New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center and Museum of Modern Art have announced the lineup for this year's New Directors/New Films (March 23 through April 3). The 40th edition will open with JC Chandor's Margin Call, which screened here at the Berlinale last Friday. I missed it, but reviews have generally been more positive in the German papers than they were in the roundup I rolled together following its premiere at Sundance. The Guardian's Andrew Pulver finds it to be a "not-unentertaining excavation of the recent stock market crash on Wall Street, as seen from the point of view of an investment bank that sees which way the wind is blowing and decides to trigger the whole meltdown. 'It's not called panic if you're first out the door,' as one character crisply observes."
The closing film, Maryam Keshavarz's Circumstance, also hails from Sundance, where it won an Audience Award. And here's that roundup.
The films screening in between (and, unless otherwise noted, the synopses come from the FSLC and MoMA):
Mohamed Diab's 678 "intersects the stories of three women of very different social and economic status in Cairo as they converge in their collective desire to combat sexual harassment. A wealthy, secular young woman who is molested at football match is revealed to be just as vulnerable as the devout Muslim wife of limited means who must ride the bus with marauding men. Given the cultural and religious implications of family life and gender division, the women look to collective action, the media and even violence as routes to freedom." The film has a page at Facebook.
Pia Marais's At Ellen's Age "catches a woman at a crossroads following her husband’s confession of having an affair and the loss of her job due to a subsequent panic attack. The film follows the woman’s awakening after she joins forces with a group of animal activists." I collected a few reviews in this Toronto roundup.
Athina Rachel Tsangari's Attenberg. You've heard all about this one, right? From the Venice and Toronto roundup, from Daniel Kasman and from Adam Nayman in Cinema Scope. You may remember, too, that Ariane Labed won the Best Actress award in Venice.
Rebecca Zlotowski's Belle Epine "is a coming of age story about a teenage girl dealing with the death of her mother and absentee father. The girl loses herself in antisocial behavior, turning away from her Jewish heritage personified by her supportive aunt and uncle, and drawn into the orbit of a wrong-side-of-the-tracks classmate and her biker friends, who gather for chaotic, sometimes lethal night-time motorcycle meets on the edge of town."
Göran Hugo Olsson's The Black Power Mixtape 1967 - 1975 "utilizes never before seen interviews (with Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis among others) filmed by a group of Swedish filmmakers from the late 60s to mid-70s to chronicle the growth of the black power movement." You'll find a few notes here.
Marc Fitoussi's Copacabana "is a gentle French comedy about the relationship between a daughter and her single mother, starring real-life mother and daughter Isabelle Huppert and Lotlia Chammah. Embarrassed by her mother, the daughter wants a 'settled' life, something she believes her mother is not capable (nor desiring) of achieving. So her mother sets out to prove her daughter wrong, and win her respect by selling time-shares in a seaside resort town." The film screened in Critics' Week in Cannes in 2010 and I gathered a couple of takes here.
Denis Côté's Curling. You'll have seen quite a bit on this one already. Particularly here.
Deron Albright's The Destiny of Lesser Animals "follows a Ghanian Police Inspector as he embarks on a dangerous journey through modern Ghana to retrieve his stolen counterfeit passport. Finding his own search linked to a series of violent crimes, he joins forces with a seasoned police veteran who is still optimistic about his country to solve the mystery."
Vladimir Kott's Gromozeka premiered in Rotterdam and "follows three men who played in a pop-music trio during their high-school days, and are now three middle-aged men in different walks of life — surgeon, police officer, taxi driver, living at different levels in Moscow's socio-economic structure. Aside from their annual reunions, which book-end the film, their lives intersect only glancingly and unknowingly as their respective personal discontents and professional troubles reach crisis points and presents the contrasting ways in which each of them tries to cope."
Anne Sewitsky's Happy, Happy won the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema at Sundance; you'll find three reviews here.
P David Ebersole's Hit So Hard, a documentary, "is a pull-no-punches portrait of the hell-and-back life of Patty Schemel, drummer for Courtney Love's band Hole during its peak years. The result is an unprecedented inside look at the one of the 90s most crucial and controversial groups. Notwithstanding its amazingly candid interviews (Love included), its unflinching accounts of the personal tragedies that plagued the band in its heyday, and a rare look at hardball music-industry politics gives the viewer the lowdown on the recording of Hole's 1997 record Celebrity Skin."
Koji Fukada's Hospitalité "is about a man living a mundane life" in downtown Tokyo, "running a small printing factory and living a quiet life upstairs with his wife and children. Then a man arrives claiming to be the son of a wealthy financier who once helped his business. Soon the stranger has moved in with his wife, is running the business, and soon invites guests of his own — a large, eclectic and exotic group — into the apartment, destroying the once orderly and comfortable life of his host."
Denis Villeneuve's Incendies is a favorite to win this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; here's a roundup.
Seren Yüce's Majority "features Barta Küçükçaglayan as a man that manages to slide through each day working as an office assistant for his father's construction company when not gobbling burgers at the mall with his buddies. That is until he meets a shy but charming Kurdish girl, and suddenly his entire approach and outlook to life begin to change. However, he now must face a new conflict with his parents... upon whom he is completely dependent, and who won't even consider their son settling down with a Kurd."
Sameh Zoabi's Man Without a Cell Phone "is a comedy about a young Israeli construction worker with little ambition other than to have fun with his friends and meet girls which is directly at odds with his father’s ambitions to bring down a cell phone tower he is sure is poisoning their Arab neighbors with radiation."
Mikhaël Hers's Memory Lane "is a film about characters caught 'in between' — between city and country, friendship and love, life and death, and youthful dreams and the impending realities of growing up. Setting in motion several story lines, Hers allows action to develop and characters to emerge through subtle gestures, quick looks and offhand remarks via a splendid ensemble of actors that truly create a sense of closeness, a kind of familiarity that need not be emphasized as it's always so present."
Amhad Abdalla's Microphone "stars (and is co-produced by) Egyptian heart-throb Khaled Abol Naga as a man who returns to his hometown Alexandria unmoored and restlessly searching for purpose beyond his ex-girlfriend who's no longer interested and his aging father from whom he feels terminally alienated. Wandering the streets he happens upon a music and art making group of younger people that he stubbornly pursues and eventually becomes part of as his self-involvement changes into a real connection with this new world."
Daniel and Diego Vega's Octubre "follows a small-time money-lender living in a Lima barrio who one day discovers a baby left on his doorstep. To care for the child — the product of one of his frequent liaisons with prostitutes — the man engages a female neighbor for help, and soon a new, unexpected family is formed. The film won the Jury Prize of the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes 2010."
Bogdan George Apetri's Outbound "is a tense race against time as a young woman, serving a five-year prison sentence for a crime she didn’t commit, attempts to right the wrongs done to her, collect on debts and cleanse herself from her past life after she receives a day pass so that she can attend her mother’s funeral."
Dee Rees's Pariah premiered at Sundance; here's the roundup.
Matthew Bate's Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure is another one straight out of Sundance; roundup.
Matt McCormick's Some Days Are Better Than Others "is a poetic character-driven film that asks why the good times slip by so fast while the difficult times seem so sticky. The film follows a trio of stranded characters that seem to be competing for first prize in a Saddest Job in the World contest as McCormick insists on the reality of work, distinctly rebutting the popular image of Portland as a paradise for under-achieving hipsters and the slacker ethos of 'the unemployed, blissful lifestyle.'"
Nicolás Pereda's Summer of Goliath "combines documentary and fiction as it intertwines the stories of people living in a small town in rural Mexico. Those people include: a woman who believes her husband has left her for another woman; her soldier son, who hopes that one day he and his soldier partner will be issued machine guns so that they may intimidate passing motorists; and three brothers whose father left them many years ago in the care of their mother, who can barely support them." Daniel Kasman caught it in Toronto.
Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur — Sundance, roundup.
Natalia Almada's El Velador is a documentary that "displays the world of 'El Jardin,' a cemetery in the drug heartland of Mexico. Since the war on drugs began in 2007, the cemetery has doubled in size and some of its mausoleums have been built to resemble gaudy cathedrals, creating a skyline that looks like a fantastical surrealist city more than a resting place for the deceased. The film introduces us to both the lives of the cemetery workers and families of the victims — in the shadow of an increasingly bloody conflict that has claimed nearly 35,000 lives."
Li Hongqi's Winter Vacation. Winner of the Golden Leopard at Locarno; JP Sniadecki's interviewed the director for Cinema Scope.