Epic Pictures

New Directors/New Films 2015

New Directors/New Films 2015

 

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As dubbed by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, New Directors/New Films is “dedicated to the discovery of new works by emerging and dynamic filmmaking talent.” This year’s 44th edition of festival will screen 26 international features and 16 short films, premiering on March 18 with Marielle Heller’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl, a Sundance carryover and Berlinale prizewinner about a teen artist living in ’70s San Francisco and having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend, and closing on March 29 with Rick Alverson’s Entertainment, the story of an over-the-hill comedian working the depressingly low-rent comedy-show circuit in the Mojave desert on his way to meeting his estranged daughter.

The festival, in the past, has taken knocks for its ostensible stretching of the word “new”—for not exclusively limiting its lineup to works by first-time filmmakers. And it’s tempting to consider that this year’s selection committee has heeded such gripes, as only a handful of the directors represented in this year’s lineup have previous feature films under their belts, most notably documentarians Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross (Western); Alverson, whose prior The Comedy made our list of the 25 best films of 2012; and Stevan Riley, whose Listen to Me Marlon uses archival footage and unheard audio of Marlon Brando to deliver onto us an eerily poignant beyond-the-grave autobiography of the acclaimed actor. And yet, one would need to travel far beyond the not-so-beaten path of the festival circuit to have encountered the prior works by such bourgeoning talents as Oscar Ruiz Nava (Los Hongos), Erdenibulag Darhad and Emyr ap Richard (K), and Severin Fialo and Veronika Franz (Goodnight Mommy).

Late last month, Rajendra Roy, Chief Curator of Film at MoMA, noted in an interview: “While the ’New’ in New Directors/New Films does not mean ’young’ per se, the festival has always had a deep connection to youth culture, and coming-of-age narratives in particular.” Indeed, this year’s lineup abounds in stories of youth navigating the precarious crawlspace between adolescence and adulthood, and against the backdrops of far-flung locales. Such as the cerebral, Ulrich Seidl-produced chiller Goodnight Mommy, about nine-year-old twins grappling with who their mother might have become after cosmetic surgery, and Bas Devos’s Violet, an oft-harrowing experiment in silence, redolent of Gus Van Sant’s more minimalist latter-day output, concerning a 15-year-old grappling with the aftermath of his friend’s murder.

But what’s most breathtaking about this year’s selection is how vigilantly so many of the films detour down stylistic back roads that often yield new perspectives on the blurring of art and life. Like Britni West’s Tired Moonlight, an “unornamented measure of a small town’s way of life” (according to our own Sean Nam) starring Alex Karpovsky, Virgil Vernier’s Mercuriales, a “mosaic of different sensorial impressions” (per James Lattimer) set in and around the Les Mercuriales twin towers in Paris, and Benjamin Crotty’s Fort Buchanan, a carnal melodrama starring the impossibly sexy Andy Gillet as a man taking care of his daughter alongside other army wives as his estranged husband carries out a mission in Djibouti. The story is a queer utopia that, in its canny modulations of tone, from the comedic to the poignantly ethereal, is also queerly realized. It’s a highlight of a festival that’s optimally geared to steal a gratifying sense of discovery from its audience. Ed Gonzalez

New Directors/New Films runs from March 18—29. For tickets click here.