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The Future of Filmmaking: A Comprehensive Preview of New Directors/New Films 2019

Written by on March 26, 2019 

Spike Lee, Bi Gan, Steven Spielberg, Kelly Reichardt, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Mia Hansen-Løve, Terence Davies, Jia Zhangke, Pedro Almodóvar, Lynne Ramsay, Tsai Ming-liang, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Guillermo del Toro, Lee Chang-dong, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and Christopher Nolan. Those are just a few of the filmmakers who brought their early work to New Directors/New Films. Now in its 48th edition, the New York City-based film festival continues to spotlight emerging directors representing the future of filmmaking and this year’s edition is particularly eclectic.

We’ve covered all twenty-four of the features playing at the festival, taking place March 27 through April 7 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art. Along with gems hailing from Berlinale, Cannes, Locarno, Rotterdam, TIFF, Sundance, and beyond, the festival also features one world premiere (End of the Century) as well as two shorts programs.

Check out our comprehensive coverage below along with links to full reviews.

All Good (Eva Trobisch)

What immense health German cinema has found itself in lately. Since the turn of the decade, audiences of a certain ilk have grown accustomed to seeing names like Ade, Petzold, Grisebach, Schanelec, and Köhler show up on art-house and festival screens. We may soon need to add Eva Trobisch to that list. Yes, if All Good (Alles ist gut)her snare drum taut and timely feature debut–is anything to go by, the East Berlin-born writer-director should provide that rich vein of deutsche Regisseure will its latest transfusion. – Rory O. (full review)

Angelo (Markus Schleinzer)

There is no question that white people are and have historically been capable of racism. The value of Angelo resides in its ability to convey those prejudices that are generally ignored or made invisible within the film medium and the art industry as a whole. Director Markus Schleinzer depicts the true story of Angelo Soliman, a kidnapped African child—sold into the 18th century Austrian upper-class as the surrogate son/ pet of a grieving Countess—who futilely becomes a part of upper-class society but not quite an equal member as a “royal moor,” performing for the enjoyment of his court. With a dry sense of humor Schleinzer—who notably worked as Michael Haneke’s casting director—expands on the direct sort of racism generally understood by arthouse audiences by further identifying the unethical ways which art has flourished under that colonial moralist framework which congratulated white aristocrats for their perceived righteous aim of “civilizing” colonized people. – Jason O. (full review)

Bait (Mark Jenkin)

For his debut feature, writer-director-cinematographer Mark Jenkin takes a parable about a contemporary fishing community under threat from wealthy outsiders and presents it in a style reminiscent of documentaries of the early 20th century, namely Robert J. Flaherty’s 1934 film Man of Aran. The result is titled Bait, a punky, pastoral little movie that draws from the mysticism and iconography of documentaries like Flaherty’s but with a narrative and ironic wit that is inescapably of the here and now. Put it this way: the director may have had those films in mind when he chose to shoot Bait on 16mm and have it processed by hand–for purposes of wear and tear–but perhaps less so when he wrote the scene in which a man on a stag party boards a boat dressed in a large penis costume. – Rory O. (full review)

Belonging (Burak Çevik)

The nature of promise displayed by a new filmmaker can sometimes be an inherently risky proposition. For every Orson Welles or Jacques Rivette, who burst out of the gate and kept making revelatory film after revelatory film, there are countless others who showed an early mastery before all but disappearing. This, of course, makes institutions like New Directors/New Films all the more important for cataloging these talents, but it can occasionally make one wonder if a real discovery will continue to bear fruit in the films and years to come. However, it is important not to let these concerns color the film at hand, and to continue to keep an eye out for such bolts from the blue. Burak Çevik’s Belonging, which premiered in this year’s Berlinale Forum and will play at ND/NF, is an almost ideal example of this phenomenon. – Ryan S. (full review)

The Chambermaid (Lila Aviles)

Set entirely within the confines of a luxurious Mexico City hotel, mostly in rooms and service corridors, The Chambermaid is a fascinating observational drama and occasional allegory for the haves and have-nots. Gabriela Cartol stars as Evelina, a 24-year old single mother working on her GED in a program provided (and later canceled) by the hotel’s union. Like Blue Crush, another film that contained explicit scenes of hotel maids cleaning up after guests, The Chambermaid doesn’t shy away from the usual demands of the job, from a guest who insists on having his room stocked with five times the amenities he needs to a wealthy Argentina woman who calls Eveline to her room to essentially babysit. When her son takes to Eveline, she’s given a tentative offer to leave the hotel behind for a new life in Argentina. – John F. (full review)

Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu)

From Escape from Alcatraz to Cool Hand Luke to The Shawshank Redemption, cinema is rich with not only prison films focused on the plight of the prisoner, but also depicting wardens in an evil light. Clemency, winner of the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, flips the script in both ways, both turning the spotlight on a warden and painting her in an empathetic, complicated light. Led by Alfre Woodard, she gives a riveting, emotional performance as the Bernadine Williams, a woman who is stuck between the demands of her grueling job and a disintegrating marriage, and can’t give her all to both. – Jordan R. (full review)

End of the Century (Lucio Castro)

Two travelers—Ocho, an aspiring poet from New York, and Javi, a Spanish director from Germany—spend a single day together in Barcelona in the opening act of Lucio Castro’s debut feature End of the Century. Though they converse as if they had just met and hook up with the awkward nervousness of first-time lovers, it is clear that there is nothing casual or chance about their encounter. Their chemistry gives it away. Each layer added to the story—a second act prologue of their first meeting and a third act finale of their future—provides no answers and further complicates things, expanding the boundaries and limitations of time and space in order to properly represent their enigmatic relationship to one another. End of the Century is a love story drenched in a nostalgic magical realism that constantly shifts its own logic, as if recognizing the futility of containing its uncontainable romance. – Jason O. (full review)

A Family Submerged (María Alche)

Grieving takes on a disquietingly beautiful tone in Argentinian actress-turned-cineaste María Alche’s directorial debut A Family Submerged (Familia Sumergida). After her sister’s untimely death, Marcela (Mercedes Moran), grapples with a middle life crisis, a moribund marriage, and a strained relationship with her three children. Dream-like memories of late relatives and loved ones offer a tenuous solace to loneliness, and cinematographer Hélène Louvart (of Beach Rats, Happy as Lazzaro and Maya’s fame, to name but three of her most recent works) perceptively paints Marcela’s apartment in a hazy light and dusty colors, an aquarium-like universe submerged in recollections and family rituals. Lucrecia Martel aficionados will no doubt spot familiar names in Alche’s debut, starting with Alche herself, who had taken the title role in Martel’s 2004 The Holy Girl, and Mercedes Moran, whose first collaboration with Martel dates back to the auteur’s 2001 feature debut, La Ciénaga. But the connections between Alche’s cinematic universe and Martel’s, here credited as a creative consultant, cut a lot deeper. A sense of physical and spiritual decay permeates Familia Sumergida, the same that served as a leitmotiv for Martel’s excursions into bourgeois solitude – yet the world Alche conjures speaks its own language: one of oneiric choreographies and mesmeric apparitions. – Leo G.

Fausto (Andrea Bussmann)

A perturbing reimagination of Goethe’s fable of human hubris, Fausto, Andrea Bussmann’s follow-up to her 2016 Tales of Two Who Dreamt (co-directed with Nicolás Pereda) unfurls as an ethnography of an idyllic stretch of Mexico’s Oaxacan coast and its inhabitants–humans and animals, dead or otherwise. It is a clash of irreconcilable worldviews and epistemologies: echoes of the land’s ancestral myths and otherworldly entities teem with the frustrated quest of total knowledge that animated Goethe’s work as much as the beach-stranded men Bussmann trails behind. They are foreign guests in a world that resists all attempts at subjugation–a universe that constantly seesaws between present and past until the distinction ceases to hold any meaning, and the ethnography ascends to a timeless terrain. Late at night, Bussmann listens to her characters recount anecdotes that draw from a supernatural milieu. There’s the story of the dead who must pay their dues before leaving for the hereafter; magical houses that pop up in the jungle promising travelers endless if ephemeral riches; and psychics who can communicate with animals. Shot in digital but transferred to 16mm, Fausto exists as a site of resistance, a search into dark territories that simultaneously expands and exposes the limits of what can be known–and how knowledge can be passed on to others. – Leo G.

Genesis (Philippe Lesage)

In the grand scheme of things, teenage love affairs–together with all the raptures, jitters, devastations associated with them–probably don’t count that much. But then again probably everyone can relate to the sheer groundbreaking force of that first quickening of the heart, of that blinding rush of hormones that compels us to act with a recklessness that we’ll later learn to forever suppress. Quebecois filmmaker Philippe Lesage’s Genesis is an ode to that time in our lives when we still paid more attention to impulses than consequences. Trifling perhaps in terms of subject matter and scope, but it absolutely mesmerizes. – Zhuo-Ning S. (full review)

Honeyland (Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska)

The need for fidelity characterizes Honeyland, a documentary co-directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska (in their feature debut) which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and won the festival’s documentary World Cinema Grand Jury prize. For more or less the entirety of the film, its focus rests upon Hatidze, a Macedonian woman in her fifties who lives with her ailing mother in a deserted mountain village and makes both her living and passion out of harvesting honey. The various synopses describe her as the last traditional female beekeeper in Europe, but this is never laid out in text or voiceover, as the images and moments are presented without any overt intervention by the documentarians. – Ryan S. (full review)

Joy (Sudabeh Mortezai)

One need not take a class on the cinema of Todd Solondz to suspect that there may not be a great deal of joyfulness in a film called Joy (unless, of course, someone like Jennifer Lawrence is involved.) Indeed, the second narrative feature of Sudabeh Mortezai–an Austrian filmmaker of Iranian extraction–shows us a world with little time for life’s lighter emotions. The Joy of the title is Mortezai’s protagonist, a Nigerian woman (played by impressive newcomer Anwulika Alphonsus), who made her way to Europe to find a better life but instead found the world of forced prostitution, horrifically trapped in a spiral of debt to the very people who brought her over. – Rory O. (full review)

A Land Imagined (Yeo Siew Hua)

Cooked with a broth of a few too many ideas, A Land Imagined is a so-close-to-being-great Singapore neo-noir that does all the right things, but simply does too many of them in its snappy 95-minute running time. Only his second feature, Singapore-born writer-director Yeo Siew Hua was awarded the Gold Leopard in Locarno for his enigmatic new film. His story tells of a detective who arrives on a land reclamation site to investigate how and why one of the workers disappeared. What Yeo presents is remarkable for its style and ambition but also for its scattered folly, a world of Lynchian dreams and techno-surrealism that somehow echoes both Chinatown and Wong Kar-wai. It’s also a tale buckling at the knees under all that symbolism and with at least one too many loose ends left dangling. – Rory O. (full review)

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