NYFF59 Announces Spotlight section and if you’re not freaking out, you should be.

FILM AT LINCOLN CENTER ANNOUNCES SPOTLIGHT FOR THE
59th NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL

Film at Lincoln Center just announced Spotlight for the 59th New York Film Festival. The Spotlight section is NYFF’s showcase of the season’s most anticipated and significant films. We’re pretty excited to see what’s on the schedule, including a double dose of Timothée Chalamet in DUNE and THE FRENCH DISPATCH. Sean Baker’s newest film RED ROCKET starring Simon Rex will sure to have sparks flying. Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s directorial debut THE LOST DAUGHTER and Mike Mills’ C’MON C’MON. 20th Century Women was my favorite title from NYFF54, so I’m eager to see what story he has for audiences this year.  You can find the entire Spotlight lineup listed below.


“Our Spotlight section is a new part of our reshaped New York Film Festival, a place that this year encompasses a range of cinema, new and old,” said Eugene Hernandez, Director of the New York Film Festival. “Of the new work, we’re showcasing a selection of anticipated films (and talent) from recent festivals (Wes & company! Olivia! Timmy! Jane & Charlotte! Joaquin! and more), while also looking back at our roots, celebrating the history of NYFF and New York City’s film culture by shining a special light on Amos Vogel. We hope that our Spotlight section, in year two, will again engage, enlighten, and entertain!”

Among the highlights are Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated adaptation of Dune; Academy Award–nominated director Mamoru Hosoda’s Belle, a visually extraordinary tale about a shy teenager who becomes an online sensation as a pop star; Mike Mills’s C’mon C’mon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a warmhearted radio journalist; Wes Anderson’s latest, The French Dispatch, showcasing his unmistakable cinematic style with a cast of familiar collaborators; directorial debuts from Charlotte Gainsbourg, profiling her legendary mother Jane Birkin in Jane By Charlotte, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, adapting Elena Ferrante’s novel The Lost Daughter, with a brilliant performance by Oscar-winner Olivia Colman; veteran Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio’s Marx Can Wait, a heart-wrenching examination of the legacy of his twin brother’s suicide, on the occasion of a family reunion in his hometown of Piacenza; and Red Rocket, Sean Baker’s newest depiction of contemporary America as a playground for hustlers and con men, set against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election.

NYFF59 also pays tribute to the centenary of late film programmer and festival co-founder Amos Vogel—who offered the city “films you cannot see elsewhere,” and whose uncompromising dedication to the medium’s radical possibilities inspired NYC film culture as it exists today—with a special Spotlight sidebar. Vogel’s wide-ranging curatorial career spanned his many years running Cinema 16, America’s most influential film society; his foundational work at Lincoln Center; his time at Grove Press; and his classic study Film as a Subversive Art, which will soon be reissued by The Film Desk. FLC’s tribute focuses on the NYFF period, bookended by screenings devoted to his work before and after his involvement with the festival, including films from Glauber Rocha, John Huston, and trailblazers of the Czech New Wave; a program from NYFF5 sidebar The Social Cinema in America, featuring Lebert Bethune’s Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom, Santiago Álvarez’s dispatch from post-revolutionary Cuba, Now, and David Neuman and Ed Pincus’s snapshot of Civil Rights-era Mississippi, Black Natchez; and works from the era’s burgeoning avant-garde scene, such as Tony Conrad’s The Flicker and a world premiere restoration of Robert Frerck’s Nebula II.


FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS

Belle
Mamoru Hosoda, 2021, Japan, 121m
Japanese with English subtitles
In his densely beautiful, eye-popping animated spectacle, Academy Award–nominated director Mamoru Hosoda (Mirai) tells the exhilarating story of a shy teenager who becomes an online sensation as a princess of pop. Still grieving over a childhood tragedy, Suzu has a difficult time singing in public or talking to her crush at school, yet when she takes on the persona of her glittering, pink-haired avatar, Belle, in the parallel virtual universe known as the “U,” her insecurities magically disappear. As her star begins to rise, Belle/Suzu finds herself drawn to another “U” fan favorite—a scary but soulful monster whose “real” identity, like Belle’s, becomes a source of fascination for legions. Both a knowing riff on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and a moving commentary on the duality of contemporary living, Belle is a thrilling journey into the matrix and a deeply human coming-of-age story, packed with unforgettable images and dazzlingly styled characters. A GKIDS release.

C’mon C’mon
Mike Mills, 2021, USA, 108m
After gracing audiences with Beginners and 20th Century Women (NYFF54), writer-director Mike Mills returns with another warm, insightful, and gratifyingly askew portrait of American family life. A soulful Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, a kindhearted radio journalist deep into a project in which he interviews children across the U.S. about our world’s uncertain future. His sister, Viv (a marvelously intuitive Gaby Hoffmann), asks him to watch her 9-year-old son, Jesse (Woody Norman, in one of the most affecting breakout child performances in years), while she tends to the child’s father, who’s suffering from mental health issues. After agreeing, Johnny finds himself connecting with his nephew in ways he hadn’t expected, ultimately taking Jesse with him on a journey from Los Angeles to New York to New Orleans. Anchored by three remarkable actors, C’mon C’mon is a gentle yet impeccably crafted drama about coming to terms with personal trauma and historical legacies. An A24 release.

Dune
Denis Villeneuve, 2021, USA, 155m
A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive. Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem lead the all-star ensemble in visionary filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal novel. A Warner Bros. Pictures release.

​​The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson, 2021, USA, 107m
English and French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Wes Anderson’s unmistakable cinematic style proves delightfully suited to periodical format in this missive from the eponymous expatriate journal, published on behalf of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun from the picturesque French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé. Brought to press by a corps of idiosyncratic correspondents, the issue includes reports on a criminal artist and his prison guard muse, student revolutionaries, and a memorable dinner with a police commissioner and his personal chef. As brimming with finely tuned texture as a juicy issue of a certain New York–based magazine to which the film pays homage, The French Dispatch features precision work from a full masthead of collaborators (including Bill Murray, Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton,  Benicio del Toro, Frances McDormand, and Jeffrey Wright), each propagating inventive dedication to detail. Anderson’s deadpan whimsy is complemented by the film’s palpable sense of nostalgia. A Searchlight Pictures release.

Jane by Charlotte
Charlotte Gainsbourg, 2021, France, 86m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
In creating a documentary portrait of a parent, as actor Charlotte Gainsbourg does in her directorial debut, one could overly flatter the subject or iron out the tough creases. Gainsbourg avoids these traps in her wise and wondrous film about her legendary mother, the singer and actress Jane Birkin. Consisting of several intimate conversations between parent and child, as well as footage of Birkin performing onstage, the result is a spare, loving window into the emotional lives of two women as they talk about subject matter that ranges from the delightful to the difficult: aging, dying, insomnia, celebrity, and their differing memories of their shared past, which includes Charlotte’s father and Jane’s husband, Serge Gainsbourg. Jane by Charlotte is an unexpected, imaginatively visualized work that affords intimate access to someone whom many of us only think we know.

The Lost Daughter
Maggie Gyllenhaal, 2021, USA/Greece, 121m
In her striking feature directorial debut, Maggie Gyllenhaal adapts the 2006 novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante, a potent work of psychological interiority that follows Leda, a divorced professor on a solitary summer vacation who becomes intrigued and then oddly involved in the lives of another family she meets there. Oscar-winner Olivia Colman brilliantly embodies this quietly tempestuous character, finely shading in the enigmatic relationships she creates with strangers. A moving, sometimes unsettling inquiry into motherhood and personal freedom, Gyllenhaal’s adaptation maintains Ferrante’s signature ambiguity and matter-of-fact style, and features an outstanding supporting cast, including Jessie Buckley, Ed Harris, Dakota Johnson, Paul Mescal, Alba Rohrwacher, and Peter Sarsgaard. A Netflix release.

Marx Can Wait
Marco Bellocchio, 2021, Italy, 95m
Italian with English subtitles
North American Premiere
In his most achingly personal film to date, legendary Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio—an NYFF mainstay from the very beginning, from Fists in the Pocket (NYFF3) to The Traitor (NYFF57)—uses the occasion of a family reunion in his hometown of Piacenza to excavate and discuss a traumatic event: the death his twin brother Camillo, who committed suicide in the late ’60s at age 29. Through detailed conversations with his siblings, archival footage providing context about 20th-century Italian leftist politics, and occasional clips from his films, many of which were in some way imbued with this defining family tragedy, Bellocchio conducts a personal and historical exorcism. Reckoning with the push-pull the director has long felt between the twin poles of family and politics, Marx Can Wait is an attempt at reconciliation and understanding from a filmmaker in his eighties whose work has never shied away from the challenging or the provocative.

Red Rocket
Sean Baker, 2021, USA, 128m
Adding to his gallery of jet-fueled portraits of economic hardship within marginalized pockets of the U.S., director Sean Baker (The Florida Project, NYFF55) trains his restless camera on an unforgettable protagonist. Mikey, a wildly narcissistic former porn star fallen on hard times, has returned from L.A. to his depressed, postindustrial hometown of Texas City, reconnecting with his skeptical, drug-dependent estranged wife and mother-in-law, and using his wily charms to ingratiate himself into a community of people he couldn’t care less about. As played by a brilliantly cast Simon Rex (a star MTV VJ in the ’90s), Mikey is a charismatic force of nature—and destruction—who exploits the innocence and goodwill of everyone around him. Pointedly set against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election, Red Rocket is an aptly steamed-up depiction of contemporary America as a playground for hustlers and con men. An A24 release.

The Souvenir
Joanna Hogg, 2019, UK/USA, 119m
The follow-up to her 2013 feature Exhibition finds Joanna Hogg mining her own autobiography to craft a portrait of the artist as a young woman in early 1980s London. Caught between her dreams of becoming a filmmaker and her commitment to a toxic romance, 24-year-old Julie (an excellent Honor Swinton Byrne) comes home each night from film school to the Knightsbridge apartment owned by her mother (Tilda Swinton) only to discover some new, unpleasant surprise proffered by her boyfriend, Anthony (Tom Burke), a dandyish junkie whose sophisticated aura masks an abyss of selfishness and desperation. An eminently refined and moving bildungsroman about the ties that inexplicably bind, The Souvenir—as its title suggests—is also an absorbing evocation of a time, place, and national mood. An A24 release.  The Souvenir Part II is an NYFF59 Main Slate selection.


AMOS VOGEL CENTENARY RESTROSPECTIVE

Program 1, 113m
Cinema 16
At a time when moviegoing in New York was dominated by Hollywood offerings, Amos Vogel, a young Austrian émigré, and his wife Marcia saw the need for a new kind of venue. In the fall of 1947, they founded Cinema 16, inspired by European film societies as well as the daily screenings at the Museum of Modern Art, the shows Maya Deren organized of her own work at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village, and Frank Stauffacher’s Art in Cinema series in San Francisco. The organization, named after the gauge of the independent filmmaker, would become the most important film society of its era. Unlike a typical movie theater, Cinema 16 was based on a subscription model, with members paying a fee for a season of programs—an approach that allowed for financial stability, and a means by which to thwart the local censorship board. By the 1950s, 7,000 adventurous cinephiles had joined.

It was through Vogel that many of the period’s most vital auteurs were introduced to New York audiences. As historian Scott MacDonald has noted, Cinema 16 “was one of the first, if not the first, American exhibitor to present the work of Robert Breer, John Cassavetes, Shirley Clarke, Bruce Conner, Joseph Cornell, Brian DePalma, Georges Franju, Robert Gardner, John Hubley, Alexander Kluge, Jan Lenica, Richard Lester, Norman McLaren, Jonas Mekas, Nagisa Oshima, Yasujiro Ozu, Sidney Peterson, Roman Polanski, Alain Resnais, Tony Richardson, Jacques Rivette, Lionel Rogosin, Carlos Saura, Arne Sucksdorff, François Truffaut, Stan Vanderbeek, Melvin Van Peebles, Agnes Varda, and Peter Weiss.”

The significance of Cinema 16, however, lies not simply in what was shown, but how. Vogel would routinely bring together strikingly different works—pairing, for instance, an abstract animation with a science film, allowing both to be understood, contrapuntally, in a new light. For this screening, we’ve recreated the May 1950 program, with Vogel’s original notes.

The Lead Shoes
Sidney Peterson, 1949, USA, 16mm, 18m
A surrealist exploration of two ballads, “Edward” and “The Three Ravens,” scrambled in jam session style and interwoven with a boogie-woogie score. Produced by Workshop 20 at California Institute of Fine Arts.

Unconscious Motivation
Lester F. Beck, USA, 1949, 16mm, 40m
Produced by Dr. Lester F. Beck of the University of Oregon, this astonishing 40-minute motion picture is an unrehearsed, authentic clinical record, showing the inducement of an artificial neurosis by hypnotic suggestion in a young man and a young woman. Upon reawakening, the subjects, by means of dream analysis, ink blot and word association tests, gradually realize first the existence of a traumatic experience and then its content by slowly reconstructing the bogus events which caused it. Their reactions, discussion and self-analysis were spontaneous, unrehearsed and unpredictable: the result is a most unusual motion picture. Print courtesy of Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive.

The Battle of San Pietro
John Huston, USA, 1945, 35mm, 38m
A master of the cinema, John Huston (Treasure of the Sierra Madre) portrays the horror of battle and the cruelty of its aftermath in unforgettable images that make this one of the great anti-war films of all time. Print preserved by the Academy Film Archive.

The Work of Oskar Fischinger
Study No. 11, Germany, 1932, 16mm, 4m
Allegretto, USA, 1936-43, 35mm, 2.5m
Motion Painting No. 1, USA, 1947, 35mm, 11m
The father of the “absolute film” and internationally famous film experimentalist is here represented by three films: Absolute Film Study No. 11 is an abstraction set to Mozart’s “Divertissement;” Allegretto, a non-objective color film accompanied by jazz; Motion Painting No. 1—hand-painted in oil on glass—won the Grand Prix 1949 at the International Experimental Film Festival in Belgium. [NB: “Absolute Film” was not part of Fischinger’s title for this film, and its accompaniment is Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” not “Divertissement.”] All Fischinger prints courtesy of Center for Visual Music, Allegretto preserved by CVM.

The New York Film Festival, 1963-1968
Cinema 16 came to a close in 1963. That same year Vogel co-founded the New York Film Festival with Richard Roud, and, as the head of Lincoln Center’s film department, laid the groundwork for the FLC of today. For our tribute, we’ll be highlighting a number of works that were presented during Vogel’s tenure at the festival, each of which reflects, in different ways, his long-standing preoccupations as a programmer.

Program 2
Barravento
Glauber Rocha, 1962, Brazil, 16mm, 78m
Portuguese with English subtitles
The first edition of NYFF included in its main slate Barravento, a seminal work of Cinema Novo and the debut feature of Glauber Rocha, whose work Vogel would champion for decades thereafter. The film—shot on location in sensuous black and white, and deeply attuned to the rhythms of collective labor and religious ritual—centers upon a Bahian fishing village. The community finds itself caught in the net of capitalist exploitation and likewise bound by mystical belief, a situation that one man, returning to his hometown after years spent in the city, seeks to change. Though Rocha’s visual style would continue evolving with later works like Antonio das Mortes, his insurrectionary imperatives, aesthetic as well as political, were already evident in Barravento. “The Tricontinental cinema,” he would famously declare, “must infiltrate the conventional cinema and blow it up.” Print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Program 3
Pearls of the Deep / Perličky na dně
Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Evald Schorm, Věra Chytilová, and Jaromil Jireš, Czechoslovakia, 1965, 107m
Czech with English subtitles
Among Vogel’s many contributions to film culture in America, especially notable is the platform he gave to work coming out of Eastern Europe during the 1960s and ’70s, a particularly rich moment for filmmaking in the region. Emblematic of this era is the omnibus Pearls of the Deep, which played at the New York Film Festival in 1966. Each of its five sections, from the wonderfully morbid opening chapter, set against the backdrop of a motorcycle race, to its closer, a tender study of young love, is directed by a different filmmaker and based on a short story by Bohumil Hrabal; the work as a whole, with its forays into the absurd, is now regarded as a kind of manifesto for the Czech New Wave. “This astonishing, tightly knit group of young filmmakers represented the values of the first post-Stalinist generation,” Vogel would go on to remark. “It was striking to note how similar their views were to those of the West’s rebellious youth, which, from a different starting point, had also become engaged in a search, without illusions, for possible ideals and provisional truths. It seemed that the world was perversely backing into an enforced brotherhood, which would universalize such problems as individual freedom in a bureaucratic society, estrangement between generations, the failure of dogmatic ideologies, and eternal confrontations of imperfect innocence as against the corruption of so-called maturity.”

Program 4, 105m
The New American Cinema, 1966
The Fourth New York Film Festival featured a sampling of the New American Cinema, bringing the underground uptown. Two of the works screened that year, Tony Conrad’s The Flicker and Peter Emmanuel Goldman’s Echoes of Silence, reflect the range of avant-garde activity flourishing at the time: the former, a landmark of structural filmmaking, reduces the cinema to its most fundamental elements, while the latter suggested alternative paths for the narrative feature.

The Flicker
Tony Conrad, 1966, USA, 16mm, 30m
“This film contains no images at all,” wrote Vogel of The Flicker. “Its subject is light and its absence. It consists of combinations of alternating white and black frames, flashing by in constantly changing patterns and causing a continuous stroboscopic flicker effect of great complexity. Whether its frequency is momentarily static or changeable (it ranges from 24 flashes down to 4 flashes per second throughout its 30 minute duration), the effect is literally hypnotic. This concerted ‘overload’ of the retina and nervous system provokes an endless variety of changing shapes, patterns and, most surprisingly, colors, whose nature differs with each viewer (even varying from performance to performance). The electronic soundtrack was generated by relays and components carrying different types of information; the various frequencies are orchestrated by the director. This ‘pure’ film deals with perception itself; its hallucinatory effect—despite absence of image, content, or meaning—reveals an unsuspected congruity with deep emotional needs.” Please note: This film may affect viewers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy and other photosensitivities.

Echoes of Silence
Peter Emmanuel Goldman, 1965, USA, 16mm, 75m
Echoes of Silence, by contrast, chronicles the lives of twentysomethings adrift in New York City, locating tremendous feeling in the smallest moments: a furtive glance across a museum gallery, women putting on makeup, a stroll beneath the gleaming lights of Times Square marquees. Unencumbered by diegetic sound, its shadowy images of youthful flaneurs are paired with evocatively hand-painted title cards and a dynamic soundtrack drawn from the artist’s LPs that, when combined, produce an unforgettable ballad of sexual dependency. Though little remembered today, Goldman was hailed by Vogel (along with Godard, Mekas, and Sontag) as a major new talent.

Program 5, 92m
The Social Cinema in America, 1967
The Fifth New York Film Festival featured a sidebar on “The Social Cinema in America,” which surveyed the new directions of documentary filmmaking, with an emphasis on cinema verité and the possibilities opened up by more portable recording equipment (the program introduced New York audiences to now-classic works like Peter Adair’s Holy Ghost People, Allan King’s Warrendale, and Frederick Wiseman’s Titticut Follies). One screening, reprised here, brought together Lebert Bethune’s Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom, Santiago Álvarez’s Now, and David Neuman and Ed Pincus’s Black Natchez.

Malcolm X: Struggle for Freedom
Lebert Bethune, 1964, France, 22m
Bethune, a Jamaican filmmaker who had become a notable figure within Paris’s Black expatriate milieu, created a remarkable portrait of a political icon, and his film features some of the very last interviews with Malcolm X, recorded during his travels in Europe and Africa mere months prior to his assassination.

Now
Santiago Álvarez, 1965, Cuba, 35mm, 6m
A brief but incendiary dispatch from postrevolutionary Cuba, Now blasts forth as a machine-gun montage of violent imagery from the American civil rights era while Lena Horne provides a soaring soundtrack with her titular protest anthem, sung to the tune of “Hava Nagila.”

Black Natchez
David Neuman and Ed Pincus, 1967, USA, 64m
In Black Natchez, we encounter the struggle for freedom again, though articulated in a different form. “The advent of portable sync-sound equipment in the early ’60s meant, for the first time in the sound era, that filmmakers could go to the subject as opposed to bringing the subject to the camera,” Pincus would later explain. “The ability to take a camera out into the world created the desire to ‘get it right,’ to film the world independent of the act of filmmaking. In the U.S., all sorts of rules were being created in documentary film—no script, no narration, no interviews, no lighting, no mic boom, no collusion between subject and filmmaker.

In 1965, the second year of intense voter registration drives in Mississippi, we decided to make a film in the southwest corner of the state. Little civil rights work had been done there because of the danger in the region. Our approach was to seek out several story lines and then continue with the most interesting. A car bombing of a civil rights leader while we were there changed everything. The event emphasized the rifts in the Black community around the demands for equality. Rifts between teenagers and women on one hand and the Black business community on the other. Rifts between Black males forming armed protection groups and the call for nonviolence by the major civil rights groups. And rifts between grassroots organizations and more traditional leadership organizations such as the FDP (Freedom Democratic Party) and the NAACP.”

New digitization courtesy of Ed Pincus Film Collection, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana. Digitization was supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Program 6, 69m
Personal Cinema, 1968
1968 marked Vogel’s final year of overseeing the NYFF, and, as with the festival’s previous iterations, many remarkable (and even today underappreciated) works were selected. One program in particular from that edition stands out. Dubbed “Personal Cinema,” it included several key examples of how the medium was being democratized, with the camera made accessible to those who had previously enjoyed limited or no access to the tools of production. In The Jungle, members of North Philadelphia’s 12th & Oxford Street gang dramatize the internal workings of their group, and, in so doing, put forward a vivid, unvarnished image of urban life in America, while Jaime Barrios’s Film Club showcases the activities of a storefront workshop that allowed Puerto Rican teenagers living on the Lower East Side to make their own movies. In The Spirit of the Navajo, Mary J. and Maxine Tsosie likewise drew from their own community, here focusing on their grandfather, a well-known medicine man, as a way to document the traditions of their tribe in their own style, on their own terms.

The Jungle
12th and Oxford Street Film Makers, 1967, USA, 35mm, 22m
35mm preservation print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Film Club
Jaime Barrios, 1968, USA, 16mm, 26m

The Spirit of the Navajo
Maxine Tsosie and Mary J. Tsosie, 1966, USA, 16mm, 21m
Print courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art.

Program 7, 90m
Film as a Subversive Art
Long a source of inspiration for film programmers, Film as a Subversive Art is a guidebook to cinema’s outer limits, replete with tantalizing descriptions of some of the most radical movies ever made. First published in 1974, this lavishly illustrated volume can be seen as a culmination of Vogel’s work over the previous decades, chronicling as it does the taboo-busting potential of cinema, at the level of form as well as content. For this program, we foreground one of the book’s most iconic titles, WR: Mysteries of the Organism (a still featuring its star, Milena Dravić, with clenched fist raised, graces Vogel’s cover), alongside an altogether different piece: Nebula II, one of its most obscure entries. The precise abstraction of the latter stands in contradistinction to the messy fantasies, sexual and political, of the former, yet they emerge from a similar moment—and, in true Vogelian style, complement one another, suggesting unexpected affinities. His notes on the films are below.

WR: Mysteries of the Organism
Dušan Makavejev, 1971, Yugoslavia/West Germany, 35mm, 85m
English, German, Russian, and Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles
Banned in Yugoslavia, hailed at international film festivals, this is unquestionably one of the most important subversive masterpieces of the 1970s: a hilarious, highly erotic political comedy which quite seriously proposes sex as the ideological imperative for revolution and advances a plea for Erotic Socialism. Only the revolutionary Cubist Makavejev—clearly one of the most significant new directors now working in world cinema—could have pulled together this hallucinatory melange of Wilhelm Reich; excerpts from a monstrous Soviet film, The Vow (1946), starring Stalin; a transvestite of the Warhol factory; A.S. Neill of Summerhill; several beautiful young Yugoslavs fucking merrily throughout; the editor of America’s sex magazine Screw having his most important private part lovingly plaster-cast in erection; not to speak of a Soviet figure-skating champion, Honored Artist of the People (named Vladimir Ilyich!), who cuts off his girlfriend’s head with one of his skates after a particularly bountiful ejaculation, to save his Communist virginity from Revisionist Yugoslav Contamination. It is an outrageous, exuberant, marvelous work of a new breed of international revolutionary, strangely spawned by cross-fertilization between the original radical ideologies of the East, Consciousness III in America, and the sexual-politics radicalism of the early Wilhelm Reich, who equated sexual with political liberation and denied the possibility of one without the other…

Preceded by:
Nebula II
Robert Frerck, 1971, USA, 16mm, 5m
World premiere of restoration
After Jordan Belson, one might have thought no further mandala films could be fruitfully made; Nebula II quickly dispels this notion. As the ever-changing circular patterns become more complex and change in increasingly rapid fashion, the incessant bombardment of our senses with flicker effects, visual transmogrifications, pulsating color, and enforced forward movement via zoom, finally set up a sensory overload both hypnotic and overpowering in its beauty and mystical revelation. Print restored by Anthology Film Archives with support from Cinema Conservancy.


The NYFF59 Spotlight retrospective will be followed by tributes at repertory cinemas across New York City—Anthology Film Archives, Film Forum, Light Industry, Metrograph, MoMA, and the Museum of the Moving Image—in an unprecedented collaboration.

The Spotlight section is programmed by Eugene Hernandez and Dennis Lim. NYFF’s Amos Vogel centenary celebration is organized by Thomas Beard, Dennis Lim, and Tyler Wilson.

NYFF59 will feature in-person screenings, as well as select outdoor and virtual events. In response to distributor and filmmaker partners and in light of festivals returning and theaters reopening across the country, NYFF will not offer virtual screenings for this year’s edition.

Proof of vaccination will be required for all staff, audiences, and filmmakers at NYFF59 venues. Additionally, NYFF59 will adhere to a comprehensive series of health and safety policies in coordination with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and state and city medical experts, while adapting as necessary to the current health crisis. Visit filmlinc.org for more information.

Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema and takes place September 24 – October 10, 2021. An annual bellwether of the state of cinema that has shaped film culture since 1963, the festival continues an enduring tradition of introducing audiences to bold and remarkable works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent.

Festival Passes are now on sale through this Sunday, August 22 only. NYFF59 tickets will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, September 7 at noon ET, with early-access opportunities for FLC members and pass holders prior to this date. Learn more here. Support of the New York Film Festival benefits Film at Lincoln Center in its nonprofit mission to promote the art and craft of cinema


Tribeca Festival 2021 capsule reviews: ‘Settlers’, ‘Glob Lessons’, and ‘7 Days’

Settlers

Mankind’s earliest settlers on the Martian frontier do what they must to survive the cosmic elements and each other.

Undeniably riveting, Settlers pits one family unit against another. Brooklynn Prince, who burst onto the scene in The Florida Project, captivates as a child whose survival depends on the lies she’s been fed by adults. Sofia Boutella skillfully plays her mother and ardent protector. As the reality of the situation of humanity is slowly revealed, the peril grows for everyone involved. Settlers is a film about trust, through and through. As time passes, Remmy’s role is taken over by Nell Tiger Free. She must navigate loneliness, and more importantly, the advances of the man who keeps her both alive and captive. Settlers’ unique script by director Wyatt Rockefeller allows us to question what we would do when faced with extreme circumstances. The landscape beautifully mimics the surface of Mars. Its desolate surroundings create palpable isolation and ceaseless desperation. The addition of a robotic character is the only thing that brings levity. Ismael Cruz Córdova as Jesses walks a precarious line between savior and villain. His beliefs steer the story into the darkest regions of human nature. Settlers is worth the watch for extraordinary performances and one hell of a feature debut from Rockefeller.

DIRECTOR
Wyatt Rockefeller
CAST

Sofia Boutella, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Brooklynn Prince, Nell Tiger Free, Jonny Lee Miller


Glob Lessons

Two mismatched strangers confront their fears of intimacy and inadequacy as they tour low-budget children’s theatre out of a minivan across the frozen Upper Midwest.

Nicole Rodenburg and Colin Froeber give us every emotion on screen. As a theater major, I know Jesse and Alan. But as a human being, everyone will know them. The concept of pouring your soul into your passion with little in return is universal, be it children’s theatre or any other occupation. There is a fine line between love and loathing. The laughs are plenty lying within awkward non-conversation and road movie tropes. Tension and tolerance levels eventually come to a head with creativity as their savior. In Glob Lessons, the moments of genuine intimacy between Froeber and Rodenburg grab hold of the viewer. Jesse and Alan are fleshed-out characters. At times they are pathetic, other times endearing. The chemistry between Froeber and Rodenburg is the stuff of movie magic. Glob Lessons isn’t flashy and that’s the point. Life is messy. Let’s own it. I am excited to see what comes next from a voice like Rodenburg’s. If Glob Lessons is any indication, we’ll be seeing more very soon.

 

DIRECTOR
Nicole Rodenburg
SCREENWRITER

Colin Froeber, Nicole Rodenburg


7 Days

As if their pre-arranged date, organized by their traditional Indian parents, wasn’t uncomfortable enough, Ravi and Rita are forced to shelter in place together as COVID-19’s reach intensifies.

This film snuck up on me. Filmed during lockdown and using COVID as a major plot point, 7 Days turns the concept of traditional arranged marriage on its head. Geraldine Viswanathan brings the laughs as Rita. Breaking the mold of the dutiful would-be bride, she begrudgingly comes to Ravi’s rescue with little to no hope of being his match. Karan Soni, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Roshan Sethi, plays straight-laced, Ravi.  As boredom sets in and guards are let down, a genuine connection slowly develops. The chemistry between Viswanathan and Karan feels grounded and made for some incredibly memorable moments. 7 Days is funny and heartfelt. I was not expecting the darker turn in the script. It was a bold move that paid off in spades. Filmed mostly in one room created the tension and awkwardness we needed to experience alongside Rita and Ravi. It takes the idea of close quarters to the extreme. 7 Days is a true gem from this year’s festival.

DIRECTOR
Roshan Sethi
SCREENWRITER
Karan Soni, Roshan Sethi
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Roshan Sethi, Karan Soni, Geraldine Viswanathan

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘Werewolves Within’ will leave you howling.

Werewolves Within

SYNOPSIS:
After a proposed gas pipeline creates divisions within the small town of Beaverfield, and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, newly arrived forest ranger FINN (Sam Richardson) and postal worker CECILY (Milana Vayntrub) must try to keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community.

If you hate comedy, Werewolves Within is not for you. Also, if you aren’t a fan of whip-smart social commentary wrapped in a genre film about werewolves, stop reading now. Director Josh Ruben brought one of the best films to Tribeca Festival this year. Written by Mishna Wolff, the screenplay plays off the paranoia and politics of small-town USA. The pairing of Milana Vayntrub and Sam Richardson is pure comic genius. Wolff’s dialogue gives this duo a chance to shine and the audience nonstop belly laughs. In fact, this ensemble cast will blow you away. Everyone has their time to shine. Not a single actor is forgettable. This is the kind of witty banter that occurs when there is genuine chemistry between cast members. It’s so successful you’ll question whether there was improvisation on set. That’s a compliment to everyone involved with the film. The mystery aspect of Werewolves Within will keep you guessing until the very end. The practical effects perfectly progress from suggestive to full-on gagworthy. This film is so nuanced it will surprise you. Werewolves Within is the perfect reason to return to the theaters.

**In Theaters on June 25th & On Demand July 2nd**

DIRECTED BY
Josh Ruben (Scare Me, “You’re The Worst”)
WRITTEN BY
Mishna Wolff (I’m Down)
STARRING
Milana Vayntrub, Sam Richardson,
Cheyenne Jackson, Michaela Watkins, Harvey Guillen, Michael Chernus, George Basil, Sarah Burns, Catherine Curtai, Rebecca Henderson, Glenn Fleshler

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘Ultrasound’ is a mind-melting film.

Ultrasound

Synopsis: Driving home late at night during a heavy rainstorm, Glen experiences car trouble. Near where his car gets stuck, he spots a house, knocks on the door and is greeted by an oddly friendly middle-aged man, Arthur, and his younger wife, Cyndi. The strange couple pours him a drink, and then more drinks, followed by an unexpected offer that Glen can’t refuse. Elsewhere, a young woman, Katie, is feeling emotionally weighed down by a secret romantic arrangement that feels like a textbook case of gaslighting. And at the same time, in a nondescript research facility, medical professional Shannon begins questioning her role in a bizarre experiment, fearing that she’s doing more harm than good.

When I tell you you’re not ready for Ultrasound, I mean that as a huge compliment because this film is a sci-fi mind melt. Boasting an outstanding cast and incredible writing, this is a film that you’ll want to tell everyone about. Three different stories, all equally mysterious, will reel you in with smartly laid-out breadcrumbs. Between exclamations of “Huh?” and “Wait, what?!” I have no doubt you will be hungry for more.

Vincent Kartheiser plays Glen with both a sense of an “everyman” quality and someone with long lingering PTSD. Chelsea Lopez brings a naivete to Cyndi that is spot on. Breeda Wool as Shannon allows the audience a small window into the insanity of this film. Alongside Bob Stephenson’s nuanced performance as Art, Ultrasound is a ping-pong match of converging stories and characters that will confuse, excite, and melt your brain.

The editing becomes increasingly important as the mystery unravels. Ultrasound is relentlessly twisted. There is so much happening in this script, you have to pay careful attention to it all. Ultrasound is best viewed with no preconceived notions. Throw out everything you think you know and take the ride. Tribeca audiences will eat this up. Ultrasound will keep you baffled long after the credits roll. It demands repeat viewing.

Check out the clip below for a preview:

**WORLD PREMIERE**
CAST: Vincent Kartheiser, Chelsea Lopez, Breeda Wool, Tunde Adebimpe, Rainey Qualley, Chris Gartin, Bob Stephenson
DIRECTOR: Rob Schroeder

Tribeca Festival 2021 reviews: ‘See For Me’ and ‘Shapeless’ feature women battling different inner demons.

SEE FOR ME

When blind former skier Sophie cat-sits in a secluded mansion, three thieves invade for the hidden safe. Sophie’s only defense is army veteran Kelly. Kelly helps Sophie defend herself against the invaders and survive.

See For Me takes the home invasion genre and adds a surprising element; the leading lady’s morality. Rightfully bitter, having lost her sight, Sophie pushes everyone away in hopes of remaining independent. Part of that behavior also includes sticky fingers during her cat-sitting gigs. When trouble arises, Sophie begrudgingly takes her mother’s advice. She downloads an app allowing another person to look through the user’s cell phone camera to assist them in tasks. This comes in handy when Sophie is confronted with home invaders. Although, her best chance of survival comes with a moral caveat.

Skyler Davenport as Sophie is outstanding. Her temperament and ability to put the audience in her shoes make this as successful as it is. Alongside Jessica Parker Kennedy‘s confident performance, the two have unshakeable chemistry, even if they never meet face to face. See For Me is a thoroughly engaging thriller. You’re immediately hooked by the premise. Director Randall Okita invites us into Sophie’s world. With wide-angle shots, we experience immediate terror. Slowly lumbering killers in the same frame, all unbeknownst to Sophie, gives the film energy akin to the Friday The 13th franchise. Plus, two women fighting in tandem in a completely fresh way enhanced the home invasion trope. See For Me has a solid feminist vibe.  A thriller with a side of morality? That’s good stuff.

(**World Premiere**) – Tribeca Online Premieres

Director: Randall Okita
Cast: Laura Vandervoort, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Skyler Davenport, Kim Coates, Pascal Langdale, Joe Pingue, George Tchortov

 


SHAPELESS

Ivy, a struggling singer in New Orleans trapped in the hidden underworld of her eating disorder, must face her addiction – or risk becoming a monster.

A huge aspect of eating disorders is the idea of control. What happens when that obsession changes who you are? Perfectly titled, Shapeless creates a slow-burn dread that consumes the viewer. If you can stomach the content, good for you. I mean this quite literally. Director Samantha Aldana adds a precise feminine touch. Ivy’s physical and emotional self-destruction is incredibly familiar. Seemingly small moments, like secretly borrowing clothes or the careless nature of her personal relationships, reveal a fuller picture.

Kelly Murtagh is outstanding in the role she wrote alongside Bryce Parsons-Twesten. Her exhaustion and frustration are palpable. This certainly comes from Murtagh’s own experiences with an eating disorder.  Admittedly, as a genre fan, the most intriguing aspect of Shapeless is the progressive body horror. I yearned for more. The prosthetic makeup lands somewhere between grotesque and whimsical. It captures the essence of Shapeless at every turn. The final scene is nothing short of heartbreaking, honest, and terrifying. Bravo.

(**World Premiere**) – Midnight

Director: Samantha Aldana
Writers: Kelly Murtagh, Bryce Parsons-Twesten
Cast: Jamie Neumann, Marco Dapper, Kelly Murtagh, Bobby Gilchrist, Erika Ashley, Gralen Bryant Banks, Zardis Nichols

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To’ proves blood is thicker than water.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Two mysterious siblings find themselves at odds over care for their frail and sickly younger brother.

Isolation, survival, depression, organized chaos. These are heavy-hitting words to describe a film with a blunt force trauma of an opening. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a film that’s been on everyone’s lips for a year now. It’s been killing it on the festival circuit, and rightly so. This slow-burn horror puts three siblings at odds due to one’s unique affliction. Jesse has become the taskmaster Mamabird, driving the survival of her family. Dwight is stuck between resentment and loyalty as his patience is running out. Youngest brother Thomas just wants to break free of his physical and emotional prison. Stunted in every way possible, what would life look like without his elder siblings? Is blood thicker than water? My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To begs that very question, quite literally.

Patrick Fugit as Dwight is heartbreaking. The cracks are evident from the very beginning. His conscience weighs on him as his desire for normalcy and peace are all-consuming. Ingrid Sophie Schram as Jesse is everything we need her to be. Focused and utterly exhausted. The survival of this family unit is driven by her sense of duty and not necessarily by love this many years in. She and Fugit are brilliant scene partners. Owen Campbell as Thomas is a nuanced mix of childlike and monster. You simultaneously sympathize and loathe him. These are striking performances.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To has a finale that will first crush you then slowly, you’ll start to breathe again. It’s the perfect catharsis. Writer-director Jonathan Cuartas gives us every single emotion in this script. It’s meticulously thought out. To think that this is a feature debut sends shivers down my spine in anticipation of what’s next. How this story manages to walk the line between horror and morality tale is simply genius. You never really know what’s going on behind closed doors. Some are better left closed.

Tribeca Festival 2021 Review and Interview: Director Nick Moran talks ‘Creation Stories’

CREATION STORIES

Creation Stories tells the unforgettable tale of infamous Creation Records label head Alan McGee; and of how one written-off young Glaswegian upstart rose to irrevocably change the face of British culture.

I was immediately charmed by director Nick Moran after congratulating him on Creation Stories. “Oh, Thank You! I was very concerned about whether it would work with American audiences, ya know because Trainspotting didn’t work as big as it did over here. And ya know, Lock, Stock, (and Two Smoking Barrels) didn’t work as big as it did over here. So I’m like, are they gonna get this sort of Brit Pop-tastic film. And I’m really excited that everyone I’ve spoken to has really, really liked the film.” I assured him that any cinephile in the US knows what those Trainspotting and Lock, Stock are. I was hard-pressed to find a wall in college without one or both of those posters plastered on them. It was a cultural phenomenon in the late 90s. These films opened the minds of countless fans and future filmmakers.

Creation Stories is of a similar ilk. The film’s pace is like a runaway freight train, easily identifying itself as an Irvine Welsh script. In an early scene, young Allen discovers the Sex Pistols. There is joyous, visceral energy to the editing. Moran was the perfect choice for director. After having spoken with him, it all makes even more sense now. This matches Nick’s personal energy. The entire viewing experience of Creation Stories brought me back to when I was in high school and got riled up on the way to live shows or just listening to bands like Oasis. Having to wait in front of the radio for a song to play, that buzzy anticipation isn’t something today’s generation experiences.

Allen McGee was a hustler and a dreamer. But also an addict. His vices were drugs and alcohol, but also risk. His innate ability to take risks on bands changed the face of music. His influence reached beyond the music industry. McGee had his hands in more than the music scene. His stories are so wild you’d almost believe that they were total BS. Ewen Bremner nails this role. He captures Allen McGee‘s dizzying aura. Allen went from a kid excited about music to establishing an inspired empire. Bremner leaves it all on the screen surrounded by a cast of brilliant players like Jason Isaacs, Suki Waterhouse, Leo Flanagan, and many more, including a brief but memorable appearance from Nick Moran as Malcolm McLaren. The way Moran harnesses Welsh and Dean Cavanagh‘s script melds so well with the era. Bringing on Danny Boyle solidified the film version. The drugs, the parties, the hair, and clothing. The entire look of the film has the impression of what I imagine a really great acid trip feels like. It’s a whirlwind. I cannot begin to imagine what was shot and not used! I would not be mad at an eventual director’s cut version.

Let’s talk about the music. The soundtrack is nothing short of a hit. Combining tracks from The Jesus and Mary Chain, David Bowie, Sex Pistols, and yes, Oasis, Moran explains how he chose what would be featured in the film. “It wasn’t much of a learning curve for me, It was more of a case of going through the record collection I’ve already got, brushing the dust off a few of them, and going, ‘Well, what about this?’ ” He perfectly sums up Creation Stories by saying, “If you don’t know that music, then it’s a great discovery!” It’s a celebratory history lesson in a way.

You can watch Creation Stories through Tribeca At Home beginning tonight. Check out the trailer for a taste of what’s to come.

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA

Purchased films remain available to stream on-demand from the above date through June 23

 

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘P.S. Burn This Letter Please’ is a joyous history lesson.

P.S. Burn This Letter Please

A box of letters, held in secret for nearly 60 years, ignites a 5-year exploration into a part of LGBT history that has never been told. The letters, written in the 1950s by a group of New York City drag queens, open a window into a forgotten world where being yourself meant breaking the law and where the penalties for “masquerading” as a woman were swift and severe. Using original interviews, never-before-seen archival footage and photographs and stylized recreations, P.S. BURN THIS LETTER PLEASE reconstructs this pre-Stonewall era as Lennie, Robbie, George, Michael, Jim, Henry, Claude, Tish, and Terry—former drag queens now in their 80s and 90s—reveal how they survived and somehow flourished at a time when drag queens were both revered and reviled, even within the gay community. The government sought to destroy them, then history tried to erase them, now they get to tell their story for the first time.

There’s something both nostalgic and tangible about handwritten letters. With technology at our fingertips, they are few and far between and nearly nonexistent to certain generations. In P. S. Burn This Letter Please, a box of letters from the 50s chronicles the lives of a small LGBTQ circle of friends. Through sit-down interviews with the authors, immaculate archival footage and photos, we delve into history. This documentary is phenomenally compelling. If it doesn’t make you grin from ear to ear, you’re out of your mind.

Happiness isn’t the only reaction this film elicits. It is a lesson in oppression, one that sounds all too familiar. We hear about biological family dynamics, the difference between those who accepted and those who broke these beautiful souls down. The majority of the doc is celebratory and juicy. Oh honey, the exquisite fashion. The delicious stories. Hearing the truth from those who lived it is priceless.

I learned an entirely new vocabulary. I learned about the “who’s who” of drag and female impersonators in those years. What was it like to be a performer? Who was actually running the gay clubs? That answer will shock you. To say I was fascinated would be an understatement. The dramatic readings of the letters are to die for. To think what wasn’t included in the film leaves me wanting more. Outside of its Tribeca Festival screening, you can watch P.S. Burn This Letter Please streaming on Discovery +. You will not regret jumping into its fabulousness.

 

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘No Running’ has tailwind for larger storytelling.

No Running


NO RUNNING | JUNETEENTH PROGRAMMING

Online World Premiere

Synopsis: When high school student Jaylen Brown finds himself under suspicion after his classmate’s mysterious disappearance, prejudice quickly begins to bubble up to the surface of his small town. Working quickly to clear his own name, he begins to unravel a massive web of secrets that all point to otherworldly forces at play.

A smart, biting screenplay by Tucker Morgan takes us into the world of a young black man in very unfriendly territory. No Running has a twist to the social relevance. It’s a sci-fi film that leaves more questions than answers and that just fine by me. The story has all the makings of a franchise. No Running is Jaylen’s story but the door is left ajar for an entirely expanded world of who and why. In a town riddled with missing posters, No Running could be the beginning of something much larger. The suggestion of an otherworldly savior has endless potential.

Skylan Brooks, coming off an extraordinary performance in Archenemy, proves his star power. His ability to convey truth, relatability, and vulnerability is a gift. Each cast member elevates his performance. As you watch, you’ll easily be wrapped up in the local hostility weighed upon Jaylen. You’ll be infuriated and compelled to solve the mystery alongside this talented young man. Morgan’s script gives us a beautiful example of black excellence with Jaylen. No Running is a gem at Tribeca Festival 2021. Genre fans will connect on a multitude of levels. Congratulations to director Delmar Washington for a unique entry in this year’s lineup.


Available Starting

Fri June 11 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA

Purchased films remain available to stream on-demand from the above date through June 23

Director: Delmar Washington
Written by:  Tucker Morgan
Cast: Skylan Brooks, Taryn Manning, Shane West, Diamond White, Rutina Wesley, Bill Engvall
Producer: Eric Fleischman, Maurice Fadida
Co-Producer: Chris Abernathy
Editor: Adam Tyree
Cinematographer: Juan Sebastian Baron

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘No Man Of God’ will get inside your head.

No Man Of God

The complicated relationship that formed between the FBI analyst Bill Hagmaier and serial killer Bundy during Bundy’s final years on death row.

Amber Sealy‘s breaking the mold of our image of Ted Bundy. No Man Of God does not romanticize Bundy’s personality, but it does somehow humanize his intellect. This is the most unexpected story of friendship and trust. It just so happens to involve one of the most prolific serial killers of our times. Of all the Bundy films, this is the one we’ve been waiting for and we didn’t even know it. Through letters that progressed to sit-down interviews, Hagmaier built a bond with Bundy no other person was ever able to attain. It’s extraordinary.

Elijah Wood is a phenomenal foil for Luke Kirby. There is a measured and genuine tone to his delivery that is completely believable. You’re just buying what he’s selling. I think this might be his best dramatic performance since Set Fire To The Stars. Luke Kirby is a genius. He is slick as hell. Kit Lesser‘s dialogue allows for poetic moments, philosophical ones, as well as pure terror. It’s his manner of nonchalance that keeps you off-kilter. It is undeniably an award-winning performance.

Wood and Kirby’s incredibly natural back and forth holds your attention every single second. The emotional electricity builds to a pitch-perfect finale. This is a masterclass in scene partnering, writing, and directing. No Man Of God is nothing short of riveting. It is a must-see.

Spotlight Narrative

World Premiere

Available Starting

Sat June 12 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA

This purchased film will remain available to stream on-demand from the above date through 6/14 at 6 PM EST

Tribeca Festival 2021 capsule Review: ‘Last Film Show’ is a glorious nostalgic hug for movie lovers.

Last Film Show

When the magic of movies conquers nine-year young Samay’s heart; he moves heaven and earth in pursuit of his 35mm dreams unaware of heartbreaking times that await him.

Stunningly beautiful cinematography, including thoughtful close-ups and overhead shots of Samay’s mother cooking his lunches, will make you remember the impact a great film has on all the senses. Last Film Show is the perfect way to celebrate being back in person at Tribeca. Performances from every single cast member are triumphant. It feels like an ode to film lovers. You’ll fall head over heels in love with Bhavin Rabari in particular. It’s rare that child is so spectacular in a role that you forget that’s it’s a narrative and not a documentary. Last Film Show gives us everything we’ve been missing since this pandemic began. To say much more about the plot is truly a disservice. It’s one I implore you to see for yourself. We’ve missed this more than we realized. Last Film Show is a cinematic masterpiece.

TRIBECA 2021
WORLD PREMIERE / Spotlight Narrative Competition

 

Available Starting

Fri June 11 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on-demand from the above date through June 23

 

 

Tribeca Film Festival 2021 is back with a vengeance. Here’s what we’re stoked to see.

Tribeca Film Festival is back and it’s the 20th anniversary, baby. This year’s lineup not only features a slew of incredible new films but will also include titles that didn’t get the chance to screen at the 2020 festival due to Covid. Audiences can experience Tribeca in a multitude of ways. You can enjoy outdoor screenings or watch from the comfort of your couch with Tribeca At Home. There are podcasts, live talks, immersive programs, and so much more. This festival is reliable for churning out crowdpleasers and this year is no exception. Here is a mere handful of films we are excited to share with our readers.

Werewolves Within

SYNOPSIS:
After a proposed gas pipeline creates divisions within the small town of Beaverfield, and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, newly arrived forest ranger FINN (Sam Richardson) and postal worker CECILY (Milana Vayntrub) must try to keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community.
When everyone is talking about a film before it even premieres you know you have to check it out. The pairing of Milana Vayntrub and Sam Richardson is pure comic genius. The screenplay from Mishna Wolff gives this duo a chance to shine and the audience nonstop belly laughs. In fact, this ensemble cast will blow you away. The hidden social commentary inside a werewolf mystery heightens everything. You do not want to miss this one.
Virtual Screening
Available Starting

Thu June 17 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Poser

Lennon exists timidly on the sidelines of the thriving Columbus, Ohio indie music scene, yearning for a personal connection that might shepherd her into the inner sanctum of warehouse concerts, exclusive backstage, house parties and the cutting-edge art scene. As she fuels her desire for entrée into a podcast featuring live music and conversations with the artists she so fervently admires, Lennon finds inspiration for her own musical ambitions…and a growing sense of misdirected identity. Enter Bobbi Kitten, an enigmatic, striking and talented half of a popular, indie pop duo, who takes Lennon under her confident wing—unwittingly entangling herself in a dark obsession.
This is a film that will connect with multiple generations. It’s a story about finding your niche but that’s a really glossy explanation. The script is nuanced in a way that you will not see coming.
Available Starting

Fri June 11 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23.


Settlers

Remmy and her parents, refugees from Earth, have found peace on the Martian outskirts—until strangers appear in the hills beyond their farm. Told as a triptych, the film follows Remmy as she struggles to survive in an uneasy landscape.

An unexpected feminist tale, Settlers script makes the heart beat faster, ceaselessly begging the question, “What would you do to survive?”

Available Starting

Fri June 18 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


How It Ends

In this feel-good apocalyptic comedy, Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) embarks on a hilarious journey through LA in hopes of making it to her last party before it all ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way.

Having a massively successful run on the festival circuit, Zoe Lister-Jones stars in a cameo-filled, riotous, and thoughtful film about coming to terms with the traumas of our childhood. You will laugh (a lot) and cry. This one will undoubtedly hit all the right notes.

Available Starting

Mon June 21 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


We Need To Do Something

After Melissa and her family seek shelter from a storm, they become trapped. With no sign of rescue, hours turn to days and Melissa comes to realize that she and her girlfriend Amy might have something to do with the horrors that threaten to tear her family – and the entire world, apart.

This is one of the first titles to get picked up before its premiere. That always makes a film extra buzzy. The idea of being trapped in a bathroom with my family already gives me anxiety. Add on the horror element and you’d push anyone’s nerves beyond their breaking point.

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Ultrasound

**World Premiere** – Midnight

Driving home late at night during a heavy rainstorm, Glen experiences car trouble. Near where his car gets stuck, he spots a house, knocks on the door and is greeted by an oddly friendly middle-aged man, Arthur, and his younger wife, Cyndi. The strange couple pours him a drink, and then more drinks, followed by an unexpected offer that Glen can’t refuse. Elsewhere, a young woman, Katie, is feeling emotionally weighed down by a secret romantic arrangement that feels like a textbook case of gaslighting. And at the same time, in a nondescript research facility, medical professional Shannon begins questioning her role in a bizarre experiment, fearing that she’s doing more harm than good.

When I tell you that you aren’t ready for Ultrasound, I mean that as the highest compliment. This is a film best viewed totally unaware of the plot. Frankly, that’s not too difficult as the script provides dizzying twists over and over again. This is a film that people will be talking about. It’s one you’ll want to watch again and again.

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Claydream

A modern day Walt Disney, Will Vinton picked up a ball of clay and saw a world of potential.  Known as the “Father of Claymation,” Vinton revolutionized the animation business during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.  But after 30 years of being the unheralded king of clay, Will Vinton’s carefully sculpted American dream came crumbling down at the hands of an outside investor, Nike’s Phil Knight.

The poster alone screams nostalgia for a generation brought up on Saturday morning cartoons. With sitdown interviews and behind-the-scenes clips, fall in love with Will Vinton and his creations all over again.

Available Starting

Sun June 13 – 7:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


No Man Of God

In 1980, Ted Bundy was sentenced to death by electrocution. In the years that followed, he agreed to disclose the details of his crimes, but only to one man.  NO MAN OF GOD is based on the true story of the strange and complicated relationship that developed between FBI agent Bill Hagmaier and an incarcerated Ted Bundy in the years leading to Bundy’s execution.

We often hear about how charming Ted Bundy was. Director Amber Sealey‘s No Man Of God puts the audience in the room with him as writer Kit Lesser used actual transcripts from Bundy and Hagmaier’s conversations. Brimming with complexity and boasting amazing performances from Luke Kirby and Elijah Wood, leave your expectations at the door. 
Available Starting

Sat June 12 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. This purchased film will remain available to stream on demand from the above date through 6/14 at 6 PM EST


Creation Stories

 Creation Stories charts the true story of the rise and fall of Creation Records and its infamous founder, Alan McGee; the man responsible for supplying the “Brit Pop” soundtrack to the 90s, a decade of cultural renaissance known as Cool Britannia.  From humble beginnings to Downing Street soirées, from dodging bailiffs to releasing multi-platinum albums, Creation had it all. Breakdowns, bankruptcy, fights and friendships… and not forgetting the music. Featuring some of the greatest records you have ever heard, we follow Alan through a drug-fueled haze of music and mayhem, as his rock’n’roll dream brings the world Oasis, Primal Scream, and other generation-defining bands.

Drugs, music, risk, and passion drove Allen McGee to change the face of music in the 90s. Creation Stories comes at you like a freight train with a visceral energy that makes you wanna get up and dance. If you are a fan of Trainspotting, also penned by Irvine Welsh, this is right up your alley. Be on the lookout for our upcoming interview with director Nick Moran!

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Two mysterious siblings find themselves at odds over care for their frail and sickly younger brother.

This is another film that is best experienced without prior knowledge of the plot. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To comes out of left field in a genre-bending tale of morality. The emotional gut-punch that the film becomes will consume you.


TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 21 runs from June 9th to the 20th. For more information visit https://tribecafilm.com/festival and stayed tuned to Reel News Daily for reviews and updates.

Harlem International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘My Fiona’

MY FIONA

 New York State Premiere
Director: Kelly Walker
Country: US, Running Time: 86 min
Following the suicide of her best friend, Jane finds purpose in helping her friend’s wife with their child. In doing so, she becomes inadvertently drawn into an intimate relationship bound by grief that’s potentially catastrophic to the healing for all those involved.

Jeanette Maus‘s final feature role is impactful beyond words. She plays Jane, a woman whose best friend commits suicide and must address her own grief within the complexity of her newfound family dynamic. How close is too close when all are have left are the ones left behind? The cast’s chemistry is immaculate. Maus leaves it all on screen. Every moment is an emotional gut-punch. Suicide is a loaded subject. The script tackles its all-consuming confusion with a carefully crafted hand. In an attempt to discover Fiona’s “Why” and to find her place without Fiona, Jane must come to grips with the messy aftermath of loss. MY FIONA is an intimate look at grief from the perspective of a best friend. It’s a fresh take on something that is so relatable. It’s okay to not be okay. Writer-director Kelly Walker has given Harlem International Film Festival audiences a true gem. MY FIONA is a different kind of love story. Do not miss this film.

Audiences in New York can access the film now!

16th Edition
May 6-16, 2021 Extended Dates!

BAM Kino Polska 2021 review: ‘SUPERNOVA’ makes your heart race and your head spin.

SUPERNOVA

Three men, one place, and one event that will change the life of each one of them. A universal tale, kept in a realistic style, tells the story of a few hours in the life of a rural community. The film raises questions about the essence of chance and destiny. A bloody story, oscillating on the edge of drama, thriller, and disaster cinema.

Up close, hand-held camera work intensifies the manic energy that radiates from this cast. This tragic and explosive story stems from a hit-and-run. With the world in upheaval over police action, this film focuses on the reactions of a small town department. When the mysterious driver flees on foot, chaos reigns when the incident becomes personal. The performances are astonishing. The screenplay is genius. You’re getting multiple narrative stories by watching the reactions of family, coworkers, and onlookers all at once. A naive rookie, a Chief close to retirement, hooligans in the crowd, a female officer’s first day, those connected to the victims, and a villain so loathsome your head will spin. These characters simultaneously clash in Supernova as events play out in real-time. There is not a moment to breathe. The quietest moment is the opening shot. Once the actors enter the frame the energy ramps up and become increasingly intense. Writer-director Bartosz Kruhlik plays with empathy and power dynamics in such an intelligent way. The complexity of the story just keeps growing. Your heart will race, you’ll seethe with anger, Supernova is that good.

SUPERNOVA
Dir. Bartosz Kruhlik
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

BAM Kino Polska 2021 review: ‘NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN’ wows with mystery and misery.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 

On a gray, foggy morning outside a large Polish city, Zhenia (Alec Utgoff), a masseur from the East, enters the lives of the wealthy residents of a gated community. Using hypnotic, almost magical techniques to get a residence permit, he starts working. The well-to-do residents in their cookie-cutter homes seemingly have it all, but they all suffer from an inner sadness, some unexplained longing. The attractive and mysterious newcomer’s hands heal, and Zhenia’s eyes seem to penetrate their souls. To them, his Russian accent sounds like a song from the past, a memory of their seemingly safer childhoods. The latest from writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska (ELLES, IN THE NAME OF) and her longtime collaborator Michal Englert is an unclassifiable meditation on class, immigration, and global warming with touches of magical realism and moments of sober beauty and subtle humor.

Simply beautiful cinematography and one hell of a leading performance consume the audience in BAM’s Kino Polska’s New York premiere of NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN. Alec Utgoff as Zhenia gives an intoxicating performance. There’s something about his gaze that puts you at ease. You’re fully aware there’s a complexity tied to his childhood in Chernobyl. The dialogue from his clients never lets you forget. The nuance of this role is enthralling. The darker mystery slowly makes its way to light as he does his massage and, unbeknownst to them, hypnosis on his clients. They reside in a wealthy, gated estate outside the city. From the outside, each house essentially a replica of the next. Inside, the residents gossip and confess their trauma and innermost thoughts. Sinister undertones always linger. Zhenia’s unique ability to connect with people is merely the beginning of his capabilities. That talent isn’t something that can be hidden indefinitely. The score is haunting and meaningful, heightening this carefully crafted film. Trust me when I say, this movie is special. You’ll be as hypnotized as Zhenia’s clients. NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN is bursting with endless intrigue. It’s a journey that you will never see coming.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 
Dirs. Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert
2020, 113min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

Polish Cinema comes to your living room courtesy of BAM’s film program ‘Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema’

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

I NEVER CRY
Dir. Piotr Domalewski
2020, 98min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Zofia Stafiej, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Kinga Preis

Seventeen-year-old Ola sets off to Ireland to bring her father’s body back to Poland after he dies in a building site accident. But never mind her dad, Ola wants to know if he had saved the money for a car he had promised her. Dealing with a foreign bureaucracy in her own streetwise way, Ola finally gets to know the father who had been largely absent in her life. A bittersweet coming-of-age drama that explores the perplexity of family bonds, illustrating the gloomy landscape of today’s Europe.


MR. JONES
Dir. Agnieszka Holland
2019, 119min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard

Agnieszka Holland’s thriller, set on the eve of world WWII, sees Hitler’s rise to power and Stalin’s Soviet propaganda machine pushing their “utopia” to the Western world. Meanwhile an ambitious young journalist, Gareth Jones (Norton) travels to Moscow to uncover the truth behind the propaganda, but then gets a tip that could expose an international conspiracy, one that could cost him and his informant their lives. Jones goes on a life-or-death journey to uncover the truth behind the façade that would later inspire George Orwell’s seminal book Animal Farm.


NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 
Dirs. Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert
2020, 113min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza

On a gray, foggy morning outside a large Polish city, Zhenia (Alec Utgoff), a masseur from the East, enters the lives of the wealthy residents of a gated community. Using hypnotic, almost magical techniques to get a residence permit, he starts working. The well-to-do residents in their cookie-cutter homes seemingly have it all, but they all suffer from an inner sadness, some unexplained longing. The attractive and mysterious newcomer’s hands heal, and Zhenia’s eyes seem to penetrate their souls. To them, his Russian accent sounds like a song from the past, a memory of their seemingly safer childhoods. The latest from writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska (ELLES, IN THE NAME OF) and her longtime collaborator Michal Englert is an unclassifiable meditation on class, immigration, and global warming with touches of magical realism and moments of sober beauty and subtle humor.


SUPERNOVA
Dir. Bartosz Kruhlik
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

Three men, one place and one event that will change the life of each one of them. A universal tale, kept in a realistic style, tells the story of a few hours in the life of a rural community. The film raises questions about the essence of chance and destiny. A bloody story, oscillating on the edge of drama, thriller and disaster cinema.


KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN
Dir. Mariusz Wilczynski
2020, 88min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

Fleeing from despair after losing those dearest to him, the hero hides in a safe land of memories, where time stands still and all those dear to him are alive. Over the years, a city grows in his imagination. One day, literary heroes and cartoon childhood idols, who in the consciousness of the successive generations are forever young and wearing short pants, come to live there, uninvited. When our hero discovers they have all grown old and that eternal youth does not exist, he decides to return to real life. And the amazing characters living in his imagination lead him back to the real world.


EASTERN
Dir. Piotr Adamski
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

In a dystopian world regulated by an inexorable, patriarchal code, the Nowak and Kowalski families have been embroiled in a vendetta for years. When the Nowaks’ son dies at the hand of Klara Kowalska, his sister, Ewa, is faced with a choice between carrying out revenge in the name of honour on the one hand and her own life and freedom on the other.


THE TASTE OF PHO
Dir. Mariko Bobrik
2019, 84min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

A Warsaw-based Vietnamese cook struggles to fit into the European culture, which his ten-year-old daughter has already embraced as her own. A story about love, misunderstanding and food.

Slamdance 2021 review: ‘WORKHORSE QUEEN’ the good, the bad, and the drag.

WORKHORSE QUEEN

By day, Ed Popil worked as a telemarketer in Rochester, New York for 18 years. By night, he transformed into drag queen Mrs. Kasha Davis, a 1960’s era housewife trying to liberate herself from domestic toil through performing at night in secret –an homage to Ed’s mother. After seven years of auditioning to compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Ed Popil was finally cast onto the tv show and thrust into a full-time entertainment career at the late age of 44. Workhorse Queen explores the complexities of reality television’s impact on queer performance culture by focusing on the growing divide between members of a small-town drag community – those who have been on television, and those who have not.

I was 19 years old in my freshman year at college in New York City when I entered a multileveled club in borrowed pleather pants and hair I had dyed blonde (without stripping first) when I found my way to a restroom after dancing my little suburban grown heart out. While washing my hands someone was next to me checking their lipstick in the mirror and casually asked me for the time. I glanced over to tell them, and without skipping a beat I told them 12:16. They thanked me and exited the bathroom. I had encountered my first live drag performer and I could not wait to tell my friends how much cooler I now was for it. After that, I regularly attended drag brunch, drag bingo, had a standing table at Lucky Cheng’s, and have sung on stage at Don’t Tell Mama. When RuPaul’s Drag Race began, I thought, “Yes! Now the world can experience what I’ve been so enamored with as a theater kid for so long.” To me, drag was and still is art. As for many a performance artist, the craft requires sacrifice, thankless long hours, and money for costumes, makeup, and hair sometimes just for the chance to be seen but always for the chance to live out your dream. Drag is performance at a showstopping level. And while Drag Race has certainly widened the platform, that same platform only has room enough for a small number of girls (and guys).

Slamdance 2021 audiences get to peek behind the curtain of what drag is really like. In its world premiere, WORKHORSE QUEEN gives Mrs. Kasha Davis her own time to shine, with and without the glitter and fanfare. This doc is about Ed Popil, the man under the wig and magic. His story is one that will most likely ring true for many individuals trying to find out who they are, told they are too much, and yet not enough. There is such an intriguing dynamic in this doc. Family is front and center. Not just Ed Popil’s husband and kids but his drag family. Mrs. Kasha Davis and Ed are genuinely loving and kind; everything you want and need them to be. Ed exposes his childhood trauma at the hands and words of his father, the decaying relationship with the mother he idolized, and his alcohol addiction. When you’re a queen with a catchphrase, “There’s always time for a cocktail,” how does your career survive rehab? The doc isn’t shy about the inequities faced by performers with lower profiles both on social media and among fellow performers. Drag Race is a competition, life should not be. WORKHORSE QUEEN is triumphant in its honesty. There is so much deliciousness packed into its hour and 27-minute runtime. It’s raw, celebratory, passionate, and revelatory. It honors living your true authentic self and how one person impacts people’s lives in ways you never thought possible.

WORKHORSE QUEEN
Directed by Angela Washko
USA I 2021 I Documentary I 88 minutes
SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021
Virtual Screening Information
Friday, Feb. 12
For Festival Passes, click here
Please Note: Audience caps may affect film accessibility

Review: ‘Koko-Di Koko-Da’ is a frightening grief allegory.

KOKO-DI KOKO-DA

Elin and Tobias are a happily married couple who regularly vacation with their young daughter. The family is on a dreamy holiday when an innocuous case of food poisoning derails their plans and forever alters the course of their lives.

Three years later, the once loving couple is on the road again to go camping, looking for one last chance to go back to the way things used to be. But what once was is lost, and our characters instead find themselves having to relive the same nightmarish events, as that day and the horrors it brings repeat themselves infinitely. Together, they must overcome their trauma, reconcile with their past and fight for their lives. Over, and over, and over again.

Easily one of the most out there films of 2020, Koko-Di Koko-Da is a twisted version of Groundhog Day meets The Babadook. Things aren’t going to fix themselves in any manner. Communication is everything. This is the weird parallel message of this film. I’m not sure what’s more disturbing, the fact that that these two are doomed to be slaughtered by crazies over and over or that their anger, resentment, and sadness have manifested into the death of their relationship literally and metaphorically. Koko-di Koko-da undoubtedly eludes to the cyclical nature of grief.

Performances from Leif Edlund and Ylva Gallon manage anchor this story in a harsh reality amidst the madness. They will have you yelling at the screen but also rooting for them to escape their endless nightmare. A white cat appears as a warning. I believe it represents their daughter from the beyond the grave screaming, “Fix this or this is the eternity you’ve chosen!” The bizarre but strikingly beautiful nature of the film does not end there. The shadow puppet scenes are morbid magic. The clues and visual storytelling are laid out to counter the terror perfectly. Without a doubt, Koko-di Koko-da is one of the most unique films of 2020.

KOKO-DI KOKO-DA

Director – Johannes Nyholm (THE GIANT)

Cast – Peter Belli, Leif Edlund, Ylva Gallon, Katarina Jackobson, Brandy Litmanen

 VIRTUAL THEATERS (November 6)-Including: Los Angeles and New York (Laemmle Theaters) and major cities including: Philadelphia (Film Society), Cleveland (Cinematheque), Columbus (Gateway Film Center) and Durham (Carolina Theater) and more to follow.
Link to buy tickets: https://linktr.ee/KokoDiKokoDa

VOD (US & Canada) (December 8): Including: Apple TV/ iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, You Tube, Fandango Now, Dish Network and all major cable providers (Including: Comcast/Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox and Verizon Fios)

Official Selection: Sundance Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Fantasia Film Festival 2019 (WINNER! AQCC-Camera Lucida Prize), and Fantastic Fest 2019

Harlem International Film Festival 2020 review: ‘The Subject’ is powerful from every angle.

Jason Biggs plays Phil, a documentary filmmaker whose conscious ways heavy on him. The Subject is aptly named. Phil made a film about a black 15-year-old whose murder is caught on tape, by him. It’s been two years, he’s worried that Malcolm’s death means nothing back in Harlem. He’s onto his next project but cannot shake the guilt of possible exploitation, nor can the press. His girlfriend wants him to get over it, but Phil tries really hard to do the right thing. After finally attempting to move forward, the other shoe drops. Someone begins filming him.

Bringing on a new assistant and managing his new project, we gain insight into his trauma. But it’s the social commentary about Harlem that strikes the loudest tone, recognizing that Phil cannot ultimately be the “white savior”. Writer Chisa Hutchinson has written a fully fleshed out, flawed man who is trying to keep levelheaded through success and the reality we currently reside in. The performance from Biggs is captivating and genuinely layered. He has great material. Once Marley enters the scene, she is privy to some new information. Manipulation and a clear underlying agenda appear. You get the feeling that something truly else, something larger is coming our way.

Anabelle Acosta as girlfriend Jess is very compelling. There is a lot to learn from their relationship dynamic and it comes into play heavily. Carra Patterson as Marley is quite the catalyst for chaos. She gives off a Maya Rudolph vibe and I dug her energy throughout. Nile Bullock’s performance as Malcolm is exactly where the audience needs him to be; balancing the line of an arrogant teen and an innocent child. Jason Biggs is better than ever. He plays Phil with an understanding of power and guilt. It’s stunning. Aunjanue Ellis plays Malcolm’s mother, Leslie. The scenes between her and Biggs are explosive. She represents so many mothers who lose their children to violence. Her performance is the culmination of everything in this film. Cutting through mansplaining and truth, everything leads up to these moments. The Subject is phenomenal in its storytelling. It’s a must-see film. Harlem International Film Festival was a fitting home for its Manhattan premiere. The film has an ending you will not see coming. Congratulations to director Lanie Zipoy and everyone involved in making this film.

Harlem International Film Festival review: Narrative short ‘Steve’ is an entire journey.

If grinding in the bustling streets of NYC isn’t enough for a Broadway actress, an uninvited guest in her apartment might be just the thing to put her over the edge.

As someone who went to school for musical theatre in the city, short film Steve spoke to me in a very specific way. Star and writer, Amber Iman, is the “private me” on film. I have never felt more “seen”, as the kids say, as watching an extroverted, fellow theatre kid in her element. In real life, Iman is a Broadway star and it shows. Living in Manhattan is its own experience. Everyone, at least once, has had a mouse in their apartment. It’s basically a right of passage. We all react in pretty much the same way, with few exceptions. Amber Iman takes all of that energy and translates it into the funniest short I’ve yet to see. My husband had headphones on while I was watching this film. I was laughing so loud he took them off and laughed with me having no knowledge of what I was watching. Iman’s chemistry in her brief scenes that include other cast members is downright hilarious. But, for the majority of the film, she is speaking directly to her unwanted guest. It is the full range of emotions and then some. Who needs a professional reel when you have this short to show casting directors? The simplicity and relatable nature make Steve a brilliant treatment for Iman to have her own series, even if that was not the intention. I would not be mad at that notion. Director Jason Hightower‘s resume is massive. Great call on connecting with this script and Amber.