Exploring bold new works from filmmakers around the world, the 53nd New Directors/New Films, our annual festival co-presented with the Museum of Modern Art, officially kicks off on April 3. Ahead of the festival, get to know the filmmakers who speak to the present and anticipate the future of cinema.

Ilya Povolotsky discusses the lessons he’s learned and what screening his film Grace at ND/NF means to him.

What made you first want to be a director?

It was pure chance. I was a law student and one day I accidentally found myself on someone’s film set. I got hooked. To be honest, I was more interested in literature than cinema back then, but since it saved me from the civil law, so I’m good.

Was there a film or director you were inspired by or continue to be inspired by?

There are many: Mirror, Persona, Melancholia, Hard to Be a God, films by Kira Muratova, Michael Haneke, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Sergei Parajanov, of course.

In your own words, tell us about your film. What should audiences know?

Grace is a parable about growing up. A metaphorical quest for initiation. An odyssey of a sort.

What does it mean to you to show your film at New Directors/New Films?

Exciting, of course. This is the first time Grace will be seen in this part of the world and each new audience is a little special, so I’m curious. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned during the making of your film?

It can be useful to doubt and to question again. Time is still our most important tool and resource.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My grandmother used to say: “to do it, you at least try to start, but don’t give up what you started.” I’m not sure I fully understood it, but it worked a couple of times.

What else do you enjoy doing outside of filmmaking?

Nothing special. I enjoy reading, sharing my life with loved ones and friends, and going on long trips somewhere.

What’s a film you saw recently that you enjoyed?

The Zone of Interest by Jonathan Glazer.

A father and daughter duo traverse the vast, winding, and seemingly vacant backroads of rural Russia in a rusted, rambling van that serves as both home and transport for the adolescent and her living parent (mom travels with them in the form of ashes in an urn). Clandestine DVD sales, fleeting sexual encounters, and checkpoint-avoiding detours signal the outlaw lifestyle these two share as they slowly, inevitably drift apart. The “road movie” is about as familiar a genre as any in motion pictures, which is what makes Ilya Povolotsky’s debut fiction feature, which premiered at the 2023 Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, such a discovery. Echoes of Tarkovsky quiver in the frosty landscapes as we sense the possibility of escape, of individuality.

Ilya Povolotsky’s Grace screens on April 9 & April 10. New Directors/New Films takes place April 3-April 14. Explore the lineup and get tickets.