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Grieving, Healing and Resetting at the 49th New Directors/New Films Festival


By Roger Costa


A strange illness spreads around an Indigenous community living on the margins of the Amazon River near the capital. Urgent enough to address an unknown fever amidst a pandemic, satisfyingly mysterious to keep you guessing throughout, and exquisitely metaphorical, first-time filmmaker Maya Da-Rin centers all the political, ethnical and social issues of her brilliant screenplay on the experiences of a grieving widower facing prejudice and transitions and his nurse daughter who is moving away to med school while trying to figure out the origins of the disease. A unique and lyrically crafted debut.


Religious, political and family conflicts are sizzling all over a renowned Iman trying to battle his evil brother’s extremely violent and authoritarian regime, as well as his intentions to marry his daughter. Superbly acted, highly emotional and gripping, Senegalese filmmaker Mamadou Dia builds up a tense, deeply moving experience while focusing on virtues, pure love, faith and compassion. Winner of the Best First Feature award at Locarno Film Festival, it’s a powerful and compelling tragic melodrama.


Funny, absurdist and heartwarming, French Writer-Director and co-star Nadège Trebal’s liberally refreshing rom-com is a sensational comic showcase for its protagonist, the captivating and hypnotizing Arieh Worthalter. Proud and determined to work hard and prove to his wife his ability to gain enough money compared to her income, he sets off on a journey hustling at an Industrial company, hanging out with eccentric mates, while analyzing his own condition. Hilarious and irreverent, sexually provocative and smart, the result is a fabulous look at the inner desires of men and women seen through the heated experiences of a frenetic and passionate marriage.


In this absorbing, immersive hybrid of doc and fiction, director Anna Sofie Hartmann follows a mysterious woman working on a remote island in Denmark. As the ethnologist studies the place’s inhabitants, homes, farms and objects, before they all get demolished for the passage of a tunnel, the film develops as a delicate, profoundly humane portrait of existentialism and the importance of history, family traditions and regional culture. It is also a timely look on modern, globalized love, as she engages on a romance with a Polish worker, making it an accomplished sophomore entry.


Winner of the Top Prize at this year’s Rotterdam Film Festival, Greek director Janis Rafa’s debut is an intense, provocative and apocalyptic look at loss and grieving, and the affecting, co-dependent connection between humans and pets. The film depicts the experiences of a couple of animal rescuers, who work for a crematorium agency, as they visit clients mourning their losses, while analyzing their own relationship. The somber, Gothic-style atmosphere creates a brilliantly claustrophobic setting, as the film keeps it amusing, melancholic and intriguing with its narrative inventions and unashamed aesthetic.

(An annual cinematic celebration and promising showcase for emerging talented filmmakers from all over the world, co-presented by Film At Lincoln Center and MoMA in NYC, New Directors/New Films Festival 2020 runs Virtually thru December 20th)

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