Don’t cry no tears. All good things come to an end. So do our tardy previews. The New Directors/New Films festival lights up the spring season by bringing to New York the best debuts from festivals like Cannes and Sundance. In the final assortment, there’s a lauded love letter to cinema from Mia Hansen-Løve, the welcome return of Judy Berlin director Eric Mendelsohn and a notable French addition to the “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” genre.
Abu Jandal and Salim Hamdan are buddies who took very different routes through al-Qaeda’s militant network. Jandal now works with Yemeni youth to temper their fundamentalism. Hamdan sits in Guantanamo, notorious as Osama bin Laden’s onetime chauffeur. The latest film from My Country, My Country director Laura Poitras is another unique look at the Middle East.
French film producer Humbert Balsan helped bring works by Bela Tarr and Claire Denis to the public. His life and death inspired this acclaimed new feature from Mia Hansen-Løve, partner of Olivier Assayas. It’s a fresh take on Day for Night, with an overworked producer (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) juggling family and the fact that there isn’t enough hours in the day to achieve cinematic greatness.
Something about fiery circus performer Patrizia Gerardi reminded filmmakers Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel of Anna Magnani. So during the winter when her Italian troupe wasn’t working, they made a verite “docu-fiction” about what happens when a foundling is left at the doorstep of Patty’s trailer. The quest to find the girl’s parents is also a journey through the fringes of Italian society.
Here’s a different twist on the French classroom/battleground memorably portrayed in Entre les Murs. In Myriam Aziza’s film, the beautiful French teacher Madame Solenska (singer Lio) enjoys the devoted attentions of a 12-year-old student. The heroine worship tips over into an obsessed attachment that shakes up their small-town world. Suffice to say our l’ecole was never like this.
In Kimjongilia, the blackouts are only made bearable by frequent military parades and, of course, the lonely traffic girls. Maybe that’s why the NK authorities let Danish comic Simon Jul Jorgensen and the “spastic” Jacob Nossell perform their vaudeville The Red Chapel there. Whatever the reason, Mads Brugger’s wild film might be the most riotous peep ever made over the 38th parallel.
A nearly silent story of an aboriginal romance? It’s a love-it or sleep-through-it proposition. Still, Warwick Thornton’s debut won the Camera d’Or at Cannes last year. In a dusty outback village, Delilah (Marissa Gibson) is left reeling by her grandmother’s death. Then glue-sniffing rocker Samson (Marissa McNamara) hits her chord. Their tremulous affair became an unlikely hit in Thornton’s native Australia.
This beggar’s opera from Nader T. Homayoun makes Slumdog Millionaire look like Gold Diggers of 1933. Ibrahim is a new arrival in Tehran. Desperate for cash, he leases an orphan from the neighborhood kingpin and become a beggar wailing for assistance. If Ibrahim has a conscience, it bound to wilt fast in the underworld’s shade. Winner of the Audience Award at last year’s Venice Film Festival.
There’s all kinds of reasons to cheer Eric Mendelsohn’s new film—his first in over a decade. It reunites him with Edie Falco, the Monica Vitti to his suburban Michelangelo Antonioni. It takes him back to the beat of 1999’s Judy Berlin–the manicured lawns and twitching curtains of Long Island. Also tangled up in the housewife ennui are Elias Koteas and Embeth Davidtz. Be patient: wonder takes time.
Video artist Shirin Neshat’s attention-grabbing debut is set during Iran’s 1953 CIA-backed coup. The canny filmmaker, however, clearly sensed the unrest which erupted onto Tehran’s streets after last year’s elections. Four women seclude themselves from the chaos in an orchard garden. They’re can’t escape the issues of class, gender, politics and Islam continuing to demand attention in today’s Middle East.
Tags: 3 Backyards, Abu Jandal, Det rode kapel, Edie Falco, Elias Koteas, Embeth Davidtz, Eric Mendelsohn, Evening Dress, Humbert Balsan, Jacob Nossell, Judy Berlin, La Pivellina, La robe du soir, Laura Poitras, Le Pere de Mes Enfants, Lio, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Mads Brugger, Marissa Gibson, Marissa McNamara, Mia Hansen-Løve, My Country My Country, Myriam Aziza, Nader T. Homayoun, NDNF Film Festival, Olivier Assayas, Patrizia Gerardi, Rainer Frimmel, Salim Hamdan, Samson and Delilah, Shirin Neshat, Simon Jul Jorgensen, Tehroun, The Father of My Children, The Oath, The Red Chapel, Tizza Covi, Venice Film Festival, Warwick Thornton, Women Without Men, Zanan-e badun-e mardan