In an essay published in 1925, Iris Barry, who later cofounded MoMA’s Department of Film, wrote, “If a film, of no matter what type, is to be worth while, it must be entirely dominated by the will of one man and one man only—the director.” This was written three decades before French critics at Cahiers du cinéma advocated for the politique des auteurs, and almost four decades before the American critic Andrew Sarris coined the auteur theory, both of which essentially view the director as the “author” of a film, focusing on those who project a consistent, singular vision in their work. While auteurism has generated lively debate, especially in its early days, it also undoubtedly helped elevate film’s status as an art form, influencing how film collections and exhibitions are organized and shaping academic and critical discourse.
A director’s oeuvre may not always be “consistent,” but an auteur’s continuity of vision is often evident right from the beginning, and it is always thrilling to follow new, original cinematic voices. For over eight decades, MoMA’s Department of Film has sought out and supported emerging directors, and this series highlights statement-making first, second, and third features made since the 1950s by directors from six continents. All of the films are drawn from our collection, many of them are rarely screened, and nearly all are presented in 35mm prints.
Organized by La Frances Hui, Associate Curator, Department of Film. Special thanks to Olivia Priedite.