The Museum of the Moving Image is kicking off 2016 with its “First Look” series. Now in its fifth year, the festival is designed to spotlight “eye-opening and mind-expanding international cinema.” Programmed by Chief Curator David Schwartz and Associate Curator of Film Eric Hynes, the Museum is offering an eclectic mix of foreign titles that are only now getting their U.S. premieres. From documentaries tackling Franco-German relations to an entire film drawn entirely from YouTube clips uploaded from Inuit regions there’s definitely something in the festival for everyone.
Spanish and Portuguese speakers are in luck as the festival, perhaps hoping to further serve its increasingly diverse neighboring Queens population, has a few titles that show Latin American and Portuguese filmmakers pushing the boundaries of the cinematic form. That includes a highly lauded Cuban film about hip-hop band, Los Aldeanos and a documentary on the effect Juan Perón’s anti-leftist policies had on Argentinean architecture.
La obra del siglo
As relations thaw between Cuba and the U.S., Quintela’s striking film suggests that, from a Washington perspective, certain elements of Soviet influence will be harder to eradicate than others. That legacy is evident in the abandoned concrete hulk of the Ciudad Nuclear reactor, first conceived in the 1960s, but whose construction was terminated following the breakup of the Soviet Union. This relic forms a looming backdrop to the daily existence of local communities living in its shadow. Quintela focuses his film on one such family, who across three generations have observed the life cycle of a project that represents the fluctuating aspirations and challenges of post-revolution Cuba.
João Bénard da Costa: Outros amarão as coisas que eu amei
Following a history of movies about movie lovers such as Cinema Paradiso and Kiss of the Spider Woman, director Manuel Mozos’s documentary centers on João Bénard da Costa (1935–2009) the beloved director of the Portuguese Film Museum. Its lyrical tone suggests a dreamy portrait of the late curator who was in love with Nicholas Ray’s Joan Crawford Western Johnny Guitar, a film that’ll be screened right after so as to better understand the film’s allure.
L’Oiseau de la nuit
Screened alongside Mozo’s film, Losier’s short doc offers a decidedly different portrait of an artist. Fernando, a.k.a. Deborah Krystal, has been performing in drag every night for thirty years in a Lisbon nightclub called Finalmente, and finds herself the center of Losier’s extravagant new film.
Esto es lo que hay
“Cuba es más grande que Castro,” so says Aldo Alberto Rodríguez Baquero, the lead singer of Los Aldeanos, the leading hip-hop band in Cuba in Rinaldi’s music documentary. Called out by both the Cuban government and the Cuban exile population, the overtly political lyrics and music of Los Aldeanos is explored in the film, which will have you dancing and bopping along while considering the political fallout of candid art in the Caribbean island.
How do you make a documentary about the way architectural policies established in 1974 by Juan Perón’s government hoped to thwart guerrilla resistance in northern Argentina? If you are director Jonathan Perel you create an enigmatic film with no narration or dialogue that nevertheless exposes the “Operation Independence” policies as the totalitarian weapons of government-control that they were and which continue to have their effect felt in contemporary Argentina.
A syncopated visual study of the Cuban seascape in Old Havana and the town of Casa Blanca uses striking images and an intricate editing rhythm to look at the clash between industry and nature.