Goings On

New Festivals in New York and Los Angeles

On Film / The Daily — Dec 20, 2018
Hasan Majuni in Mani Haghighi’s Pig (2018)

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.


Back east, the IFC Center will host the first annual Iranian Film Festival New York, cofounded and coprogrammed by Godfrey Cheshire, author of In the Time of Kiarostami: Writings on Iranian Cinema, and Armin Miladi, director of the Iranian Film Festival of Australia. Producer and director Bahman Farmanara will take part in a Q&A following the opening night screening on January 10 of his latest film, Tale of the Sea, which the Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young has called a “resonant elegy to the conclusion of an artistic era and his salute to a generation of Iranian writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers who are leaving the scene.” In all, ten features will be screened through January 15, including Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces, winner of the best screenplay award in Cannes, and Mani Haghighi’s Pig, in which a blacklisted director is driven into a jealous rage over not having been killed by whoever it is that’s cutting the heads off of Iran’s major filmmakers.

Berlin and Rotterdam

The Berlin International Film Festival will present an honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement to Charlotte Rampling and spotlight the range of her long acting career with an homage program of ten films. Chronologically, the selection spans from Luchino Visconti’s The Damned (1969) through Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter (1974) and Nagisa Oshima’s Max mon amour (1986) to Andrea Pallaoro’s Hannah (2017).

The Berlinale, whose sixty-ninth edition runs from February 7 through 17, carries on parceling out new titles for its various sections. The Panorama has added twenty-two films, including Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, starring Tilda Swinton and her daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne; Tremors from Jayro Bustamante (Ixcanul), in which an evangelical father shocks his family by coming out; photographer Seamus Murphy’s travelogue with PJ Harvey, A Dog Called Money; Rob Garver’s documentary What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael; Kim Longinotto’s portrait of photographer Letizia Battaglia, Shooting the Mafia; and Marcelo Gomes’s new documentary, Waiting for the Carnival, which focuses on the Brazilian town of Toritama, “the self-proclaimed capital of jeans.”


The Generation section, programmed for younger viewers, will include Jennifer Reeder’s first Berlinale feature, Knives and Skin, which is about what happens in a small town when a young student goes missing. Also among the sixteen titles in the Generation program so far is Makoto Nagahisa’s We Are Little Zombies, in which four thirteen-year-olds who’ve lost their parents start a band. The Perspektive Deutsches Kino, showcasing young German talent, has its first six titles, and the the Forum Expanded, presenting innovative moving image artworks, will move across town to a new exhibition space at the Silent Green Kulturquartier.

Since we last checked in on Rotterdam, the festival has unveiled the lineup for its Ammodo Tiger Short Competition, twenty-four films in all, including new work from Mike Hoolboom, Luke Fowler, and Kevin Jerome Everson. The forty-eighth edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam will open on January 23 and run through February 3.

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