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Monday, March 30, 2015

ENTERTAINMENT Review: ND/NF Closing Night

Gregg Turkington in ENTERTAINMENT
Photo by Lorenzo Haggerman
2015, 102 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Rick Alverson's Entertainment is a horror to try to sit through, yet I can't get it out of my head. It's as hopelessly depressing as losing your job, getting divorced, and getting deported from the country in the same day, it's as funny as listening to someone tell the most outrageously odd, yet oddly funny jokes you've ever heard, and it's as bizarre as watching someone sit on the toilet for two hours belching the alphabet. What does this mean? Is the film "good?" The latter question is near-impossible to answer.

Entertainment features Gregg Turkington as The Comedian (basically his now-famous character Neil Hamburger), a comedian who goes through remote desert towns performing his remarkably offensive, confrontational routine as he slowly becomes more disengaged and disenchanted with life.

Gregg Turkington's lead performance is committed and ruthless. The Comedian is such a wonderful creation. He never demands sympathy and never gets it because it's only possible to look at him with disgust and pity. His jokes are delivered with acid dripping from them and it's truly a joy to watch Turkington spew them with extreme disgust (the most acidic scene - and the film's best - is one in which he repeatedly insults a woman at a bar during a show). When off the stage, The Comedian is depressed and Turkington's ability to capture this tortured soul is astonishing.

It's always interesting to see a film like Entertainment because it's so hard to formulate a definitive opinion of it. There are quite a few parts of it that are an extreme endurance test. There's a good chunk of the movie that could conceivaly have been shaved off, but at the same time, it's these stretches that make the comedy scenes land that much harder and make the film that much more defiant.

Entertainment will almost certainly be a film that benefits from a re-viewing. I have no burning desire to see this movie again (save for a few choice scenes), but there's still some part of me that wants to do so. Whatever my future with this film is, I am very happy to have seen it, if only because it introduced me to an entirely new kind of cinema. I cannot stop thinking about Entertainment, particularly its haunting final scene, and that's more than I can say about most films I've had the (dis)pleasure of sitting through recently.



Courtesy of RADiUS-TWC
2015, 99 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Continuing the trend of violence and brutality at New Directors/New Films is Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala's Goodnight Mommy, a mysterious film about twin boys who sense that something is not quite right with their mother after she comes back from an operation.

Goodnight Mommy starts off as a quiet, intriguing thriller before subtly increasing in intensity to become something much more visually disturbing, bone-chillingly violent, and clever. Franz and Fiala smartly don't play all of their cards too early, carefully dealing them out as the film progresses. It's evident that Franz and Fiala want to push their audience to their breaking points. At Friday evening's screening at the Walter Reade Theater, the gasps became increasingly frequent as the film played on. At one point, during a particularly horrifying scene, one woman stood up and declared, "I can't do this anymore!" and left. This reaction, though, epitomizes why Goodnight Mommy is so immensely fun to watch - Franz and Fiala seem to take be having a blast behind the camera, consistently upping the stakes and concocting crazy new things to put their characters (and audience) through, which in turn makes viewing their film highly entertaining.

While Goodnight Mommy might be billed as a horror movie, it isn't. It's much more of a psychological thriller than anything else because it's more eerie than scary. For the reasons stated above, this film will not be for everyone, but there is certainly an audience for it who will enjoy every second.

The performances from the lead three actors, Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz, and Susanne Wuest, give the film a lot of its intrigue. The Schwarz' simultaneously innocent and sinister screen presence is highly unnerving and Wuest's committed performance as the mother is cold and harsh, yet wonderful.

Overall, Goodnight Mommy is a delightfully unpleasant, yet immensely satisfying film from two exciting cinematic voices. With beautiful cinematography by Martin Gschlacht, strong performances, controlled direction, and a willingness to go for broke, Goodnight Mommy is a true original that will haunt you long after it's over. RADiUS-TWC will release the film in the United States later this year.


Saturday, March 28, 2015


Zsófia Psotta in WHITE GOD, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
(Fehér Isten)
2015, 121 minutes
Rated R for violent content including bloody images, and language

Review by Joshua Handler

Kornél Mundruczó's brutal, disturbing, and powerfully original social allegory, White God (winner of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard Award), is an ambitious piece of filmmaking that's a jaw-dropping cinematic achievement, and one of a number of films that have screened at New Directors/New Films this year that have pushed through traditional cinematic conventions. The Tribe pushed traditional language conventions by presenting the entire film in Sign Language without subtitles. Court is a courtroom film steeped in realism, not traditional courtroom drama theatrics. And White God tells much of its story through the eyes of a dog, showcasing some of the greatest canine performances ever put on film.

White God tells the story of Hagen and Lili (Zsófia Psotta in a moving performance), a dog and his human best friend, respectively. When Lili goes to live with her father, she is forced to give up Hagen and set him loose on the streets. While on the streets, Hagen meets a band of outcast dogs and is abused by a number of people. Meanwhile, Lili goes to find Hagen.

White God is formally brilliant and emotionally engaging, but it's also a powerful allegory for the struggle of the lowest classes of society. While Mundruczó's allegory has blunt force, it is handled with grace, and the subtlety with which Mundruczó handles the film's key moments (the final scene in particular) shows impressive directorial control.

As much credit as Mundruczó deserves for creating this film, the film's animal trainer, Teresa Miller, deserves recognition as well for training the 100+ dogs featured in the film. The film largely succeeds due to her work.

Overall, White God is a visceral, ruthlessly intelligent piece of filmmaking. Humane, unflinching, and terrifying in equal measure, this is not going to be a film for everyone, but for those who can make it through, it will be an unforgettable experience. At its heart, White God is the story of a girl and her best friend and Mundruczó never forgets that, giving the film a beating heart that shines through and leaves more of a lasting impression than all of the violence and cruelty.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

THE TRIBE: ND/NF Capsule Review

Courtesy of Drafthouse Films
2015, 132 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Note: I will publish a full review of The Tribe in time for its June 17 release. The film is screening at New Directors/New Films, and I have been asked to keep this review down to a capsule review, hence why it's so much shorter and less in-depth than my usual reviews.

Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy's provocative, shocking Cannes award-winner, The Tribe, is an innovative experiment executed with a remarkable mastery of filmmaking. Set within a school for the deaf, we follow the story of Sergey (Grigory Fesenko), a teen who must climb the school's power hierarchy. In terms of plot, that's all you need to know and is frankly all you should know.

The entire film is in Sign Language. There are no subtitles, but because of the expressiveness of the actors and the tight control Slaboshpytskiy has over the film, it is usually easy to understand the events of each scene. Equally impressive is that each scene is a single take, occasionally outdoing the already-impressive Birdman.

The Tribe will be screening March 27 at MoMA's Titus 1 Theater and March 28 at the Walter Reade Theater at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It's a must-see for any cinephile, as it is a challenging, thought-provoking piece of work with a stunning finale.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Photo by Sebastião Salgado 
Courtesy of © Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas Images/Sony Pictures Classics

2014, 109 minutes
Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving images of violence and human suffering, and for nudity

Review by Joshua Handler

The Salt of the Earth received an Academy-qualifying run in NYC/LA in December 2014, hence why I included it on my "Best of 2014" list. It went on to be Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary Feature.

There's that old saying that says a picture is worth a thousand words.  Rarely has that been more true than in Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado's The Salt of the Earth, a documentary about photographs (and the photographer behind them) that are so special, so magical, so humane, that they transcend the confines of their frames and certainly the limiting notion that they can be described in one thousand words. Salt is about Sebastião Salgado, a photographer who spent the majority of his career documenting human suffering and struggle before becoming an environmental conservationist.

A documentary about photography is very few people's idea of a riveting filmgoing experience, but in the hands of Wenders and the younger Salgado, it is. No one would ever make a film like The Salt of the Earth if they weren't completely passionate about their subject. Wenders and Salgado certainly have the passion, but they don't let their passion and admiration for the elder Salgado to overshadow the film.  Wenders and Juliano Salgado create a complex portrait of a complex man. Wenders and Juliano Salgado approach their exploration of Sebastião Salgado from different perspectives. Wenders approaches Sebastião Salgado from the perspective of a curious admirer wanting to learn more. Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, however, approaches Sebastião Salgado from the perspective of a son wanting to delve deep into the life of his mysterious father. As Wenders and Salgado go further into their exploration of Sebastião Salgado, the film becomes richer and more astoundingly beautiful, since their perspectives complement one another.

Viewing The Salt of the Earth is a bewitching experience, and one of the most deeply emotional I've had in ages. Each time I've seen the film (I've now seen it twice, and plan to see it again promptly upon release), the beauty of the images and the stirring sound design have caused me to weep. The images hit something deep inside that connect to our humanity. To see one of Salgado's photographs is to have a window into another world, to have an entire story told in a single image, but to view one of his photographs with his narration is like listening to a master storyteller tell his most compelling, heartbreaking stories and watching them come to life. And, Salgado's reflections and observations about his photographs are revelations.

Also, of special note is Laurent Petitgrand's haunting score. Petitgrand's score adds another layer of pathos to Salgado's images that further brings them to vivid life.

Overall, The Salt of the Earth is a nearly unparalleled achievement in documentary filmmaking. Many documentaries are eye-opening, yet emotionless experiences, presenting the facts without ever engaging the audience on another level, but The Salt of the Earth is both eye-opening and moving. Salt raises the bar for documentary filmmaking and is an essential piece of cinema.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

What to See at New Directors/New Films 2015

By Joshua Handler

New Directors/New Films is an annual film festival held at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA that showcases the work of new directors.  The selection is diverse and there are always gems in the lineup.  The following three are ones that I highly recommend.  More full reviews of films screening at the festival will be published in the coming week.  New Directors/New Films runs from March 18 - March 29.

A scene from WHITE GOD, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
WHITE GOD (Dir. Kornél Mundruczó) - Cannes Un Certain Regard award-winner, White God, is a brutal watch, but one that is infinitely worth the watch because of its huge ambition, powerful storytelling, and emotional performances.  It's impossible to view this film and not wonder how Mundruczó executed it.  I don't want to say more about White God so that those of you who see it can view it knowing as little as possible.

Courtesy of Drafthouse Films
THE TRIBE (Dir. Miroslav Slaboshpitsky) - A major award-winner at Cannes 2014, The Tribe is an innovative, provocative film about a young man who goes to a boarding school for the deaf and must work his way up the power hierarchy to find his place.  The entire film is in Sign Language, but isn't subtitled.  However, this doesn't hinder the film, as the performances are so expressive and the direction so impressive that everything that needs to be understood is.  The Tribe certainly won't be for everyone for many reasons, not least because of its shocking violence, but it's a great film for more adventurous filmgoers and has long-take scenes that rival or surpass those in Birdman.

Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films
COURT (Dir. Caitanya Tamhane) - This meditative, infuriating, and brilliant debut feature from Chaitanya Tamhane is a cooly scathing indictment of the Indian justice system.  It's surprising that Court is Tamhane's first feature because its case is remarkably well-argued and the performances feel so natural that you'll forget that you're watching actors.  Court is simply great filmmaking.


2014, 105 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

This review was originally published on July 13, 2014 after a screening at the Rooftop Films Series.

I'm having trouble with how to start this review because I want to introduce this movie in a proper manner.  Why?  Because I love it more than almost any movie I've seen all year.  The Zellner Bros.' Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter is a miracle.  Widely loved since its Sundance premiere, the film was executive produced by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, written by David and Nathan Zellner, and directed by David Zellner.  It's a completely original work that's unlike anything else I've seen.  There is usually a movie that comes along every once in a while that balance tones and emotions brilliantly - this is one of those movies.

Loosely based on an urban legend (which itself was loosely based on fact) Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter tells the story of Kumiko (Oscar-nominee Rinko Kikuchi), a lonely Japanese woman who is obsessed with finding the money hidden in the Coen Brothers' film, Fargo.  She doesn't realize that Fargo, despite what the opening says, is not a true story, so she goes to Minnesota to find the "treasure".

The two things that make Kumiko the masterful piece of filmmaking that it is are Kikuchi's performance and the screenplay.  Kikuchi gives another empathetic and quiet performance that melted my heart.  Kumiko has very little life and no friends.  She doesn't say much and she eats ramen noodles for dinner (sometimes sharing with Bunzo, her rabbit).  The power of Kikuchi's performance comes all from her face.  She looks down with her sad eyes as she continuously is beaten down by others.  However, when she is given a purpose in life (to find the "treasure"), she still looks sad, but has a twinkle in her eye.  To watch Kikuchi as Kumiko is to watch an actress completely inhabit her character.  David Zellner also gives a heartfelt performance as a cop who helps Kumiko in Minnesota.

David and Nathan Zellner's screenplay could've easily been judgmental, but it isn't and never stoops to that low level.  The Zellners allow us to observe and love Kumiko.  Her quest may be quixotic, but there is something beautiful about watching someone follow their dreams.  When I saw the film for the first time, my friend pointed out that the Zellners make America seem odd and foreign, just as it seems for Kumiko.  This point is very accurate and after viewing Kumiko for a second time, it's more evident than ever.  Because Kumiko doesn't speak any English and is completely unfamiliar with American customs, everything seems very odd, from the tourist information people at the airport to the kindness of the Minnesotans.  America has never felt so foreign.

The Zellner Bros. beautifully capture Midwestern culture and poke fun at Minnesotans without being insulting.  With this film as a whole, they create a world that's familiar, yet not.  They show us everything from Kumiko's perspective, which makes the world seem unfamiliar and strange.  The Octopus Project's mysterious score furthers this feeling and Sean Porter's gorgeous cinematography gives the film some visual elegance.

At the Q&A after the screening, the Zellners discussed making the film and how it took 10 years for it to finally be shot.  They had met Kikuchi back in 2008 and discussed the role with her through a translator.  By the time they started shooting the film, Kikuchi was fluent in English.  During the film, there is a scene in which Kumiko goes into the Japanese subway.  Films are not allowed to shoot in the subway, so that scene had to be shot guerrilla-style.  Right as the scene had finished shooting, the police came in, causing the camera crew to run out.

The Q&A was full of interesting little stories like these.  The weather was perfect and the Industry City Rooftop and Courtyard offered a stunning view of Manhattan.

Overall, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is a powerful, funny, sad, yet hopeful film about a woman trying to chase an impossible dream.  Amplify just picked it up for U.S. distribution, so audiences everywhere will be able to take Kumiko's journey.  While viewers don't necessarily need to watch Fargo before viewing, it won't hurt.  I love this movie and would happily see it for a third time.  It simply has everything that I want from a film and then some.  I felt many emotions watching Kumiko, often opposite ones at the same time, and that made me appreciate the movie even more.  Films like Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter are why I go to the movies.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015


 Arielle Holmes and Buddy Duress in HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT
Courtesy of RADiUS

2015, 95 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Heaven Knows What will have its final screening at SXSW today, March 18.  RADiUS-TWC will release it later this year.

Josh and Benny Safdie's gritty drug addiction drama, Heaven Knows What, is as realistic as it gets.  Based on Arielle Holmes' book, Heaven Knows What tells the story of Harley (Holmes), a young woman living in New York City who is addicted to heroin.  She is also in a relationship with the abusive Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones), a fellow addict.  As her life spirals further and further out of control, the hope of sanity and a normal life seem increasingly out of reach.

From start to finish, Heaven epitomizes the word "uncompromising".  The inherently horrifying subject matter, the disorienting techno score, and the hard realism with which the material is presented are among the many reasons that Heaven Knows What is a rough watch, but frankly, those things truly don't matter because they are all in the service of a film that itself serves a higher cause: Heaven gives a face and a story to those we New Yorkers see on the street every day.  In quite a few scenes, Harley sits on the sidewalk, holds a sign, and asks people for money.  In these scenes, I recognized countless people I see on the street in New York.  While everyone has a different story, I wouldn't be surprised if many matched with Harley's.

Heaven Knows What never judges the characters at its center, no matter how repugnant they can be.  It's the film's humanism combined with Holmes' raw lead performance that make this film the experience that it is.  Holmes' performance goes beyond acting, and the same can be said of the rest of the actors' performances as well.  No one feels as if they're acting.  Holmes has a naturally magnetic screen presence that makes her Harley a character we care for and are willing to stay with through thick and thin.

While one of Heaven's greatest virtues is its meandering, slice-of-life style of storytelling, it also works to its detriment.  Because Harley and her friends start in a bad place and effectively end up in the same one, there's a lack of narrative momentum that occasionally caused my interest to wain in the story.  Additionally, the score sometimes overwhelmed the already-powerful images onscreen, which lessened the film's impact.

Overall, Heaven Knows What is a good film that explores a very real problem that many people face. It's an impressive piece of filmmaking and hopefully marks the beginning of a very long career for Holmes.  While Heaven definitely won't be a crossover hit, there is definitely an audience for this film, and I hope they find it.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

First Time Fest Tribute to Harvey Weinstein

By Joshua Handler

The third annual First Time Fest came to a close Monday night with an awards ceremony and a special tribute to and conversation with Harvey Weinstein at the Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC. The conversation focused around Weinstein's dedication to championing first-time directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Jim Sheridan, Steven Soderbergh, and Ryan Coogler, among many others. It was full of colorful anecdotes that only someone as accomplished and clever as Weinstein could tell. Below are some of the highlights.

According to Weinstein, he's always been a film lover. He first saw François Truffaut's The 400 Blows at a theater that was "off the beaten path" and has been an international cinema fan ever since. 1989 was a breakthrough year for Weinstein when he released Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot through his company, Miramax, which garnered him his first Best Picture nomination. That was also the year that he bought the now-classic Oscar-winner, Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso. At the time, Weinstein said, Vincent Canby, film critic for The New York Times, gave the film a very negative review, which caused theaters to not want to show it. However, Stephen Frears' The Grifters, another Miramax release, was being released at the same time and every theater wanted to show it. Weinstein "made [the theaters] an offer they couldn't refuse" and told them that in order to show The Grifters, they had to show Cinema Paradiso as well. The theaters agreed and Cinema Paradiso became a word-of-mouth hit. Weinstein said that this case showed that the theaters could make a film a hit despite a lack of critical acclaim (something it went on to achieve).

Another favorite anecdote relates to the release of Neil Jordan's The Crying Game. Weinstein marketed the film around its now-famous secret. Walter Isaacson, editor of Time, called Weinstein to tell him that Time was going to publish the secret of the film. Weinstein then hired Gallup to conduct a poll of Time readers and found that 98% of the readers didn't want to know the secret. Weinstein then presented these results to Isaacson who promptly agreed not to publish the secret. When asked about how Weinstein dreams up "tricks" like these, he said, "They're not tricks, they're just passion."

What distinguished this conversation from others, though, is its candidness. Weinstein admitted to having mishandled films in the past, such as George Clooney's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which he called a "masterpiece." "I should've done better for [Clooney]," admitted Weinstein. Weinstein expressed disappointment in film companies for not taking the blame for mishandling marketing for a film. He said that he didn't market Mike Newell's Into the West correctly and took out a half-page ad in The New York Times to admit it.

Weinstein is a true visionary who has done more good for first-time directors and independent cinema than just about anyone else in the industry. While certainly a divisive figure, even his biggest opponents cannot deny the extraordinary influence he has had, and continues to have on independent cinema and on new filmmakers.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Joel Potrykus in BUZZARD
Courtesy of Oscilloscope
2015, 97 minutes
Not Rated 

Review by Joshua Handler

Joel Potrykus' Buzzard is a cult classic in the making. But then, cult classics have large, dedicated groups of fans, and Buzzard is not the kind of film that aims to or wants to have a large group of fans. For the select group of people who will enjoy Buzzard, it will be a singular filmgoing experience that they won't soon forget since there's never quite been any film like it before.

Buzzard tells the story of Marty, slacker extraordinaire - a man who works harder at cheating the system than working hard to make an host living.  He's one of the most unlikable, unsympathetic, and morally reprehensible characters to grace movie screens in ages, and this is precisely what makes him such a fascinating creation.  Joshua Burge brings an odd kind of low-key charisma to Marty that makes him insanely watchable.  His commitment to take everything to the limit (the centerpiece spaghetti scene epitomizes this) is one of the film's greatest strengths, and his chemistry with his co-star/director, Joel Potrykus, makes their disturbingly amusing scenes instant classics (the Bugle-eating scene is one of the funniest and most memorable sequences in recent cinema history).

Watching Buzzard is like taking a plunge into another world, and by immersing us in Marty's utterly unpleasant life and world, Potrykus does whatever he can to alienate his audience to see where their breaking point is.  Marty's life amounts to nothing.  It's a depressing cesspool of apathy and disdain, which makes spending time with it very challenging.  Yet, the originality of the character and of Potrykus' complete commitment to his vision make this film completely worth sticking with to the horrific end.

Unlike most films that revel in making their audiences uncomfortable, there's more than just shock value to Buzzard.  Buzzard is a slam of the time-wasting, inefficient bureaucracy that Potrykus sees surrounding us, and through the character of Marty, Potrykus takes spectacularly intelligent and nasty jabs at it.  Possibly the scariest aspect of Buzzard, though, is that Marty, while seemingly a caricature at first, is an oddly relatable human character.  He is so subtly well-drawn and Burge's performance is so unpredictable and layered that he escapes being a caricature.  Whether we want to admit it or not, we all know people like him.

Overall, Buzzard is a feat of filmmaking and the epitome of why a good screenplay and vision are vastly more important than having a large budget.  This is daring filmmaking, and while seeing more films like Buzzard wouldn't necessarily be pleasant, it's good to have a shocker like this one every once in a while to show that there are some true radicals making great work who are still trying to shake up the norm.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

BREAKING: Tribeca Film Festival Announces First Round of Films

By Joshua Handler

It's about that time of year again, and the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival is around the corner. Today, the festival announced the films that will be screened in the World Narrative and Documentary Competitions, as well as the Viewpoints section. While there are a number of films that I'm looking forward to viewing, I'm most excited for Crystal Moselle's Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winner, The Wolfpack, and Andrew Renzi's Franny, his follow-up to the magnificent Fishtail which screened at Tribeca in 2014. Franny stars Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning, and Theo James. Below are the films screening at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival (more films will be announced on March 5):

World Narrative Feature Competition
This year's showcase highlights a particularly diverse representation of international cinema, from Iceland and Costa Rica to South Africa and Albania. These are stories with a strong sense of location, whether it's two brothers surviving the Civil War in rural Kentucky (Men Go To Battle), a spate of mysterious suicides in a Welsh industrial town (Bridgend), or an underworld thriller set in Greece with strong overtones of the financial crisis (Wednesday 04:45). Yet despite their specificity of locale, an underlying commonality runs through the films making them accessible to diverse cultures and audiences: lone-wolf characters reach out for connection in The SurvivalistFranny and Virgin Mountain. In other films, families grapple with crises: a mother strives to protect her wayward son in Dixieland; an estranged father and son collide in The Adderall Diaries; and a couple heals together after tragedy in Meadowland. Titles in this curated selection of 12 international stories and voices compete for the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature, Best New Narrative Director, Best Actor and Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Editing in a Narrative, and Best Cinematography.

The Adderall Diaries, directed and written by Pamela Romanowsky. (USA) – World Premiere. Elliott (James Franco), a once-successful novelist inflicted with writer’s block and an Adderall addiction strives to escape his problems by delving into the world of a high-profile murder case. Amber Heard, Ed Harris, and Cynthia Nixon co-star in this adaptation of Elliott's best-selling memoir.
Bridgend, directed by Jeppe Rønde, co-written by Jeppe Rønde, Torben Bech, and Peter Asmussen. (Denmark) – North American Premiere. Sara (Hannah Murray) and her dad arrive in a town haunted by a spate of teenage suicides. When she falls in love with Jamie (Josh O’Connor), she becomes prey to the depression that threatens to engulf them all. Jeppe Rønde's debut is based on the real-life Welsh county borough of Bridgend, which has recorded at least 79 suicides since 2007.
Dixieland, directed and written by Hank Bedford. (USA) – World Premiere. In the hot lazy days of a Mississippi summer two star-crossed lovers, a recently released ex-con (Chris Zylka) and an aspiring stripper (Riley Keough), become trapped in a downward spiral of crime and obsessive love, as they try to ditch their small town lives. Featuring an impressive performance by Faith Hill.
Franny, directed and written by Andrew Renzi. (USA) – World Premiere. Richard Gere delivers a bravura performance as the title character, a rich eccentric who worms his way into the lives of a deceased friend’s young daughter (Dakota Fanning) and her new husband (Theo James). The narrative feature debut of writer-director Andrew Renzi, Franny is a warm and winsome drama about the pangs of the past, and the families we choose.
Meadowland, directed by Reed Morano, written by Chris Rossi. (USA) – World Premiere. Sarah and Phil’s son goes missing, shattering their life together and forcing each to find their own way to cope. Cinematographer-turned-director Reed Morano presents a masterfully crafted contemplation on a relationship strained to the breaking point. Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson capture the unraveling emotions with remarkable power, alongside Kevin Corrigan, John Leguizamo, Elisabeth Moss, Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple, and Merritt Wever.
Men Go to Battle, directed and written by Zachary Treitz, co-written by Kate Lyn Sheil. (USA) – World Premiere.Kentucky, 1861. Francis and Henry Mellon depend on each other to keep their unkempt estate afloat as winter encroaches. After Francis takes a casual fight too far, Henry ventures off in the night, leaving each of them to struggle through the wartime on their own.
Necktie Youth, directed and written by Sibs Shongwe-La Mer. (Netherlands, South Africa) – North American Premiere. Jabz and September are two twenty-something suburbanites drifting through a day of drugs, sex, and philosophizing in their privileged Johannesburg neighborhood, ill-equipped to handle a tragedy that has interrupted the hollowness of their daily lives. Using rich black and white photography, Sibs Shongwe-La Mer paints a raw, unique portrait of self-obsessed youth facing adulthood in an increasingly divided city. In Afrikaans, English, isiZulu with subtitles.  
The Survivalist, directed and written by Stephen Fingleton. (Northern Ireland, UK) – World Premiere. Self-preservation takes on a new level of meaning in this organic post-apocalyptic drama, where the only way to get food is to farm it. A man is threatened when two starving women stumble across his cabin and demand to stay. Each new mouth to feed strains the limits of what the farm can produce and diminishes their chance for survival.
Sworn Virgin (Vergine Giurata), directed and written by Laura Bispuri, co-written by Francesca Manieri. (Albania, Germany, Italy, Kosovo, Switzerland) – North American Premiere. As a young woman living within the confines of a Northern Albanian village, Hana longs to escape the shackles of womanhood, and live her life as a man. To do so she must take an oath to eternally remain a virgin. Years later, as Mark, she leaves home for the first time to confront a new set of circumstances, leading her to contemplate the possibility of undoing her vow. In Albanian, Italian with subtitles.
Viaje, directed and written by Paz Fábrega. (Costa Rica) –World Premiere. After meeting at a party, Luciana and Pedro spark up a spontaneous rendezvous when Luciana accompanies Pedro to a national forest on a work trip. Eschewing the fraudulent nature of traditional relationships, the pair explores the beauty in the nature that surrounds them as they indulge in the passions of their encounter and navigate the various meanings of commitment. In Spanish with subtitles.
Virgin Mountain, directed and written by Dagur Kári. (Iceland, Denmark) – North American Premiere. Fúsi is a mammoth of a man who at 43-years-old is still living at home with his mother. Shy and awkward, he hasn’t quite learned how to socialize with others, leaving him as an untouchable inexperienced virgin. That is until his family pushes him to join a dance class, where he meets the equally innocent but playful Sjöfn. In Icelandic with subtitles.
Wednesday 04:45 (Tetarti 04:45), directed and written by Alexis Alexiou. (Germany, Greece, Israel) – World Premiere. A life's work becomes a prison for jazz club owner Stelios when a shady Romanian gangster calls in his debts. This gripping, underworld drama is a parable on the perils of accumulated debt, and a depiction of the descent of a mostly decent man. Director Alexis Alexiou perfectly balances the complex emotions that drive a man to take the most drastic measures available. In Greek with subtitles.

World Documentary Feature Competition
Sponsored by Santander Bank, N.A.
The twelve films of this year's documentary competition represent the year's highest achievements in nonfiction storytelling. The section showcases investigations of the most important issues of our time, as well as deeply personal real-life stories sure to open a wider perspective on the human condition. Timely work includes Tom Swift qnd The Electric Rifle, an exposé of law enforcement's over-reliance on the taser, and Indian Point, a portrait of the aging titular nuclear power plant just 50-miles outside New York City. Revered documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles returns to the Festival with the eye-opening In Transit, while Very Semi-Serious chronicles the hilarious weekly work of New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff. Other selections include Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's powerful In My Father's House, which looks at Grammy Award-winning rapper Rhymefest's complicated relationship to fatherhood, and Autism In Love, a sensitive depiction of autistic adults searching for a connection. Strongly interwoven into many of these titles is the idea of tradition: Films like Palio and The Birth of Saké depict passionate men honoring the cultural byways of their regional pasts, while Zimbabwe's Democrats examines how a nation can maintain its heritage while modernizing and moving forward into the future. Titles in this compelling collection of stories and styles compete for Best Documentary Feature, Best New Documentary Director and Best Documentary Editing.

Autism in Love, directed by Matt Fuller. (USA) – World PremiereWhat does it mean to love and be loved? With remarkable compassion, director Matt Fuller examines the reality of autistic adulthood and shows how the members of this often-misunderstood community cope with the challenge of keeping romance alive. Autism in Love is a celebration of accepting the differences in others, and in ourselves.
The Birth of Saké, directed by Erik Shirai. (USA) – World Premiere. Traditional and labor-intensive, the production of Saké has changed very little over the centuries. Erik Shirai’s love song to the artisans who have dedicated their lives to carrying on this increasingly rare artform follows the round-the-clock process for six straight months, offering a rare glimpse into a family-run brewery that’s been operating for over 100 years. In Japanese with subtitles.
Democrats, directed and written by Camilla Nielsson. (Denmark)– North American Premiere. In the wake of Robert Mugabe’s highly criticized 2008 presidential win, Zimbabwe’s first constitutional committee was created in an effort to transition the country away from its authoritarian leadership. With unprecedented access to the two political rivals overseeing the committee, this riveting, firsthand account of a country’s fraught first steps towards democracy plays at once like an intimate political thriller and unlikely buddy film. In English, Shona with subtitles.
Havana Motor Club, directed and written by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt. (Cuba, USA) – World Premiere. Reforms have offered opportunity in Cuba but the children of the Revolution are unsure of the best route forward. For a half-dozen drag racers, this means last-minute changes to their beloved American muscle cars, as they prepare for the first sanctioned race in Cuba since 1960. Punctuated by a lively Cuban soundtrack, Havana Motor Club offers a fascinating glimpse at the resilience and ingenuity of the competitive spirit. In Spanish with subtitles.
In My Father’s House, directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, co-written by Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg, and Pax Wassermann. (USA) – World Premiere. After moving into his childhood home on Chicago’s South Side, Grammy Award–winning rapper Che "Rhymefest" Smith hesitantly sets out to reconnect with his estranged father, the man who abandoned him over twenty years ago. In My Father’s House is a stirring, multigenerational chronicle of Che's sincere but often-fraught journey to build a future for his own family by reconnecting with his traumatic past.
In Transit, co-directed by Albert Maysles, Nelson Walker, Lynn True, David Usui, and Ben Wu. (USA) – World Premiere. The Empire Builder is America’s busiest long-distance train route, running from Chicago to Seattle. Throughout these corridors sit runaways, adventurers, and loners – a myriad of passengers waiting to see what their journey holds. A touching and honest observation, co-directed by the iconic documentarian Albert Maysles, In Transitbreathes life into the long commute, and contemplates the unknowns that lie at our final destination.
Indian Point, directed and written by Ivy Meeropol. (USA) - World Premiere. Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant looms just 35 miles from Times Square. With over 50 million people living in close proximity to the aging facility, its continued operation has generated controversy for the surrounding community. In the brewing fight for clean energy and the catastrophic possibilities of complacency, director Ivy Meeropol weaves a startling portrait of our uncertain nuclear future.
Palio, directed by Cosima Spender, written by John Hunt. (UK, Italy) – World Premiere. In the world’s oldest horse race, the Palio, taking bribes and fixing races threatens to extinguish the passion for the sport itself. Giovanni, unversed in corruption, challenges his former mentor, who dominates the game. What ensues is a thrilling battle, filled with the intoxicating drama that is at the center of Italian tradition. In Italian with subtitles.
Song of Lahore, directed by Andy Schocken and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. (USA, Pakistan) – World Premiere. Until the late 1970s, the Pakistani city of Lahore was world-renowned for its music. Following the ban of music under Sharia law, many artists were forced to abandon their life's work. Song of Lahore turns the spotlight on a stalwart group of lifelong musicians who continue to play despite their circumstances. They end up attracting listeners from all over the world. In English, Punjabi, and Urdu with subtitles.
Thank You for Playing, co-directed and co-written by David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall. (USA) – World Premiere. For the past four years, Ryan and Amy Greene have been working on That Dragon, Cancer, a videogame about their son Joel's fight against that disease. Following the family through the creation of the game and the day-to-day realities of Joel’s treatment, David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall create a moving testament to the joy and heartbreak of raising a terminally ill child.
Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, directed and written by Nick Berardini. (USA) – World Premiere. Do you blame the technology or the person wielding it? With damaging reports of taser-related deaths at the hands of police officers, this conundrum spurs a carefully constructed argument that tasers are in fact lethal, discrediting claims by Taser International that stun guns save lives. Yet more than 17,000 police departments in the United States continue to use the electric rifle.
Very Semi-Serious, directed by Leah Wolchok. (USA) – World Premiere. The New Yorker is the benchmark for the single-panel cartoon. This light-hearted and sometimes poignant look at the art and humor of the iconic drawings shows why they have inspired and even baffled us for decades. Very Semi-Serious is a window into the minds of cartooning legends and hopefuls, including editor Bob Mankoff, shedding light onto their how their humor evolves.

ViewpointsWho are we?  This is a question asked in all manner of genres and styles in this year's always surprising and innovative Viewpoints section, which features 27 films from 12 countries. Some films are personal, intimate stories of identity-seeking, as in Gregory Kohn's soul-searching drug trip Come Down Molly, or Transfatty Lives' touching tribute to one artist's heroic efforts to maintain his creative self in the face of a devastating ALS diagnosis. Other stories of identity take on larger implications, as in Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, which raises questions about personal vs public identity, fame, and legacy through the story of a mysterious masked singer many believed to be Elvis back from the dead. Perhaps the most important moment of self-discovery and self-definition comes with growing up, and Viewpoints this year delivers a number of diverse and potent coming of age stories- whether they take place in adolescence or adulthood. The young women of Being 14 and rough-and-tumble boys of King Jack claw their ways towards adulthood within the war zones of puberty and high school, while the ostensible adults of Tenured behave more like the grade school students they are teaching, and GORED’S aging matador and El Cinco's benched footballer struggle to understand who they are as their self-defining livelihoods are threatened. Get to know these and a plethora of other fascinating characters as they get to know themselves in this year's Viewpoints section where we celebrate distinctive visions from innovative voices.

All Eyes and Ears, directed and written by Vanessa Hope. (China, USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary. When former Utah governor Jon Huntsman was appointed United States Ambassador to China, the charming career politician arrived at his new post with his entire family—including his adopted Chinese daughter, Gracie. Huntsman's diplomatic struggles and triumphs are explored in the broader context of China’s relationship with the rest of the world, and intersected with Gracie's personal experience living in China as a Chinese-American. In Mandarin, Cantonese, English, with subtitles.
Applesauce, directed and written by Onur Tukel. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. TFF alumnus Onur Tukel plays a husband who innocently reveals on talk radio the worst thing he's ever done. Though his gaffe never makes it on air, it sets off a chain of hilariously uncontrollable events that draw his wife and another couple into an uneasy mixture of infidelities, confessions, and severed body parts.
Bad Hurt, directed and written by Mark Kemble, co-written by Jamieson Stern. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative.Life for the Kendalls has been burdened by grief and claustrophobia. Faced with caring for one child with special needs and another with PTSD, the family struggles for a sense of stability at home in their Staten Island hamlet. When a secret from the past is revealed, it threatens to tear them apart.
Bare, directed and written by Natalia Leite. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative.
Sarah’s (Dianna Agron) mundane life in a Nevada desert town is turned upside down with the arrival of Pepper (Paz de la Huerta), a mysterious female drifter, who leads her into a life of seedy strip clubs and illicit drugs. Their passion inspires Sarah to break free of her past and seek out a new life of her own.
Being 14  14 ans), directed and written by Hélène Zimmer. (France). – International Premiere, Narrative. Adopting an observational style, Being 14 captures all the secrets, trials, and anguish of adolescence, as experienced by best friends Sarah, Louise, and Jade in their final year of middle school. The narrative plays like a documentary in each true-to-life scene; the camera is witness to their lives unfolding, as it unobtrusively records the moments of a year, after which everything will change. In French with subtitles
Come Down Molly, directed and written by Gregory Kohn. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. In this expressionist odyssey exploring the lonely side of entering adulthood, struggling new mother Molly (Eléonore Hendricks) joins her old high school group of guy friends at a secluded mountain home. Amidst tears, laughter, and mushrooms, they connect with nature, one another, and themselves.
A Courtship, directed by Amy Kohn. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Amy Kohn’s fascinating documentary offers a peek into the practice of Christian courtship, wherein a woman hands over the responsibility of finding a husband to her parents and the will of God. Such is Kelly’s path, enlisting her adopted spiritual family to find her Mr. Right.
Crocodile Gennadiy, directed and written by Steve Hoover. (USA)– World Premiere, Documentary. Crocodile Gennadiy, a real-life, self-appointed savior, who works tirelessly to rescue homeless, drug-addicted youth from the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine. At the same time, he challenges dealers and abusers. Despite criticism, Gennadiy is determined to continue his work. Sundance Award-winning director Steve Hoover’s second feature is a bold portrait of a man on a mission. In English, Russian with subtitles.
Cronies, directed and written by Michael Larnell. (USA) – New York Premiere, Narrative. Louis begins to question his lifelong friendship with Jack, after a simple errand to buy his daughter a birthday gift turns into a visit to a drug dealer. Director Michael Larnell combines an earnestly realistic narrative with documentary-style interviews in which the characters muse on their futures, their impact on those they love, and the nature of friendship.
dream/killer, directed by Andrew Jenks. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. In the fall of 2005, 20-year-old Ryan Ferguson received a 40-year prison sentence for a murder that he did not commit. Over the next ten years, his father Bill engages in a tireless crusade to prove Ryan’s innocence. Interspersed with footage from the Ferguson family archive, Andrew Jenks’ film looks at the personal consequences of a wrongful conviction.
El Cinco (El 5 de Talleres), directed and written by Adrián Biniez. (Argentina) – North American Premiere, Narrative.Patón, with his fiery temper and aggressive play, is the veteran star of his city’s soccer team. When his transgressions land him a lengthy suspension, he considers retirement, while discovering a world that consists of more than just feet and fists. This coming-of-middle-age tale reveals the predicament of leaving the arena where you most feel at home. In Spanish with subtitles.
GORED, directed and written by Ido Mizrahy, co-written by Geoffrey Gray. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary.Gored centers on Spanish bullfighter Antonio Barrera, holder of the dubious title of “Most Gored Bullfighter in History,” as he grapples with the end of his career. Captivating footage of past and present bullfights reveal Barrera’s tremendous passion for the sport, as well as his seemingly irresistible urge to confront death at every opportunity. In Spanish with subtitles.
Jackrabbit, directed and written by Carleton Ranney, co-written by Destin Douglas. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. When a friend's suicide leaves behind a mysterious computer drive, a fringe hacker and accomplished computer technician come together to decipher the message left in his wake. First-time filmmaker Carleton Ranney effortlessly combines a low-fi aesthetic with an intensely ambitious sci-fi story, creating a work that manages to satisfy as both a retro throwback and a forward-thinking indie drama.
King Jack, directed and written by Felix Thompson. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Growing up in a rural town filled with violent delinquents, Jack has learned to do what it takes to survive, despite having an oblivious mother and no father. After his aunt falls ill and a younger cousin comes to stay with him, the hardened 15-year-old discovers the importance of friendship, family, and looking for happiness even in the most desolate of circumstances.
Lucifer, directed and written by Gust Van den Berghe. (Belgium, Mexico) – United States Premiere, Narrative. An angel falling from heaven to hell unexpectedly lands in a Mexican village where his presence affects the villagers in surprising ways. Inspired by the biblical story, Lucifer is a mesmerizing, moving, and unique exercise in form, presented in the director’s own format, Tondoscope. In Spanish with subtitles.
Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, directed and written by Jeanie Finlay. (UK) – World Premiere, Documentary. Millions of Americans clung to the hope that Elvis Presley faked his death. For the executives at Sun Records that fantasy became an opportunity in the form of Orion, a mysterious masked performer with the voice of The King. But who was the man behind the mask? In this stranger-than-fiction true story, Jeanie Finlay explores a life led in service to those who couldn't let Elvis go.
Shut Up and Drive, directed and written by Melanie Shaw. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Uptight and insecure Jane breaks down when her live-in boyfriend must move from Los Angeles to New Orleans for an acting gig. Jane's anxiety worsens upon the arrival of Laura, Austin's wild childhood friend. Unable to deal with each other without Austin, the two women embark on a road trip to see him, forming an unexpected friendship along the way.
Slow Learners, co-directed by Sheena Joyce and Don Argott, written by Matt Serword. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative.  High school teachers Jeff and Anne (Adam Pally and Sarah Burns) are work BFFs all too familiar with the woes of romance. Desperate to turn their luck around they take on new personas and embark, with gusto, on an adventurous summer of uncharacteristic encounters. Slow Learners is a charming, comedic crash course in discovering who you really are.
Stranded in Canton (Nakangami na Guangzhou), directed by Måns Månsson, co-written by Måns Månsson, Li Hongqi, and George Cragg. (Sweden, Denmark, China)– North American Premiere, Narrative. Lebrun is an entrepreneur from The Democratic Republic of Congo who goes to China intent on making a fortune selling political T-shirts. When things don’t go as planned Lebrun spends more time in karaoke bars and falling in love than he does on business. Somewhere between documentary and fiction, this fascinating story explores new trade routes and their impact in two separate continents. In Cantonese, English, French, Lingala, Mandarin with subtitles.
Sunrise (Arunoday), directed and written by Partho Sen-Gupta. (India, France) – North American Premiere, Narrative.Social Service officer Lakshman Joshi is led on a chase through the dark gutters and rain-soaked back alleys of Mumbai by a shadowy figure. His pursuit leads him to Paradise, a seedy nightclub seemingly at the center of the kidnapping ring he is investigating. Joshi's hunt brings back memories of his own kidnapped daughter, as his past and current reality converge. In Marathi with subtitles.
Tenured, directed and written by Christopher Modoono, co-written by Gil Zabarsky. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. In Chris Modoono’s hilarious directorial debut, a broody and foul-mouthed elementary school teacher, Ethan Collins, finds his life turned upside down when his wife leaves him. Stuck with a group of precocious fifth graders, and fraught with fizzling writing aspirations, Ethan uses the school play as a last-ditch effort to fix his marriage. Will this be his greatest accomplishment or his most misguided lesson to date?
(T)ERROR, directed by Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe. (USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary. A rare, insider’s view of an FBI undercover investigation in progress, (T)ERROR follows a 63-year-old informant in his attempt to befriend a suspected Taliban sympathizer, and build a fraudulent case against him. Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe's startling and timely exposé questions the sacrifices that are being made to prevent terror in the United States.
Toto and His Sisters (Toto Si Surorile Lui), directed and written by Alexander Nanau. (Romania) – North American Premiere, Documentary. Shot over a period of 15 months, this hands-off documentary follows siblings living in a Bucharest slum. With their mother in jail, Toto and his two sisters, Ana and Andreea, live in what appears to be a communal drug den. As Ana drifts away with frequent drug use, Toto and Andreea must stick together in an orphanage, awaiting their mother’s return. In Romanian with subtitles.
TransFatty Lives, directed by Patrick O’Brien, co-written by Patrick O'Brien, Scott Crowningshield, Lasse Jarvi, Doug Pray. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Director Patrick O’Brien is TransFatty, the onetime NYC deejay and Internet meme-making superstar. In 2005, O’Brien began to document his life after being diagnosed with ALS and given only two to five years to live. TransFatty Lives is a brazen and illustrative account of what it's like to live when you find out you are going to die.
Uncertain, co-directed and co-written by Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. An aquatic weed threatens the lake of the small American border town of Uncertain, Texas, and consequently the livelihoods of those who live there. As some of the men in town attempt to figure out their future, they confront a past that haunts them.
We Are Young. We Are Strong. (Wir Sind Jung. Wir Sind Stark.), directed by Burhan Qurbani, co-written by Martin Behnke and Burhan Qurbani. (Germany) – North American Premiere, Narrative. A group of disillusioned teenagers wander about in the restless hours leading up to an anti-immigrant riot that took place in Rostock, Germany, in August of 1992. The impending incident is seen through the experiences of three individuals: a Vietnamese factory worker, a local politician, and the politician's teenage son, Stefan. In German, Vietnamese with subtitles.
The Wolfpack, directed by Crystal Moselle. (USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary. Everything the Angulo brothers know about the outside world they learned from obsessively watching movies. Shut away from bustling New York City by their overprotective father, they cope with their isolation by diligently re-enacting their favorite films. When one of the brothers escapes, the world as they know it will be transformed. A Magnolia Release.
In addition to the films announced today, the Festival will present feature-length films in the Spotlight, Midnight, and Special Sections, which will be announced on March 5, 2015.