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Giving the Art Confidence and Hope at New Directors/New Films ’23


By Roger Costa


The feature debut by director Giacomo Abbruzzese instantly reveals him as a major visionary. Even more, it demonstrates his ability to merge artistic style and political engagement, making it as accurate as it is entertaining. It is a work that easily identifies with both the popular taste and the more critical ones. In a provocative, dystopian scenario, the director opens the film with a mystical ritual that will connect two worlds. First it is a migrating story following two Belarus’ comrades trying to reach France illegally. They are tragically separated and the surviving one (played by the great, versatile Franz Rogowski) joins the French Foreign Legion. Then it drastically cuts to an island off the Nigerian coast, where a group of revolutionary rebels prepare to fight the government, claiming they’re feeding companies responsible for polluting their lands and waters. The whole thing, mysterious, dangerous, mystical, feels like another story, but soon our protagonist is sent on his first mission and things are linked: to rescue the hostages taken by the rebels. That brings another tragic element to the plot, as our soldier is emphatic to the group and their actions, which resembles the ones he had experienced not too long ago. A psychological effect pushes him to his limits, as he delves into guilt, resentment and memories of loss. Rogowski crafts another enigmatic, complex and gripping character, confirming him as one of our greatest contemporary talents. In the other side, the film explores the rebels’ community with the same commitment and passionate perspective, giving them a humanistic shape despite the terrorism attacks they are plotting.

The director deeply observes the emotional disruption on both sides, increasingly violent and with the sense of danger permeating throughout, while painting a canvas of social prejudice, xenophobia, political regime, economic division, cultural clashes, principles and tribal practices. Brilliantly crafted and executed, masterly performed, it is a brutally honest look at interconnections as well as an intriguing magical realist humanitarian saga.

(Screens Friday, March 31 at MoMA and April 1 at Film at Lincoln Center).


A poetic and envigorating tribute to the capital of Mozambique, its people, traditions, myths and expectations, Brazilian filmmaker Ariadine Zampaulo invites the viewer for an extraordinary, immersive experience through the streets of Maputo where the observational camera captures ordinary people going on with their daily routines. Punctuated by the local radio’s MC overview on the city and its latest news, including a missing bride, the film addresses the aspects of colonization, racial conflicts and moral dilemma with a marvelous aesthetic that gives Avant-Garde a new aesthetic.

(Screens April 2 at Film at Lincoln Center and April 3 at MoMA).


A wonderful and insightful look at adolescence rebellion, acceptance and sexual trauma, French director David Depesseville’s sophomore feature is a revelation in style, narrative technique and provocative commentary. Following the attempts of Samuel, a pre-teen trying to adjust to his new farm/foster home, the director crafts an absorbing, intense and utterly heartbreaking coming of age drama. Anchored by a top-notch performance by Mirko Giannini, in the role of the troubled orphan, this is a fearless, urgent moral tale about understanding the tumultuous world of the new generation.

(Screens April 1st at Film at Lincoln Center).

(Presented by Film at Lincoln Center and MoMA, the 52nd New Directors/New Films runs March 29-April 9/2023 at both venues. Filmmakers will be in attendance for Q&A sessions. Go to for details.)

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