Thursday, March 17, 2016 , Posted by LATINO EVENTS Y TESPIS MAGAZINE at 5:36 PM

The film series that brought us the likes of Pedro Almodóvar, the New Directors/New Films continues this year with another promising showcase of emerging Latino talent and from around the world. And what a selection of Latino talent we have: Federico Veiroj,  Salomé Lamas, Julio Hernández Cordón, Anita Rocha da Silveira, Pietro Marcello, Gabriel Mascaro, Pascale Breton and Lucile Hadžihalilović, are all part of the festival. Some other emerging talent like Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg, Tony Stone, Omer Fast, Raam Reddy, Anna Rose Holmer, Tamer El Said, Kirsten Johnson, and Babak Anvari are also part of it. These are our highlights. Do not miss these films, specially the Latino films highlighted below!.

* The Apostate / El apóstata. Federico Veiroj, Spain/France/Uruguay, 2015, 80mSpanish with English subtitles

With wry humor and deep conviction, Uruguayan filmmaker Federico Veiroj (A Useful Life, ND/NF 2010) observes a young Spaniard’s maddening efforts to abandon the Catholic Church. Petitioning the local bishop in Madrid to hand over his baptismal records, the philosophy student is soon confronted with a stubborn bureaucracy and comically agonized tests of his fidelity and patience. Scenes of pithy theological discussion (performed by the film’s excellent ensemble cast) are interspersed with oneiric flights of imagination, cohering to produce a work that is by turns seriously philosophical and irreverently funny. While Veiroj’s tone may be more gently ironic than that of Luis Buñuel (his spiritual forebear), The Apostatenonetheless traces in bracing fashion the competing forces of conformity and rebellion, spiritual yearning and carnal desire, at war within us all.

Eldorado XXI: Salomé Lamas, Portugal/France, 2016, 125m Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara with English subtitles

Salomé Lamas’s Eldorado XXI immerses the viewer in the breathtaking views and extreme conditions of La Rinconada in the Peruvian Andes, the highest-elevation permanent human settlement in the world. Here, some 17,000 feet above sea level, miners face misery and lawlessness in the hopes of striking gold, chewing coca leaves to stave off exhaustion. They toil for weeks without pay under the inhumane lottery system known as cachorreo, gambling on an eventual fortune if they can survive the despoiled landscape long enough. Life in this remotest outpost of civilization seems to unfold in the grip of an illusion, and the film itself frequently resembles a hallucination, not least in an extended tour-de-force shot that reveals an endless stream of miners trekking up and down the mountain as we hear radio reports and stories of their daily lives. Full of unforgettable images and sounds, Eldorado XXI is a transporting, fundamentally mysterious experience that renews the possibilities of the ethnographic film. North American Premiere

* I Promise You Anarchy / Te prometo anarquía Julio Hernández Cordón, Mexico/Germany, 2015, 100m    Spanish with English subtitles.

Miguel (Diego Calva) and Johnny (Eduardo Eliseo Martinez) are in deep. Badass skater-bros, crazy-in-love blood hustlers, they’re flowing inevitably toward a sea swimming with narco-sharks. This is Mexico City today, and for two boys from different worlds but the same house—Johnny is the son of Miguel’s family maid—there is no future. On the days they do have at their disposal, they will live as hard as they can, even if it means total destruction for everyone around them. A harrowing vision of the 21st century replete with garishly lit sex scenes, inebriated slow motion, and an exhilarating, eclectic pop soundtrack, and winner of numerous prizes at festivals in Latin America, Julio Hernández Cordón’s film is exploding with beats, sweat, and pain—an ecstatic and anguished portrait of youth teetering on the brink of nihilism. U.S. Premiere

* Kill Me Please / Mate-me por favor Anita Rocha da Silveira, Brazil/Argentina, 2015, 101mPortuguese with English subtitles.

Anita Rocha da Silveira’s vibrantly morbid debut feature is a coming-of-age story in which passive aggression on the handball court, jealousy among friends, and teenage angst unfold in the foreground of a slasher flick. In Rio de Janeiro’s Barra da Tijuca—a newly formed upper-middle-class neighborhood of car-lined thoroughfares, gigantic malls, and monolithic white condos—a clique of teenage girls become fearfully captivated by a string of gruesome murders. The most fascinated is Bia (Valentina Herszage), whose own sexual discoveries evolve alongside the mounting deaths in this skewed world of wild colors and transformative desires. With nods to Brian De Palma’s Carrie, Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People, and the atmospheres of David Lynch, Rocha da Silveira’s contribution to the genre is nonetheless entirely her own.

* Lost and Beautiful / Bella e perduta. Pietro Marcello, Italy/France, 2015, 87m. Italian with English subtitles.

Pietro Marcello continues his intrepid work along the borderline of fiction and documentary with this beautiful and beguiling film, by turns neorealist and fabulist, worthy of Pasolini in its matter-of-fact lyricism and political conviction. Shot on expired 16mm film stock and freely incorporating archival footage and folkloric tropes, it begins as a portrait of the shepherd Tommaso, a local hero in the Campania region of southern Italy, who volunteered to look after the abandoned Bourbon palace of Carditello despite the state’s apathy and threats from the Mafia. Tommaso suffers a fatal heart attack in the course of shooting, and Marcello’s bold and generous response is to grant his subject’s dying wish: for a Pulcinella straight out of the commedia dell’arte to appear on the scene and rescue a buffalo calf from the palace. With Lost and Beautiful, a documentary that soars into the realm of myth, Marcello has crafted a uniquely multifaceted and enormously moving work of political cine-poetry. Winner of two awards at the Locarno Film Festival. U.S. Premier

* Neon Bull / Boi neon. Gabriel Mascaro, Brazil/Uruguay/Netherlands, 2015, 101m. Portuguese with English subtitles.

A rodeo movie unlike any other, Gabriel Mascaro’s Venice and Toronto prize-winning follow-up to his 2014 fiction debut August Winds tracks handsome cowboy Iremar (Juliano Cazarré) as he travels around to work at vaquejadarodeos, a Brazilian variation on the sport in which two men on horseback attempt to bring a bull down by its tail. Iremar dreams of becoming a fashion designer, creating flamboyant outfits for his co-worker, single mother Galega (Maeve Jinkings). Along with Galega’s daughter Cacá and a bullpen worker named Zé, these complex characters, drawn with tremendous compassion and not an ounce of condescension, make up an unorthodox family, on the move across the northeast Brazilian countryside. Sensitive to matters of gender and class, and culminating in one of the most audacious and memorable sex scenes in recent memory, Neon Bull is a quietly affirming exploration of desire and labor, a humane and sensual study of bodies at work and at play. A Kino Lorber release.

* Suite Armoricaine. Pascale Breton, France, 2015, 148m. French with English subtitles.

In her first feature since her distinctive 2004 debut, Illumination, Pascale Breton returns to her native region of Brittany for this rapturous ensemble film about the persistence of the past in the present. Françoise (Valérie Dréville), an accomplished art historian, leaves Paris to teach at her alma mater in Rennes. Most of her former schoolmates never left town, it turns out, and are curiously eyeing her return. Meanwhile, Ion (Kaou Langoët), a sensitive geography student, falls in love with the blind Lydie (Manon Evenat), and clashes with his estranged, now-homeless mother, Moon (Elina Löwensohn), one of Françoise’s closest friends from the old punk-rock days… As these idiosyncratic, richly drawn characters intersect, their points of view overlap and the tricks of time and memory become apparent. Bursting with ideas and emotion, Suite Armoricaine is a work of symphonic scope and grand themes (love and death, art and beauty, language and music) that finds deep wells of meaning in the smallest and most surprising details and gestures. North American Premiere

* Evolution / Évolution. Lucile Hadžihalilović, France, 2015, 81m. French with English subtitles
On a remote island, populated solely by women and young boys, 10-year-old Nicolas plays with other children, but not in a carefree manner. And while the women may have maternal instincts, something is awry: they gather on the beach at night for a strange ritual that Nicolas struggles to understand, and the boys are taken to a hospital regularly for mysterious treatments. And water is everywhere. This is the stuff nightmares are made of, and Nicolas appears to be living out one of his own. In the follow-up to her directorial debut, Innocence, Lucile Hadžihalilović continues her exploration of growing up—where we’re going and what we’re leaving behind. As Nicolas discovers more, feelings of fear, melancholy, and also eroticism bubble to the surface. Hadžihalilović has created a dark fantasy that we are invited to explore and make our own discoveries, however macabre they may be. An Alchemy release.

* Neither Heaven Nor Earth [Formerly titled The Wakhan Front] / Ni le ciel ni la terre. Clément Cogitore, France/Belgium, 2015, 100m French and Persian with English subtitles
The ingenious conceit of Neither Heaven Nor Earth, a critical success at Cannes, is to transform the Afghan battlefield—dust and boredom and jolts of explosive violence—into the backdrop for a metaphysical thriller. Jérémie Renier stars as a French army commander who begins to lose the loyalty of his company, as well as his sanity, when soldiers start mysteriously disappearing one by one. Rarely is the madness of war conveyed on screen with such simmering tension and existential fear. Rarely, too, is the ignorance and mistrust between cultures—are the shepherd villagers innocent civilians or Taliban spies?—limned with such poetic insight. U.S. Premiere


* Weiner. Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg, USA, 2016, 100m

Truly compelling vérité filmmaking requires several key factors to coalesce: intimate access, cinematographic acumen, genuine inquisitiveness, and fascinating subjects. Directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg brilliantly meld these elements to create one of the most engaging and entertaining works of nonfiction film in recent years. A truly 21st-century hybrid of classic documentary techniques and reality-based dramatic storytelling, Weiner follows the mayoral election bid of former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner in 2013, an attempted comeback that, as we all know now, was doomed to failure. By turns Shakespearean in its tragedy (it’s clear that Weiner and his inner circle have real political talent) and Christopher Guest-ian in its comedic portrayal of what devolves into a Waiting for Guffman–esque campaign, this is the perfect political film for our time. A Sundance Selects release.

* Peter and the Farm. Tony Stone, USA, 2016, 92m

Peter Dunning is a rugged individualist in the extreme, a hard-drinking loner and former artist who has burned bridges with his wives and children and whose only company, even on harsh winter nights, are the sheep, cows, and pigs he tends on his Vermont farm. Peter is also one of the most complicated, sympathetic documentary subjects to come along in some time, a product of the 1960s counterculture whose poetic idealism has since soured. For all his candor, he slips into drunken self-destructive habits, cursing the splendors of a pastoral landscape that he has spent decades nurturing. Imbued with an aching tenderness, Tony Stone’s documentary is both haunting and heartbreaking, a mosaic of its singular subject’s transitory memories and reflections—however funny, tragic, or angry they may be.

* Remainder. Omer Fast, UK/Germany, 2015, 97m.

The feature debut by celebrated video artist Omer Fast is a striking, stylish adaptation of English novelist Tom McCarthy’s landmark 2005 novel. Set in London, the narrative kicks off when the anonymous protagonist (Tom Sturridge) is struck by a large object plummeting from the sky. When he comes to, he has no recollection of what happened, and a reparations settlement nets him millions of pounds. The man channels these resources toward creating preposterously ambitious reconstructions of his own dim memories, in the process raising a host of questions about the relationship between reality and simulation, the minute details essential to our perception of places and events, and the limits of artistic monomania. Fast, who has explored similar themes in his own work, adapts McCarthy’s idea-packed novel with lucidity and wit, and Sturridge is mesmerizing as an existential hero searching the void for a trace of meaning. North American Premiere

* Cameraperson. Kirsten Johnson, USA, 2016, 102m

How much of one’s self can be captured in the images shot of and for others? Kirsten Johnson may be a first-time (solo) feature-film director, but her work as a director of photography and camera operator has helped earn her documentary collaborators (Laura Poitras, Michael Moore, Kirby Dick, Barbara Kopple) nearly every accolade and award possible. Recontextualizing the stunning images inside, around, and beyond the works she has shot, Johnson constructs a visceral and vibrant self-portrait of an artist who has traveled the globe, venturing into landscapes and lives that bear the scars of trauma both active and historic. Rigorous yet nimble in its ability to move from heartache to humor, Cameraperson provides an essential lens on the things that make us human.

* Short Stay. Ted Fendt, USA, 2016, 35mm, 61m

Multi-hyphenate Ted Fendt delivers on the promise of his acclaimed short films without sacrificing an ounce of his singular charm and rigor. Shooting on 16mm (blown up to 35mm), the writer-director-editor here focuses on Mike (Mike MacCherone), an ambitionless resident of Haddonfield, New Jersey, who finds himself subletting a friend’s room in Philadelphia and (ineptly) covering his shifts at a by-donation walking-tour company. Mike floats, as if in a trance, from one low-key comic folly to another, each one a strange and subtle moral tale. Fendt’s economy of expression, expert handling of his nonprofessional cast, and incomparable nose for the tragicomic dimension of the everyday distinguishes Short Stay as a truly anomalous work in contemporary American cinema: a film made entirely on its maker’s terms. North American Premiere

*Thithi. Raam Reddy, India/USA, 2015, 120m Hindi with English subtitles

Raam Reddy’s bold, vibrant first feature is closer to Émile Zola than it is to Bollywood. Filmed in India’s southern Karnataka state with all nonprofessional actors, the sprawling narrative follows three generations of sons following the death of the family’s patriarch, their 101-year-old grandfather known as “Century Gowda.” The men’s respective vices—ranging from greed to womanizing to cut-and-dry escapism—bring deliciously comedic misadventures to their village in the days leading up to the thithi, a funeral celebration traditionally held 11 days after a death. This incisive portrait of a community in a time of radical change (while some are looking after their sheep, others are lost in their cell phones) yields exemplary humanist comedy. Winner of two awards at the Locarno Film Festival, the film equally affirms the advent of a new realism within Indian cinema, as well as an engaging new voice in contemporary world cinema.

* Tikkun. Avishai Sivan, Israel, 2015, 120m Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles

In Avishai Sivan’s intense and provocative Tikkun, a prizewinner at the Jerusalem and Locarno Film Festivals, an ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva student experiences a crisis of faith—and visions of earthly delights—when his father brings him back from the brink of death. Was the young man’s improbable survival a violation of God’s will, or was it “tikkun,” a way toward enlightenment and redemption? Sivan imbues the narrative with an indeterminate, hypnotic blend of black comedy and alienated modernism, effecting a singularly uncanny atmosphere. Nonprofessional actor Aharon Traitel, himself a former Hasidic Jew, gives a nuanced, knowing performance as the anguished prodigy, and the black-and-white chiaroscuro photography casts the devoutly private, regimented Hasidic community of old Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim in a morally shaded light. A Kino Lorber release.

* Under the Shadow. Babak Anvari, UK/Jordan/Qatar, 2016, 84m
Farsi with English subtitles
It’s eight years into the Iran-Iraq War, but the troubles of wife and mother in Tehran have only just begun. Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is thwarted in her attempts to return to medical school because of past political activities. And as Iraqi bombs close in, her husband is sent off to serve in the military, neighbors begin to flee, and she is left alone with her young daughter, Dorsa, who refuses to be separated from her favorite doll. At first, Dorsa’s tantrums seem to simply be the complaints of a cranky child. But soon she’s in conversation with an invisible woman—no imaginary friend, this one—and the cracks in the walls and ceilings of their apartment could just be the result of something more than air raids. And what is that she sees down the hall, from the corner of her eye? Though Shideh is a woman of science, she begins to suspect that a malevolent spirit, a djinn, is stalking them. A political horror story that rises up from the rubble of war, Babak Anvari’s feature debut boasts a terrific performance by Rashidi as a woman with more than one war going on in her home and in her head, who must save her daughter from dangers both physical and supernatural.

* The Fits. Anna Rose Holmer, USA, 2015, 72m.

The transition from girlhood to young womanhood is one that’s nearly invisible in cinema. Enter Anna Rose Holmer, whose complex and absorbing narrative feature debut elegantly depicts a captivating 11-year-old’s journey of discovery. Toni (played by the majestically named Royalty Hightower) is a budding boxer drawn to a group of dancers training at the same rec center in Cincinnati. She begins aligning herself with one of the two troupes, the Lionesses, becoming immersed in their world, which Holmer conveys with a hypnotic sense of rhythm and a rare gift for rendering physicality—evident most of all when a mysterious, convulsive condition begins to afflict a number of girls. Set entirely within the intimate confines of a few familiar settings (public school, the gym), and pulsating with bodies in motion, The Fits encourages us to recall the confused magic of entering the second decade of life. An Oscilloscope release..

* Behemoth / Beixi moshuo. Zhao Liang, China/France, 2015, 91m. Mandarin with English subtitles
Political documentarian Zhao Liang draws inspiration from The Divine Comedy for this simultaneously intoxicating and terrifying glimpse at the ravages wrought upon Inner Mongolia by its coal and iron industries. A poetic voiceover speaks of the insatiability of desire on top of stunning images of landscapes (and their decimation), machines (and their spectacular functions), and people (and the toll of their labor). Interspersed are sublime tableaux of a prone nude body—asleep? just born? dead?—posed against a refracted horizon. A wholly absorbing guided tour of exploding hillsides, dank mine shafts, cacophonous factories, and vacant cities, Behemoth builds upon Zhao’s previous exposés (2009’s Petition, 2007’s Crime and Punishment) by combining his muckraking streak with a painterly vision of a social and ecological nightmare otherwise unfolding out of sight, out of mind. Winner of the environmental Green Drop Award at the Venice Film Festival. North American Premiere

* Demon. Marcin Wrona, Poland/Israel, 2015, 94m. English, Polish, and Yiddish with English subtitles

Newly arrived from England to marry his fiancée Zaneta, Peter has been given a gift of her family’s ramshackle country house in rural Poland. It’s a total fixer-upper, and while inspecting the premises on the eve of the wedding, he falls into a pile of human remains. The ceremony proceeds, but strange things begin to happen... During the wild reception, Peter begins to come undone, and a dybbuk, that iconic ancient figure from Jewish folklore, takes a toehold in this present-day celebration—for a very particular reason, as it turns out. The final work by Marcin Wrona, who died just as Demon was set to premiere in Poland, is an eerie, richly atmospheric film—part absurdist comedy, part love story—that scares, amuses, and charms in equal measure. Winner of Best Horror Feature at Fantastic Fest. An Orchard release.

* Donald Cried. Kris Avedisian, USA, 2016, 85m.

Trust me, you can’t go home again. Kris Avedisian’s unhinged first feature is a brilliant twist on the family-reunion melodrama and the classic buddy comedy. Returning after 20 years to Warwick, Rhode Island, for his grandmother’s funeral, Peter Latang (Jesse Wakeman), now a slick city financier, has to endure a blast from the past and relive some very cringeworthy moments when hanging out with his former high-school bestie, the obnoxious Donald Treebeck (Avedisian). By turns depressing and funny while subtly shifting our sympathies thanks to sharp dialogue and extremely well-written characters, Donald Cried can perhaps best be summed up as The Color Wheel meets Planes, Trains and Automobiles

* In the Last Days of the City / Akher Ayam El Madina. Tamer El Said, Egypt/Germany/Great Britain/United Arab Emirates, 2016, 118m. Arabic with English subtitles.

This film within a film is a haunting yet lyric chronicle of recent years in the Arab world, where revolutions seemed to spark hope for change and yield further instability in one stroke. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Khalid Abdalla (The Kite RunnerThe Square) plays the protagonist of Tamer El Said’s ambitious feature debut, a filmmaker in Cairo attempting to capture the zeitgeist of his city as the world changes around him—from personal love and loss to the fall of the Mubarak regime. Throughout, friends send footage and stories from Berlin, Baghdad, and Beirut, creating a powerful, multilayered meditation on togetherness, the tactile hold of cities, and the meaning of homeland. Shot in 2008 and completed this year, the film explores the weight of cinematic images as record and storytelling in an ongoing time of change. North American Premiere 

The New Directors/New Films takes place at Lincoln Center and at MoMA. For info: NewDirectors.

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