Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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New Directors/New Films S 2018 - Introduction

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March 28-April 8, 2018

This now venerable series introduces New York audiences to the work of emerging filmmakers from around the world, bold new artists who push the envelope. I plan to review around 22 of these. A varied selection including some of the most exciting or new offerings from Locarno, Cannes, Berlin, and Rotterdam, and one or two other festivals last year, shown to the public at two venues in New York, Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art. This is an annual collaboration between the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA.

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GUILTY (GUSTAV MÖLLER)

FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS
All films are digitally projected unless otherwise noted


OPENING NIGHT

Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.
Stephen Loveridge, Sri Lanka/United Kingdom/USA, 2018, 95m
In English and Tamil with English subtitles
New York Premiere

Before rapper M.I.A. became a global sensation, known for her musical daring and tireless political activism for the Tamil people in her native Sri Lanka, she was an aspiring filmmaker, having made countless video diaries chronicling her youth and private life. First-time documentarian Stephen Loveridge, who attended art school in London with M.I.A. in the nineties, uses this first-hand material to craft a nuanced and intimate portrait of a woman finding her roots, voice, and stardom, and a deeply personal statement from a pop star yearning to express herself.
Wednesday, March 28, 7:00 & 7:30pm [MoMA]
Thursday, March 29, 6:30pm [FSLC]


CLOSING NIGHT
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
RaMell Ross, USA, 2018, 76m
New York Premiere

“The American stranger knows Blackness as a fact—even though it is fiction,” says writer-director RaMell Ross. For his visionary and political debut feature, which premiered to great acclaim at Sundance in 2018, Ross spent five years intimately observing African American families living in Hale County, Alabama. It’s a region made unforgettable by Walker Evans and James Agee’s landmark 1941 photographic essay Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which documented the impoverished lives of white sharecropper families in Alabama’s Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Ross’s poetic return to this place shows changed demographics, and depicts people resilient in the face of adversity and invisibility. Hale County This Morning, This Evening introduces a distinct and powerful new voice in American filmmaking.
Saturday, April 7, 8:30pm [FSLC]
Sunday, April 8, 2:00pm [MoMA]


3/4
Ilian Metev, Bulgaria, 2017, 82m
Bulgarian with English subtitles
New York Premiere

3/4 evokes the intimacies, joys, and tensions of a contemporary Bulgarian family facing an uncertain future; the father is an astrophysicist with his head in the clouds, his son a waywardly antic teenager, his daughter a gifted but anxious pianist. Illian Metev (whose previous film was the gripping documentary Sofia’s Last Ambulance) won the Filmmakers of the Present prize at the 2017 Locarno Festival for this fiction feature debut, a gracefully shot, uncommonly tender character study that plays like an exquisite piece of chamber music.
Thursday, March 29, 6:00pm [MoMA]
Saturday, March 31, 1:00pm [FSLC]


Ava
Sadaf Foroughi, Iran/Canada/Qatar, 2017, 103m
Farsi with English subtitles
New York Premiere

Adolescence creates intense pressure for any girl, but it’s particularly strong for 17-year-old Ava, buffeted by the harsh strictures of home and school in contemporary Tehran. Iranian writer-director Sadaf Foroughi won the jury prize at the Toronto International Film Festival for her intimate and intensely dramatic portrait of a young woman whose private longings drive her to rebellion and lead to public shaming. A Grasshopper Film release.
Thursday, March 29, 8:30pm [MoMA]
Sunday, April 1, 7:30pm [FSLC]


Azougue Nazaré
Tiago Melo, Brazil, 2017, 80m
Portuguese with English subtitles
North American Premiere

No measure of hellfire preaching can quell the boisterous and bawdy passions of Maracatu, an Afro-Brazilian burlesque carnival tradition with roots in slavery that takes place in the northeast state of Pernambuco. As the Falstaffian character Tiao, Valmir do Coco leads a nonprofessional cast of authentic Maracatu practitioners in a tale told through dance, music, and the supernatural, set in the sugarcane fields outside Recife. The fabulous—and fabulist—Azougue Nazaré is the first film by Tiago Melo, who worked on such recent celebrated Brazilian films as Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius (NYFF 2016) and Gabriel Mascaro’s Neon Bull (ND/NF 2016), and who was awarded the Bright Future prize at this year’s Rotterdam International Film Festival.
Friday, March 30, 6:30pm [FSLC]
Saturday, March 31, 7:30pm [MoMA
]

Black Mother
Khalik Allah, USA, 2018, 75m
New York Premiere

The second feature by filmmaker and photographer Khalik Allah is a kind of documentary tone poem, a polyphonic work rich in atmosphere and intimate portraiture. Allah immerses us in Jamaica’s neighboring worlds of charismatic holy men and equally charismatic prostitutes, the sacred and the profane alike. Allah captures them and their environments with a haunting visual style and absorbing sense of rhythm entirely his own, their testimonies flooding the soundtrack with reflections on everyday survival and hopes for the future. Seamlessly switching from Super-8mm to HD video, Black Mother affirms its maker as one of the great stylists in documentary cinema today.
Wednesday, April 4, 6:00pm [MoMA]
Saturday, April 7, 6:00pm [FSLC]


Closeness / Tesnota
Kantemir Balagov, Russia, 2017, 118m
Russian with English subtitles
New York Premiere

A young woman is trapped in a tight-knit Jewish community in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, located in Russia’s North Caucasus, that demands her total dedication but provides her with little protection from the perpetual violence encompassing all aspects of life. Shot mostly in interior spaces, Closeness conjures a world of darkness and claustrophobia as the heroine quietly revolts yet succumbs to her bleak existence. This debut feature by Kantemir Balagov feels more beholden to the social realism of the Dardenne brothers than to the transcendental flair of his mentor, Russian auteur Alexander Sokurov (a producer on this film). Warning: this film contains a scene featuring images of documented violence that viewers may find upsetting.
Saturday, March 31, 4:30pm [MoMA]
Sunday, April 1, 4:30pm [FSLC]


Cocote
Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias, Dominican Republic/Brazil/Argentina, 2017, 107m
Spanish with English subtitles
New York Premiere

This format-mixing, formally eclectic opus is at once a profound film about religion and a unique tale of revenge. Upon learning that his father has been murdered by a powerful local figure, Dominican private gardener Alberto travels from Santo Domingo back to his hometown to participate in his funeral rites—a mixture of Catholicism and West African mysticism that flies in the face of Alberto’s own evangelicalism. But Alberto’s family has vengeance in mind, and he finds himself at a spiritual and existential crossroads. Boldly synthesizing ethnographic documentary and scripted drama, Cocote is a visually resplendent and stylistically audacious work that evokes the films of Glauber Rocha and the fiction of Roberto Bolaño. A Grasshopper Film release.
Tuesday, April 3, 6:15pm [FSLC]
Wednesday, April 4, 8:15pm [MoMA]


Djon África
João Miller Guerra and Filipa Reis, Portugal/Brazil/Cape Verde, 2018, 95m
In Portuguese with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Documentarians João Miller Guerra and Filipa Reis turn the subject of their previous film into the central character of their debut fiction work. A Cape Verdean in Portugal, Miguel Moreira, also known as Djon África, travels back home to look for his birth father. This hopefully soul-searching journey quickly gets derailed as he comes across beautiful women, colorful parties, and the local liquor known as grogue. Written by Pedro Pinho, director of The Nothing Factory, also playing in this festival, this woozily intoxicating road movie is as youthful, charming, and adventurous as its title character.
Wednesday, April 4, 9:15pm [FSLC]
Friday, April 6, 6:00pm [MoMA
]

Drift
Helena Wittmann, Germany, 2017, 96m
German with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

Filmmaker-artist Helena Wittmann’s subtly audacious first feature follows friends Theresa, a German, and Josefina, an Argentinian, as they spend a weekend together on the North Sea, taking long walks on the beach and stopping at snack stands. Eventually they separate— Josefina eventually returns to her family in Argentina and Theresa crosses the Atlantic for the Caribbean—and the film gives way to a transfixing and delicate meditation on the poetics of space. Self-consciously evoking the work of Michael Snow and masterfully lensed by Wittmann herself, Drift is by turns cosmic and intimate.
Thursday, April 5, 6:30pm [FSLC]
Saturday, April 7, 4:00pm [MoMA]


An Elephant Sitting Still
Hu Bo, China, 2018, 234m
Mandarin with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Sure to be remembered as a landmark in Chinese cinema, this intensely felt epic marks a career cut tragically short: its debut director Hu Bo took his own life last October, at the age of 29. The protagonist of this modern reworking of the tale of Jason and the Argonauts is teenage Wei Bu, who critically injures a school bully by accident. Over a single, eventful day, he crosses paths with a classmate, an elderly neighbor, and the bully’s older brother, all of them bearing their own individual burdens, and all drawn as if by gravity to the city of Manzhouli, where a mythical elephant is said to sit, indifferent to a cruel world. Full of moody close-ups and virtuosic tracking shots, An Elephant Sitting Still is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Sunday, April 1, 6:30pm [MoMA]
Sunday, April 8, 6:00pm [FSLC]


Good Manners / As Boas Maneiras
Marco Dutra & Juliana Rojas, Brazil/France, 2017, 135m
Portuguese with English subtitles
New York Premiere

An immaculately stylized twist on the monster movie, Dutra and Rojas’s second collaboration (following the acclaimed Hard Labor) inventively engages matters of race, class, and desire. Set in São Paulo, the narrative initially concerns the curious relationship between rich, white, pregnant socialite Ana (Marjorie Estiano) and her new housemaid Clara (Isabél Zuaa). As the two women grow closer, their rapport turns first sexual then shockingly macabre. Good Manners evolves into a werewolf movie unlike any other, a delirious and compulsively watchable cross between Disney and Jacques Tourneur. A Distrib Films US release.
Thursday, April 5, 8:30pm [MoMA]
Friday, April 6, 8:45pm [FSLC]


The Great Buddha +
Huang Hsin-yao, Taiwan, 2017, 104m
Taiwanese and Mandarin with English subtitles
New York Premiere

Provincial friends Pickle and Belly Button idle away their nights in the security booth of a Buddha statue factory, where Pickle works as a guard. One evening, when the TV is on the fritz, they put on video from the boss's dashcam—only to discover illicit trysts and a mysterious act of violence. Expanded from a short, Huang Hsin-yao's fiction feature debut The Great Buddha + (the plus sign cheekily nodding to the smartphone model) is a stylish, rip-roaring satire on class and corruption in contemporary Taiwanese society. A Cheng Cheng Films release.
Tuesday, April 3, 8:45pm [MoMA]
Wednesday, April 4, 6:30pm [FSLC]


The Guilty
Gustav Möller, Denmark, 2017, 85m
Danish with English subtitles
New York Premiere

In this pulsating crime thriller set entirely inside a claustrophobic emergency call center, police officer Asger is assigned to dispatcher duty following a fatal incident. An initially slow evening takes a sharp turn when he receives a mysterious call for help, and Asger must spring into action, embarking on a hair-raising journey—on the phone—to bring the caller to safety. Debut feature filmmaker Gustav Möller keeps the tension and the viewer’s imagination alive in this chamber piece that won audience awards at the Rotterdam and Sundance film festivals. A Magnolia Pictures release.
Friday, March 30, 6:00pm [MoMA]
Saturday, March 31, 6:30pm [FSLC]


Makala
Emmanuel Gras, France, 2017, 96m
French and Swahili with English subtitles
New York Premiere

Gras’s transfixing road movie and Cannes Film Festival prizewinner follows a young Congolese man named Kabwita through the making, transporting, and selling of charcoal—from the felling of a tree to pushing a teetering bicycle weighed down with bulging sacks along treacherous dirt roads to contending with motorists, extortionists, and potential customers. As Gras observes Kabwita’s perilous trade, he derives beauty from the monumental efforts that go into his day-to-day existence. Makala is a documentary that resembles a neorealist parable, locating an epic dimension in the humblest of existences. A Kino Lorber release.
Sunday, April 1, 2:00pm [FSLC]
Monday, April 2, 8:45pm [MoMA]


Milla
Valérie Massadian, France/Portugal, 2017, 128m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

Following up her acclaimed 2011 debut Nana, Valérie Massadian has made a moving, visually striking meditation on young motherhood and the vagaries of growing up. Severine Jonckeere turns in a remarkably subtle performance as the titular 17-year-old; just as her youthful romance with Leo (Luc Chessel) seems ready to cross the threshold into teenage parenthood, Massadian performs a radical formal gesture that both complicates Milla’s predicament and evokes the beauty and cruelty of time’s passage. A prizewinner at the 2017 Locarno Film Festival, Milla audaciously eschews conventional melodrama, searching instead for a complex, truthful reflection of life itself. A Grasshopper Film release.
Sunday, April 1, 3:30pm [MoMA]
Monday, April 2, 9:00pm [FSLC]


Nervous Translation
Shireen Seno, Philippines, 2018, 90m
Filipino with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Informed by filmmaker Shireen Seno’s childhood in the Filipino diaspora and her dual training in film and architecture, this sophomore work is a stylized evocation of a child's fanciful interpretation of the world around her. Eight-year-old Yael, left to her own devices after school, secretly plays and replays audio cassettes her father sends home to her mother while working overseas; pursues happiness as communicated to her via a TV advertisement; and, in fanciful scenes that evoke the work of American artist Laurie Simmons, enters the meditative, immersive world of her dollhouse’s kitchen. Seno offers fleeting clues from the late-eighties outside world, hinting at societal turmoil following Ferdinand Marcos's ouster and complicated adult relations, but these never overshadow her film‘s touching depiction of childhood imagination.
Saturday, April 7, 8:45pm [MoMA]
Sunday, April 8, 1:00pm [FSLC]


Notes on an Appearance
Ricky D’Ambrose, USA, 2018, 60m
North American Premiere

Ricky D’Ambrose’s debut feature follows a quiet young man (Bingham Bryant) who mysteriously disappears soon after starting a new life in Brooklyn's artistic circles. Distraught friends (including Keith Poulson and Tallie Medel) search for him with the help of notebooks, letters, postcards, and other tiny clues; meanwhile, a parallel story about an elusive and controversial philosopher provides a rather sinister backdrop to their pursuit. This dark, minimalist pseudo-detective tale offers plenty of humor and displays a distinctive aesthetic. Following a series of remarkable shorts, D’Ambrose has clearly defined himself as a talent to watch.

Preceded by:
Young Girls Vanish / Des jeunes filles disparaissent
Clément Pinteaux, France, 2017, 16m
French with English subtitles
North American premiere

Clément Pinteaux explores the echoes of violence in Essonne, France, where dozens of girls were killed by wolves in the 1600s. Centuries later, young women begin disappearing again.
Friday, April 6, 6:30pm [FSLC]
Saturday, April 7, 6:30pm [MoMA]


The Nothing Factory / A Fábrica de Nada
Pedro Pinho, Portugal, 2017, 177m
Portuguese and French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

A rich and formally surprising film of ideas, beautifully shot on 16mm, and featuring one of recent cinema’s most memorable musical numbers, Portuguese director Pedro Pinho’s nearly three-hour epic concerns the occupation of an elevator plant by its workers. They are stirred to action when the factory’s machinery is removed in the middle of the night by the owners; they rapidly organize, kick out the brass who have arrived offering buyouts, and discuss the feasibility of managing the facility themselves—all the while a Marxist theorist exerts ideological influence from the sidelines. The Nothing Factory is a serious and singular look at the meaning of work today, further developing Pinho’s interest in the status of labor amid his country’s financial crisis.
Saturday, April 7, 2:00pm [FSLC]
Sunday, April 8, 4:30pm [MoMA]


Our House / Watashitachi no ie
Yui Kiyohara, Japan, 2017, 80m
Japanese with English subtitles
North American Premiere

This feature debut is an evocative and surprising exploration of female friendship, parallel realities, and the mysteries of everyday life. An adolescent girl named Seri lives with her mother in an old house in a coastal town. Seemingly in the very same house, amnesiac Sana is taken in by Toko, a young woman who harbors secrets of her own. As the parallel stories unfold, the boundaries between these two worlds grow increasingly porous... Inspired by the fugues of Bach and recalling the films of Jacques Rivette, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and David Lynch, Our House announces Yui Kiyohara as an exciting new voice in Japanese cinema.
Friday, April 6, 8:30pm [MoMA]
Sunday, April 8, 3:30pm [FSLC]


Scary Mother / Sashishi Deda
Ana Urushadze, Georgia/Estonia, 2018, 107m
Georgian with English subtitles
New York Premiere

In Georgian filmmaker Ana Urushadze’s gripping and bleakly comic feature debut, Manana, a 50-year-old Tbilisi mother abandons her duties as a wife and mother to pursue an obsessive and hermetic life of writing poetry. In a performance of coiled fear and rage that recalls the best of Isabelle Huppert, Nato Murvanidze plunges into Manana‘s feverish imagination. Scary Mother, which won awards at film festivals around the world, is a haunting, singular new vision.
Saturday, March 31, 9:00pm [FSLC]
Monday, April 2, 6:00pm [MoMA]


Those Who Are Fine / Dene wos guet geit
Cyril Schäublin, Switzerland, 2017, 71m
German with English subtitles
North American Premiere

This dark comic study of an alienated contemporary Zurich begins by following an impassive twenty-something, a call center worker by day who initiates phone scams targeting elderly workers after hours. The film then spirals out to incorporate into its narrative city residents—police, bank tellers, reporters—obliquely linked to this swindle. Swiss filmmaker Cyril Schäublin’s feature debut (following a half-dozen short films to his name, including Stampede, ND/NF 2013) is a razor-sharp, formalist satire, using the city’s grey concrete architecture; clipped, digit-dominated exchanges between urbanites (phone numbers, Wi-Fi passwords, credit cards); and even a dash of sci-fi-esque atmospherics to portray a fractured, contemporary dystopia.
Thursday, April 5, 9:00pm [FSLC]
Saturday, April 7, 1:45pm [MoMA]


Until the Birds Return / En attendant les hirondelles
Karim Moussaoui, Algeria/France/Germany, 2017, 113m
Arabic and French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

A property developer is witness to random street violence. A pair of secret lovers make their way across the desert. A doctor is accused of having a criminal past. In these three interconnected tales, exciting newcomer Karim Moussaoui—whom critics at Cannes compared to Abbas Kiarostami and Leos Carax—takes the pulse of modern-day Algiers, a country once riven by colonial occupation and sectarian warfare yet still abundant in beauty and promise. A KimStim release.
Friday, March 30, 8:30pm [MoMA]
Saturday, March 31, 3:30pm [FSLC]


A Violent Life / Une Vie Violente
Thierry de Peretti, France, 2017, 107m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

Stéphane returns to Corsica for the funeral of a childhood friend and gang member, despite having a target on his back. Through flashbacks, this sophomore feature by Corsican filmmaker Thierry de Peretti tensely unspools as a coming-of-age tale dashed with crime, political radicalism, and youthful idealism born of the island's separatist movement. Loosely based on actual events and cast with local actors, A Violent Life resonates with regional folklore and crafts a poignant portrait of a marginalized generation. A Distrib Films release.
Monday, April 2, 6:15pm [FSLC]
Tuesday, April 3, 6:00pm [MoMA]


Winter Brothers / Vinterbrødre
Hlynur Pálmason, Denmark/Iceland, 2017, 100m
English and Danish with English subtitles
New York Premiere

This debut feature from Hlynur Pálmason, an Icelandic visual artist/filmmaker based in Denmark, is an immersive sensory experience set in a desolate Danish limestone mining community. A landscape covered in indistinguishable white ash and snow masks the darkness enveloping Emil, a lonely and eccentric young man who works in the mine with his much more sociable brother. Few notice Emil until he is suspected of causing a co-worker’s grave illness, which leads to his ostracization. A relentless industrial soundscape accompanies this portrait of a man trapped in unforgiving isolation. A KimStim release.
Thursday, March 29, 9:00pm [FSLC]
Saturday, March 31, 2:00pm [MoMA]

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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