If you are a film director or an aspiring visual storyteller, then you know what an honor it is to be chosen to screen your film at The Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films. Now entering its 48th year, the annual film festival begins March 27 and runs until April 7.
The curator’s eyes are impressive. Throughout its rich, nearly half-century history, the festival has celebrated filmmakers who represent the present and anticipate the future of cinema, daring artists whose work pushes the envelope in unexpected ways. This year’s festival will introduce 24 features and 11 short films to New York audiences.
The Opening, Closing and Centerpiece selections are the New York premieres of three Sundance award-winners. Opening the festival is Chinonye Chukwu’s “Clemency,” which won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and features a masterful performance from Alfre Woodard as a prison warden grappling with her role in the justice system. Centerpiece is Alejandro Landes’ “Monos,” a contemporary reimagining of “Lord of the Flies” and winner of a World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize, and closing ND/NF is Pippa Bianco’s “Share,” a powerful portrait of a sexual assault victim, which took home U.S. Dramatic prizes for Breakthrough Performance and Screenwriting.
The lineup also boasts top prizewinners from festivals around the world, including Yeo Siew Hua’s “A Land Imagined,” a sociopolitical noir set in mainland China (awarded Locarno’s Golden Leopard); cinematographer Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s stunning feature directorial debut “Manta Ray,” voted one of the best undistributed films of 2018 by Film Comment (and winner of Venice’s Orizzonti prize); Shengze Zhu’s “Present.Perfect.,” a fascinating found-footage doc assembling live-streamed clips from marginalized voices (which took home Rotterdam’s Tiger Award); and two more Sundance winners—Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov’s wildly engaging beekeeping documentary “Honeyland” (World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize) and Luke Lorentzen’s exhilarating doc about family-run ambulances, “Midnight Family” (U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography).
Highlights include Lucio Castro’s “End of the Century,” a decades-spanning queer love story; “A Family Submerged,” the feature directorial debut of actress María Alché (Lucrecia Martel’s “The Holy Girl”), shot by renowned cinematographer Hélène Louvart; Qiu Sheng’s “Suburban Birds,” a two-part narrative puzzle; Lila Avilés’s intimate portrait of a female hotel worker, “The Chambermaid”; and Eva Trobisch’s “All Good,” which won Locarno’s Best First Feature prize and has drawn comparisons to Maren Ade. Making their fiction feature debuts are Ognjen Glavonić with “The Load” and André Novais Oliveira with “Long Way Home.”
The festival includes Mark Jenkin’s “Bait,” shot on hand-processed black-and-white 16mm film, and Peter Parlow’s “The Plagiarists,” which uses low-def Betamax to spoof microbudget American indies—and hybrid films that defy categorization—Burak Cevik’s “Belonging,” a murder investigation told via voiceover, abstract imagery and footage of the suspects’ first encounter, and Andrea Bussmann’s experimental narrative “Fausto,” which synthesizes Oaxacan myths with the classic Faust story. Also screening are four films with memorable performances: Philippe Lesage’s nuanced coming-of-age story “Genesis”; Camille Vidal-Naquet’s intimate character study of a gay hustler, “Sauvage”; Markus Schleinzer’s “Angelo,” about an African child sold into 18th-century Viennese court society, co-starring Alba Rohrwacher; and Sudabeh Mortezai’s “Joy,” about a Nigerian sex worker tasked with training a young recruit. Rounding out the lineup are two programs comprising 11 short films, including Jacqueline Lentzou’s “Hector Malot: The Last Day of the Year,” winner of Best Short Film at Cannes Critics’ Week, and Malena Szlam’s “Altiplano,” screening on a 35mm print.
“Demanding our attention and exemplifying the vitality of contemporary cinema, this year’s class of emerging directors is one of the most courageous in years,” said Rajendra Roy, the Celeste Bartos chief curator of film at The Museum of Modern Art. “Ready to investigate the deepest pain as well as celebrate profound humanity, these filmmakers are the brave new champions of our beloved artform.”
“Spanning the globe and a wide spectrum of styles and concerns, the bold and brilliant films in this year’s New Directors lineup are collective proof that cinema is still as supple a medium as ever,” said Film Society Director of Programming Dennis Lim.