March 24 2004
FILM FESTIVAL: Political dynamite from new directors
BY JOHN ANDERSON
The New York film fan’s equivalent of spring training and the Final
Four, New Directors/New Films begins its 33rd year tonight with as
much international flavor and political volatility as it’s probably
Presented jointly by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Film
Department of the Museum of Modern Art, the annual showcase for
filmmakers and movies fresh to the area kicks off tonight with the
multiculti, multicharacter “Everyday People” – a touching populist
portrait of a transitioning Brooklyn neighborhood by returning
director Jim McKay (“Our Song”). Between now and April 4, the series
will screen 28 films from 23 countries (including Armenia, Mongolia,
Israel and Peru) and probably set off more than a couple of
firestorms, with work topical enough to qualify as news bulletins.
Most notably among these is “Control Room,” (USA-Egypt, 2004), in
which young Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim explores the
inner workings of the Arab news agency Al-Jazeera during the onset of
the current Iraq War. As implied by the title, however, “Control
Room” is not just about the Arab perspective but the U.S. military’s
carefully crafted dissemination of combat information, the media’s
willingness to swallow it and the general dilemma of news during
Elsewhere, “Checkpoint” by Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir was filmed
over two years at the dozens of border crossings along the occupied
West Bank and Gaza Strip and documents the frustrating, humiliating
and destructive daily encounters between Israeli soldiers and
Palestinian travelers. Insightful, unflattering and often
infuriating, “Checkpoint” offers yet another angle on the Byzantine
relationship between the Israeli and Arab worlds.
On the lighter side is the ravishing “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
… and Spring,” which will do nothing to diminish the growing
stature of Korean filmmaking throughout the world. Directed by Kim
Ki-duk, “Spring … ” is set on a secluded lake and floating
monastery, where a monk and a young boy traverse the seasons of life.
Beautifully shot (and metaphorically shameless), the film has been
getting raves at festivals worldwide.
Its stylistic counterpoint might be “Le Monde Vivant,” a fairy tale
in blue jeans in which French theater director Eugene Green
re-imagines a world of medieval chivalry and adventure with
modern-looking people and a lion played by a golden retriever.
Alternately whimsical and enchanting, “Le Monde Vivant” is joyful,
and more than a little thought-provoking.
“I’m very pleased with ND/NF this year,” said Richard Pena, who, with
Joanna Ney and Marian Masone, composes the selection committee’s Film
Society component (MoMA members are Laurence Kardish, Jytte Jensen
and Mary Lea Bandy). “It’s a nice, broad selection, internationally
And politically. And intellectually. And, perhaps, in the case of
“Spring, Summer … ” even poetically.
New Directors/New Films, today through April 4. For complete list of
films and descriptions, go to
Screenings will be held at three venues: Alice Tully Hall, the Walter
Reade Theater at Lincoln Center and the MOMA Gramercy, 23rd Street
near Lexington Avenue, Manhattan. Call 212-875-5050.