At its core, New Directors/New Films celebrates the unexpected and cutting-edge in movie making, and the 16 short films in this year’s festival offer plenty of excitement about the future of the medium.
A notable amount of these short films experiment with modes of storytelling, at times eschewing dialogue-driven narratives altogether. Yuri Ancarani’s San Siro is a portrait of Milan’s soccer stadium that is both seductive and solemn; each step of game-day preparation is captured in clinical detail, from the technicians running cable to the penalty mark being painted fresh on the pitch. Ancarani creates a palpable aura of anticipation through all of the narrative matter that exists around the actual moment of collective ritual.
Blue and Red, from Chinese artist Zhou Tao, displays a similar coolness. Focusing primarily on public squares in Guangzhou and Bangkok, it captures pedestrians bathed in the warm washes of color emanating from streetlights and LED screens (hence the film’s title). These long shots seem suspended in time, even otherworldly, until the very real sounds and images of riot police, tear gas, and barricades forces one back to the reality of Bangkok’s recent anti-government protests. Tao speaks of his approach as “epidermal.” Most of the film is shot from above and none of the interactions—between individuals, between police and protesters—are translated. Bearing the artist’s own term in mind, the result feels like we’re seeing a body politic under a microscope, at once asserting volition and awash in a sea of pigment.
Among the narrative titles, Zia Anger’s I Remember Nothing is an ingenious gem of a film. It follows Joan, an epileptic teenage girl unaware of her condition. Her day, and the film, is structured according to the five phases of a seizure, and each scene is played by a different actor (Lola Kirke and India Menuez among them). Through this narrative device, the protagonist’s experience is folded into the viewer’s—we share Joan’s disorientation and lack of bodily control as we see her morph before our very eyes.
Short-form filmmaking often allows a single concept or artistic idea to come to life, and the programs of short films in the festival at times have poetic linkages among the titles. Innovation and fresh perspectives abound. Or, as Jim Fletcher observes in Nicholas Elliott’s delightfully absurd Icarus—after emerging nude from a frozen lake, seeking shelter at a nearby cabin, and looking over his host’s shoulder as she works on a site-specific sculpture of sorts—“You couldn’t make this anywhere else.”
New Directors/New Films continues through March 29 at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center and in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters at MoMA. For programming and ticketing information, please visit newdirectors.org.