New Directors/New Films Brings Brazilian Horror & a Dominican Tale of Revenge to New York

Lead Photo: 'Good Manners' still courtesy of AFI Fest
'Good Manners' still courtesy of AFI Fest
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Every year, the Film Society of Lincoln Center hand-picks a string of films from promising directors making their mark in world cinema. 2018’s edition of New Directors/New Films, which is co-presented by the Museum of Modern Art, has chosen 25 features and 10 short films from 29 countries across five continents – that includes 13 films directed or co-directed by women, and 14 works by first-time feature filmmakers. As Josh Siegel, curator at the department of Film at MoMA said: “The filmmakers in this year’s New Directors are as imaginative, daring and restless as any we’ve seen, whether observing a world-famous rapper fighting injustices in Sri Lanka or prostitutes and holy men in Jamaica, a coal peddler in the Congo or a credit-card scammer in Switzerland.” Among these globe-trotting movies are several hailing from South America. Or, rather, from Brazil: two out of the three Latin American features playing in New York at the end of the month are set in Pernambuco and São Paulo respectively.

Having made a name for himself working as a producer on such recent celebrated Brazilian films as Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius and Gabriel Mascaro’s Neon BullTiago Melo makes the jump to the director’s chair with Azougue Nazaré. Taking place in the northeast state of Pernambuco, Melo’s camera captures the vibrant world of Maracatu, an Afro-Brazilian burlesque carnival tradition with roots in slavery. Guided by a group of Maracatu practitioners, Azougue Nazaré tells a story through dance, music, and the supernatural, set in the sugarcane fields outside Recife.

Also repping Brazil is Marco Dutra & Juliana Rojas‘ sleek and stylized As Boas Maneiras (Good Manners). A twist on the werewolf movie set in São Paulo, Dutra and Rojas’ second collaboration explores issues of race, class, and desire as it centers on the relationship between Ana, a rich, white pregnant socialite (Marjorie Estiano) and her new housemaid Clara (Isabél Zuaa). Framed urban night-lit cityscapes and drenched in an eerie moonlit glow, what first devolves into a sexual rapport soon becomes a bloodier mess, a kind of Rosemary’s Baby/Black Swan-like nightmare.

The program also includes Nelson Carlo de los Santos AriasCocote. A tale of revenge set in the Dominican Republic, this format-mixing film follows a private gardener who travels from Santo Domingo back to his hometown to bury his father and participate in his funeral rites, which mix Catholicism and West African mysticism that flies in the face of Alberto’s own evangelicalism. But Alberto’s family has vengeance in mind, and he finds himself at a spiritual and existential crossroads.

New Directors/New Films runs March 28–April 8, 2018.