read as a wild love story or a defiant romance, it certainly takes a combative position against victimization by either society or disease.”—ND/NF #21

Totally F***ed Up
Gregg Araki, US, 1993; 78m
Fri Apr 4: 3:00pm

"The tenuous, tenacious subculture of gay and lesbian teenagers is the subject of Los Angeles guerrilla filmmaker Gregg Araki’s liveliest, most deeply felt fiction, described by the director as ‘a kinda twisted cross between avant-garde experimental cinema and a queer John Hughes flick.’ Contending with AIDS, alienation, suicide, drugs and gay bashing, Araki’s young protagonists muddle through with wit, irony and wide-open hearts. High-risk, low-budget filmmaking at its impudent best.”—31st NYFF

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Posted at February 21, 2008 6:37 AM

Comments (2)

Amazing line-up, but Stu, Lee Issac Chung, director of MUNYURANGABO, lives in Brooklyn... Add him to your NYC filmmaker list!

The movie is incredible and I can't wait for the world to discover this amazing film. Run, don't walk.

Thanks much, Tom... point taken, correction made!

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