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Thread: NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2019 (March 27-April 7, 2019)

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    NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2019 (March 27-April 7, 2019)



    New Directors/New Films Reviews 2019


    GENERAL FILM FORUM THREAD

    Full ND/NF schedule

    LINKS TO THE REVIEWS
    Angelo (Markus Schleinzer 2018)
    Bait (Mark Jenkin 2019)
    Belonging/Aidiyet (Burak Çevik 2019)
    Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu 2019)
    End of the Century (Lucio Castro 2019)
    Fausto (Andrea Bussmann 2018)
    Honeyland/Медена Земја (Tamara Kotevsk, Ljubomir Stefanov 2018)
    Joy (Sudabeh Mortazai 2018)
    Load, The/Teret (Ognjen Glavonić 2018)
    Long Way Home/Temporada (Andre Novias Oliveira 2018)
    Manta Ray (Phuttiphong Aroonpheng 2019)
    Midnight Family (Luke Lorentzen 2019)
    Misericórdia (Xavier Marrades 2019)
    Monos (Alejandro Landes 2019) Centerpiece
    MS Slavic 7 (Sofia Bohdanowicz & Deragh Campbell 2019)
    Present.Perfect.(Shengze Zhu 2019)
    Suburban Birds//郊区的鸟/Jiao qu de niao (Qiu Sheng 2018)


    1

    Bait
    Mark Jenkin, UK, 2019, 89m
    North American Premiere

    Mark Jenkin’s tale of tensions between two brothers in a Cornish fishing village is an idiosyncratic work of social realism (shot on hand-processed black-and-white 16mm) fascinatingly pitched somewhere between documentary and political melodrama.

    Present.Perfect.
    Shengze Zhu, USA/Hong Kong, 2019, 124m

    Mandarin with English subtitles
    U.S. Premiere
    Shengze Zhu’s third feature shines a light on the curious world of live-streaming, a singularly contemporary form of human connection and commerce wherein “anchors” document their lives and interact with a virtual audience.

    MS Slavic 7
    Sofia Bohdanowicz & Deragh Campbell, Canada, 2019, 64m

    North American Premiere
    In Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell’s clever comedy, a young woman (Campbell) visits Harvard University to research a correspondence between her great-grandmother (a renowned Polish poet) and another poet who seems to have been her lover.

    Preceded by:
    Misericórdia
    Xavier Marrades, Brazil/Spain, 2019, 21m

    Portuguese with English subtitles
    World Premiere
    Filmed around Brazil's Itaparica Island, this oneiric documentary evokes the rich, complicated ancestry of Bahia—considered the African heart of Brazil—through the dreams of its present-day inhabitants.

    2

    Monos
    Alejandro Landes, Colombia/Argentina/Netherlands/Germany/Sweden/Uruguay, 2018, 102m

    English and Spanish with English subtitles
    New York Premiere
    In Alejandro Landes’s intensely thrilling twist on Lord of the Flies, Julianne Nicholson plays a terrorized American engineer held captive by teenage guerilla bandits in an unnamed South American jungle. A Sundance award-winner, Monos is sure to be one of the most hotly debated films of 2019.

    Manta Ray
    Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, Thailand/France/China, 2018, 105m

    Thai with English subtitles
    U.S. Premiere
    Cinematographer Phuttiphong Arronpheng’s auspicious directorial debut is a mysterious, intoxicating work that centers on the friendship between a fisherman and the mute refugee he rescues from a swamp.

    End of the Century
    Lucio Castro, Argentina, 2019, 84m

    Spanish with English subtitles
    World Premiere
    What seems like a one-night encounter between two strangers becomes an epic, decades-spanning relationship, which filmmaker Lucio Castro depicts in a nonlinear fashion, and in which time and space refuse to play by the rules.

    3

    Clemency
    Chinonye Chukwu, USA, 2019, 113m

    New York Premiere
    Winner of the Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Chinonye Chukwu’s sophomore feature is an enthralling prison-set drama anchored by powerhouse performances by Alfre Woodard and Aldis Hodge.

    Genesis
    Philippe Lesage, Canada, 2018, 130m

    French with English subtitles
    U.S. Premiere
    Following his autobiographical 2015 debut The Demons, Philippe Lesage continues to chronicle the life of young Felix (Édouard Tremblay-Grenier), and also captures the romantic trials and tribulations of two Quebecois teen siblings; the result is one of the most beautiful coming-of-age stories in years.

    Belonging
    Burak Cevik, Turkey, 2019, 72m

    Turkish with English subtitles
    North American Premiere
    A murder investigation is flipped inside out in Burak Cevik’s second feature, a spellbinding and surprising film concerning the first encounter of a young couple accused of murder.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-30-2019 at 11:00 AM.

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    BAIT (Mark Jenkin 2019)

    MARK JENKIN: BAIT (2019)


    EDWARD ROWE AND ISAAC WOODVINE IN BAIT

    An antiqued-format film of Cornish fishermen bucking local gentrification

    Tourists rule Cornwall: it's the form of rampant gentrification that can run roughshod over the fragile ecosystem of a small fishing community. And fishing itself is a kind of artisanal food-provision that is endangered constantly by industrial sources. This is the root source of Mark Jenkin's unusual film, shot in black and white with a Bolex cine-camera on 16mm kodak stock, in boxy academy ratio, hand-processed for a rough, flickery look, and so, artisanal in itself. It was the UK's only entry to the Berlinale’s Forum program this year.

    The film is edited oddly, experimentally, sometimes evoking early expressionism and sometimes cross-cutting madly with aims of the filmmaker's own. The protagonist is Martin Ward (Edward Rowe), a cove-fishermen currently without a boat. His brother Billy (Martin Ellis) is now using the family vessel profitably for tourist day-trips; Martin is welcome to join, but refuses. He is using a net to cast for bass along the shore and drop a single lobster trap off a shore, providing small catches to a few local customers. His son joins in with him.

    The opposing force is experienced in the film in the form of a single family of outsiders to whom Martin and his brother have sold their late father's sea front cottage. (Simon Shepherd and Mary Woodvine play the parents; and there are a teen son and daughter.) They occupy it in summer and rent out parts of it to other tourists, airbnb fashion. Martin is infuriated with everything about them, particularly the way they have tricked out the house with nautical objects and "Ropes and chains like a sex dungeon," as he tells his brother. The growing bone of contention is Martin's insistence on parking his truck near the house as he always did, while now there are parking regulations requiring him to use a public area. Eventually he gets his wheel locked by parking authorities.

    His son Neil (Isaac Woodvine) crosses with outsiders differently: he spends the night with their pretty daughter. There are ample pub scenes to give a sense of the younger generation.

    None of this adds up to very much yet in terms of conflict. It's simply the inchoate seething resentment on both sides that counts. Jenkin knows the scene, he has strong material, and it's easy to follow, the intense, scratchy images gorgeous and ugly by turns. Jenkin gets a mite to fancy, though, with his cross-cutting at times, such as when he interlaces two arguments second by second between different people at once. It seems almost childishly playful, and distracting from the seriousness of the material, which however admittedly needs the touches of humor and sensuality to avoid over-earnestness.

    One thing that works at times is a combination of short cuts to big closeups in staccato rhythm underlined by snatches of tight-lipped one-liners. The interrelation of image, cut, and dialogue in the contrasty imagery makes for a very distinctive mix, almost like a music video - a kind of experimentalism we all know nowadays. But Jenkin's habit of sudden flash-forward images, as when a teenage girl (Chloe Endean) assaults the outsiders with a cue ball and we see her hands getting handcuffed before the event, is another ornamentation that feeds the experimentalism of the film at the cost of its emotional authenticity and clean storytelling. When conflict leads to tragedy, the followup isn't clear, and the line between reality and nightmare imagining becomes hazy. I wanted to love this original and strongly-felt effort, but ultimately got lost in the details.

    Peter Bradshaw, at the Berlinale, on the other hand, was very admiring in the Guardian of this proudly English material, giving Bait 4 out of 5 stars, describing its style and elements better than I could, calling it "one of the most arrestingly strange movies in Berlin this year, " "an adventure in zero-budget analogue cinema," and concluding that it's "an experiment – and a successful one." Jessica Kiang's Variety review adds something more: that the look of Jenkin's film is meant to evoke Robert Flaherty and his now out-dated, but deeply evocative fisherman saga Man of Aran. If, she suggests, we can see the rise of digital as "gentrification" of filmmaking, then Jenkin's deligerate archaism is s counter blow to that.

    So if you like a retro look, virtual primitivism in cinematic technique, you should probably give Bait a look, and if its authentic knowledge of the Cornwall fisherman environment doesn't communicate itself fully in the storytelling and editing, that's not for lack of energetic trying. As the screening ended, I had the feeling that if I'd seen it projected at a cinema somewhere in Cornwall for some reason, the audience would be carried away and me with them.

    Bait, 89 mins., debuted at Berlin in the Forum series Feb. 2019. Reviewed there for by Jessica Kiang and also by Peter Bradshaw for the .
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-11-2019 at 07:14 PM.

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    PRESENT. PERFECT. (Shengze Zhu 2019)

    SHENGZE ZHU: PRESENT. PERFECT. (2019)


    YOUNG WOMAN LIVE-STREAMING IN A MEN'S UNDERWEAR FACTORY

    A film about the phenomenon of "live-streaming" in China

    Documentary can be both voyeuristic and boring, and such is the case with Shengze Zhu's Present. Perfect., a film that documents the craze for "live-streaming" in China, said to have peaked in 2016, when the government moved in to set some limits. This is an online combination of exhibitionism, or simply self-vérité documentation, where the "anchor" hooks up with a site where others can connect and ask questions or make donations.

    We get several young men with artful hair, one of them a would-be street dancer (he's not at all good). An attractive young woman with a child who works in a factory making men's underwear films herself both there and at home. She explains that she only does it when her boss is not there. A man with deformed extremities who begs on the street simultaneously takes donations online and talks. A thirty-year-old man who describes himself as "sexually undeveloped" and unable to have children answers questions from many locations and takes donations. He describes having been bullied at school, then a recluse, now, through this medium, having acquired the ability to go in some sort out in the world. So live streaming has given him a life, of sorts. He giggles delightedly as he answers the many questions.

    This is a medium for lonely and unfortunate people, or is as we see it here, at any rate. Aren't YouTube videos a form of live streaming, in a way? And then isn't the fame of vloggers-become celebrities like Charlie McDonnell of "CharlieIsSoCoolLike" a form of this? Isn't even Justin Bieber an ultimate example? But isn't it just that "live-streaming" is a "career open to talents" that's, instead, a "career open to the untalented"? At the end of this over-long film there is extended footage of what appears to be an ant colony, while the voiceover talks to us about cockroaches. But it is interesting - and shows that for someone with imagination and focus, "live-streaming" could actually become instructive. And probably often is - only not mostly, and not during the craze for it in China documented here.

    Present. Perfect., 124 mins., debuted at Rotterdam Jan. 2019, also showing at (FICUNAM - Festival Internacional de Cine UNAM) Mar. 3. Screened for this review as part of the MoMA-FSLC 2019 series, New Directors New Films.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-11-2019 at 07:29 PM.

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    MS SLAVIC 7 (Sofia Bohdanowicz, Deragh Campbell (2019)

    SOFIA BOHDANOWICZ, DERAGH CAMPBELL: MS SLAVIC 7 (2019)


    DARAGH CAMPBELL IN MS SLAVIC 7

    A young woman seeking a literary grandmother's legacy

    In MS Slavic 7, The Canadian filmmakers take a real literary legacy of a sort, that of filmmaker Sofia Bohdanowicz, and blend it with putatively invented complications for a momentarily interesting series of vignettes. In them a determined young woman Audrey Benac, played by co-writer Deragh Campbell, who comes to the Houghton Library at Harvard to examine the eponymous file, containing letters in Polish from her great grandmother Zofia Bohdanowiczowa’s correspondence with Nobel Prize nominee Jozef Wittlin, making notes, as required, only with a pencil. This is puzzling, because later she has a drink with a translator, apparently hired by her, where they discuss an odd translation he has made (too literal, might we say?) using the word "mint," she asserts that she does not know a word of any language but English. He seems surprisingly passionate about the material, but I guess that's what makes a good translator of literary-related materia

    There is a celebratory (memorial?) gathering, with an old couple who've been married sixty years, where the young woman encounters her aunt Ania (Elizabeth Rucker), who plainly disapproves of Audrey's studying the manuscripts, which she thinks either fraudulent on her part, because she lacks the academic qualifications for literary study, or exploitative, since she might get grants or publish books out of this for her own personal gain. Ania completely loses her cool. Later, is that the translator in bed with our young researcher and family literary executor? But it's chaste: they just read from translations of the Polish letters.

    I can't make much out of this. But there is interesting material here. First of all, there is the young woman's pursuit of a plangent literary legacy. Second, there is the content of that legacy, a correspondence with the renowned Polish poet who was once a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature - a kind of literary romance heightened by the agony of exile, a kind of literary romance between members of the opposite sex who eventually meet in Toronto, where Zofia had settled, while Witlin had put down roots in New York. Was the meeting disappointing, because of the "gray," depressing city, or "apocalyptic"? Hints of both are dropped. Third, there is the competition, the jealousy, perhaps a conflict over custody of documents, and no doubt much more.

    There is good material here, and an example of how literary or academic ephemera can make for drama is Joseph Cedar's suspenseful tragicomedy about warring father-don Talmudic scholars, Footnote (NYFF 2011). More recently one might think of Ricky D'Ambrose's Notes on an Appearance (ND/NF 2018), a film that plays with fragmentary literary hints in a poetic, mysterious wan and constructs a story out of them. Things don't come together quite as well in MS Slavic 7, but there is good raw material here for further work.

    But others were more impressed at the Berlinale. Deborah Young, in her Hollywood Reporter review, approvingly speaks of the "industrious intellectual labor" required by this film, and describes it as 'the kind of offbeat indie that will intrigue college students and younger festgoers." She does admit that "In themselves, Zofia’s delicate letters full of anxiety and Wittlin’s evocative poems set in a war camp" - the essential raw material of the film - "offer nothing very new or striking." She thinks it is the hints of the Holocaust that make the theme resonate. In fact the whole here is more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps the most touching part is Deragh Campbell's halting attempt, as Audrey, to define what makes old fashioned snail mail special. She seems to sense that it was, but for someone of her generation, it's all so theoretical. . .

    MS Slavic 7, 64 mins., debuted at Berlin Feb. 2019. It was screened for this review as part of New Directors/New Films of MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. This is its North American Premiere.

    Showtimes
    March 30
    8:30 PM
    April 1
    6:30 PM
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-13-2019 at 06:01 PM.

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    MONOS (Alejandro Landes 2018)

    ALEJANDRO LANDES: MONOS (2018)


    MOISÉS ARIAS (LEFT) IN MONOS

    Teen guerrillas run amok

    The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw raved, understandably, about Brazilian-born Alejandro Landes' explosive, enveloping film about teenage soldiers run wild. He called it "the best thing I have seen at Berlin this year: something between Apocalypse Now, Lord of the Flies and Embrace of the Serpent," and that's a good place to start. It also reminded me strongly of Carlos Reygadas, and Lisandro Alonso's 2004 film Los Muertos. This is a Latin American Heart of Darkness inhabited by adolescents.

    It's a gang of teenage fighters, boys and some girls, with an American woman hostage. They're ostensibly commanded by a small, muscular Indio type called Mesajero (Messenger, Wilson Castro)who holds them in a military formation and gives them instructions. But let's make clear right away that it's not particularly what is going to happen in this movie that you will take away with you but it's palpable sense of humans gone feral. These kids go wild like in Lord of the Flies but it's different, because they start out as part of a guerrilla organization somewhere else, with which they are in radio contact.

    Mesajero assembles them in military ranks and gives them instructions. He puts Wolf (Lobo, Julián Giraldo) in charge. They have gang nicknames. There is Perro (Dog, Paul Cubides); little Pitufo (Smurf, Deibi Rueda); innocent-looking Boom Boom (Sneider Castro); three girls, Leidi (Lady, Karen Quintero), Sueca (Swede, Laura Castrillón), and the oddly named Rambo (Sofia Buenaventura). Then there is the wiry, dangerous Patagrande (Bigfoot, played by New York-born actor Moisés Arias)

    Their task is to take care of an American hostage, a woman engineer they call La Doctora, Sara Watson (Julianne Nicholson). They now have been entrusted a cow, for whose well-being Wolf is responsible. But they have a celebration, they get drunk and fire off their weapons, and Dog misfires and kills the cow. Wolf is held guilty and imprisoned, and he commits suicide, whereupon Bigfoot takes charge. So everything has gone very bad very quickly. Not to waste good meat, they skin and cut up and roast and eat all they can of the cow meat. We see all this.

    Where the cow lived and died they fall into its shit, and in it discover "fungitos", i.e, "'shrooms," magic mushrooms. There's more wildness.

    Hostilities and rivalries arise, but also sexual relationships, which are allowed if requested. They move from the mountains down into the jungle, and when La Doctora starts trying to escape the new leader goes into a rage and partly destroys the radio that is their link to 'The Organization,' a sign of disintegrating order that's plain to see - or hear, since thee raucous and powerful sound score by Mica Levi, is one of the mechanisms that drives the action and the scene into our consciousness most irresistibly; it's so good it continues to surprise us even during the closing credits, which in themselves are beautiful. Monos is an exhilarating experience. It really leaves you speechless. Some, however, such as Keith Urlich in his Hollywood Reporter review, have spoken up in disapproval of the film as "irresponsible." Of course it is! They killed a cow. And in some scenes they may have put the young actors in danger. But Alejandro Landes and everyone concerned have created for us a wonderfully vivid, intense, and memorable screen experience. Consider what Rory O'Connor said in CineVue: it's "nothing short of an aesthete’s dream, a film crammed with visual bravado that at various times echoes Kubrick, Malick, and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now." One may be tempted to bend the rules for such an experience and such a filmmaker.

    Monos TRAILER

    Monos, 108 mins., debuted at Sundance, winning its Special Jury Prize in the World Cinema Dramatic competition.Monos has received major reviews and has received a Metascore of 82. At its Berlinale debut, Peter Bradshaw reviewed Monos for the Guardian, giving it five out of five stars and writing a rave review: "This overpoweringly tense and deeply mad thriller from Colombian film-maker Alejandro Landes is the best thing I have seen at Berlin this year: something between Apocalypse Now, Lord of the Flies and Embrace of the Serpent." Screened for this review as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center-Museum of Modern Art joint series New Directors/New Films, March 2019, which is the New York Premiere, and the Centerpiece Film of ND/NF.

    Previously reviewed by me: Alejandro Landes' 2011 Porfirio (ND/NF 2012). Landes was born in Brazil of a Colombian mother and Ecuadorian father, educated at Brown University and later employed as a writer for the Miami Herald. He is thirty-nine.




    WILSON CASTRO (LEFT) IN MONOS
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-13-2019 at 07:10 PM.

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    MANTA RAY (Phuttiphong Aroonpheng 2018)

    PHUTTIPHONG AROONPHENG: MANTA RAY/KRABEN RAHU (2018)


    WANLOP RUNGKUMJAD (RIGHT) IN MANTA RAY

    Rescue

    Cinematographer Phuttiphong Aroonpheng's directorial debut is a complex and haunting film whose storytelling has several layers. The story told in Manta Ray is complicated and verges on the mythical.

    The film opens on a man in a place of mangroves and forest carrying an automatic weapon. It is a wild looking scene. The ground is sprinkled with flickering lights. The man is draped in a wire of flickering lights too. Later, this place seems to be a killing field, but also a site of semi-precious stones a fisherman has often visited, but is afraid of at night.

    We meet a scrawny, bleach-haired young fisherman (Wanlop Rungkumjad). He is rummaging through a muddy forest plain when he comes across a corpse. But the man is not dead, only nearly starved and with a bleeding chest wound. (It turns out he is a Rohingya muslim - many die in this region). The fisherman rescues him and takes him home, nursing him back to life.

    As he recovers, the man (Aphisit Hama) turns out to be mute. The fisherman arbitrarily gives him a name, Thongchai, after the Thai pop superstar Bird Thongchai.

    Here's a nice idea: a companion who is mute, and also needy, because he's a refugee, and you've rescued him. He keeps you company, he follows you around and helps you, and he makes no trouble. The scenes for a while are peaceful, because Thonghai is soothing company, and the man don't speak. Thonghai indeed follows the fisherman around, helping with chores and riding with him in the sidecar attached to his motorcycle.

    Reviews of the film note its "humanism." But is the fisherman doing a good deed, or partly seeking company, and partly atoning for his own as yet unrevealed multiple sins? The fisherman talks to Thonghai (he seems to understand), and tells him one day that he had a wife,but she left him for another man. He is very angry at her and at the man. So Thonghai provides the fisherman with needed company and a soothing presence.

    They go back to the forest plain and listen to the earth. The fisherman teaches Thonghai to collect gemstones that he uses to attract and catch manta rays. At night they glow in the ground, he says, but men are afraid to come then because there are so many bodies of the dead here.

    In a scene that rhymes with the gemstones in the forest, the fisherman rigs his shack with fairy lights that flicker, and he and Thonghai sway to a dreamy electronic tune. It almost seems for a moment they will become lovers. It's pretty clear the fisherman is also something else, maybe a hitman, himself guilty of murders in the mangrove swamp and indeed atoning (feebly) with the rescue of Thonghai, when he suddenly gets a phone call and answers, "Boss, I don’t want to do this anymore." Not surprisingly, he soon disappears, and Thonghai is left alone to live by himself in the shack and ride around in the fisherman's motorcycle with its sidecar. But there are more surprises to come.

    Unfortunately this film gets so involved in its mood-weaving that it winds up taking a little too long to end. Nonetheless the spell it weaves, with its haunting mangrove swamp, mix of calmness and danger, and its ambiguous and changing intimacies, never ceases to be fascinating and promising for the director's future work.

    Manta Ray/Kraben rahu, 105 mins, debuted at Venice 7 Sept. 2018. It was reviewed there for Hollywood Reporter by Clarance Tsui. Also reviewed at Venice for Variety by Richard Kuypers, who calls it "promising" and notes that itt "is likely to be pleasurably hypnotic for many viewers." He rightly comments the editing team of Lee Chatametikoolf, who has cut most of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films, and "rising young talent Harin Paesongthai," plus dp Nawarophaat Rungphiboonsophi and the French team of Christine Ott and Matthieu Gabry who did the atmospheric sound designs. Shown at eight other festivals, including Toronto, Vancouver, and Rotterdam.Screened for this review as part of the 2019 MoMA-Film Society of Lincoln Center New Directors/New Films series.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-13-2019 at 10:25 AM.

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