New Directors/New Films (ND/NF) is upon us once again, offering fans of film the chance to bravely step out of their cinematic comfort zone for what Time Out NY calls “the city’s premier showcase for fresh talent.” Hosted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, this year’s festival comprises 25 features and 16 shorts, representing 22 countries and spanning countless genres and subject matters. 

As the Village Voice’s Scott Foundas points out, ND/NF is “a decade older than Sundance and twice the age of Austin's South by Southwest,” achieving a longevity that establishes ND/NF as the go-to festival for the best new film auteurs.

Among the films playing this weekend: The Act of Killing (March 23 & 24), directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. Blending various fantasy film genres with documentary, Oppenheimer’s subjects are actual Indonesian war criminals. A.O. Scott of the New York Times says it is “surreal, sometimes hilarious and ultimately extremely disturbing, partly because it destabilizes our sense of the boundary between make-believe violence and its real-world counterpart.” 

A Sundance discovery that is now the subject of many ND/NF conversations is Alexandre Moors’s Blue Caprice (Opening Night, March 20), an in-depth psychological portrait of the men who committed the Beltway sniper attacks in 2002. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times calls it a “highly stylized, resolutely nonformulaic exploration of pathology,” with a “commanding and frightening” performance by Isaiah Washington, and a “poignant” Tequan Richmond.

Jazmin Lopez’s Leones

Also according to Dargis, Jazmin Lopez’s Leones (March 25 & 27) is “at once a fairy tale, a puzzle film and a metaphysical mystery.” Time Out NY praises its photography, gorgeously shot by Matías Mesa, a frequent collaborator of Gus Van Sant.’s Daniel Weber even says it is arguably the best film of this year’s festival.  

Shane Carruth’s long-awaited follow-up to 2004’s Primer is finally here with Upstream Color (March 28 & 30), “an advanced cinematic collage of ideas involving the slipperiness of human experience” according to Eric Kohn of Indiewire. Slant Magazine’s Calum Marsh calls Upstream Color “lush, rhythmic, and deeply sensual.” Carruth wrote, directed, acts in, and scored this “film of exceptional beauty.”  

While Sarah Polley has directed two feature films before her current Stories We Tell (March 29 & 30), this is her first shift to nonfiction, as she attempts to tell the “complete truth” regarding her family history and her own biological origins. Scott Foundas (Village Voice) calls it “her most daring, formally inventive work,” and Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out NY) says it is a “complex portrait” with “warmth and an evolving sense of forgiveness.”

Since 1972, New Directors/New Films has given platform to future cinematic greats, including Steven Spielberg, John Sayles, Spike Lee, Charles Burnett, Pedro Almodóvar, Michael Haneke, Wong Kar-Wai, Sally Potter, and many more. The festival runs from March 20 – 31, with screenings at both the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art.