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Flirting with Political, Physical and Moral Disasters at New Directors/New Films 2020

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By Roger Costa

The prestigious annual New Directors/New Films Festival held by Film at Lincoln Center and MoMA that once introduced geniuses such as Spielberg, Almodovar and Spike Lee, celebrates its 49th edition with a wonderfully outrageous range of new works from emerging, talented and innovative filmmakers hailing from the US and other parts of the Globe.

Among the selection, there’s a predominant sense of flirting with disaster in political, physical, moral, and spiritual scenarios as coincidental elements appear throughout these narratives. Profound character studies are displayed throughout many players confrontations and experiences the horrors of violence, infidelity, death and corpses, love, danger, sexual provocation, authoritarian regimes, social/economic/political abuse, heartache and the beyond. Here are some of them:

In THE KILLING OF TWO LOVERS, director Robert Macholan crafts an intense and mind-bending portrait of a marital crisis that keeps you on the edge since its opening scene, anchored by a star-turning performance by Clayne Crawford. Raw, thought-provoking and heart-pounding, it is an outstanding and promising debut.

Depicting the consequences and effects of war with extremely innovative storytelling and visual aesthetics, ATLANTIS follows the troubles of a psychologically wounded soldier trying to restore his life among the devastation surrounding him. Ukrainian Director Valentyn Vasyanovych’s brilliant dramatic sci-fi is actually a realistic portrait of modern cruelty, exploring the country’s political manipulation and ideas, civil behavior and Nature.

Symbolic, entrancing and spiritualist, RED MOON TIDE is a Neo-Noir, meta-physical ghost story like never seen before. Spanish filmmaker Lois Patiño conducts the mystical tale with a unique aesthetic that resembles an intersection between the deadpan comedy of Kaurismaki and the immersive mysticism of Weerasethakul. An investigation on a fisherman who drowned, possibly by the contact with a marine monster, leads an entire community to report on the case. The result is a lushly shot (in glorious red tones) look at grieving punctuated by the mysteriously endangering sound of the ocean.

In the sublimely surrealistic romantic journey WINDOW BOY WOULD ALSO LIKE TO HAVE A SUBMARINE three worlds connect through a magical door: a ship’s janitor and an urban woman developing an unlikely relationship, and hunting men intrigued by a haunted shed in the middle of a foreign forest. Mysterious, seductive and immersive, Uruguayan poet and filmmaker Alex Piperno scored an impressive and utterly captivating debut.

Austrian filmmaker Sandra Wollner makes THE TROUBLE WITH BEING BORN one of the most disturbing, controversial and morally provoking films of the new century. A robot child is used as a valve of escape for a grieving father and an elderly woman, as they cope with emotional traumas and fantasies, as well as perversion and abuse. Delivering a powerful and striking performance by child actress Lena Watson and addressing strongly effective moral issues related to children and technology, it is a difficult film to watch, yet urgent and relevant.

Political manipulation and authoritarian regime are the subjects in the astonishingly shot and investigative SERVANTS. Set in a Catholic Seminary in 1980 Czechoslovakia, Slovak filmmaker Ivan Ostrochovský follows the psychological effects of two young novitiates and a priest caught up in the midst of a dangerous hunt for those not collaborating with the regime, brilliantly pointing to themes such as integrity, loyalty and religious principles.

Profoundly touching and delivering two Oscar-caliber performances by legendary actresses Martine Chevallier and Barbara Sukowa as two aging lovers who have their lives turned upside down, right when they were about to announce their lifelong secret affair, TWO OF US is France’s Official entry for the 2021 Oscars for Best International Film. A stroke brings separation, societal and family prejudice on their way, creating obstacles in order to prove the strength of their love. Director Filippo Meneghetti crafted a lovable melodrama, filled with inspirational messages of acceptance and hope.

(New Directors/New Films 2020 runs December 9-20 nationwide through Film At Lincoln Center’s and MoMA’s virtual platforms.)


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