Although filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s film isn’t part of the 59th New York Film Festival, I am reminded of one of her powerful quotes in which she spoke about the power of dreams: “For me, it’s a question of the way we pursue our creative dreams. There is something in our culture that says your dream or the thing you’re pursuing has to happen immediately and all at once, and that is destructive to the creative spirit. I just embraced the idea that this was going to be a gradual exploration of the thing I was interested in––making films––and gave myself permission to go slowly.”

For the dedicated filmmakers whose work is showing, I am confident that they share Ms. DuVernay’s passion.

The Currents section includes 15 features and 36 short films, representing 27 countries, and complements the Main Slate, tracing a more complete picture of contemporary cinema with an emphasis on new and innovative forms and voices. The section presents a diverse offering of short and feature-length productions by filmmakers and artists working at the vanguard of the medium. The Opening Night selection is Maureen Fazendeiro and Miguel Gomes’s (“Arabian Nights,” NYFF53) “The Tsugua Diaries,” a beguiling pandemic-era tale about three housemates in lockdown—one of several films in the section responding to the current health crisis through varying lenses; others include Shengze Zhu’s “A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces,” a meditation on urban spaces before and after the COVID outbreak, and Denis Côté’s “Social Hygiene,” an absurdist comedy in which characters exchange barbs from a humorous distance.

“Currents is the section of the festival that attests to cinema’s continued capacity for reinvention,” said Dennis Lim, NYFF director of programming. “The features and shorts in this year’s program take many forms—everything from reimagined fables to archival experiments—and you’ll find some of the most personal films in the festival here, as well as some of the most political. We hope that audiences will share the sense of surprise and discovery that we experienced in putting together this lineup.”

Filmmakers regardless of where they call home all share similar traits and that’s the need to tell stories that speak to an audience. Award winning filmmaker and teacher Spike Lee shared that, “I respect the audience’s intelligence a lot, and that’s why I don’t try to go for the lowest common denominator.”

A pair of features make their world festival premieres: Eléonore Yameogo, An van. Dienderen, and Rosine Mbakam’s “Prism,” which explores how racism remains entrenched in film culture via the biases of movie camera lighting; and pioneering film essayist Artavazd Peleshian’s “Nature,” an uncanny montage of humanity’s harmony and conflict with the natural world. Other nonfiction highlights include Wang Qiong’s reflection on her fractured family and China’s one-child policy in “All About My Sisters; “Vincent Meessen’s “Just a Movement,” a portrait of artist, Marxist, and anti-colonialist organizer Omar Blondin Diop; Jean-Gabriel Périot’s chronicle of the French working class over the past 70 years, “Returning to Reims;” Rhayne Vermette’s evocative film illustrating her native Manitoba and the Métis community, “Ste. Anne;” and Payal Kapadia’s “A Night of Knowing Nothing,” which won the Cannes Golden Eye award for best documentary. Also screening are Kyoshi Sugita’s impressionistic poetry adaptation, “Haruhara-san’s Recorder;” Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis’s folkloric fiction feature debut, “The Tale of King Crab;“ NYFF56 Projections alum Ted Fendt’s 16mm-shot “Outside Noise;” Kiro Russo’s South American cityscape, “El Gran Movimiento;” and Claire Simon’s hybrid film, “I Want to Talk About Duras,” a portrait of experimental filmmaker Marguerite Duras as recalled by her partner. Simon, Meessen, Périot, Zhu, and Rigo de Righi & Zoppis have previously shown work in the annual FLC festival Art of the Real.

Currents also showcases eight shorts programs, with work from notable new talents including two new films by British artist and filmmaker Morgan Quiantance; the latest work in a trilogy of experimental narrative shorts by Daniel Chew and Michaela Durand; a mesmerizing in-camera collage by the Mexican Indigenous filmmaking collective Los Ingrávidos; a ruminative essay on colonial traces in archival photographs from Philippine filmmaker Shireen Seno; Virgil Vernier with his thought provoking examination of the 2005 riots in Parisian suburbs; as well as artist Tiffany Sia’s incisive video essay on the 2019 Hong Kong protests.

Artists returning to NYFF this year include Kevin Jerome Everson, whose “May June July” documents the summer of 2020; Matías Piñeiro, collaborating with Galician co-director Lois Patiño for their beguiling film “Sycrorax;” Ericka Beckman, whose work was featured in a retrospective program in NYFF56; Tomanari Nishikawa with a new live projection performance for 16mm; and NYFF59 Main Slate filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Additional returning filmmakers include Allison Chhorn, Zachary Epcar, Eliane Esther Bots, Luise Donschen, Shun Ikezoe, Richard Tuohy, Vika Kirchenbauer, Ross Meckfessel, Guillermo Moncayo, and Aykan Safoğlu.

The Currents selection committee, chaired by Dennis Lim, includes Florence Almozini, Aily Nash, and Tyler Wilson. Nash and Wilson are the head shorts programmers for NYFF. Shelby Shaw and Madeline Whittle are programming assistants for short films, and Almudena Escobar López, Manny Lage-Valera, Marius Hrdy, Vikram Murthi, Maxwell Paparella, and Mariana Sánchez Bueno are submissions screeners. Violeta Bava, Michelle Carey, Leo Goldsmith, Rachael Rakes, and Gina Telaroli serve as NYFF program advisors.

NYFF59 will feature in-person screenings, as well as select outdoor and virtual events. In response to distributor and filmmaker partners and in light of festivals returning and theaters reopening across the country, NYFF will not offer virtual screenings for this year’s edition.

Proof of vaccination will be required for all staff, audiences, and filmmakers at NYFF59 venues. Additionally, NYFF59 will adhere to a comprehensive series of health and safety policies in coordination with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and state and city medical experts, while adapting as necessary to the current health crisis.

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