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Author: Ela Bittencourt

New Directors New Films: Happy Times Will Come Soon

One of the most surprising films at this year’s New Directors New Films festival also happens to be the winner of FICUNAM, a small, ambitious film festival that takes place annually in Mexico City: The charms of Alessandro Commodin’s Happy Times Will Come Soon are perhaps not immediately apparent, yet its powerful, subtle imagination slowly works the viewer into a feverish, dreamy state. The film’s win at FICUNAM was doubly surprising, as so many works I saw there seemed to run against Commodin’s purely allegorical aesthetic, no doubt proof of that festival’s ample understanding of film craft. The Cátedra...

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Sergei Loznitsa’s AUSTERLITZ in the Documentary Fortnight, at the Museum of Modern Art: Registering a few personal notes of protest

This year’s Documentary Fortnight program at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) examines justice and, particularly, how we interact with the past. Can the past ever be adequately represented? What are the uniquely cinematic means to do so? These are the questions that come up urgently while watching Sergei Loznitsa’s latest documentary, Austerlitz (2016). The title refers to the work of German writer W. G. Sebald. Upon examination, however, Loznitsa’s connection to Sebald appears tenuous. Where the writer is haunted by how unrelated physical markers of landscape or architecture can nevertheless be imbued with the sinister aura of the...

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Neighboring Scenes: Laura Huertas Millán on her hybrid film, SOL NEGRO

Laura Huertas Millán’s feature hybrid film, Sol Negro (Black Sun, 2016), explores a family history, in which a painful past causes close members to disperse. In this context, film becomes a privileged, shared space for expression and healing. Two generations of Colombian women—the filmmaker, her aunt and mother—gather to cook, share a meal and to overcome their reticence. The conversation does not obliterate the distance, signaled especially by the aunt´s theatrical performance that betrays profound alienation, yet it introduces a glimpse of future understanding. In her intricately structured, multilayered film, Huertas Millán expands the possibilities of cinema, by constructing...

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ON GLAUBER ROCHA’S TERRA EM TRANSE (LAND IN ANGUISH, 1967) IN FIVE FRAGMENTS, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary screening, January 29th and 30th, Neighboring Scenes 2017

1. The Plot The feverish pulse of Glauber Rocha’s most personal and, at the same time, highly political film, centers on a singular consciousness: poet and journalist, Paulo Martins, leaves his political allies after a quarrel. He is assassinated while driving the car with his lover and comrade in arms, political activist Sara. What follows is a retelling of Paulo’s evolution, from somewhat naïve artist, who becomes embroiled with a rightwing mentor, to the increasingly dissatisfied oppositionist, who, eventually, cannot find himself anywhere on the political spectrum. If the description sounds like a dissertation, the film is nothing like...

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With a large influx of immigrants and refugees into Western Europe and the anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise, there is more reason than ever to tell stories about “the other Europe.” Fittingly, this year’s main competition at the Locarno Film Festival included two Bulgarian films—Glory, coproduced with Greece and directed by Kristina Grozeva and Peter Valchanov, and Godless, a Bulgarian-French-Danish coproduction, directed by Ralitza Petrova. The third powerful offering in the main slate, Marija, directed by Swiss filmmaker Michael Koch, tells a story of a Ukrainian immigrant struggling to find stability in Germany. All three films feature strong female...

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