This year, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art’s New Directors/New Films (ND/NF) program gets to boast that they first hosted Captain Marvel directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck back in 2006 with their film Half Nelson. It’s a reminder that this celebration of emerging filmmakers from around the world is the place to see the work of people whose careers you’ll soon be avidly following. This year is no different. “Demanding our attention and exemplifying the vitality of contemporary cinema, this year’s class of emerging directors is one of the most courageous in years,” said Rajendra Roy, the Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film at The Museum of Modern Art. “Ready to investigate the deepest pain as well as celebrate profound humanity, these filmmakers are the brave new champions of our beloved art form.”
With films centered on guerrilla soldiers in the Colombian mountains, an ambulance crew in Mexico City, a middle-aged wife in Argentina, and a pair of gay lovers in Europe, the Latin American offerings in 2019’s ND/NF program promises to introduce audiences to the region’s new generation of visionaries. Many of them — including Alejandro Landes, Lila Avilés, André Novais Oliveira, and Lucio Castro — will be present for select Q&As following screenings of their respective films. So take a look below at the Latin American projects making their way to New York City this year and be sure to seek them out.
New Directors/New Films runs March 27 – April 7, 2019.
Belonging to a rebel group called “the Organization,” a ragtag band of child soldiers, brandishing guns and war names like Rambo, Wolf, Lady, and Bigfoot, occupies a derelict ruin atop a remote mountain where they train themselves, watch over a “conscripted” milk cow, and hold hostage a kidnapped American engineer, Doctora (Julianne Nicholson). But after an attack forces them to abandon their base, playtime is over for the motley young crew. The visionary third feature of Alejandro Landes (Cocalero, Porfirio), Monos captivates us with its striking baroque aesthetic, otherworldly setting, and ingenious reframing of the war film—one that uses adolescence to insinuate a youthful but elusive dream of peace. With enthralling performances from Nicholson and a talented young ensemble led by Moises Arias, Landes constructs a stylized, deceptively surreal space that teeters between tedium and hedonism, made more unsettling by its disquieting soundscape and Mica Levi’s brilliant score.
Eve (Gabriela Cartol) works long hours as a maid at a luxurious hotel in Mexico City. A young, single mother who travels far to get to her place of work, Eve has aspirations for the future and hopes that her diligence will get her a coveted spot as the cleaner on an executive floor. She enrolls in the hotel’s adult education program in her quest for a better life but quickly discovers that it’s not necessarily the most hard-working who get noticed for advancement. The Chambermaid, Lila Avilés’s striking debut, employs a quasi-documentary approach as it accompanies Eve on her daily routine. She quietly enters one indistinguishable guest room after another and we are struck by the intimacy behind the act of cleaning a stranger’s mess. The disparity between the guests and those working at the hotel — who often do not have hot water in their own homes — accurately reflects the reality in many Latin American countries.
Set on the Oaxacan coast, Andrea Bussman’s latest feature is one part mediation on myth and one part avant-garde ghost story. The film’s narrator encounters a number of people, all of them storytellers, who describe a past that refuses to go away. Ghosts and witches abound and almost every location has a secret history. The stories — populated by thieves, grifters, and unwary people who indulge in esoteric affairs — frequently include a handsome man who seduces almost everyone into making deals that invariably end in disappointment. He’s an emblem for our own incurable addiction to narrative and the meaning we want to impose on what we experience.
In a transitional moment personally and professionally, Juliana knows all too well the value of having a steady gig as a member of Brazil’s working class. After relocating to bustling Contagem to take a municipal job with the endemics department, she and a colorful crew canvas the city’s favelas, eradicating mosquito nests while she awaits the arrival of her husband, whose constant and evolving excuses spell trouble. Yet as Juliana settles in and her new life as a single woman comes into focus, she learns to face her troubled past and to savor those rare, precious little bits of joy — a night spent with a new lover, a welcoming slice of cake from a lonely pensioner — in this rich and absorbing feature from writer/director André Novais Oliveira.
With striking vérité camerawork, Midnight Family drops us directly into the frenetic nighttime emergency ecosystem of Mexico City. In the midst of high-speed ambulance rides, we meet the Ochoas, a ragtag family of private paramedics, who try desperately every day to be the first responders to critically injured patients. In a city where the government operates only 45 emergency ambulances for a population of over nine million, the family acts as a crucial—but unregistered—underground lifeline. But the job is riddled with police bribes and cutthroat competition. And even though the Ochoa family has a reputation for being trustworthy, they must reckon with the sudden escalation in bribes that could force them to wade into the ethically questionable practice of making money off of patients in dire straits.
Fin de siglo
An Argentine man from New York (played by Juan Barberini) and a Spanish man from Berlin (played by Ramón Pujol) hook up by chance while in Barcelona. What seems like a one-night encounter between two strangers, becomes an epic, decades-spanning relationship. Argentine director Lucio Castro depicts their relationship in a nonlinear fashion, and in which time and space refuse to play by the rules. Castro’s inventive and enigmatic feature debut is consistently surprising, turning a love story into a cosmic voyage with no clear beginning or end.
Best known for her mesmerizingly obsessive performance in Lucrecia Martel’s The Holy Girl, the Argentine writer-director-photographer María Alché proves with A Family Submerged that she’s also a talent to reckon with behind the camera. Her debut film evokes the interior life of a middle-aged wife and mother of three (Mercedes Moran) who’s set adrift by the death of her sister. Though there are shades of Martel in Alché’s disorienting use of sound and fragmented narrative, the film’s hallucinatory mood and dreamlike interweaving of memory and experience are entirely her own. The passage of light itself—whether gently filtered through curtains or nakedly harsh—plays a central role in the family drama; in this, Alché benefited from the great cinematographer Hélène Louvart, who has also helped realize the visions of such auteurs as Agnès Varda, Wim Wenders, and Claire Denis.