Shane Carruth's Upstream Color and Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell are among the initial selections unveiled Wednesday for the 2013 New Directors/New Films series. Both films are playing at the Sundance Film Festival which begins Thursday. The seven announced today hail from seven countries.
The series, hosted by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, mostly features "discovery of new works by emerging and dynamic filmmaking talent" has served as a launch pad for many acclaimed filmmakers worldwide, including the likes of Chantal Akerman, Pedro Almodóvar, Darren Aronofsky, Ken Burns, Agnieszka Holland, Wong Kar Wai, Spike Lee, Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg, though some are more "emerging" than others.
Among this year's other announced titles are Emil Christov's The Color of the Chameleon (Bulgaria), Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking (Kapringen) (Denmark), Rachid Djaidani’s Hold Back (Rengaine) (France), JP Sniadecki’s and Libbie Dina Cohn’s People's Park (USA/China) and Matías Piñeiro’s VIOLA (Argentina).
"These first seven titles give a hint at the exciting versatility and accomplishment in storytelling by emerging directors this year," said lead MoMA film curator Rajendra Roy in a statement. "The New Directors class of 2013 promises to have some wonderful surprises in store for our film audiences and cineastes around the world." FSLC Director of Year Round programming, Robert Koehler added, "Even with the vast majority of films still to be selected, these first selections for ND/NF set the tone for the introduction of a wide range of cinema and cinematic voices – both narrative and documentary – that has been the ambition of New Directors/New Films."
In related Film Society news, three Oscar-nominated documentaries will have a one-week run at the Elinor Brunin Munroe Film Center beginning this weekend, including The Invisible War, How To Survive a Plague and 5 Broken Cameras.
The 42nd ND/NF takes place March 20 - 31 in New York.
The seven official selections include:
The Color of the Chameleon (2012) 114min, Director: Emil Christov
Unfolding in the years immediately before and after the fall of communism, this blackly comic, implacably deadpan, all but unclassifiable puzzler delves into the manipulation and intimidation that underwrites the transactions between the secret police and their informants, going down a rabbit hole into a realm of twisted absurdity. The scenario by Vladislav Todorov, adapting his 2010 novel, Zincograph, centers on misfit youth turned engraving plant employee Batko Stamenov (codename: Marzipan), who is recruited by the secret police to infiltrate…a book reading group. Shades of Borges, the book being studied is “a subversive pseudo-philosophical novel” by the name of Zincograph about… an engraver who creates his own secret off-books network of informants. Going rogue after being dropped for his strange ideas, Batko targets another group, the so-called Club For New Thinking, invents a fictitious branch of the Ministry of Information known as ‘Department Sex’ and hatches a scheme that, as Todorov puts it, exposes the “very nature of secret policing under communism.” With this, its first film to appear in ND/NF in 35 years, Bulgaria is back!
A Hijacking (Kapringen) (2012) 99min, Director: Tobias Lindholm
On its way to harbor, the cargo ship MV Rozen is boarded and seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean. Moving between the claustrophobic and intensely fraught day-to-day life of the crew and their captors and the physically removed negotiations by the freight company in Denmark, Lindholm creates a climate of almost unbearable tension with an unexpected climax. As in his previous work (the prison drama ‘R’ and the television series ‘Borgen’) Lindholm’s narrative is based on a true event and his use of actual locations—the film was shot under exceedingly difficult circumstances in the Indian Ocean-- and people who has been involved in similar situations (the negotiation team include a real-life hostage negotiator), provide the film with palpable authenticity and a lived-in feel. Augmented by a terrific cast, especially the amazing Pilou Asbæk as the ship’s cook Mikkel who becomes the pirates primary conduit for communication, Lindholm has created a suspenseful drama whose essential subject matter is the innate danger of an overwhelming disparity between impoverished nations and the developed world. A HIJACKING is a Magnolia Films release.
Hold Back (Rengaine) (2012) 75min, Director: Rachid Djaïdani
The French title translates as “refrain,” and musical repetition is what this no-budget urban contemporary Romeo and Juliet embodies: in this case of the eternal conflict between true love and tribal loyalties, as real in 21st-century Paris as it was in the age of Shakespeare. The film’s two basic conditions are immediately established: Sabrina (Sabrina Hamida) accepts the marriage proposal of struggling actor Dorcy (Stéphane Soo Mongo) and then she and her eldest brother Slimane (Slimane Dazi) count off the names of the 40 “brothers” in her extended family clan. Dorcy is a black Christian and Sabrina is a Muslim Arab: de facto patriarch Slimane will enlist his brothers in an all-out effort to do whatever it takes to track down Dorcy and prevent this “taboo” union. Made on the run in the streets (“I film like a boxer” says director Rachid Djaïdani), this film is part love letter to the irresistible energy and creative street life of Paris, and part call for interracial tolerance.
People's Park (2012) 78min, Directors: JP Sniadecki and Libbie Dina Cohn
An immersive, inquisitive visit to the People's Park in Chengdu, China created with a single virtuouso tracking shot. The joys of communal play, exercise and leisure time come under intense scrutiny through the relentless gaze of the directors' lens, and create alternating states of unease and exhilaration.
Stories We Tell (2012) 108min, Director: Sarah Polley
What is real? What is true? What do we remember, and how do we remember it? Actor/director Sarah Polley (Away From Her, Take This Waltz) turns from fiction to non-fiction and in the process cracks open family secrets in this powerful examination of personal history and remembrance. Using home movies, still photographs and interviews, Polley delves into the life of her mother, shown as a creative yet secretive woman. What parents and siblings have to say and what they remember about events that occurred years ago, show the pitfalls of making the past present and cast a sharp light on the complicated paths of relationships. But while she is talking to her own relatives, Polley’s interest lies in the bigger picture of what families hold onto as truth. In an intimate setting, she shows us the process by which she tries to pluck information from family and friends: she interviews them but also delicately interrogates them as well as bringing them in as writers and collaborators in her own story. More than documentary, Stories We Tell is a delicately crafted personal essay about memory, loss and understanding.
Upstream Color (2013), Director: Shane Carruth
Ever since he created a wave of excitement with his 2004 debut, Primer, filmmaker of all trades Shane Carruth has prompted curiosity over what he would come up with next. For certain, it would likely contain a strain of science fact tilting into science fiction; almost probably, whatever would happen would happen in a reasonably recognizable America of the near-present moment, populated with a combination of confused and brilliant citizens of the Republic stumbling through as best they could toward something terrifyingly brilliant. Upstream Color certainly checks all those boxes, but it can’t be overstated how starkly different and markedly advanced a work this is over the first one. It represents something new in American cinema, close cousin to Alain Resnais’ great films thematically and formally exploring the surprising jumps and shocks of life’s passages and science’s strange effects. A love story embedded in a horrifying kidnap plot whose full import isn’t revealed until the final, poignant moments, Upstream Color doesn’t so much move as leap with great audacity through its moments and across sequences, a cinematic simulacrum of the ways we think back on our own lives, astonished at, as in the title of Grace Paley’s fiction collection, our “Enormous Changes at the Last Minute.”
Viola (2012) 65min, Director: Matías Piñeiro
Matías Piñeiro is one of contemporary Argentine cinema’s most sensuous and sophisticated new voices. In his latest film, Viola, he ingeniously fashions out of Shakepeare’s Twelfth Night a seductive roundelay among young actors and lovers in present-day Buenos Aires. Mixing melodrama with sentimental comedy, philosophical conundrum with matters of the heart, Viola bears all the signature traits of a Piñeiro film: serpentine camera movements and slippages of language, an elliptical narrative and a playful confusion of reality and artifice. Viola is a Cinema Guild release.