By Roger Costa
Addressing displacement, industrial change and economical struggle in now-a-days Cambodia, director Kavich Neang demonstrates incredible control of the material, a precious sense of place and visual, an extremely sensitive approach and a perfect chemistry with the cast. Through the story of survival of three friends, seeking fame and money to provide for themselves and their families, as they aim to participate on the country’s highly competitive “Next Superstar” show, and somehow overcome the risk of having their apartment complex demolished, Neang announces himself as a major cinematic voice with this small gem, which took the Best Actor prize at Venice’s Horizon section. Undoubtedly one of this year’s richest discoveries.
Two longtime friends get together to try to solve the mysterious murder of a beloved one (her boyfriend, his brother), in this highly suspenseful, unpredictable and masterly crafted dramatic thriller. Winner of the Horizons Award at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Lithuanian filmmaker Laurynas Bareisa keeps the audience on the edge with this elaborated investigation that addresses the consequences of violence and the traumas that come along. Exceptional!
THE CITY AND THE CITY
An immersive modern Avant-Garde tale, Greek directors Christos Passalis and Syllas Tzoumerkas use an incredibly inventive narrative aesthetic to compose a heartbreaking and alarming portrait of the violence against Jewish people in their native city, Thessaloniki. Presenting facts of how the community became almost extinct, going back and forth during crucial and historical moments throughout the 20th Century, and introducing a variety of characters in unusual, surrealist and ultra violent situations, the film achieves an important mark in depicting the horrors of war and its haunting effects.
ALBUM FOR THE YOUTH
Marking her feature solo debut, Argentinian filmmaker Malena Solarz invites the viewer for a charming and intellectual coming of age story, as she follows a group of youngsters engaged in finding their place in the world of the arts. Exploring what motivates and moves the players of the future in embracing their aspirations and artistic perspectives, the film centers on the relationship developed by two friends who spent summer together establishing their dreams as priority: a musician and a playwright. Using a naturalistic approach to the issues related to Millennials and giving them hope and perspective for the days ahead, Solarz scores a lovely, utterly humane and observational tale about embracing life and art as a whole.
THE AFRICAN DESPERATE
Following the frenetic hours experienced by a Black American woman, as she learns she passed her exams and now has a degree in MFA (Master in Fine Arts), artist/filmmaker Matine Syms’ directorial debut is a vibrant, energized and naturalistic portrait of this generation’s aspirations, dreams and desires. Filled with irreverent, irresistible modern characters and convincing performances, the result is simply a revelation that announces a new era for indie cinema.
CHILDREN OF THE MIST
A remarkably immersive documentary that gets total access to the lives of a family, as they wait for the right moment to let their daughters go and start their own lives as wives. Honest, heartbreaking and revelatory, it extracts powerful confidentialities from its subjects, while capturing moments of pure human connection. Winner of the Best Directing Award at IDFA 2021, Vietnamese documentarian Diem Ha Le offers a powerful and unforgettable look at an unknown culture and traditions, as well as a meditation on the human condition in search of a soulmate.
(Presented by Film at Lincoln Center and MoMA, the 51st New Directors/New Films Festival runs April 20-May 1 with filmmakers in attendance to present their works at both venues.)