Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Lineup For New Directors/New Films

This year’s New Directors/New Films presents a groundbreaking array of cinema from around the world. It all begins Wednesday evening at MoMA with “The Inner Life of Martin Frost,” Paul Auster’s latest cinematic iteration, which he both wrote and directed, and “Glue,” the visually arresting story of three young friends growing up in Patagonia.

New Directors/New Films embraces standout performance and innovation, especially in the realms of storytelling, image-making, and acting. Challenging, exciting and eminently new, the films of New Directors offer a glimpse at the talent of tomorrow.

7 Years

Waiting to visit her husband in prison, Maïté is approached by Jean, an attractive young man. Although deeply in love with her husband, she is also lonely and yearning for some kind of physical connection, so she eventually gives in to Jean’s advances. Then she discovers that Jean is, in fact, a guard at the very prison where her husband Vincent is being held. Director Jean-Pascal Hattu based "7 Years" on stories he collected from women involved with men who were doing time, creating this multi-layered look at people trying to get by while waiting for their sentences to expire.
Preceded by
A couple’s sweet stroll through Copenhagen’s red light district turns decidedly sour.

The Art of Crying
11-year-old Allan believes he has a happy, normal family—at least until his father has one of his crying jags and threatens to kill himself. The only one who can truly comfort dad is Allan’s sister Sanne, but father’s spirit also soars when he has the opportunity to give one of his rousing funeral eulogies; so, as Allan reasons, why not see to it that there are plenty of them? With pitch-perfect balance, this pitch-black, inverted fairy tale sustains a cheerful/mournful tone to illuminate a taboo subject. Director Peter Schonau Fog’s unique accomplishment is to present the horror within one family through the blissfully innocent eyes of its youngest child.

Audience of One
Ten years ago, Richard Gazowsky, pastor of the Voice of Pentecost Church in San Francisco, received a ‘prophetic whisper’ from God to make movies. Michael Jacobs’ unique documentary shows Pastor Gazowsky and his congregation as they gear up to make “Gravity: The Shadow of Joseph,” a $50 million Biblical sci-fi epic. “Audience of One” is a fascinating study of magical thinking, an example of the “faith-based reality” sometimes alluded to in discussions of contemporary politics, and also a testament to those who sacrifice it all to be in the movies.


At the World’s Fair in Brussels in 1958, the Belgian colony of Congo played a prominent role, with exhibits spread over several buildings, including a populated pygmy village. It is in this spirit of “Congorama” that the multi-level, dreamlike narrative of Philippe Falardeau’s second feature begins; well, sort of (the action starts in the present). With the help of a superb cast headed by the Dardenne Brothers regular Olivier Gourmet, "Congorama" spins a tale of three continents, uncertain parentage, unlikely relationships, unaccredited inventions… and an ostrich. It is a dry comic riff on the notion of family and the metaphysics of a small world on a large planet.

Cowboy Angels

Young Pablo lives with his emotionally disconnected mother in a cheap Paris hotel. She takes off whenever she pleases, leaving her 11-year-old son to fend for himself among the cafés where mother and son are known only too well. When she deserts him once again, Pablo decides he’s had it. He convinces Louis, a down-on-his-luck poker player, to drive him to Spain to search—from among his mother’s many ex-lovers—for the man who could be his father. Kim Massee, an American raised in France, explores this relationship between two males who each need to find someone to belong to.

Day Night Day Night
A 19-year old girl of unknown origin or ethnicity makes contact with her handlers in a drab motel room. The nameless girl learns and recites her instructions: she is being prepared to become a suicide bomber. The location will be Times Square. Director Julia Loktev ("Moment of Impact," ND/NF 1998) strips her narrative of motivations: we never learn the circumstances that have brought the girl to this place. The tense narrative concentrates on mood, gesture and a telling accumulation of details. The simple eloquence of novice actress Luisa Williams’ performance recalls the work of Robert Bresson. Loktev’s first dramatic feature is both audacious and quietly spectacular.

El Custodio

The remarkable character actor Julio Chavez ("A Red Bear," ND/NF 2002) disappears into the nearly silent role of a middle-aged bodyguard for an important politician, and the cleverly paced, slow-burning tale is a mesmerizing portrait of a man whose all-consuming job is that of an invisible human shield. The measured movements of Chavez’s alienated Ruben are destined to reach a breaking point, when this shadow can no longer deny his own repressed feelings. Director Rodrigo Moreno develops his masterfully wrought psychological thriller in the celebrated minimalist style that has put recent Argentine cinema on the international map.
Preceded by
Sun in Winter
A young student and his older friend, the local farmhand, share joyful moments of camaraderie, bonding over work and play, before their worlds separate forever.

A theater director making his feature film debut, Ivan Vyrypaevsets conjures this stunning fable of passion and revenge in a remote region of the Russian steppe, striking an impudent tone somewhere between Bulgakov and Flannery O’Connor. Pasha is a village goatherd smitten with Vera who concludes they must be destined for one another; no matter that she is married and has a small daughter and hostile dog named Pirate. Nothing can dissuade him from pursuing her by land and by sea, and their mad romance—she submits as if struck by lightning—culminates in a Western-style finale that is both improbable and metaphorically inevitable.
Preceded by
The Tube with a Hat
A boy from a small village wakes his father and drags him and the family’s gigantic and broken television set over hill and dale to the city to get it fixed in time to watch a Bruce Lee movie.

Two boys, Lucas and Nacho, and their sidekick, Andrea, are growing up in a small remote town in Patagonia where they are experiencing the growing pains of adolescence. Lucas contends with his parents’ imminent divorce. Nacho obsesses over music and sex, while Andrea is preoccupied with her too-slowly developing body. Once the three connect they become inseparable. This award-winning feature by first-time filmmaker Alexis Dos Santos reflects an intensity made possible by its talented, risk-taking cast and a story rooted in the director’s intimate knowledge of his subject. Dos Santos shot digital video in an improvisational style, capturing the wild beauty of Patagonia’s hot, dry, windswept summer landscape.

Mahmoud is a hard-working itinerant welder. When his troubled wife Pari disappears, leaving their daughter behind, the gossip mill in his hometown begins to churn. Helpful and malicious neighbors offer conflicting accounts of what they think has happened, and Mahmoud abandons his job to search for his runaway wife. With well-drawn characters and a great deal of suspense, director Maziar Miri’s second feature film explores gender prejudices in his native Iran and reveals the delicate balancing act that women must enter into to exist within the repressive system imposed on them. This is a deeply felt, beautifully constructed story that brings a new perspective to love and marriage, Iranian style.

The Great World of Sound
You’ve all seen the ads—Show us Your Talent, We’ll Make You a Star. For his feature film debut, Craig Zobel shines a harsh light on the upside—and downside—of looking for shortcuts to fame. Martin (Pat Healey) and Clarence (Kene Holliday) are a production company’s A-team, setting up shop in hotel rooms in large towns and medium-sized cities to audition local musicians for a shot at the gold ring. Both men seem to believe they’re supporting new talent, until problems arise, first small, then even larger. Many of the actors playing auditioning townspeople are actual amateur musicians, and their performances add a touching poignancy.

The Inner Life of Martin Frost
Having submitted his manuscript to his publisher, renowned novelist Martin Frost needs to recharge his batteries and preferably in seclusion. Friends loan him a place in the country—where his isolation proves short-lived. For his second feature film, American novelist and director Paul Auster reimagines a character from his 2002 novel, The Book of Illusions. The incomparable David Thewlis is the writer looking for quiet, and Irène Jacob, Michael Imperioli and Sophie Auster play his unwelcome guests. In a deft transition from the page to the screen, Auster’s serio-comic fantasy narrative remains mysterious, haunting, and enticing.

Love for Sale (Suely in The Sky)

In this terrific follow-up to his internationally successful debut feature "Madame Satã," Karim Aïnouz creates a very different portrait of an indomitable survivor. Returning to her hometown in poor northeastern Brazil, Hermila (Hermila Guedes) awaits the arrival of her boyfriend, though her spunk and zest for life take on an increasingly desperate edge when it becomes clear that he will not be coming. Guedes’ major achievement is making Hermila likeable even in her most desperately miscalculated actions of despair. Breathtaking camerawork by veteran cinematographer Walter Carvalho captures not only the soulful decency of the townspeople but makes the empty landscape and rich colors an integral part of their characterization.


Violeta can’t decide if she wants to move to Ibiza with her boyfriend Mono or just break up with him. Dalmiro’s ceramics business isn’t going so well, but things might be looking up. Sergio and Susana are trying to start a family. These and other characters form the rich, affecting tapestry in "Meanwhile," the second feature by Diego Lerman. He focuses here on those in-between moments in people’s lives—those times after a decision’s possibilities have been accepted but before it’s been put into effect. His characters move in and out of each other’s orbits, sometimes effecting final decisions or inadvertently foreshadowing unexpected consequences, together creating a portrait of a generation used to waiting and enduring.
Preceded by
The Last 15
When a family gathers for dinner, money becomes the key topic of discussion, with alarming results.

When not playing for change, an Irish street musician fixes vacuum cleaners in his father’s repair shop. One day, a flower-selling Czech immigrant shows up with her broken vacuum and announces that she is also a musician. Drawn to each other—and to each other’s musical talents—they launch a career together. With time, their musical bond becomes even more personal. Director John Carney has cast musicians, rather than actors, in these finely drawn roles, and the result, a kind of cinema verité musical, is near perfect.

The Only One

Living unhappily with his daughter Gerda after his wife’s death, Lucien (Nany Buyl, one of Belgium’s most renowned actors) is determined to return to an independent life in his own home. But that isn’t so easy. Everyone has plans for Lucien, including Mathilde, his best friend’s wife, with whom he has had a longstanding affair. When his much younger neighbor, Sylvia, arrives on the scene and—to Lucien’s surprise—seems to take an interest in him, all kinds of possibilities emerge. Directed by Geoffrey Enthoven with a decidedly light touch, "The Only One" is that rare film about aging that completely avoids sentimentality.
Preceded by
Eternally Yours
When a crook tries to take advantage of a forgetful elderly woman, surprises are in store.

The Other Half
Xiaofen lives in one of the dynamically growing cities in Southwestern China, but her work for a law firm interviewing clients and documenting their cases is merely routine. When not at work, she must deal with her down and out boyfriend, a drunk and a gambler and who’s now on the lam. Life is also hard for her girlfriends and her mother, and Xiaofen is increasingly distressed by what she witnesses around her. In his second feature film, director Ying Liang ("Taking Father Home," 2005) playfully pits youth culture against more traditional ways and interrelates one woman’s reality to the changing economic and social structures in contemporary.

Padre Nuestro
On the run in his native Mexico, Juan makes a quick getaway by jumping on a truck carrying illegal migrants to New York City. One of the other travelers is Pedro, a young man about Juan’s age who hopes to link up in New York with his father Diego. Since he doesn’t know Diego, Pedro carries a letter of introduction written by his mother. Arriving in New York, Juan disappears along with Pedro’s belongings. Grand Jury Prize winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Christopher Zalla’s beautifully shot, extraordinarily impressive first feature offers a new riff on the immigrant theme of re-inventing oneself in America.

Red Road
Red Road is in a rough neighborhood in Glasgow whose streets are constantly monitored by surveillance cameras. On one of the screens in one of the command stations, a security officer, a woman, catches a glimpse of a man whose sudden appearance at first surprises and then obsesses her. What follows is a consummate suspense story, pitch perfect and unpredictable. For her debut feature, Andrea Arnold, an Oscar-winning short filmmaker, takes up Dogma’s latest challenge: three different filmmakers using the same set of characters. Hers is the first, and she delivers a wallop of a tale that leaves its viewers breathless.

There is nothing reprised about "Reprise," a shooting star of a debut feature that is wildly inventive and wise beyond the youthful exuberance of its makers. Two young men are both friends and writers. On the same day they send their manuscripts off from the same mailbox. When they do, their lives also take off, in ways that are at once unpredictable and understandable. Joachim Trier, who made super-8mm films before he learned to read and write, celebrates life’s options even when they are lousy. The daring risks he takes as a filmmaker propel this vivacious cinematic meditation about creativity, madness and love into an engrossing adventure. Trier’s previous accomplishments inform the torque of Reprise: he was, for two years running, Norway’s national skateboard champion.

Rome Rather Than You
This innovative visual portrait of a generation focuses on the story of Zina and Kamel—promising and resourceful young people who, disillusioned by Algeria’s ongoing civil war, decide to seek a future elsewhere. Bolstered by spirited repartee full of youthful flourish and vitality, they search the city of Algiers and its suburbs for a certain Bosco, an elusive smuggler who, it is said, can provide them with fake passports. Debut director Tariq Teguia depicts modern day Algiers as a dreamlike landscape of devastation, a world of immediate contrasts filled with a sense of foreboding that mirrors the mood of the two protagonists.

Salty Air
A riveting debut feature by Alessandro Angelini, "Salty Air" charts the emotional minefield that opens up as a young man attempts to reach into a past everyone else would rather forget. Fabio is a social worker in a prison. When Sparti, a stone-faced new transfer, arrives, Fabio suspects Sparti may be his own father, a man convicted for murder who, years before, told his wife and two young children to forget him. Aided by some wonderful performances—especially by Giorgio Pasetti as Sparti—Angelini allows the rawness of the emotions being tapped to really burst forth; encounters and confrontations often veer off in uncharted directions, as the jagged rhythms of the film give it a seething, explosive quality.

Anna (Maria De Medeiros) and Mara (Antonia Liskova) are returning to Italy from a holiday abroad when they discover that Anis, a young Moroccan, has hidden himself in their trunk in order to cross the border. Anna, an upper class young woman whose mother and brother run a shoe factory, is eager to help the young man; Mara, a worker at that factory, wonders what the new arrival will mean for her. Second-time director Marco o Simon Puccioni is particularly adept at creating characters that are attractive and well-meaning, as well as sexually and morally ambivalent. When a crisis develops, the trio’s individual strengths and weaknesses come into play in unexpected ways.
Preceded by
With their apartment as the battlefield, a man and woman struggle for advantage.

Lionel lives the good life: a steady job with Swiss Radio, a handsome boyfriend and a totally supportive family. But still, something is missing. Tales of the American western frontier help him fill the void. Suddenly, he finds out that his ancestors may, in fact, be Polish. Now he is obsessed with all things Poland, including an undocumented Polish woman he meets on the street. Ultimately, he persuades his sister to take off with him for points east, and on the way, they discover their true selves. Director Lionel Baier, born in Switzerland of Polish descent, has clearly used his own background as the basis for this warm, witty and authentic voyage of discovery.

In Northern Uganda, the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group that abducts children and turns them into mindless soldiers, has killed Rose’s parents, Nancy’s father, and made Dominic into an assassin. All three children now live in Patongo, a large refugee camp where they attend a one-room school and practice for the annual National Music Competition held in Kampala, where schools from across the country vie for awards. Husband-and-wife documentary team Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine let the children tell their stories of horror, record their rehearsals, and follow them on their first trip to Kampala, where the three show with pride, joy, and exuberance what talent and heart can achieve.

What The Sun Has Seen

Unknown to each other, a little boy, a young teenage girl, and a man in his fifties named Jozef (Krzysztof Stroinski) are each desperate to raise a certain amount of money. Set in a large Silesian city in southern Poland, "What The Sun Has Seen" follows them in their determination to succeed in spite of all the obstacles and disappointments that befall them along the way, and eventually their lives begin to intertwine. Director Michal Rosa based his story on newspaper articles and scenes he observed on the street. Together these tales create a touching portrait of the struggle for human dignity in a land that still bears the scars of war.


Anonymous said...

I saw Cowboy Angels, and it's just one of the greatest film I've never seen!
Thanks to Kim Masse and to New Directors New films festival for choosing such quality films.
I'd like to know more about it, and see the trailer or get the link for Cowboy Angels web site.

Anonymous said...

Bravo Jon Robbins!

These interviews are some of the best I've seen.

Wish they were available in print.