By William Wolf

NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2013  Send This Review to a Friend

Each year the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art collaborate on showcasing new films by new directors, and there are always some gems in the mix. This is the 42nd year of New Directors/New Films (March 20-31, 2013). Given the regular press of work, I’m never able to see all of what’s offered and dip in to see a few that especially interest me. This year, out of those I was able to sample, I was especially impressed by three films in particular.

A fascinating and thoroughly different sort of film is Canadian director Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell,” due for release by Roadside Attractions. Polley captivates us with her exploration into the history of her own family, including that of her late mother, a singer and actress who died young. The style is that of a documentary, with home movies and photographs incorporated, but what emerges is a unique exploration that establishes itself as a new genre. Assorted family members are interviewed, and in some cases actors are used, presenting a shattering emotional and cinematic experience.

The exploration in itself would be involving, but during the course of Polley’s investigation, she discovers a dramatic truth that rocks her and gives the film an unexpected, moving dramatic impact that elevates the film above what normally might have been expected from a family inquiry no matter how absorbing.

“Stories We Tell” is very original and to be highly recommended. Viewers may already have a high opinion of Polley as a result of her delicate film “Away from Her,” and this new film will justifiably further elevate her reputation.

“A Hijacking” turned out to be an exceptional action film that deserves to have a wide audience when it is released commercially by Magnolia Pictures. A Danish film written and directed by Tobias Lindholm, the film traces what happens when a cargo ship of a Danish company is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. The film builds intense suspense as the company head, played arrogantly by Søren Malling, bargains with the ruthless man in charge of getting ransom.

The crew is constantly in danger as the families of the men wait anxiously for news of their loved ones and grow impatient as the atrocity drags on. The company obviously doesn’t want to pay as much as demanded, and the need for negotiations is there. But one wonders as the ship remains captured why the company doesn’t agree to pay more of a ransom than it offers in small increments, given the peril of the men in the hands of the ruthless pirates. It is a matter of money versus lives.

One is completely caught up in the suspense as the film flits back and forth between he ship and the board room, and as conditions on the ship grow worse and worse.

Director Lindholm is quoted in press material as explaining his interest as follows: “Before I was born my father was a seaman, but he never spoke to me about it. Maybe that is why the sea has always been on my mind. With the hijackings of the Danish-owed freighters Danica White and CEC Future in 2007 and 2008, I became aware of a reality that I did not know existed. A reality where shipping companies are forced to negotiate directly with pirates. A reality where pirates earn millions of dollars and a reality where seamen are held hostage for months without any influence on their own fate.”

Thus propelled, Lindholm has succeeded in making a gripping movie-going experience out of the subject, a film that is timely given the extensive operations of pirates.

A different part of the world, Turkey, is the setting for another fine film. “Küf,” directed by Ali Aydin, is told in a low-key fashion that belies the emotional undercurrent that runs through the drama. In a remote Anatolia area, Basri, a railroad inspector, played by Ercan Kesal, goes about his duties but has long been preoccupied with a mystery. What happened to his son, who vanished 18 years ago?

He is up against a police inspector, portrayed by Muhammet Uzuner, who harasses the railroad worker and has failed to provide information. There is an implication that the son was rebellious and may have run afoul of the authorities.

Complications ensue as a result of confrontations between Basri and another employee, which leads to a climactic event. Eventually Basri gets news, but not what he was hoping for.

The tone of the film is mostly reserved in counterpoint to what is really occurring, and Kesal’s acting provides a strong portrait of a lonely man with a personal cause who carries on against the odds. “Küf” won the Lion of the Future Award at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.

The above is but a peek into the program that scheduled 25 features, split between 19 fictional and six documentaries, with 17 short films in the bargain. A total of 24 countries were represented. Posted March 26, 2013.


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