Alchemy

New Directors/New Films 2016

New Directors/New Films 2016

 

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The 45th edition of Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art’s New Directors/New Films festival kicks off this year with Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow, a political horror story about the troubles faced by a mother and her son living in Tehran eight years into the Iran-Iraq War. It’s the second horror film in Farsi, after Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night in 2014, to open the festival, and it’s already drawing understandable comparisons to another work of horror that was spotlighted by this festival “dedicated to the discovery of new works by emerging and dynamic filmmaking talent”: Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook.

The series, as usual, is an eclectic, geographically far-flung survey of bourgeoning filmmaking talent, and it’s rich in provocations big and small. And two of its most notable selections are reckonings with a vastly different people’s sense of denial: Marcin Wrona’s Demon, about a two-day rural Polish wedding that’s gradually taken over by a Jewish clinging spirit’s provocations, and Avishai Sivan’s Tikkun, a blackly comic (and black-and-white) drama, with shades of Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, that depicts an ultra-orthodox Yeshiva student’s crisis of faith and sexuality.

The festival’s tour of the world takes audiences to Ghana, where Kelly Daniela Norris and T.W. Pittman’s Nakom sees in the conflict between new and old belief systems a universally existential struggle to simply move forward; to Egypt, where Tamer El Said’s In the Last Days of the City interrogates middle-class privilege in a time of great crisis; and to the Indian state of Karnataka, where Raam Reddy’s Thithi, a lovingly and eccentrically detailed look at a familial divide that evokes the spirit of Yasujirō Ozu.

Regret is practically the festival’s overriding theme, especially among the documentary crop. While it’s unclear if the elusive and evasive Anthony Weiner depicted in Josh Kriegman and Elyse Sternberg’s Weiner feels such an emotion, it’s unmistakable on the faces of subjects as diverse as Peter Dunning, the Vermont farmer who lords over a solitary kingdom in Tony Stone’s Peter and the Farm, and, well, the anthropomorphized buffalo calf at the center of Pietro Marcello’s Lost and Beautiful, an elegy to a country’s golden age that seems to exist, like many of the film’s in his year’s New Directors/New Films lineup, at once in and out of time. Ed Gonzalez

New Directors/New Films runs from March 16—27. For tickets click here.