Goings On

New Directors/New Films 2019

Félix Maritaud in Camille Vidal-Naquet’s Sauvage (2018)

It’s a good day for the new issue of Cinema Scope to pop up online. Deragh Campbell is on the cover, and inside, she and codirector Sofia Bohdanowicz talk to Adam Nayman about their latest collaboration, MS Slavic 7. It’s one of twenty-four features slated to screen during the forty-eighth New Directors/New Films, opening today and running through April 7 at New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art. “In the space of just a few years,” writes Nayman, “Bohdanowicz has emerged as one of the most acclaimed and interesting English-Canadian filmmakers of millennial vintage, cultivating both a spare, poetic style and a recognizable set of preoccupations tied to female creative experience and the simultaneous materiality and ephemerality of the past.”

MS Slavic 7, in which a real-life Polish poet’s letters inspire her great-granddaughter to assert herself as her literary executor, is one of two ND/NF titles I included in a roundup on the best of this year’s Berlinale. The other is Peter Parlow’s The Plagiarists, cowritten by James N. Kienitz Wilkins and Robin Schavoir, in which a passage from a fairly famous autobiographical novel sparks a young couple’s tedious yet somehow quite funny quibbling. The Plagiarists is “something like a conceptually baroque homage to the very films and filmmakers it is taking the piss out of,” writes Dan Sullivan. “Schavoir and Wilkins manage to have their cake and eat it, too: the provocations of their script and Wilkins’s uncanny editing structure—stitching together images of actors who never physically shared the same space—are inextricably bound up in its pleasures.”

The new Cinema Scope also features Jesse Cummings’s piece on Shengze Zhu’s Present.Perfect., which “offers an alternative concept of (self-)observation as mediated by digital technologies.” Gleaned from over 800 hours of live streams from “anchors” in China who trade viewers’ virtual gifts for cash, Present.Perfect. recently won the top prize, the Tiger Award, in Rotterdam.

Award Winners

Three award winners from this year’s Sundance anchor ND/NF 2019. Tonight’s opener is Chinonye Chukwu’s Clemency, winner of the grand jury prize in the U.S. Dramatic competition. Clemency stars Alfre Woodard as a prison warden on the verge of an emotional breakdown as she prepares to oversee her thirteenth execution. Alejandro Landes’s Monos, the winner of a special jury award, is the centerpiece screening. It’s a contemporary rendering of Lord of the Flies with teenage guerrillas holding an American engineer captive in the South American jungle. The closing night film will be Share, which scored a screenwriting prize for writer-director Pippa Bianco and an acting award for Rhianne Barreto, who plays a high-school sophomore who wakes up on her front lawn and has no idea how she got there—or what happened to her the night before.

There are two more Sundance winners in the program. Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s debut feature, Honeyland, which took the grand jury prize in the World Cinema Documentary competition, focuses on a Macedonian beekeeper whose harmonious relationship with nature’s bounty is disrupted when a rowdy family moves onto a neighboring farm. And Luke Lorentzen won a cinematography award for Midnight Family, which he also directed and edited. The documentary tracks the lives of a family that struggles to make ends meet by driving a private ambulance in Mexico City. I took a look at the critical accolades for all five of these films right here.

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