As the 51st New Directors/New Films enters its final weekend, let’s take a look back at the week of premieres, Q&As, and red carpet appearances at the annual festival celebrating emerging voices, co-presented with The Museum of Modern Art. Above you will find highlights of photos featuring a few of the filmmakers featured in this year’s festival.
Want to see more at the ND/NF? Explore the full lineup and get tickets here, follow along on our Letterboxd list, and see the remaining screenings below:
Q&A with director Sierra Pettengil!
Meticulously conceived and masterfully constructed, filmmaker Sierra Pettengill’s documentary exclusively employs archival footage to excavate the racist governmental crackdown on Black Americans in the late ’60s. The film’s centerpiece is the astonishing, unsettling footage of police and National Guardsmen being trained in fake towns known as Riotsvilles, constructed on military bases and populated by participants “playing” rioters. Buoyed and complicated by philosophical voiceover narration written by critic Tobi Haslett, and precisely edited by Nels Bangerter, Pettengill’s film is a trancelike yet politically urgent work of historical record–resetting, using a tumultuous era not to wall off the past but to clarify how little has changed in terms of the political scapegoating and violence the U.S. government uses against its Black citizens.
Rehana (2021) | Friday, April 29 at 6:15PM @ Walter Reade Theater and Sunday, May 1 at 5:45PM @ MoMA Titus 2
Introductions from actress Azmeri Haque Badhon on April 29 and May 1!
This formally rigorous, breathlessly paced indictment of an abusive, protected patriarchal society is a tough-minded triumph from Bangladeshi filmmaker Abdullah Mohammad Saad. The title character, played ferociously by Azmeri Haque Badhon, is an assistant professor at a university hospital; after she witnesses an instance of inappropriate sexual behavior between a male associate and a female student, she tries to do what she believes to be the right thing, only to be met with resistance on every level. Saad’s galvanizing tale is deepened by a parallel narrative involving Rehana’s young daughter, whose own burgeoning problems create a kind of mirror to her mother’s plight. Saad’s intense, claustrophobic filmmaking—keeping almost every shot indoors—adds to the sense of a world mired in a moral fog. A Grasshopper Film and Gratitude Films co-release.
Q&A with director Ricky D’Ambrose on April 29!
A multigenerational family saga in extreme miniature, the new feature from singular American independent director Ricky D’Ambrose, whose Notes on an Appearance played at the festival in 2018, is his most refined, emotionally resonant work yet. Slicing across decades with impressionistic precision, The Cathedral tells the formally economical yet engrossing story of the Damrosch family, whose quiet rise and fall is seen through the eyes of its youngest member, Jesse, born in the late ’80s. Using photographs and archival news footage to buttress his oblique drama, D’Ambrose shows how a family’s financial and emotional wear and tear can subtly reflect a country’s sociopolitical fortunes and follies.
Dos Estaciones (2022) | Friday, April 29 at 9PM @ Walter Reade Theater and Saturday, April 30 at 6:30PM @ MoMA Titus 2
Q&As with director Juan Pablo González on April 29 and 30!
One is unlikely to forget the subtle expressivity of Teresa Sánchez, winner of Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Award for Acting and mysterious camera subject of Juan Pablo González’s absorbing, immersive fiction feature debut. Sánchez holds the screen as María, the taciturn yet fiercely committed owner of a troubled tequila factory in rural Jalisco. After taking a new financial administrator (Rafaela Fuentes) under her wing, María is forced to reckon with the difficult realities of her business, both economical and natural. González and Sánchez always leave us on the mesmerizing outside of her emotional state, while making room for unexpected divergences, including a mid-film digression following the life of her hairdresser, Tatín (Tatín Vera, in an exquisitely modulated performance). Shot with sun-dappled radiance, Dos Estaciones is a singular achievement: an interior portrait focused on the external processes of life and work.
Q&A with director Kim Se-in on April 30!
Living together in a cramped city apartment, middle-aged single mother Su-kyung and her twentysomething daughter Yi-jung have long since settled into a relationship of simmering mutual resentment. Escalating frustrations in both of their lives—romantic, professional, and certainly domestic—drive them to a boiling point, and a shocking act allows Yi-jung to come to terms with the years of abuse she believes she has suffered. This nerve-jangling yet emotionally cleansing debut feature from Kim Se-in settles deep into the psychological folds of a parent and child caught in a vicious cycle of violence and dependency, and features a pair of lived-in, ruthlessly unsentimental performances by Lym Ji-ho and Yang Mal-bok.
Once Upon a Time in Calcutta (2021) | Saturday, April 30 at 1PM @ MoMA Titus 2 and Sunday, May 1 at 3PM @ Walter Reade Theater
Featuring a special video introduction from Aditya Vikram Sengupta!
The memory of Bengali poet, social reformer, and presiding artistic spirit Rabindranath Tagore looms over Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s sprawling yet intimate drama of contemporary urban life, an intricately constructed mosaic of people dealing with loss, economic disparity, industrial growth, and questions of basic human morality. Working with consummate Turkish cinematographer Gökhan Tiryaki (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia), Sengupta employs an elegant compositional aesthetic to his story of a grieving mother and former actress (the magnetic Sreelekha Mitra, in a richly inhabited performance) whose attempts at overcoming tragedy and moving on are consistently complicated by the needs of others in her orbit. Sengupta presents the irresolvable contradictions of modern life with clarity and invention, depicting a society in constant flux.
Children of the Mist (2021) | Saturday, April 30 at 3:15PM @ Walter Reade Theater and Sunday, May 1 at 12PM @ MoMA Titus 2
In her extraordinary feature debut which resulted in a Best Directing award in the International Competition at IDFA 2021, Vietnamese filmmaker Diễm Hà Lệ nestles her camera in with a family—members of the indigenous Hmong ethnic minority—living in the country’s northern mountainous region. Here, cherubic 12-year-old Di plays with her friends among the mist-enshrouded hills and goes to school, one of her people’s first generation with such access to education. However, the free-spirited Di is also forced to enter adulthood prematurely when she is subject to an unsettling matrimonial custom that creates rifts in her family and threatens to alter her future forever. Tender yet tough to shake, Diễm’s documentary immerses the viewer in a traditional world teetering on the brink of modernity, privileging us to know a young woman caught in the middle.
Blue Island (2022) | Saturday, April 30 at 4PM @ MoMA Titus 2 and Sunday, May 1 at 12PM @ Walter Reade Theater
Q&As with director Chan Tze Woon on April 30 and May 1!
The large-scale 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the subsequent crackdown on freedoms provide the urgent anchoring point for this remarkable vision from HK filmmaker Chan Tze Woon, a genre-defying plunge into the political morass that has been ever-widening between the former colony and the controlling Chinese state. Taking a panoramic view of these fractures, and covering acts of resistance from 1967 to today, Chan mixes documentary footage and fictional recreations of the past starring contemporary student protestors (many awaiting prison sentencing for speaking out). Blue Island is an accomplishment of both political bravery and aesthetic daring, a film about the cyclical nature of history and the people who live within the folds of time, constantly on the edge of revolution. An Icarus Films release.
The African Desperate (2022) | Saturday, April 30 at 6PM & 9PM @ Walter Reade Theater and Sunday, May 1 at 2:45PMPM @ MoMA Titus 2
Closing Night Film
Q&As with director Martine Syms at all screenings!
This frantic, wildly engaging debut feature from Martine Syms lunges through 24 crucial yet wayward hours in the life of Palace (Syms’s fellow visual artist Diamond Stingily). Following a bizarre and blithely passive-aggressive final interview with her all-white faculty, Palace receives her MFA from an upstate New York art school. Rather than attend that night’s graduation party with friends, she vows to relax and get out of Dodge, back to her hometown of Chicago. However, the night doesn’t go as planned, and Syms takes Palace on a hazy, often hilarious, occasionally surreal trip through those moments where one’s life feels balanced on a precipice. The African Desperate has its own singular momentum, fueled by Syms’s cutting satire and aesthetic invention, and coasting on the rhythms of Stingily’s sly, expertly deadpan comic performance.
Featuring a special video introduction from Irfana Majumdar!
In her delicately composed, heartrending debut fiction feature, Irfana Majumdar recreates the meticulous, cloistered world of a young girl growing up in a privileged household in India in the early 1960s. The sensitive child of a senior police official, Anjana (Shreeja Mishra) forges a close bond with her parents’ servant, Shankar (Jaihind Kumar), who acts kindly toward her though he remains separated from his own daughter, who lives back in his village. Evoking her mother’s childhood memories, Majumdar dramatizes intimate moments that quietly, persuasively speak to the country’s deeply entrenched caste system and lingering colonialist mindset, while also using the camera to capture the beauty and tactility of the girl’s physical world.
Enjoy selections from New Directors/New Films at Film at Lincoln Center beyond the festival days!
Perhaps best known as the co-screenwriter of acclaimed Norwegian director Joachim Trier (The Worst Person in the World), Eskil Vogt proves himself to be a filmmaker of astonishing skill and elemental force in his own right with this daring supernatural thriller. Set during the summer at an apartment complex surrounded by an ominous, fairy-tale-like forest, The Innocents follows the sinister, increasingly alarming interactions of a group of prepubescent children: Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum), feeling ignored next to her autistic older sister Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad); the bullied Ben (Sam Ashraf); and the angelic Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim), who appears to communicate telepathically—and feel through—the nonverbal Anna. With unforgettable, dark images and fleet visual storytelling, Vogt’s film pushes the “evil children” subgenre into more philosophical territory, creating a morally askew universe controlled by a child’s primitive understanding of the world. An IFC Midnight release.
Q&As at the 6:45pm screenings with Camilo Restrepo and Felipe Guerrero on April 29, and Camilo Restrepo on April 30 and May 1!
A former criminal and cult member living under cloak of night in the crevices and corners of the Colombian city of Medellín makes his way back into civilization, yet is gripped by a shadowy past, in this fragmented first feature from Camilo Restrepo. After his memorable shorts Cilaos and La bouche, the director proves his mastery at economical yet expansive storytelling here, taking a complex narrative about the possibility of regeneration within a society all too willing to discard its outcasts and boiling it down to a series of precise shots, sounds, and gestures of off-handed beauty. Winner of the Best First Feature prize at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival. A New Directors/New Films 2020 selection. A Grasshopper Film release.