The New Directors/New Films 2021 film festival by Film at Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, is hybrid in-person/virtual at Film at Lincoln Center and newdirectors.org April 28 – May 8, 2021. $12. Many films are available for streaming for several days after the festival’s official ending.
Film at Lincoln Center is offering a special deal to New York Latin Culture Magazine readers. Save $5 on all in-theater screenings and 20% on virtual rentals with code NEW50. Thank you Film at Lincoln Center.
Most of these films are about who we are now and how historic legacies both distort and inspire the present. New directors often focus their first films on the regions where they grew up. Technology and social media are erasing our old ways. Many of these films provide intimate looks into a present that is disappearing rapidly. In many places, the next time you look, these traditions will be gone.
The curators seem to have selected films that combine good storytelling with striking cinematic technique. The Festival screens new visions of what cinema is and can be.
An All-Access pass is $275. It enables you to screen films that have already sold out. This model of limited single-ticket screenings, with untimed All-Access is a new wrinkle in virtual film festivals.
50 Years of New Directors/New Films
We would all like to see the future. New Directors/New Films has been bringing the future of cinema to audiences for fifty years. Film at Lincoln Center is one of New York’s leading film presenters. MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art has one of the world’s leading film collections. MoMA understands the moving image as the art of the present and the future.
The Festival introduced the world to many unknown directors who are now famous like Spike Lee 🇺🇸, Wong Kar-wai 🇨🇳, Steven Spielberg 🇺🇸, Claire Denis 🇫🇷, Pedro Almodóvar 🇪🇸 and Guillermo del Toro 🇲🇽.
Don’t you wish you saw these directors’ first films and heard them speak back in their formative periods? New Directors/New Films is about the next big thing – before they are big. That’s especially relevant now because the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic is going to inspire new levels of creativity. We just don’t know where it’s coming from – yet.
Latin Films at New Directors/New Films
We are finally breaking through the chains of our colonial past that blinded us to our common humanity. In the last couple of years, the art world has begun to see that modern art wasn’t only created by White European men in the modern period.
In fact, the Whitney Museum of American Art proclaimed in 2020 that the main influence on American modern art was the Mexican Muralists – not the European modernists. Wow, but it’s true. We are all mixes of each other and great ideas have a way of appearing in completely disconnected parts of the world around the same time.
There are also some interesting Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Persian films.
El Planeta 🇪🇸
The opening night film is Amalia Ulman’s “El Planeta” (2021) in Spanish with English subtitles. Writer-director Ulman stars in this dark comedy of a mother and daughter scraping by on their wits in Gijón, Asturias, Spain.
This is survival Spanish style. New Yorkers should love this because many Spanish New Yorkers and Spaniards in the Americas are from Asturias and the province next door, Galicia.
Swiss director Andreas Fontana tells the story of a Swiss banker who travels to Buenos Aires to look for a disappeared colleague and gets drawn into Argentina’s Dirty War.
In the Dirty War (1976-1983), the Argentine government went to war with its own people with sadistic violence and right wing death squads – all to get money from the Americans for fighting communists.
Many Americans have heard of “Operation Condor.” That was part of this. This film is instructive as to what happens when right-wing forces take control. The political events of the last year have shown that this can happen to us too.
It’s nice to hear the Castellano Argentine accent.
Madiano Marcheti’s film tells the story of how the murder of a local trans woman affects her neighbor’s lives in different ways.
This is a very real problem. The “machista” (male chauvinist) point of view is responsible for a lot of gender and LGBTQ violence in the Latin world. The COVID-19 Pandemic has made it all worse. There is more violence against children too, but they are unable to report it.
Violence has impacts that reach far beyond the act itself. It damages people for the rest of their lives and can cause entire social systems to collapse. That’s true whether the violence comes from an individual, police or military. We should think long and hard before being violent to our families, communities and other countries in the world.
Nino Martinez Sosa’s debut feature tells the Dominican legend of Liborio, a real farmer who disappeared in a hurricane, returned as holy man, and organized his community against the U.S. Marine invasion of the Dominican Republic (1916-1924).
Religious culture of the Dominican Republic is always interesting. We consider ourselves strong Catholics, yet still follow traditional Indigenous and African practice. In the Americas these traditions are blended together.
Liborio is not a Catholic saint, but in Catholic and West African tradition, he was an individual whose good works raised him to the level of a popular saint. He has kind of faded away with time, but Sosa reminds us of our traditions.
The film is made by the same team that made “Cocote.”
We (Nous) 🇫🇷
Alice Diop’s 2020 documentary is a portrait of the lives of ordinary people in Black and immigrant communities in the banlieues (slums/caserios/comunas/favelas) that ring Paris).
This is really a meditation on what it means to be French. You can stretch that into a meditation on what it means to be human. All over the world we are trying to get the right balance between “I” and “We.”
This film is timely because the intersection of Black Lives Matter and the bicentennial of Napoleon’s death is beginning to make France a little uncomfortable with its ownracism. French are complaining about American “wokeness.” Napoleon was a great man, but an evil man. No person of color or person of conscience should celebrate him (nor slaver George Washington).
Racists blame every problem in Black communities on our Blackness. They try to cover up the fact that we are forced to live in unhealthy communities, denied a decent education, denied job opportunities, and discriminated against daily in oh so many ways.
The French Revolution (17890-1799) inspired people around the world to seek liberty, equality and brotherhood. We haven’t met our ideals in France or the United States. We have work to do and looking at diverse points of view is part of that process.
All the Light We Can See 🇲🇽
Pablo Escoto’s 2020 epic tells the story of a woman who flees into the forests of the Mexican volcanoes Popocatépetl and Ixtaccihuatl when forced to marry a bandit.
Escoto plays with narrative structures while capturing the natural beauty of the place and recognizing the power of myth in the making of our own stories.
Film at Lincoln Center reached out to us about this film. It must be great.
Destello Bravío 🇪🇸
Ainhoa Rodríguez goes home to the small town in Extremadura, Spain where she was raised. She uses local people to tell the story of a community where women are potent, but shackled by outdated patriarchal and spiritual traditions.
Extremadura is a rural region between Madrid and Lisbon. Cáceres and Badajoz are the big towns. The Industrial Revolution bypassed Spain, so it stayed mostly rural.
In 1492, Spain was collapsing under the weight of its medieval social structures. Thievery of the Americas enriched the country so much that it didn’t have to modernize. So if you live in one of these small towns in Spain, life can be hard. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful.
Eyimofe (This is My Desire) 🇳🇬
Arie Esiri and Chuko Esiri tell two parallel stories of an engineer and a hairdresser in Lagos who are continuously frustrated in their attempts to emigrate to Spain and Italy.
This is timely because we are entering a period of increased migration forced by climate change. Humans have been migrating since we got two feet, but migration is a wedge issue that generates a lot of attention. To understand what’s going on, you need to see the other side. This is the other side.
Faya Dayi 🇪🇹🇲🇽
Ethiopian Mexican filmmaker Jessica Beshir goes home to Harar to tell the stories of the region’s khat farmers.
Khat is a natural stimulant that people around the Red Sea chew or drink as a tea. The effect is like strong coffee. It’s also an appetite suppressant.
This is documentary, but Beshir uses light, texture and sound to illuminate the spiritual lives of the people. The film is a slice of life in Harar.
Ethiopia has a special place among Black communities around the world. It was the only African nation to escape colonization. That’s why many African nations and the African diaspora fly the colors of the old Ethiopian flag.
All Light, Everywhere 🇺🇸
Theo Anthony’s second feature uses law enforcement body cameras as the anchor for a meditation on perception, power and policing.
This isn’t a Latin film, but its subject is relevant to all people of color in the United States and around the world.
We need policing, but a civil, not military form. Policing in the United States began as slave patrols, including at what is now the NYPD. A badge should not be a license to abuse and kill people of color. Even police of color become abusive and violent in order to fit into the brotherhood.
Militarizing police and providing military weapons to use against a civilian population is a terrible mistake. Military teaches soldiers to kill and make mayhem without thinking. Soldiers become police and guess what – they kill and make mayhem without thinking. Military creates muscle memory that shouldn’t be used on civilians.
Generally body cameras should be a good thing. They should prevent police from being violent. Yet the American experience of 2016-2021 shows that information is easy to manipulate and weaponize. And if nobody sees the body camera footage, did it really happen?
We don’t know the answer to this problem. But we do know that evil only has power when it is hidden. Evil loses its power when brought into the light. That’s why we need to see “All Light, Everywhere.”
Thank you Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA Film for being so sensitive to the great diversity of voices in our shared world.
See you at New Directors/New Films 2021!