The Projections section of the 57th New York Film Festival is comprised of six features, seven shorts programs, and two videos that will be looped in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater Drawing on a broad range of innovative modes and techniques, including experimental narratives, avant-garde poetics, crossovers into documentary realms, and contemporary art practices, Projections brings together a diverse offering of short, medium, and feature-length work by some of today’s most essential and groundbreaking filmmakers and artists.
Projections features 40 short and feature films, representing 21 countries with six world premieres, six North American premieres, and 19 U.S. premieres.
Among the highlights are the North American premiere of Minh Quý Trương’s striking feature The Tree House; Thomas Heise’s monumental essay film Heimat Is a Space in Time, utilizing both new material and archival footage to reflect on the fraught evolution of Germany’s national identity; a new 35mm restoration of avant-garde film pioneer Pat O’Neill’s 1974 film Saugus Series, a dazzling showcase for his groundbreaking work with the optical printer; Longa noite, the long-awaited sophomore feature from Arraianos filmmaker Eloy Enciso Cachafeiro; and a special free program dedicated to the memory of the late filmmaker and Projections alum Jonathan Schwartz, featuring seven of his 16mm films. The lineup also features new work from several Film at Lincoln Center alumni: Miko Revereza (Distancing), whose No Data Plan screened in Art of the Real 2019; Akosua Adoma Owusu (Pelourinho: They Don’t Really Care About Us), a Projections alum whose short films have also screened in the New York African Film Festival and New Directors/New Films; Luise Donschen (Entire Days Together), an alum of Art of the Real; and Burak Çevik (A Topography of Memory) and James N. Kienitz Williams (This Action Lies), both alums of New Directors/New Films 2019.
Three films in Projections will be shown on 35mm celluloid, including the North American premiere of George Clark’s Double Ghosts, inspired by an unfinished film by Raúl Ruiz, and Joshua Gen Solondz’s lyrical travelogue (tourism stories). Seven films will be exhibited on 16mm, including Tomonari Nishikawa’s Amusement Ride, which observes the inner workings of a Ferris wheel from the inside of a swinging passenger car.
Projections showcases a number of contemporary artists, including new work by Charlotte Prodger, winner of the 2018 Turner Prize, whose SaF05, featured in the 2019 Venice Biennial, marks the third entry in the artist’s autobiographical video trilogy; Beatrice Gibson, whose dream-logic thriller Two Sisters Who Are Not Sisters is based on a 1929 Gertrude Stein play; Éric Baudelaire, who spent four years collaborating with students from a Parisian middle school on Un Film dramatique; Patrick Staff, whose The Prince of Homburg meditates upon contemporary issues of gender and queer resistance; Pedro Neves Marques, who imagines an anxious future in his atmospheric, sci-fi tinged The Bite; and feature films by Marwa Arsanios, whose formally audacious Who Is Afraid of Ideology? tracks the influence of the Kurdish Women’s Liberation Movement, and Mariah Garnett, whose Trouble is an intimate essay film about her father and his past as a political activist in Belfast.
Making their Projections debuts are Simon Liu, who crafts an eerie portrait of contemporary Hong Kong in the World Premiere of Signal 8; Gabino Rodríguez, co-directing alongside Projections alum Nicolás Pereda for their shape-shifting docufiction My Skin, Luminous, which follows an infirmed orphan who has lost the pigment in his skin; and Adam Khalil, Zack Khalil, and Jackson Polys, whose Culture Capture: Terminal Adddition is made under the banner of their public secret society New Red Order. Projections also showcases returning filmmakers Zachary Epcar (Billy), Ben Russell (COLOR-BLIND), Kevin Jerome Everson and Claudrena N. Harold (Black Bus Stop), Dani and Sheilah ReStack (Come Coyote), Ryan Ferko (Hrvoji, Look at You From the Tower), Peggy Ahwesh (Kansas Atlas), and Luke Fowler, who returns to NYFF with two short films, Mums’ Cards and Houses (for Margaret).
FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS
All films screen digitally at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (144 W. 65th St.) unless otherwise noted.
Heimat Is a Space in Time
Thomas Heise, Germany/Austria, 2019, 218m
Stretching from the dawn of World War I to the present day, Thomas Heise’s monumental essay film reflects on the fraught evolution of Germany’s national identity through the prism of one family’s history. The film, shot in monochrome black-and-white, combines a wealth of archival footage and materials––including letters written by Heise’s grandparents during the war––with new footage in which the director traces vestiges of his country’s national trauma to the very sites and landscapes that once played host to unspeakable violence. As he visualizes his ancestors’ forced displacement across East and West Germany, Heise achieves a moving meditation on the relationship between home and heritage.
Un Film dramatique
Éric Baudelaire, France, 2019, 114m
Shot over a period of four years, Un Film dramatique follows the creative intuitions of 20 budding Parisian artists at Dora Maar Middle School in Saint-Denis as they experiment with cameras on their own terms, theoretically reflect on the medium, and debate issues of ethnicity, discrimination, and representations of power and identity. Humorous, intimate, and illuminating, Éric Baudelaire’s film is a testament to cinema’s collaborative nature, in which the young filmmakers become co-authors and subjects of their own lives.
Longa noite / Endless Night
Eloy Enciso Cachafeiro, Spain, 2019, 89m
Spanish filmmaker Eloy Enciso Cachafeiro’s long-awaited follow-up to Arraianos follows a mysterious, soft-spoken man named Anxo who returns to his hometown in the Galician countryside. There, he is confronted with a series of moral and existential quandaries that bring his past transgressions to bear on a community crippled by poverty and political injustice. Unfolding as an episodic series of encounters and conversations—based on plays, memoirs, and letters from the Franco regime—the film lays bare a system quietly fostering new forms of fascism. Shot by Mauro Herce (cinematographer of Fire Will Come, playing in this year’s NYFF Main Slate), Longa noite gradually expands from a portrait of sociopolitical malaise into a metaphysical mystery in which past and present, fact and fiction, become increasingly indistinguishable.
Mariah Garnett, USA/UK, 2019, 82m
North American Premiere
Mariah Garnett’s intimate and inventive biographical portrait of her artist father, recounting in his own words his past as a political activist in Belfast and his daughter’s unlikely influence on his life. Through a combination of letters, interviews, archival footage, and uncanny reenactments of the period (featuring Garnett herself in the role of her father), this slyly self-reflexive yet deeply felt film provides crucial insights into his largely forgotten accomplishments and Ireland’s history of sociopolitical unrest, while also documenting the father and daughter’s belated reunion.
Who Is Afraid of Ideology?
Marwa Arsanios, Lebanon, 2019, 51m
The Kurdish Women’s Liberation Movement has been disrupting gender and ecological hierarchies across the Middle East. In this stimulating, bifurcated film, shot among the mountains of Kurdistan, a village for women in northern Syria, and a farming community in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, Marwa Arsanios uses an array of striking formal strategies––including the frequent disassociation of sound and image––to track the movement’s influence and the efforts of autonomous women’s groups to reclaim land amidst the Rojava revolution.
Luke Fowler, UK, 2018, 9m
In his intimate portrait, Luke Fowler’s mother reflects on her life’s work as a sociologist in Glasgow and, through a collection of hand-written notes, illuminates the personal and political nuances that make up a life devoted to intellectual inquiry.
Appearances and Disappearances: In Memory of Jonathan Schwartz
Taking as their subjects childhood, the transience of seasons, and our shared mortality, the 16mm films of Jonathan Schwartz (1973-2018) devote themselves to the ephemerality of external worlds and a gestural responsiveness to internal states. This program of seven, poetic films made over 15 years—combining cutout collage, lyrical camerawork, and elliptical editing—merge wonder and disquiet, elation and sorrow, moving from intimacies of fatherhood and love to contemplations of nature and culture. Curated by Irina Leimbacher
For Them Ending (2005, 16mm, 3m)
Animals Moving to the Sound of Drums (2013, 16mm, 8m)
If the War Continues (2012, 16mm, 5m)
Den of Tigers (2002, 16mm, 19m)
Winter Beyond Winter (2016, 16mm, 11m)
A Leaf is the Sea is a Theater (2017, 16mm to digital, 17m)
New Year Sun (2010, 16mm, 3m)
Shorts Program 1: News From Home
Miko Revereza, USA, 2019, 10m
North American Premiere
After deciding to leave the U.S. and return to the Philippines, Miko Revereza charted his journey on film, creating superimpositions of intimate 16mm images shot in his home, at the airport, and with his family. A coda of sorts to Miko Revereza’s recent feature No Data Plan, Distancing uses personal experience to reflect on the lives of displaced persons throughout the western world.
Dani and Sheilah ReStack, USA, 2019, 8m
The second in a planned trilogy of films about desire and domesticity that began with Strangely Ordinary This Devotion (2017), Come Coyote examines issues around queer reproduction, intimacy, and motherhood. Collaborators and partners Dani and Sheilah ReStack capture in fleeting, diaristic images the tender and terrifying feelings they have around ushering new life into the world, conveyed with both humor and a powerful immediacy.
Peggy Ahwesh, USA, 2019, 17m
Lebanon, Kansas, is perhaps best known as the geographic center of the U.S. Constructed of aerial footage of small towns and vistas, this transfixing, split-screen essay film pairs Peggy Ahwesh’s images of the region with text by Marianne Shaneen, which borrows from Michel Foucault, Donna Haraway, and other social theorists. An unassuming landscape thus becomes an emblem of America and its unnerving blend of beauty and barely suppressed bigotry.
Charlotte Prodger, UK, 2019, 40m
Charlotte Prodger skips across continents, charting a course through the artist’s past via the landscapes of Scotland, Botswana, and the American West, in this third entry in the artist’s autobiographical video trilogy. Via voiceover, Prodger meditates on death and desire, intimacy and identity, and, in the figure of an unusually maned lioness, finds a personal symbol for queer desire. Prodger is the winner of the 2018 Turner Prize.
Shorts Program 2: Making Contact
My Skin, Luminous
Gabino Rodríguez and Nicolás Pereda, Mexico/Canada, 2019, 39m
Having lost the pigment in his skin, Matias, an infirmed orphan at a Michoacán primary school, has been quarantined from his classmates; however, the presence and words of novelist Mario Bellatin offer the prospect of healing. Moving from classroom to countryside to a local monastery, My Skin, Luminous is a shape-shifting docufiction that weaves its real-life subject into a subtly unfolding drama, and which speaks to the wider ongoing reforms to Mexico’s public school system.
The Bite / A Mordida
Pedro Neves Marques, Portugal/Brazil, 2019, 26m
In Pedro Neves Marques’s atmospheric, sci-fi-tinged fiction set against the backdrop of a crisis-stricken São Paulo, a team of biologists attempt to thwart a viral outbreak through the use of genetically modified mosquitoes, while, in a parallel story, three lovers living in rural seclusion resist the reactionary politics of a newly appointed conservative government. Marques imagines an anxious present in which the promise of a better tomorrow relies on new conceptions of intimacy, identity, and reproduction.
Shorts Program 3: Signs of Life
The Prince of Homburg
Patrick Staff, USA/UK, 2019, 23m
North American Premiere
Patrick Staff’s vibrant, color-coded short, cleverly uses text from Heinrich von Kleist’s 19th-century play of the same name to explore themes of persecution and punishment, and to meditate upon contemporary issues of gender, queer resistance, and the carceral state.
Diane Nguyen, USA/Vietnam, 2019, 16m
The star-crossed melancholy of two separated lovers is memorialized in a cathartic rendition of a beloved pop tune, intertwining the sensual and the toxic within an urban periphery of Vietnam. Tyrant Star is a musical tale of postwar emancipation and trauma.
Zachary Epcar, USA, 2019, 8m
Zachary Epcar’s oblique psychodrama follows Billy and Allison through an evening of ominous disturbances. As flames dance, flashlights flicker, and domestic objects scatter in all directions, the couple’s home becomes a theater of contemporary anxiety.
Two Sisters Who Are Not Sisters / Deux soeurs qui n’est sont pas soeurs
Beatrice Gibson, UK, 2018, 23m
In Beatrice Gibson’s dream-logic thriller, based on a 1929 play by Gertrude Stein, two amateur sleuths—played by filmmakers Ana Vaz and Basma Alsharif—investigate a crime that may not have happened. Pushing narrative beyond its limits to the point of abstraction, Gibson offers a bewitching reflection on identity, motherhood, and storytelling itself.
Shorts Program 4: Beginnings and Endings
Entire Days Together / Ganze Tage zusammen
Luise Donschen, Germany, 2019, 23m
A young girl is cured of her epilepsy just as summer vacation is about to begin. During her last days with her classmates, she’ll come to experience life in a new way. Arranged as a series of elliptical tableaux, this haunting narrative from Luise Donschen (Casanova Gene) captures a simultaneous sense of discovery and disorientation as it proceeds from the confines of the classroom to a wider world of adolescent anxieties.
Hrvoji, Look at You From the Tower
Ryan Ferko, Canada/Serbia/Croatia/Slovenia, 2019, 17m
Ryan Ferko’s mutating portrait of the former Yugoslavia descends from the verdant hillsides to the ruined underbelly of this historical no-man’s-land, linking myth and memory through first-person anecdotes, remnants of ancient artifacts and architecture, and the imported sounds of 1970s stadium rock.
Houses (for Margaret)
Luke Fowler, UK, 2019, 5m
Luke Fowler constructed this tribute to Scottish filmmaker and poet Margaret Tait on the occasion of her centenary. Setting off to Tait’s native Orkney, Fowler creates a record of her life and work through images of her past dwellings, filming locations and notebooks. The soundtrack consists of location recordings made in Orkney and an archival tape recording of Tait reciting her poem “Houses,” in which she reflects on the meaning of home.
George Clark, Chile/Taiwan/UK, 2018, 35mm, 31m
North American Premiere
Inspired by an unfinished film by Chilean director Raúl Ruiz, George Clark’s globetrotting short retraces Ruiz’s ill-fated production from the beaches of Viña del Mar and the port of Valparaiso to the cemeteries of New Taipei City. Framed around a conversation with Ruiz’s widow, the filmmaker Valeria Sarmiento, Double Ghosts channels the spirit of this unrealized project into a poetic reflection on the creative process and the power of influence.
Shorts Program 5: On the Move
Black Bus Stop
Kevin Jerome Everson and Claudrena N. Harold, USA, 2019, 9m
Kevin Jerome Everson and Claudrena N. Harold resurrect an informal meeting ground for black students at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville in the 1980s and ’90s in this ecstatic tribute. In a collaboration with members of the student body, the filmmakers stage a nocturnal celebration of this sacred and historic space through an exuberant display of choreographed song and dance.
Tomonari Nishikawa, Japan, 2019, 16mm, 6m
Tomonari Nishikawa’s latest visual sleight of hand, shot on 16mm with a telephoto lens, observes the inner workings of a Ferris wheel, locating intricate structural patterns and crosscurrents of movement from the inside of a swinging passenger car.
Joshua Gen Solondz, USA, 2019, 35mm, 7m
A selection of still and moving images captured in over a half-dozen locations around the globe have been transformed into a bracing, rapidly unfolding cinematic travelogue in Joshua Gen Solondz’s lyrical film, which finds unexpected parallels and echoes among its far-flung locales.
Simon Liu, Hong Kong/UK/USA, 2019, 14m
Simon Liu’s eerie, entrancing portrait of contemporary Hong Kong tracks a series of strange disruptions to the city’s urban infrastructure. Deceptively tranquil 16mm images of everyday life are accompanied by muffled music cues, ominous radio transmissions, and intimations of an impending hazardous event that may never arrive.
Pelourinho: They Don’t Really Care About Us
Akosua Adoma Owusu, Ghana, 2019, 9m
In 1927, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote to the U.S. Embassy of Brazil concerning the country’s discriminatory attitude toward black immigrants. Akosua Adoma Owusu conveys this correspondence through montage, juxtaposing voiceover readings of the letters, sumptuous Super-8 footage shot on the streets of Pelourinho, and interpolated images from Spike Lee’s controversial music video for Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Really Care About Us,” resulting in a film that swiftly traces nearly a century of social unrest.
Ben Russell, France, 2019, 30m
Ben Russell’s visually eclectic Super 16mm work of psychedelic ethnography surveys the history of colonialism in French Polynesia through present-day forms of ritualized dance, body art, and woodworking. Shot between Brittany and the Marquesas Islands, Color Blind is guided by the spirit of post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, whose words and art appear throughout.
Shorts Program 6: Solve for X
PHX [X is for Xylonite]
Frances Scott, UK, 2019, 13m
Frances Scott explores the history and usage of plastic in this imaginative essay film. Using three-dimensional animations, distorted vocal recordings, and the words of Roland Barthes, she connects the founding of the first plastics factory in 1866 and the development of cellulose nitrate, a key element in the creation of film stock.
Jenny Brady, Ireland, 2019, 15m
Jenny Brady’s film surveys over 100 years of deaf history from the controversial and damaging Milan Conference of 1880 to a modern-day protest at a university for the hard of hearing. Drawing on a wide range of archival recordings in which communication breaks down and would-be civil conversations devolve into public altercations, Receiver bears out the old maxim that those who speak loudest rarely listen—and those with the most to say are seldom heard.
Pat O’Neill, USA, 1974, 35mm, 18m
Landscape imagery, archival footage, and animation are hybridized in this dazzling experimental film from 1974, a showcase for Pat O’Neill’s pioneering work with the optical printer. Restored by the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation.
This Action Lies
James N. Kienitz Wilkins, USA, 2018, 32m
James N. Kienitz Wilkins applies his loquacious and self-reflexive sensibility to a frequently hilarious work of cinema as intellectual inquiry. Training his 16mm lens on a foam coffee cup (recalling the austerity of a Warhol screen test) while holding court on a myriad of subjects ranging from the history of Dunkin’ Donuts to new fatherhood, Wilkins offers a dizzying disquisition on looking, listening, and the slippery nature of truth.
Free and open to the public
A Topography of Memory
Burak Çevik, Turkey/Canada, 2019, 30m
This subtly expansive new work by Burak Çevik (Belonging, ND/NF 2019) combines CCTV footage of urban Istanbul with audio of a family heading to vote in the controversial June 2015 Turkish general election. As talk ranges from domestic matters to political affiliations, shots of the city’s skyline, coastal architecture, and religious landmarks captured the day after the election slowly scroll past. Underlying these eerily serene images is the knowledge that in a follow-up vote five months later, the right-wing government would regain power.
Culture Capture: Terminal Adddition
Adam Khalil, Zack Khalil, and Jackson Polys, USA, 2019, 7m
North American Premiere
The latest video by the public secret society known as the New Red Order is an incendiary indictment of the norms of European settler colonialism. Examining institutionalized racism through a mix of 3D photographic scans and vivid dramatizations, this work questions the contemporary act of disposing historical artifacts as quick fixes, proposing the political potential of adding rather than removing.