New Directors, New Films, Old Themes

ndnf-2009A few months ago, NPR ran a rather gratuitous item of how reviewer/jester Mike D’Angelo was raising money through his blog so he could go to Cannes. Why he couldn’t just stay at home and wait for the good movies to come to the United States like the rest of us was beyond this blogger, but we came to understand his dilemma on finding that there’s a Hollis Frampton retrospective on at the Anthology Film Archives this weekend. Anybody want to lend a broke blogger $9 to see Zorns Lemma? Thought not.

All of which is a way of saying that reader, we are poor. Hence, reader, we will not be attending the New Directors/New Filmsseries running at the New York’s MOMA and Walter Reade Theatre until April 5. Much to our shame, we didn’t even realize the festival was on. Fortunately, other writers are paid to pay attention. What follows is a summary of what to see if you’re seeing ND/NF 2009.

In the Village Voice, Nick Pinkerton looks at the 39th edition of the fest and decides yep, it’s old. And that you never know what you’re gonna get. But you can get a good idea via the paper’s useful interviews with film directors Ondi Timoner (We Live in Public), Esther Rots (Can Go Through Skin), So Yong Kim (Treeless Mountain), Sophie Barthes (Cold Souls), and Louie Psihoyos (The Cove).

Other writers take a more structural approach. In the New York Times, Stephen Holden wants him some of that A.O. Scott/Richard Brody bloodbath, boldly affirming what he calls “social realism” as “humanistic art with an educational frisson.” That’s the keynote of this year’s fest, with something of an “internationalist tone.” Indiewire’s Howard Feinstein identifies “home” as a key theme, although the way he expresses don’t half make the head hurt:

Be it a villa or shanty, a dwelling is a sacrosanct extension of our bodies, our psyches, our values, our souls, humankind projected into architectural form.

Grab some aspirin, and take a survey of what to expect (and with trailers) after the jump.


Amreeka (Cherien Dabis, 2009)

Muna (Nisreen Faour) and her teenage son move from the West Bank to Illinois on the eve of America’s war with Iraq. Once in the United States, they deal with various forms of bureaucracy and intolerance. Worse, the son enrolls in an American high school jungle. Holden applauds Faour’s performance, but deems the film “a little too much rose-colored uplift for comfort.” Unsurprisingly, it went down a storm at Sundance.

$9.99 (Tatia Rosenthal, 2008)

The lives and loves of the inhabitants of a Bauhaus-style apartment building in Tel Aviv, rendered in Coraline-style stop-motion animation. Along with Waltz with Bashir, Israel is emerging as a new animation powerhouse.

Sonbahar/Autumn (Ozcan Alper, 2008)

A dissident is released from prison, and makes his way back to his mother’s home in Eastern Turkey. But the disillusioned activist doesn’t take to the life around him. “Parched,” according to Pinkerton.

Barking Water (Sterlin Harjo)

A woman drives her dying ex-lover to his Oklahoma birthplace, where a Trip to the Bountiful-style surprise may or may not await. Stephen Holden says the Native American director’s film “chokes on its own nobility.”

La terra degli uomini rossi/Birdwatchers (Marco Bechis, 2007)

In Brazil’s Mato Grosso, white ranchers refuse to let the Indos work their land. The natives decide to squat. Nobody shakes hands.

Kan door huid heen/Can Go Through Skin (Esther Rots, 2009)

The victim of an assault tries to get her head together in the country. Her head doesn’t comply. Says Dutch filmmaker Rots, “Sometimes the house is like a shell where she feels safe—and the next day, it’s terrible.”

Cold Souls (Sophie Barthes, 2009)

Anybody who does not like Paul Giamatti should now leave the cinema. Giamatti plays himself, reheasing for Uncle Vanya and deciding on a novel process whereby he can put his soul into storage. So far, so Charlie Kaufman, except director Barthes says she was inspired by Breton, Vian, Gogol, Ionesco, Tardieu, Fellini, and Bunuel. And that she wanted Woody Allen for the lead. Well, her last name is Barthes. Stephen Holden thinks this is “the most likely art house hit … flat-out funny!”

The Cove (Louie Psihoyos, 2009)

National Geographicphotog Psihoyos gets good and pissed off about Japanese dolphin fishing in this simultaneously stomach-turning and luminous documentary. “It contains some of the best cinematic moments in movie history,” he wants you to know.


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One Response to “New Directors, New Films, Old Themes”

  1. ND / NF ‘09 Trailers: From Parque Via to We Live in Public « SquallyShowers Says:

    […] New Directors, New Films, Old Themes […]

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