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New Directors/New Films 2017
New Directors/New Films 2017

Strong Island

Yance Ford’s Strong Island unspools with a procedural-like seriousness as it investigates the 1992 killing of the filmmaker’s older brother, William Ford Jr., a 24-yeard-old African-American teacher and police officer-in-training who was shot by a white auto-mechanic while unarmed. The documentary builds, out of an outlet for discussing the tragedy of one family, into an emotionally, intellectually, and aesthetically complex work of essay and memoir. With an astute sense of both the personal and the sociopolitical access points of his premise, Ford looks deeply at the trauma of black life in America. >>

New Directors/New Films 2017

The Summer Is Gone

Zhang Dalei’s The Summer Is Gone is told through the perspective of Xiaolei (Kong Weiyi), a boy in the midst of the summer vacation before his first year of junior high in Inner Mongolia. Contrasted with Xiaolei’s more or less carefree days, his mother (Guo Yanyuan) and father (Zhang Chen) are embroiled in their own separate dilemmas: Xiaolei’s mother is concerned with getting her son into a respected school, while the father loses his job at a state-run film studio after the government begins to break down its properties. But as this film is seen through Xiaolei’s eyes, the current problems facing his parents are portrayed as moments within a broader, and purposely incomplete, portrait of growing up, and which take far less precedent than a transient feeling or sensation felt by Xiaolei as he whiles his summer days away. >>

New Directors/New Films 2017

White Sun

Deepak Rauniyar sets White Sun in Nepaltra, a small Nepalese mountain village that becomes a closed-off space for him to examine various sociopolitical tensions in Nepal’s post-civil war period: chiefly, tradition versus modernity, and the conflict between the political and the personal. Accordingly, the characters sometimes feel like little more than allegorical signposts, with Chandra (Dayahang Rai) standing in for the political progressivism that the many Nepaltra elders flat out reject, and a slew of supporting characters representing everyone caught in the middle of the fraught Nepalese peace process. These include Chandra’s ex-wife, Durga (Asha Maya Magrati); his resentful brother, Suraj (Rabindra Singh Baniya); and Durga’s daughter, Pooja (Sumi Malla), who thinks Chandra is her father. >>

New Directors/New Films 2017

The Wound

In John Trengove’s debut feature, The Wound, passage into manhood is steeped in violence both physical and psychological. The film investigates the Xhosa practice of ukwaluka, a ritual endurance test in which young men on the cusp of adulthood undergo circumcision (during which they’re implored to shout “I’m a man!” as an elder tribesman slices their genitals), fasting, and weeks of isolation from their families. But despite the specificity of this subject matter, the film’s themes of socialized masculinity and intolerance of non-conformity resonate far outside of this South African community. >>

New Directors/New Films 2017

Wulu

Though largely set on the highways leading from Bamako to Dakar, writer-director Daouda Coulibaly’s Wùlu resembles any number of North American-set films about drug running given its reliance on pat character archetypes, representations of top-down power relations, and sudden bursts of extreme violence. Coulibaly constructs one intriguing deviation from this formula in the form of Ladji (Ibrahim Koma), an ex-con whose decision to transport large shipments of cocaine across national borders is one of necessity and relative silence—a useful contrast to the typically loud-mouthed or boisterous figures of films such as Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic and Brian De Palma’s Scarface. Nevertheless, Coulibaly suffocates the film’s potential insight into the collapse of the Malian state in 2008 with an overdetermined air of existential dread by placing Ladji on a literal crash course toward inevitable tragedy. >>

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