Before Sundance and Berlin, the headline-grabbing festivals of the winter season, begin their runs, three other more modestly sized yet just as enticing festivals are set to open in mid-January. Now in its eighth year, the First Look Festival at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, programmed in partnership with FIDMarseille, has its 2019 lineup all set to go. Sergei Loznitsa will be on hand to open this year’s edition, running from January 11 through 21, and to present both his latest narrative feature, Donbass, which won him a best director award from the Un Certain Regard program in Cannes, and his new documentary, The Trial, which presents newly restored footage from one of Stalin’s show trials in Moscow in 1930.
Claire Simon will also be at MoMI to close First Look 2019 and to discuss Young Solitude, a group portrait of students at a high school in a suburb of Paris. Among the films screening between those two events is Ming Zhang’s The Pluto Moment. When it premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight program in Cannes, Clarence Tsui, writing for the Hollywood Reporter, called it “an intriguingly beautiful mix of sensation and Zen . . . Zhang mines Michelangelo Antonioni’s films, particularly L’avventura, for ideas on how to depict modern alienation onscreen.” Dispatching from Toronto last fall, Filmmaker’s Vadim Rizov found that “a weird heart is beating” underneath Benjamín Naishtat’s “splashy ’70s period piece” Rojo. First Look will also present live performances, talks, and short and medium-length films from Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
The two other festivals will launch their inaugural editions on opposite coasts. Dennis Lim and Rachael Rakes, who curate the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual Art of the Real series of international works that test the boundaries of the documentary, are heading to Los Angeles where Acropolis Cinema and the UCLA Film & Television Archive will present a selection of highlights from the past five editions. Art of the Real: Los Angeles will open with two films by Corneliu Porumboiu, The Second Game (2013) and Infinite Football (2018), both dealing with the vital role that soccer plays in Romanian society. AotR:LA will close on January 17 with Luise Donschen’s Casanova Gene, which the festival calls “a funny and seductive look at seduction,” and Victory Day, yet another new work from Sergei Loznitsa, this one focusing on Russian nationalists who gather each year in a park in Berlin to celebrate the Red Army’s victory over the Nazis in the Second World War.