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

Written by on March 26, 2019 

The Load (Ognjen Glavonić)

The Load is about a man and a van. We’re in Yugoslavia in 1999, where the rumble of NATO bombers can be heard in the distance. The man’s name is Vlada (Leon Luvec) and his job is to drive a container full of who-knows-what from Kosovo to Belgrade, no questions asked. His consignment and consignors are not divulged. Even he sits uneasily in his driver’s seat as worrying clanks emit from his cargo. In times of war what is out of sight can so easily slip out of mind. The film was written and directed by Ognjen Glavonić, a 33-year-old Serb who grew up close to Belgrade and would have been in his mid-teens when NATO launched their non-UN-security-council-approved campaign to pressure the country into withdrawing its troops from Kosovo. His first feature is an ambitious piece of filmmaking, as thrilling as it is both politically and emotionally serious, and delivered with an injection of genre flourishes that save the thrust of the story from ever getting too bogged down. – Rory O. (full review)

Long Way Home (André Novais Oliveira)

Representing the rhythms of everyday life is, generally speaking, a particular concern of films situated outside the mainstream. Relatively free from the strictures of standard narratives dictated (for good and ill) by audience expectations and genres, a large portion of these filmmakers focus on the quotidian, attempting to find significance in the mundane. Naturally, this base idea leads to its own constellation of possibilities, caused by both social milieu and aesthetic predilection, but the same impulse can be seen throughout many films coming from many fundamentally separate filmmaking practices. One such example is Long Way Home, a Brazilian film directed by André Novais Oliveira, in his second feature and narrative feature debut. – Ryan S. (full review)

Manta Ray (Phuttiphong Aroonpheng)

Halfway through Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s hypnotic feature debut, Manta Ray, two men put up Christmas lights around an unadorned riverside shack. They’ve known each other for a while, but seldom speak: one (Wanlop Rungkumjad) is an unnamed Thai fisherman with dyed blonde hair; the other (Aphisit Hama) is a mute man whom the fisherman has found agonizing in a remote stretch of mangroves by the border with Myanmar, and has taken home to look after. The lights are to serve as decoration for a party the two are throwing that same night, but the sun is still high on the horizon; smiling ecstatically at the makeshift disco, the fisherman suggests the two should nap to make the day go by faster. And so they do. – Leonardo G. (full review)

Midnight Family (Luke Lorentzen)

The startling fact that there are only 45 official ambulances amongst Mexico City’s 9 million-plus population sets the intense, harrowing stage for Midnight Family. Following one family that runs their own operation, Luke Lorentzen takes an intimate look at the dedication required for such a task with a keen eye on the economic toll. With patients not requiring to pay, even if they may have died if not for this medical help, it creates a complicated situation when asking for the bill–and that’s only if they can beat out all the other private ambulances racing towards the scene of an accident. While one wishes this portrait was a little more fleshed out, the snapshot we get certainly sends a jolt, particularly in an unforgettable scene involving familial neglect. – Jordan R.

Monos (Alejandro Landes)

There’s a preternatural feel to the opening sequences of Monos, the brutal, unflinching third film from Colombian-Ecuadorian filmmaker Alejandro Landes (Cocalero, Porfirio). As if we’re floating through clouds at the edge of the world, we witness a group of children, blindfolded, playing soccer, the fear instilled that a misaimed kick could send the ball hurling into the unknown oblivion below. With information patiently, sparingly doled out–even up until the final moments–we learn this tight-knit clan is, in fact, a rebel group in the mountains of Latin America, sporadically visited by a commander but mostly given orders through a radio. Left to their own devices, the two most crucial responsibilities they are given are to care for a cow named Shakira and oversee a kidnapped American engineer, only referred to as Doctora (Julianne Nicholson). – Jordan R. (full review)

MS Slavic 7 (Sofia Bohdanowicz & Deragh Campbell)

Director Sofia Bohdanowicz found a series of letters written between 1957 and 1964 by her great-grandmother Zofia Bohdanowiczowa (a poet) to the Nobel Prize-nominated author Józef Wittlin at Harvard’s Houghton Library. Both literary figures were forced to leave Poland during World War II with the former heading to Wales and the latter New York City. Zofia would eventually cross the Atlantic into Toronto, the newfound proximity allowing them to finally meet after so much correspondence. You truly get an insight into their minds after being victimized by such a horrible genocide as well as the unwitting loss of freedom their being driven from their homes created. Beyond that priceless personal content, however, Bohdanowicz and filmmaking partner Deragh Campbell also saw the letters’ objective tactility and subjective potential. – Jared M. (full review)

The Plagiarists (Peter Parlow)

In the new feature film The Plagiarists a young, white, highly educated couple on their way home from a weekend getaway have car trouble and find themselves stranded on the side of a snowy, secluded road. They are soon discovered by an enigmatic and charming stranger, who is black. He offers to call a friend who can fix their car. He then invites them to stay the night. The Plagiarists was directed by Peter Parlow and was co-written by James N. Kienitz Wilkins and Robin Schavoir, who each seem to have taken great pleasure in concocting this slippery set-up. The opening of their film suggests a horror movie but it soon becomes apparent that Parlow is more interested in putting their characters’ progressive, middle-class sensibilities under the microscope, at least for the first while. – Rory O. (full review)

Present.Perfect. (Zhu Shengze)

In 2017, by the time the Chinese government began to furiously clamp down on the country’s live-broadcasting frenzy, a whopping 422 million Chinese regularly tuned in to stream their everyday lives, and watch other people broadcast theirs. Think of the whole phenomenon as a cross between video games and reality TV. Live streamers, otherwise known as anchors, sit before the camera to perform all sorts of routines, from the most uber-eccentric dance to the most ostensibly banal stroll; audiences reward them with gifts, which the streamers can exchange for cash. Zhu Shengze’s poignant Present.Perfect. follows a dozen anchors over a period of ten months. It distills some 800 hours of live footage into a 124-minute documentary–a black-and-white collage stirring questions that far transcend the country and the zeitgeist it captures. – Leonardo G. (full review)

Share (Pippa Bianco)

The aftermath of a sexual assault—the cell phone footage of which goes viral—is the subject of Share, writer-director Pippa Bianco’s debut feature film that deftly mines morose, intelligent drama from its entirely real scenario. Waking up on her front lawn, high school student Mandy (Rhianne Barreto) isn’t sure what went down after last night’s party, but she’s about to (partially) find out: texts alerting her to footage of what happened soon come flooding in from concerned friends, and it’s bad enough for her parents to take her out of school and launch a police investigation into what is considered video evidence of disgusting criminality. – Jake H. (full review)

Sauvage/Wild (Camille Vidal-Naquet)

Sauvage/Wild opens with a gay hustler in a doctor’s office. As he discusses his ill health—his cough, his odd stomach pains—the camera, like the examiner’s hands, passes carefully over the bruises on his ribcage, his abdomen, down over his groin. Such frank corporeality is familiar from other gay films which seek to expose and honor the wounds society inscribes onto vulnerable bodies—Sauvage’s star, Félix Maritaud, played one of the ACT UP members in 120 BPM—but then the scene shifts gears, becoming not quite a parody, but certainly an affectionate meta-joke on the ways in which the serious-minded and erotic prerogatives of queer cinema elide into each other. – Mark A. (full review)

Suburban Birds (Qiu Sheng)

Something is causing the ground to shift underneath a new Chinese suburb in writer-director Qiu Sheng’s intriguing, adept debut feature. High-rise towers are listing to the side, and residents are being evacuated. As Suburban Birds begins, a team of engineers is on-site to investigate the cause—ideally quickly, without disrupting the planned subway tunneling, so that this little part of China’s development boom can proceed. Make way for tomorrow! It’s left to Qiu to survey the restless earth around the foundations of the future, via a subtle structural gambit that marks his voice as one worth listening to. – Mark A. (full review)

New Directors/New Films 2019 runs March 27-April 7 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art.

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