One of the best showcases of international cinema every year, the Museum of the Moving Image’s First Look festival is now in its 12th edition and we’re pleased to exclusively unveil the lineup. Taking place from March 15-19 at the hallowed Queens theater, the selection features 38 works, including 19 features representing more than 22 countries. 

Highlights include some of our favorites on the festival circuit in the past year: at long last, the New York premiere of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Cannes prize-winner Tori and Lokita, along with other victors Rodeo and The Eight Mountains; recent Sundance premieres Babak Jalali’s Fremont, Mary Helena Clark & Mike Gibisser’s A Common Sequence, and C.J. “Fiery” Obasi’s Mami Wata; Lucrecia Martel’s new short Maid; Gastón Solnicki’s A Little Love Package; Koji Fukada’s Love Life; and much more.

MoMI Curator of Film Eric Hynes said, “The guiding ethos of First Look is discovery, aiming to introduce audiences to new films, filmmakers to new audiences, and everyone to different methods, perspectives, interrogations, and encounters. For these five consecutive days First Look takes over our two theaters as well as other rooms and galleries throughout the Museum. Artists appearing with their work, watching one another’s work, and continuing a dialogue throughout the festival is integral to what we’ve envisioned.” 

First Look 2023 was programmed by Hynes; Edo Choi, Associate Curator of Film; and Sonia Epstein, Curator of Science and Technology; with assistance from Becca Keating, Deputy Director of Development; Beatrice Bankauskaite, Film Department Assistant; and Eynar Pineda, First Look Artist Liaison. 

Filmmakers appearing in-person will be announced later, along with the lineup for this year’s fourth annual Working On It program–daytime, open-to-the-public sessions held March 15–17 in which filmmakers, critics, and students engage in conversations about the creative process via workshops and work-in-progress presentations. This year, First Look launches the Reverse Shot Emerging Critics Workshop, with an inaugural cohort of six early-career writers. This year also begins a collaboration with Polish documentary festival Millennium Docs Against Gravity, with Artistic Director Karol Piekarczyk presenting two selections from their Warsaw showcase and engaging in the Working on It sessions. As in previous years, student work from both the Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism and the BFA Film Department, School of Visual Arts will be presented both officially in the festival program and as works in progress. 

Check out the lineup below and get tickets here.


Dir. Babak Jalali. U.S. 2023, 91 mins. With Anaita Wali Zada, Jeremy Allen White, Gregg Turkington, Hilda Schmelling. Lying alone in her small apartment in the Bay area town of Fremont, California, Donya can’t sleep. Joanna, with whom she works in a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco, thinks the newly immigrated twentysomething is lonely, while her pro bono psychiatrist (Turkington) clumsily teases out potential explanations like Donya’s past work as a translator for the U.S. government. Meanwhile at her housing complex, which is populated by fellow Afghan refugees, her insomnia is hardly unusual. Filmed in black-and-white and unfolding in highly composed static shots, Fremont is a quietly radical tale of an outsider who’s both alone and at home among outsiders, and a work of exquisitely modulated tone, somewhere between deadpan comedy and offhand sorrow. New York premiere 

Preceded by Away. Dir. Ruslan Redotov. Hungary/Portugal/Belgium. 2022, 29 mins. In English, Ukrainian, and Hungarian with English subtitles. Andrey and Alisa are 16-year-old refugees living in Budapest. Together they look after fellow refugee children who are preoccupied by what they’ve witnessed and what’s going on back home, make protest art in a public park that elicits both pro-Ukrainian support and pro-Russian rancor, and struggle to adapt to what’s become and what’s to come. New York premiere 

Mami Wata 
Dir. C.J. “Fiery” Obasi. Nigeria. 2022, 107 mins. In West African pidgin with English subtitles. With Evelyne Ily Juhen, Uzoamaka Aniunoh. In the waters off the coast of West Africa swims the powerful mermaid goddess Mami Wata. Divining her whims and wishes falls to Mama Efe, a revered intermediary for the townspeople of Iyi. But gathering doubts within the community lead to calls for a change of philosophy and leadership, setting the table for armed conflict and for Efe’s daughters Zinwe and Prisca to fight for Iyi’s integrity and soul, the last defense against an invading wave of modernity. Director Obasi and cinematographer Lílis Soares electrify the eye with ultra-high contrast black-and-white photography and exacting, evocative, etching-like compositions. Winner, World Cinema Dramatic Competition Jury Prize for Cinematography, 2023 Sundance Film Festival. New York premiere  

Dir. Lola Quivoron. France. 2022, 105 mins. In French with English subtitles. With Julie Ledru, Yannis Lafki, Antonia Buresi. Hot-tempered and fiercely independent, Julia is a gearhead who has a talent for scamming condescending men. She hooks up with an ultra-masculine gang, performing cons and running errands for their incarcerated ringleader, Dom, while finding a connection with his wife, a move that puts a target on her back. Ledru, in her first screen role, is mesmerizing, always perched on a knife’s edge between wrath and inner collapse, embodying power and joy only in literal stolen moments on a bike. Winner of the Jury’s Coup de Coeur at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard. A Music Box Films release. New York City premiere 

Preceded by Jill, Uncredited. Dir. Anthony Ing. U.K./Canada. 2022, 18 mins. One of the world’s most prolific background actors takes center stage in this portrait constructed entirely from Jill Goldstein’s fleeting appearances in everything from Mr. Bean to The Elephant Man. North American premiere 

The Taste of Mango 
Dir. Chloe Abrahams. U.K./U.S. 2023, 75 mins. A tender and poetic love letter from daughter to mother, The Taste of Mango expresses a complexity of feeling and affinity that only cinema might approach. In intimate, candid conversations with her mother Rozana, Chloe probes territory long undiscussed, including a past trauma that’s strained Rozana’s relations with Chloe’s grandmother, Jean, who comes for an extended visit from Sri Lanka. Abrahams’s debut feature is an enveloping, hypnotic first-person film. New York premiere 

Preceded by Before You Were Here 
Dir. Jeff Reichert. U.S. 2023, 11 mins. Anticipating his child-to-be while on a distant journey to the Peruvian Amazon, Reichert makes a cinematic time capsule of what and how he sees, while also asking other men about their first moments of becoming a father. World premiere 

New Strains 
Dirs. Artemis Shaw, Prashanth Kamalakanthan. U.S. 2023, 78 mins. With Artemis Shaw, Prashanth Kamalakanthan. Millennial cherubs Kallia and Ram have just arrived in New York for their romantic getaway, but a strange new pandemic has other plans. Quickly spiraling into a mutual embrace of manic despair, the couple begins to resemble a pair of screwball comedy heroes marooned in a film by Luis Buñuel. Scrappily shot on Hi8 video, Shaw and Kamalakanthan’s film is a depressingly accurate evocation of the city’s first few months of lockdown and an endearing display of cinematic ingenuity. North American premiere

Art Talent Show 
Dirs. Adéla Komrzý, Tomáš Bojar. Czech Republic. 2022, 102 mins. In Czech with English subtitles. Every year the Academy of Arts (AVU) in Prague receives hundreds of applications. Art Talent Show observes every step in the arduous process for three studios, which are presided over by three different sets of professors. By taking a faculty-eye view, the film surfaces the myriad challenges old guard institutions face in evaluating, teaching, and respecting young artists steeped in hyper-contemporary values, tastes, and preoccupations. A dastardly funny, cringey, and revealing snapshot of the present. A Film Movement release. New York premiere

A Common Sequence 
Dirs. Mary Helena Clark, Mike Gibisser. Mexico/U.S. 2023, 78 mins. Transporting us from the banks of a dying lake in Pátzcuaro, Mexico, to the apple orchards of Prosser, Washington, to the lands of the Cheyenne River Sioux, this singular essay film juxtaposes three disparate, present-tense situations to lay bare the enmeshed problems beneath the surface of our visible reality: depletion and conservation, extraction and cultivation. Woven with coolly framed images and carefully layered sounds, A Common Sequence is a richly generative, open-ended experience from two of the most exciting filmmakers at work today. A Science on Screen presentation. New York premiere 

The Eight Mountains 
Dirs. Felix van Groeningen, Charlotte Vandermeersch. Italy/Belgium. 2022, 147 mins. In English and Italian with English subtitles. With Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi. Adolescents Pietro and Bruno meet one summer in the Italian Alps. Pietro’s on summer vacation with his family; Bruno is native to the mountains, where playmates and his own family are scarce. Only children, they become like brothers. But after Bruno is suddenly sent off to work, the boys separate for many years. Reunited as adults, they tentatively forge a new connection in the mountains, one that will prove to sustain them through life’s changes, ruptures, and battles with personal demons that only they truly understand about each other. Recipient of the prestigious Jury Prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. A Sideshow and Janus Films release.  New York premiere

Feet in Water, Head on Fire 
Dir. Terra Jean Long. Canada. 2023, 90 mins. In English and Spanish with English subtitles. An invisible line connects California to parts of the Middle East and North Africa, where similar climates provide ideal growing conditions for date palm trees. Shooting on 16mm, filmmaker Long surveys the arid landscape along the San Andreas Fault—from microscopic plant cells to the golden mountains—and gently probes the precarious lives of those whose livelihoods are dependent on the trees’ sweet fruits and the exoticism they lend the region. A Science on Screen presentation. New York premiere

Dir. Leandro Listorti. Argentina/Germany. 2022, 83 mins. In Spanish and German with English subtitles. Listorti’s gorgeously collaged film, shot on both 16mm and 35mm, invites viewers into the delicate work of preserving plants and celluloid, both of which are under threat of extinction and require practices of collection, inspection, and archiving. In rhythmically interweaving the performances of this work in both fields, the film gives us an almost tactile experience of Argentina as a place—its subtropical climate as well as its colonized past. A Science on Screen presentation. New York premiere 

Preceded by Agrilogistics 
Dir. Gerard Ortín Castellví. Spain/U.K. 2022, 21 mins. Artist Castellví’s new film shows life resisting the controlled environment of an industrial greenhouse. Machines plant tulip bulbs, tomatoes are fed a fixed diet that stimulates growth, and the cinematographer’s hand moves the camera with precision. A Science on Screen presentation. North American premiere

Huahua’s Dazzling World and Its Myriad Temptations 
Dir. Daphne Xu. China/Canada/U.S. 2022, 82 mins. In Mandarin with English subtitles. In Xiong’an New Area, a government-planned city just south of Beijing, the earthy, energetic Huahua ekes out a life for herself and her family by livestreaming on the video-sharing app Kuaishou. Composed almost entirely of long takes, whose compositions position Huahua firmly within and relative to her physical and social environment, Xu’s film lays bare the irreconcilable distance between the self on screen and the self in space. New York premiere 

Preceded by 
It’s What Each Person Needs 
Dir. Sophy Romvari. Canada. 2022, 11 mins. In this thoughtfully organized, docufictional portrait of actor-artist, sex worker, and caregiver Becca Willow Moss, Romvari probes questions of self-presentation, vulnerability, and authentic connection. International premiere

A Little Love Package 
Dir. Gastón Solnicki. Austria/Argentina. 2022, 81 mins. In English, German, and Spanish with English subtitles. DCP. With Angeliki Papoulia, Carmen Chaplin, Nikolaus Weidinger. The singular Argentine filmmaker Solnicki (Kékszakállú) returns with this richly strange cabinet of curiosities, at once a tribute to the fading grandeur of old Vienna and a cryptic poem on the themes of modern rootlessness and the malaise of the monied classes. North American premiere 

Love Life 
Dir. Koji Fukada. Japan/France. 2022, 124 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles. With Fumino Kimura, Kento Nagayama, Atom Sunada. Taeko (Kimura), her husband Jiro (Nagayama), and son Keita live a seemingly blissful middle-class existence as beloved members of a sun-bathed apartment complex community. A tragic accident forces Taeko and Jiro to reckon with their unacknowledged differences, leading Taeko on an emotional journey that will reunite her with her struggling former husband. An impeccably crafted study of the distorted senses of self-worth that motivate feelings of care, Fukada’s film constitutes a sparkling revival of the emotional currents of classical Japanese melodrama. U.S. premiere

R 21 aka Restoring Solidarity 
Dir. Mohanad Yaqubi. Palestine/Belgium/Qatar. 2022, 70 mins. In Arabic and Japanese with English subtitles. While traveling around the world to present his previous film, Off Frame, an all-archival exhumation of Palestinian revolutionary cinema, Yaqubi met someone who claimed to have a voluminous collection of pro-Palestinian work . . . in Japan. Using that footage, R 21 aka Restoring Solidarity offers a fascinating, eclectic, and inspiring survey of cross-continental solidarity. New York premiere

The River Is Not a Border
Dir. Alassane Diago. Senegal/France/Germany. 2022, 105 mins. In French, Wolof, and Arabic with English subtitles. By the southern bank of the river demarcating the official border between Mauritania and Senegal, filmmaker Diago convenes an open-air assembly of Black Mauritanians who, in 1989, were expelled from their homeland by a racialist Arab government. Diago’s film keys into each survivor’s physical presence, registering facial tics, vocal mannerisms, and gestures, such that the subtlest changes in mood and tone become major events in this riveting collective performance of truth without reconciliation. U.S. premiere 

Silent Love 
Dir. Marek Kozakiewicz. Poland/Germany. 2022, 72 mins. In Polish with English subtitles. Thirty-five-year-old Aga starts to look after her teenage brother, Milosz, after their mother’s death. While caring for him with the dedication and responsibility of a parent, she also seeks to become his legal guardian. To do so, she must navigate both a stringent legal apparatus and the mores of her conservative community by keeping her long-term relationship with Maja secret —even from Milosz. New York premiere 

Preceded by Joanna d’Arc 
Dir. Aleksander Szamalek. Poland. 2021, 30 mins. In Polish with English subtitles. Aneta is the manager of an erotic massage parlor in France. She left Poland to seek her own path, but things have gotten tangled up, and it may be time to change things up again, and reclaim her freedom. North American premiere

Three Women 
Dir. Maksym Melnyk. Ukraine. 2022, 84 mins. In Ukrainian with English subtitles. A young director and cinematographer come to the remote town of Stuzhytsia (bordering Ukraine, Slovakia, and Poland) and meet three women: the no-nonsense, elderly solo farmer Hanna; the sympathetic, beleaguered postwoman Maria; and the intrepid biologist Nelya. An attentive work of observational cinema quickly develops into something more porous and collaborative when the women’s sense of community and instinct for connection draw the filmmakers in front of the camera. New York premiere  

Preceded by Ashes by Name Is Man  
Dir. Ewelina Rosińska. Germany/Poland. 2023, 20 mins. No dialogue. “The film shifts between a portrait of my eighty-year-old grandparents and my view on the elements and imagery of the national-Catholic narrative in the Polish landscape. It is my personal approach to the experience of growing up in Poland, where the war and post-war history is constantly present and the process of forming a national identity has never lost its meaning.” North American premiere 

Tori and Lokita
Dirs. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne. Belgium/France. 2022, 83 mins. In French with English subtitles. DCP. With Pablo Schils, Mbundu Joely, Charlotte De Bruyne. The latest by the Dardenne Brothers is a steely account of the harrowing odyssey of two African refugees, a young boy and teenage girl, who have come to care for each other like brother and sister. As their situation grows increasingly desperate, the girl Lokita makes a fateful decision. A characteristically absorbing and detailed depiction of mettle, devotion, and resourcefulness under the most dehumanizing circumstances, Tori and Lokita is as urgent and timely a statement as the Dardennes have ever given us. Recipient of the 75th Anniversary Prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. A Sideshow and Janus Films release. New York premiere 

Preceded by Maid 
Dir. Lucrecia Martel. Argentina/Mexico. 2022, 12 mins. In Spanish with English subtitles. With Anavelí Acero, Jorgelina Contrera, Ariel Gigena, Daniel Valenzuela. The latest work from Argentinian master Martel is an exquisitely ambiguous class encounter palindrome in which a woman’s training in hospitality keeps getting derailed by calls from home and other impulses. New York premiere

Robert Beavers’s The Sparrow Dream and Other Films 
Returning to a New York screen with his first film in nearly four years, Robert Beavers will present the North American premiere of his magisterial The Sparrow Dream in context with his previous five films, which together have come to comprise a cycle that varies upon the themes of home, family, time, memory, the unconscious, and, as always, the projective cinematography of the filmmaker. 
Program features:
Pitcher of Colored Light. 2007. 24 mins. 16mm.  
The Suppliant. 2010. 5 mins. 16mm. 
Listening to the Space in My Room. 2013. 19 mins. 16mm. 
Among the Eucalyptuses. 2017. 4 mins. 16mm. 
“Der Klang, die Welt…”. 2018. 5 mins. 16mm. New York premiere 
The Sparrow Dream. 2022. 29 mins. 16mm. North American premiere

Persistent Visions Program 1: Always and Only Place  
Here are warped records of unexplained disappearances and lost transmissions, abandoned projects and utopian fantasies, echoing in one place then another, moving through time. Fermented ephemera unearthed from the roots of American decay.  
Program features: 
Light Signal. Emily Chao. U.S. 2022-2023, 11 mins. New York premiere 
Zero Woods of the Wild Place. Josh Weissbach. U.S. 2023, 12 mins. World premiere 
Gospel Hill. Kevin Jerome Everson, Claudrena N. Harold (Black Fire). U.S. 2023, 5 mins. New York premiere 
Growing Up Absurd. Ben Balcom, Julie Niemi. U.S. 2023, 15 mins. North American premiere 
I Thought the World of You. Kurt Walker. Canada. 2022, 17 mins. New York premiere 

Persistent Visions Program 2: Earth in the Mouth  
Beginning with a recitation of Brecht and Weill’s “The Drowned Girl” in Friedl vom Gröller’s Drowned, here is a sequence of odes, melancholy and ecstatic, to the wonderful difficulty of currently inhabiting this world in these bodies from relentlessly pulsating travelogues (Earth in the Mouth) to painstakingly serene nature studies (La source de la loire). 
Program features: 
Drowned (Ertrunken). Friedl vom Gröller. Austria. 2022, 3 mins. 16mm. New York premiere 
ipsae i/ii. Blanca Garcia. Spain/U.K. 2021, 6 mins. Super 8mm. North American premiere 
Earth in the Mouth. Ewelina Rosińska. Germany/Poland. 2020, 20 mins. North American premiere 
Social Skills. Henry Hills. Belgium/Austria. 2021, 12 mins. North American premiere
La source de la loire. Rose Lowder. France. 2019-2021, 19 mins. 16mm. North American premiere

First Look 2023 takes place March 15-19, 2023. Get tickets here.

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