This year’s lineup for the Projections section of the 55th New York Film Festival features 51 films, including eight features and eight programs of shorts, with eight world premieres, eight North American premieres, and 15 U.S. premieres. Among the highlights are the U.S. premiere of Caniba by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, whose feature Leviathan was presented in the Main Slate of NYFF50; Good Luck by Projections regular Ben Russell; and the North American premieres of two films by Kevin Jerome Everson, feature Tonsler Park and short IFO. The lineup also features the NYFF debuts of several acclaimed visual artists, including Xu Bing’s Dragonfly Eyes, winner of the International Critics Prize at the recent Locarno Film Festival; Neïl Beloufa’s Occidental; and mid-length works Rubber Coated Steel by Lawrence Abu Hamdan and The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy by Duncan Campbell; the North American premiere of Zhou Tao’s The Worldly Cave, which was included in this year’s Venice Biennial; and the world premiere of Jaakko Pallasvuo’s Filter. Visual artists returning to Projections include Luke Fowler, whose Electro-Pythagoras (a Portrait of Martin Bartlett) screens in its U.S. premiere, and Rosalind Nashashibi, whose Vivian’s Garden is one of several works in this year’s lineup first presented at documenta 14 and will screen in its North American premiere.
Eighteen works will screen on 16mm, including all 13 of this year’s repertory selections, which showcase the work of experimental cinema pioneers Barbara Hammer and Mike Henderson, preserved by the Academy Film Archive.
Projections also showcases returning filmmakers Ephraim Asili (Fluid Frontiers), Sky Hopinka (Dislocation Blues), Sara Magenheimer (Art and Theft), Jodie Mack (Wasteland No. 1: Ardent, Verdant), Takashi Makino (On Generation and Corruption), Steve Reinke (Semen Is the Piss of Dreams), Fern Silva (Ride Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder), and 2012 Kazuko Trust Award winner Michael Robinson (Onward Lossless Follows). NYFF debut artists also include Pia Borg (Silica), Jorge Jácome (Flores), Peter Burr (Pattern Language), Nazli Dinçel (Shape of a Surface), Charlotte Prodger (BRIDGIT), Ayo Akingbade (Tower XYZ), Marta Mateus (Barbs, Wastelands), and a few Film Society of Lincoln Center alums—Benjamin Crotty (Division Movement to Vungtau), who was in New Directors/New Films in 2015, and Narimane Mari (Le fort des fous), whose work has screened in the Film Society’s Art of the Real festival.
FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS
Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, France, 2017, 90m
The latest by the makers of Leviathan (NYFF50) is a harrowing engagement with the sheer presence of a man who did the unthinkable: Issei Sagawa, who became a tabloid magnet after killing and cannibalizing a woman in Paris in 1981. Caniba moves past sensationalism to immerse viewers in an unnervingly intimate encounter with Sagawa, who has since lived off his notoriety (as a sexploitation star and manga author), and his brother and primary caretaker. The filmmakers use this modern-day instance of cannibalism, long a subject of anthropological study, to raise questions about repulsion, desire, madness, and more. Audacious and unflinching, Caniba compels us to reckon with the most extreme limits of human behavior.
Xu Bing, China, 2017, 81m
Chinese visual artist Xu Bing’s ambitious debut feature follows an ill-fated romance through a frightening and faceless urban environment, using only closed-circuit surveillance footage. Constructing a fictitious narrative from real-world encounters and frequently spectacular images, Xu turns the story of a young man attempting to relocate his object of desire into a cogent analysis of postmodern identity and digitally mediated communication.
Electro-Pythagoras (a Portrait of Martin Bartlett)
Luke Fowler, U.K./Canada, 2017, 45m
The life and work of highly influential, yet little known, Canadian composer and microcomputer pioneer Martin Bartlett is resurrected in this lovingly constructed biographical essay. Archival footage finds Bartlett at home, at work, and onstage, while voiceover readings of the proudly out artist’s reflections on his place in the era’s gay community convey a sense of intimate, holistic personal history.
Rosalind Nashashibi, U.K., 2017, 30m
North American Premiere
Deep in the Guatemalan Highlands, Swiss-Austrian artists Vivian Suter and Elisabeth Wild live in a garden villa. Nashashibi captures the complexity of their unorthodox microcosm, which is dominated by their curiously intimate mother-daughter dynamic as well as the keen sense of dependency seen in their relationship with the Mayan domestic workers.
Le fort des fous
Narimane Mari, France/Algeria/Greece/Germany/
In this shape-shifting hybrid feature, Algerian citizens’ memories of their country’s occupation are brought to life via resurrected military reports and re-enactments of France’s decades-long colonial project. As the film moves into a more dramatic mode, two characters from the first act join up with a small community that has sought refuge along the coast. But utopia proves fleeting, and the film, seeming to sense their fate, reinvents itself yet again as documentary.
Ben Russell, France/Germany, 2017, 143m
In his first solo feature in eight years, Ben Russell takes us deep into the unforgiving copper mines of Serbia. When we emerge, we’re thousands of miles away, amongst an illegal band of gold miners in the Suriname jungle. The physical demands of labor, as well as the transformative power of music, connect these communities, each equally fortified by the realities of capital and a spirit of masculine camaraderie.
Neïl Beloufa, France, 2017, 74m
In a boho Parisian hotel, two sexually and politically ambiguous Italians romp through a succession of blatantly artificial, anachronistically decorated set pieces, stoking the prejudices of staff members and fellow guests. Outside, riots rage and protesters march, threatening to spill into the increasingly feverish atmosphere gathering indoors. French-Algerian artist Neïl Beloufa’s second feature—reminiscent of films by Bertrand Bonello and the stage-derived works of Alain Resnais—confirms the arrival of a uniquely provocative, socially attuned filmmaker.
Kevin Jerome Everson, USA, 2017, 80m
North American Premiere
Election Day, 2016. Kevin Jerome Everson and his 16mm camera quietly observe a community of mostly African-American voters and volunteers at a local polling precinct in Charlottesville, Virginia. Emerson’s film captures everyday faces and the general optimistic atmosphere with a casual formal elegance.
The Worldly Cave
Zhou Tao, China, 2017, 48m
North American Premiere
Anonymous figures are diminished against unforgiving environs, both natural and manmade, in Zhou’s expansive cross-continental diary, featuring monumental views of the Incheon Sea, the Balearic island of Menorca, and the Sonoran Desert that serve to visualize the infinitesimal stature of the human race.