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

  1. #16
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    LONG WAY HOME/TEMPORADA (Andre Novias Oliveira 2018)

    ANDRÉ NOVIAS OLIVEIRA: LONG WAY HOME/TEMPORADA (2018)


    SCENE FROM LONG WAY HOME/TEMPORADA ("A SEASON")

    A woman of no means making her way alone

    Juliana (Grace Passô) has moved from Itaúnas to a new region, Contagem (a municipality located near Belo Horizonte) to work as a public health inspector seeking dangers of dengue fever. Her husband Carlos has not come along yet. Actually relations between Juliana and her mate are not too good after a pregnancy disaster. Butt André Novias Oliveira isn't concerned with drama so much as feasting on the quotidian, as disaster creeps into it, vaguly glimpsed, extracting beauty from the banal.

    Juliana works in a team, and there are friendly relations right away, especially with the big corpulent Russão (rapper Russo Apr) and the tall thin Hélio (Hélio Ricardo). She has to bang on the metal gates a lot to get people to answer, but mostly they're friendly about being inspected, except for one bitchy lady. An easygoing mood prevails. Underneath, things are complicated.

    Eesential to the success of this second feature by Novias Oliveira is Grace Passô, who draws us into the quiet depth of a middle-aged woman of color in suburban Brazil patiently making her way. One writer at Brazilia saod the filmmaker "achieved something reserved for artists: making a film that can interest the viewer for nearly two hours without broaching any subject, no character, no landscape, nothing particularly special." This is an affectionate and attentive look at nondescript, "invisible" people. The subtitles, at the risk of incongruity with phrases like "What up, bro?", "For real," "She's so fucking hot," do their best to convey the strong colloquial flavor of the dialogue. Where the film and its cinematographer excel is in conveying all the different kinds of colorful spaces its characters occupy in the course of a day, including cluttered shops, tiny dwellings with Playstation, and a downmarket hairdressing school.

    Juliana isn't a tragic figure, a comic figure, or a heroic one, just a person of good will and courage with an ability to enjoy life, and as the film progresses she becomes more and more real and the film becomes more and more engaging, rich, and unpredictable. A remarkable little film that embodies many of the qualities of small indie Latin American films but has a quality of its own.

    Long Way Home/Temporada ("Season"), 113 mins., debuted at Locarno Aug. 2018, and was included in at least five other international festivals including Torino, Rotterdam and Gothenburg; awarded Best Film prize at Brazilia. Limited release in Brazil. Jan. 2019. Screened for this review as part of the 2019 MoMA-Film Society of Lincoln Center series New Directors/New Films.

    ND/NF Showtimes; March 31, 3:15 PM; April 2, 8:45 PM
    New York Premiere · Q&As with André Novais Oliveira on March 31 & April 2



    GRACE PASSÔ in [I]LONG WAY HOME/TEMPORADA[/I ("A SEASON")]
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-21-2019 at 04:08 PM.

  2. #17
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    MIDNIGHT FAMILY (Luke Lorentzen 2019)

    LUKE LORENTZEN: MIDNIGHT FAMILY (2019)


    FERNANDO, JOSOÉ AND JUAN ALEXIS OCHOA IN MIDNIGHT FAMILY

    Breaking the rules to help people in Mexico City

    Partly inspired, Lorentzen says by Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab (Sweetgrass, Foreign Parts, Leviathan, Manakamana), this documentary is an observational and humanistic up close and personal glimpse at people coping with a health care system far worse than that of the US. The place is Mexico City:. The population is nine-million-plus. To serve them the city provides only forty-five ambulances. Private, for profit seat-of-the-pants ambulance services now work competitively to try to fill the gap. Director Luke Lorentzen discovered documentary gold by following one of these. Midnight Family is the prizewinning result.

    Lorentzen moved to Mexico City after college with an idea for a film and shifted to this one when he met the Ochoas and they let him ride with them for one night. He spent nearly eighty days filming from two in the afternoon to six or eight in the morning embedded night after night in the private ambulance run by the Ochoa family. He speaks Spanish and worked as a one-man crew using two two Sony FS cameras, one mounted on the roof focusing on the crew in the front window, the other hand held by himself. He shot over a three year period, out with them for a hundred days, though he says that seventy percent of the best material came in the last few days of the shooting.

    Lorentzen respects the patients' privacy, but hangs closely with the Ochoas, gaining their confidence for intimate moments. Little, chubby Josoé is lazy and makes excuses not to go to school. Juan is only seventeen, but he drives the vehicle and in all ways is the grownup (though he sleeps in the vehicle curled up with a big fluffy doll). Fer, their father, has a heart condition and sometimes cannot cope. Along with them is Manuel Hernández. There are long waits with nothing happening. There are frantic races to accident sites, speeding through the night streets and crazy Mexico City traffic not only to save the injured but also to beat other private ambulances to the job and the money. But there is not always money even when they get the job. Sometimes their clients are too poor to pay, or just refuse to, and they wind up with an evening's work and no profits, only losses. It's hard at times to see how the Ochoas can even do this job, or afford the equipment. And then there are the cops, who harass them and demand constant bribes, and paperwork, "protocols," a joke since it's all outside the law.

    But for Juan, who's muscular and sharp but still wears braces on his teeth, and who enjoys playing to the camera and mouths off with a warm sense of humor, this work is the pleasure of doing good and helping people but also the adrenaline rush of the excitement and struggle to succeed.

    This is a human document, but like other good observational films, also a visual treat. Lorenten makes excellent use of the striking night light of the city, the neon glare, the blur, the flashing signals that can make what be drab in daytime into magic. When Midnight Family is operating full-tilt, it's intoxicating to the senses, with the blur and rush of the vehicle, the scream of sirens, and Fer's amplified voice as he uses a loudspeaker to urge people to get out of the way so the ambulance can push through. This is where the Sony cameras pay off with their exceptional capacity to capture in low light. Everything comes together for the filmmaker when he gets dramatic (and beautiful) coverage when the Ochoas rush a girl with a traumatic brain injury and her mother to a private hospital knowing every minute counts to save her, and he captures Juan pacing around and talking to his girlfriend Jessica on the phone later about how this turned out.

    The film, which Lorentzen edited as well as shot as a one-man crew, ends beautifully with Fer and Juan picking up Josoé at the schoolyard in the afternoon, then heading out together in the ambulance into the maelstrom of Mexico City traffic at twilight, with the cars' taillights just beginning to glow.

    At an appearance in the Guadalajara Festival, Lorentzen said he wanted to show how a good family is forced eventually into corrupt practices because of a broken system and "the corruption is gradually playing with the lives of people, and the Ochoa family is hostage to the police and the health system." But it's a fun watch too - as Lorry Kikta of Film Threat says, "a very exciting, sad, yet extremely funny film."

    Midnight Family, 91 mins., debuted at Sundance Jan. 2019 where it won the documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography. Four other festivals, including the 2019 MoMA-Film Society of Lincoln Center New Directors/New Films series, where it was screened for this review. Many reviews: Metacritic (Metascore 85%), including Nich Schager for Variety. See also a Mexican article about this film.

    ND/NF Showtimes: April 4, 8:30 PM; April 5, 9:00 PM
    New York Premiere · Q&As with Luke Lorentzen on April 4 & 5





    JUAN ALEXIS OCHOA IN MIDNIGHT FAMILY
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-19-2019 at 05:10 PM.

  3. #18
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    SUBURBAN BIRDS/郊区的鸟/JIAO QU DE NIAO (Qiu Sheng 2018)

    QIU SHENG: SUBURBAN BIRDS/郊区的鸟/JIAO QU DE NIAO (2018)


    STILL FROM SUBURBAN BIRDS; THEY WEAR RED COMMUNIST CHILDREN'S LEAGUE BANDANAS AT ALL TIMES

    Strange Chinese debut lodged in the suburbs mixes the dry and arty with the charming and nostalgic

    The frame tale of this directorial debut from China, if it can be seen as that, focuses on a group of young surveyors recording or investigating tall buildings that are sinking in a suburban area. They need information on the subsidence of the land in preparation for a subway construction project that is being held up till their report's completion. There are ample references to the waste and destruction and mass dislocation of modern China. Meanwhile, the larger, more rambling center section follows half a dozen school children, great pals, who wear red Communist Children's League of China bandanas (at all times!). They are cute and charming and play at various games, including a full-scale battle with toy automatic weapons. Some of them have nicknames like Foxy (Qian Xuanyi), Fatty (Chen Yihao), Old Timer (Xu Chenghui), Coal (Chen Zhihao) or Radish. There is an idyllic, nostalgic quality about these summertime pre-teen scenes.

    One character, Xiahao, seems to occur both as an adult surveyor (played by Mason Lee, son of Ang Lee) and one of the kids (played by Gong Zihan), though it's not a sure thing these aren't just two different Xihaos. Guy Lodge of Variety points out the two worlds are distinguished by two visual styles: "The adult story is heavy on choppy, discomfiting zooms, the children’s tale all serene, sun-slowed tracking and panning." Both make use of occasional fast zooms, somewhat in the manner of Hong Sang-soo.

    Among the surveyors, who are all staying in a soulless hotel, there is disagreement over the cause of the subsiding land, while Officer Jiang (Wang Xinyu) just represent's the party's interest in rushing through the survey so as to get the subway project under way fast no matter what. At the hotel Xiahao meets a loose young woman, Swallow (Huang Lu) and they have sex, introducing a messier, more sensual note into the otherwise cool, tidy story whose tone is set by the neat appearance of the young men and the orderliness of their activity involving leisurely calculations and measurements.

    In her review for Hollywood Reporter, Leslie Felperin points out the two sets of characters are unrelated, but are related. There are inexplicable rhymes, and the kids are playing in the same neighborhood where the surveying is going on. The narrative link and signal for the childhood recollections to begin is the finding of a student's diary by the adult Xiahao.

    Director Qiu has coaxed wonderfully natural and relaxed performances out of the child actors. To underline the kids' friendship, when they come home to relax, they lie all over each other in a friendly clump. Something like that is echoed between two of the adult guys in the final shot, when the children, who otherwise may have seemed to be many years earlier in time, are also present singing the Communist Youth song in the same woods.

    At the end among the kids, Fatty disappears, and the rest of the half dozen go looking for him, then one by one they each themselves disappear. The literal "suburban bird", which interests both Xiahaos, is the rare Sialia Suburbium, which Swallow tells the adult Xiahao does not exist. Then the focus returns to the surveyors, finally ending with another flashback, but to a more recent time.

    There is a review on EasternKicks.com where the writer, Andrew Heskins, points out the film is half "non-linear and experimental" and half a "heart-warming coming-of-age drama." A review by the knowledgeable but hard to please former Variety critic Derek Elley for Sino-Cinema disparagingly calls this film a "vague elegy for simpler times" (referring to the idyllic life of the young kids, no doubt) that's "an empty can, and too film schooly for its own good." Guy Lodge calls it "a seductively inscrutable puzzler," and that puts it well: it's both off-putting and fun to watch.

    Suburban Birds/郊区的鸟/Jiao qu de niao, 118 mins., debuted 24 Jul. 2018 at Xining First Film Festival, and in Europe at Locarno, showing also at three other festivals. It was screened for this review as part of The MoMA-Film Society of Lincoln Center series New Directors/New Films, Mar. 2019.

    Showtimes: March 31, 3:00 PM; April 2, 8:45 PM
    North American Premiere · Q&As with Qiu Sheng on March 31 & April 2


    TRAILER


    THEY LIE ALL OVER EACH OTHER IN A FRIENDLY CLUMP
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-04-2019 at 02:17 PM.

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