What an incredible festival 40 years makes! 2011 marked a particularly special moment in our collaboration with Museum of Modern Art for the annual New Directors/New Films Festival. While it was only the second year that the two organizations maintained a stand-alone web presence at newdirectors.org, we definitely made the most of our fledgling online enterprise with plenty of blog dispatches from the festival, video clips, and special appearances. Here is a highly biased and totally unscientific look at some of the highlights.

ND/NF Opening Night

Enjoying a chance to look back…

Turning 40 allowed us a chance to take a look at exactly how many famous filmmakers had passed through the hallowed halls and white slabs on MoMA and Lincoln Center. This exercise allowed us to waltz down memory lane with a number of great directors–Ramin Bahrani, Guillermo Del Toro, to name a few, but one of my favorites was from Ken Burns:

Also, we got a chance to find out how the festival began, through an oral history from the Film Society’s Joanne Koch and MoMA’s Laurence Kardish. Was the first slate sketched on a cocktail napkin? Were curatorial disputes once settled with arm wrestling contests? There's only one way to find out.

…and prove that we still rock

She was like 50 minutes late (but let's face it, the life of a rock star ain't easy) but Courtney Love graced us with her presence for the premiere of Hit So Hard, joined by Eric Erlandson, Patty Schemel, and Melissa auf der Mar. ND/NF is just like that. Edgy. Hole takes ND/NF at Hit So Hard Screening

Finally figuring out what that whole “financial crash” thing was about

This financial crash thriller Margin Call provoked a lot of talk around the Film Society offices on the Thursday morning after the premiere at the Museum of Modern Art. For one thing, if made all those crazy buzzwords about “toxic securities” and “credit default swaps” not only somewhat understandable, but also somehow compelling as the stuff of a dramatic feature film. Who woulda thought that a bunch of guys (and one Demi Moore) in an office could be this riveting? Most of us chalked it up to an incredible cast including the likes of Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany and Zachary Quinto as the moral center of the movie. But it also helped that the workplace dynamics displayed in the movie will resonate with anyone who has ever had a job. On the New Director's blog, Alison Willmore had this great dissection of the film, which will open in the fall. It is highly recommended.

ND/NF Opening Night

Seeing a lots of films you could dance to

Alison Willmore provided a number of novel angles on this year's selection, but my favorite was this New Directors/New Films Playlist. We often talk about how our films hail from all over the world, but Alison's post points out the wild range of cultural cues this year's slate draws on, from dreamy Radiohead to disposable 80s pop to Brazilian samba to Portland indie rock. Have a listen.

Getting up close and personal with the directors

As always, ND/NF offers plenty of opportunity to talk to directors about process, both on stage and online. I was heartened to hear from, Athina Rachel Tsangari, director of the excellent Attenberg, that her first film festival experience (as a ticket-buyer) was at New Directors/New Films.

Alison Willmore and the Film Society's John Wildman chased down a number of the directors in the slate, and grilled them for thoughts on process and art:

10 Burning Questions For: Deron Albright, Director of The Destiny of Lesser Animals

10 Burning Questions for: Denis Villeneuve, director of INCENDIES

10 Burning Questions for: Denis Côté, director of CURLING

10 Burning Questions for Dee Rees, director of PARIAH

ND/NF Opening Night

A special shoutout to all of the many partners and collaborators who work with us to bring New Directors to the web, including, at MoMA, Sean Egan, Brigitta Bungard, Julia Hoffman, Allegra Burnette and Victor Samra; our amazing web development partner Jaki Levy; and our awesome blogger on the scene Alison Willmore.

Thanks for an extraordinary fest!