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Mommas Man (#110 of 1)

New Directors/New Films 2008

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New Directors/New Films 2008
New Directors/New Films 2008

Now in its 37th year, the annual New Directors/New Films series kicks off tonight with a screening of the Sundance Film Festival prizewinner Frozen River. The schedule for the following week-and-a-half (closing night: Sunday, April 6th) is an outwardly eclectic mix of subjects, though whispers from several festival-fatigued colleagues suggest there’s a lot of same-ol’-same-ol’ chaff among the needle-in-the-haystack wheat—a par for the course reaction as far as these things go, helpful only in pointing up the ease with which cinephilic passion becomes masochistic drudgery. I attended only three press screenings (one of these was for a film I had seen several times before), but that was enough to glean something of a linking theme: the symbolic weight of one’s home/homeland, literally evident via the plantations that figure as central locales in Eat, for This Is My Body and Moving Midway, and more figuratively explored via the cluttered downtown Manhattan loft (a repository for several characters’ perpetually resonant memories and inescapably present-tense hang-ups) in Momma’s Man. Such an observation runs the risk of reducing the New Directors series to some kind of singular, bastardized essence. No doubt the many writers who contributed to this festival preview (heroes all of ’em) would beg to add their own perspective, and that they have done in the entries below (all told, eleven of the series’s twenty-six features are reviewed). Consider the result less a consumer’s guide than a signpost marking a moment—use our collected observations to journey where you will. Keith Uhlich