Post(s) tagged with "New Auteurs"

This powerful first feature from writer-director Katrin Gebbe centers around Tore, who belongs to the fundamentalist youth group, called Jesus Freaks. The film explores the intersection of violence, religious fervor, and heresy.


This powerful first feature from writer-director Katrin Gebbe centers around Tore, who belongs to the fundamentalist youth group, called Jesus Freaks. The film explores the intersection of violence, religious fervor, and heresy.

How Far Will Simon Go?

11/05/12 - Chinese 2, 7:00 p.m.
11/07/12 - Chinese 4, 10:15 p.m.

By Joey Ally

SIMON KILLER, Antonio Campos’ follow-up to his chilling, coming-of-age AFTERSCHOOL (AFI FEST 2008), is a film about vision in both the literal and metaphorical sense, and the ends justified out of desperation to synthesize the two. It does not structure itself in terms of a literal film-within-a-film, as does AFTERSCHOOL, yet it is still a film about film, deftly and quietly probing much of the same territory regarding voyeurism, storytelling and the intractable barrier between action and experience.

The film follows (often literally, in lengthy walking sequences shot from behind) Simon (played by the complicated, captivating Brady Corbet), a recently graduated, recently singled 20-something. With no one to hold onto, the structure of school days past, and the monotony of office life successfully staved off with the help of parental support, Simon is, for the first time in his life, an island — a man free to do as he pleases, whenever and with whomever. A dangerous man.

A neuroscience major, Simon focused his studies on the relationship between the eyes and the brain. His published thesis examined “size pooling,” or the study of how the width and size of an object is weighted against the objects surrounding it. This is the only detail Simon shares in the same exact verbiage regardless of the listener — a definition he recounts immediately and frequently throughout the course of the film with apparent pride. It’s a poignant and pointed trope, considering that Simon has just experienced his first real heartbreak, and his time in Paris becomes devoted to cultivating experiences adequately intense to contextualize, and thereby minimize, the accompanying pain and isolation. Simon has come to the most notoriously romantic city in the world for the express purpose of examining the width and the size of his loss.

For a while, this translates into stomping down cobblestone streets, blasting feeling- fraught music into his brain, and occasionally trying out a phrase en Françaison a girl or two before retreating, defeated, to his dark apartment to watch porn, e-mail his estranged ex-girlfriend and video chat with his mother. The only insight offered into his childhood comes from these conversations with “mom” (a small yet pivotal role, portrayed with remarkably filled-out restraint by the fantastic Alexandra Neil), a woman whose love is apparent, yet muted by the conventions of her New York society manners.

After weeks of cyclical meandering, Simon encounters a young prostitute, Victoria (a ravishing and nuanced Mati Diop, who fills out the film’s writing team in addition to her lingerie-heavy wardrobe), with whom he shares a monetized and awkward, yet nearly tender, sexual encounter. It is here that the film begins to take off, as we watch as Simon moves from a boy afraid of his freedom, into a still-boy emboldened by it.

The only music we hear as soundtrack over the course of the film pumps from Simon’s iPod, a genius aural device in the movie that brings us literally into Simon’s headspace; similarly, visual cross-fades bring washes of pulsating color that mirror the intensity of his moods. Slowly, it becomes clear that Simon is fabricating his own reality. Unequipped to deal, and utterly bored, with the meager obstacles facing his privileged existence, Simon conjures heightened narratives within which he might experience the emotions he’s been promised in literature, music and film. Simon is controlling the story.

The realization that he cannot control Victoria frustrates him into near-mania, as it leads him to devastating acts of physical compromise, twisting deception and extortion. Simon was undoubtedly that kid who would slam his own finger in the door so a distracted mommy would halt her business to kiss it and listen to his falsified account of how it happened; now he is the grown man picking fights with strangers so a detached prostitute will tend to his bruises and offer him shelter in her own home.

The film is a study in how far Simon, unchecked by context, will go. The answer is: really far. As he adds more imagined storylines, more people and more elaborate ruses, he loses control of his manipulations. He’s inexperienced at this game, and as the real danger of his calculations intensifies, we watch his exhilaration turn to horror when he loses control over his own behavior. Simon has been searching for an experience that might overpower his malaise, but predictably the reality of the emotions that accompany the circumstances of his new lives is too much.

It is tempting to characterize Simon as a sociopath — he’s a pathological liar, a philanderer (as much as one can stray when he’s chosen to date someone whose vocation involves sexually satisfying other men) and a dilettante whose dearth of consideration for the feelings he actively seeks from others is shocking. Yet, this kind of classification is the easy choice, and the wrong one. Simon is not a person without emotion, or remorse — he is a boy like any other of his generation, reared on romanticism and the notion that each of us is special, only to discover at the end that he might just be some lonely dude who wrote a really technical thesis on a subject he’ll never fully understand. His desire to amplify his importance in this world, while misguided, does have genuine moments. Simon talks Victoria into an extortion scheme with her clients, and when collecting from one particularly pleading man, he says “It’s not for me; it’s for her” with a vulnerability that suggests he really believes he has positioned himself as a kind of hero.

Simon seems to want to do good — or at least see what it feels like — but he can’t figure out how to do it in real life. He entraps himself, therefore, in a space between fake lives full of excitement and promise, built upon false foundations, and a real life devoid of meaning. He just can’t figure out how to be a real person — how to take what is outside, and make it touch the inside, or take what is inside and let it touch the outside.

Campos’ filmmaking is exquisite here.  He, Corbet and Diop wrote as they shot, and the intimacy they found as collaborators drips off the screen. This is definitely a narrative in which the words spoken leave determination of the “truth” to the viewer, while the shots themselves leave nothing to question. Campos knows where he wants us to look, because he knows what Simon wants us to see, and that he manages to integrate the two without it ever feeling like a device is a triumph. This is filmmaking in the first person that feels like filmmaking in the third person; Simon is dragging us along, but it is only afterward that we are fully aware of it.

SIMON KILLER is a fresh and frightening view of the open-armed, eyes-raised- toward-the-sky wailing of a generation desperate to find meaning in the absence of obstacles; of the struggle that accompanies the lack of struggle, and the emptiness that follows. It is an existential look at perception versus experience, and the space between the lens and the film — a space I’m certain Campos will continue to fill, much to our collective discomfort and delight.

Joey Ally is a writer and actor who comes from New York City, lives in Silver Lake, and can be found on Twitter at @joellenally.

FEST+, A Google Hangout On Air


Join AFI FEST in an online conversation celebrating our Midnight movies and one of our New Auteurs, Brandon Cronenberg.

AFI FEST programmer Lane Kneedler and Fangoria Magazine Editor-in-Chief Chris Alexander will lead a conversation with the filmmakers behind ABCs OF DEATH, JOHN DIES AT THE END and ANTIVIRAL.

The best part — you get to be a part of the conversation! Just sign on via Google+ and join the chat LIVE as we dispatch from the heart of Hollywood.

Want to ask us something? Tweet @AFIFEST and we’ll respond on air!

In addition to Cronenberg, the chat will feature JOHN DIES AT THE END director Don Coscarelli, and a team of filmmakers from ABCs OF DEATH, including Simon Barrett, Adrian Bogliano, Marcel Sarmiento, Jon Schnepp, Marc Walkow and Adam Wingard.

When: Saturday, November 3, 3:00 p.m.
Where to Watch: Circle in @AFIFEST on Google+ or find @AFIFEST on YouTube
How to Join: Anyone with a Google+ account can circle in and ask a question. A Google Plus Account is not required just to watch. To join Google Plus, visit the tutorial here.

Fan Station Broadcasting Live from the Box Office! Anyone can join just by hopping over to the fan station at the AT&T Box Office on the 4th Floor of Hollywood and Highland and interact live with our digital panel. Stop by, get your tickets, and join the conversation!

Catching Up With AFI FEST Alumni: Julia Loktev, Director of THE LONELIEST PLANET

Julia Loktev

Julia Loktev’s film THE LONELIEST PLANET won the grand jury prize from the New Auteurs Critics at AFI FEST 2011. We grabbed a couple minutes of her time on the eve of the film’s Los Angeles and New York theatrical premiere.

What is your favorite AFI FEST memory?

It’s kind of a funny, silly moment.  There was a dinner for all the IFC films.  And someone took a picture of me and my lead actress Hani Furstenberg with the Dardennes brothers, Bela Tarr, Wim Wenders and Jacqueline Lyanga.  I was very pleased and honored to be in such illustrious company.  Then Indiewire ran the photo—with all of our names, including mine—but cropped me out of the pic. You can just see some hair and a little bit of my cheek and a bit of my dress, like an ex-wife that’s been cut out of the picture.  So that was quite funny.  At the same dinner, the Dardennes told me they loved my film DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT, which made my night.  Okay, my month!

What are you working on now?

I always have a hard time talking about things before they are done (unless I’m asking someone for money of course), so perhaps I should stay quiet for now.

Films screening in the NEW AUTEURS section of AFI FEST 2012, November 1-8.



(Film still from STARLET, directed by Sean Baker)

We are very excited today to announce the YOUNG AMERICANS and NEW AUTEURS sections of AFI FEST 2012 presented by Audi. AFI FEST will take place November 1 through 8 in Hollywood, CA at the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Chinese 6 Theatres, the Egyptian Theatre and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

“This year we’ve expanded our Young Americans section to accommodate the many great American independent films submitted,” said Lane Kneedler, Associate Director of Programming at AFI FEST.  “The section features exciting directors and filmmakers like the Zellner brothers and Joe Swanberg who are returning to AFI FEST with new films.  It’s been extraordinary to see the growth and evolution of this section over the past three years.”

 “Our New Auteurs competition section is an opportunity for us to highlight some of the strongest filmmaking by first and second time directors this year.  These are films that have been garnering acclaim and winning awards at festivals all over the world and are now being showcased together for the first time,” said Jacqueline Lyanga, Director of AFI FEST.  “Last year this section included Michael Roskam’s Oscar®- nominated BULLHEAD and Julia Loktev’s THE LONELIEST PLANET.  Every year, it’s exciting to see the talent that emerges from this showcase of new narrative feature filmmakers.”

The Young Americans section features work by emerging U.S. filmmakers.

APE:  DIR/SCR Joel Potrykus.
KID-THING:  DIR/SCR David Zellner.
ONLY THE YOUNG:  DIR Jason Tippet, Elizabeth Mims.
PEARBLOSSOM HIGHWAY:  DIR Mike Ott.  SCR Mike Ott, Atsuko Okatsuka.
STARLET:  DIR Sean Baker.  SCR Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch.  
TCHOUPITOULAS:  DIR Turner Ross, Bill Ross.

The New Auteurs section highlights first and second-time feature film directors from around the world.

AFTER LUCIA:  DIR/SCR Michel Franco.  Mexico.
ANTIVIRAL:  DIR/SCR Brandon Cronenberg.  Canada/USA.
CLIP:  DIR/SCR Maja Miloš.  Serbia.
EAT SLEEP DIE:  DIR/SCR Gabriela Pichler.  Sweden.
HERE AND THERE:  DIR/SCR Antonio Mendez Esparza.  Mexico/Spain/USA.
IN THE FOG:  DIR Sergei Loznitsa.  Germany/Russia/Belarus/The Netherlands/Latvia.
NOT IN TEL AVIV:  DIR/SCR Nony Geffen.  Israel.
SIMON KILLER:  DIR/SCR Antonio Campos.  USA.
Film stills are available for press use only and can be downloaded at:

The complete festival program will be announced on Thursday, October 11.  Media accreditation closes on Friday, October 5.  For details on how to apply for media accreditation, please visit

The Contours of Isolation

The Loneliest Planet

Egyptian-Rigler, 11/9/2011, 9:35 PM
Chinese 6, 11/10/2011, 9:30 PM

By Katie Datko

It’s the scene with the pig peeing in front of an abandoned Mercedes bus that roped me into THE LONELIEST PLANET, Julia Loktev’s evocatively lingering film that takes place in post-Soviet Georgia. That image took me back to one of my many indiscriminate treks on the backpacking circuit, reminding me of the brash confidence I once had, naively tromping along in places with no running water or electricity. Places where I was often the first American—or even white person—to visit. 

In my case it was a pig trussed up to a wooden rod en route to Nusa Penida, a small backwater off the coast of Bali. The pig knew what lay ahead of him. His ear-piercing squeals shook the boat more than the 10 foot waves, taking my mind off my queasy-about-to-hurl-any-moment stomach; his sense of foreboding palpable. An independent woman in a remote local, a sense of foreboding, a rugged remoteness—fragments from my experiences that magically started aligning with many of the key themes in Loktev’s film. 

With a sparse narrative arc and dialogue, it’s the situation and setting – two soon-to-be-married backpackers, Nica (Hani Furstenberg) and Alex (Gael García Bernal) scrambling over Georgian mountains with their guide, Dato — (Bidzina Gujabidze) that carries this film. Shot with an old school Soviet Lomo lens, the landscape itself becomes a character. The topography dominates, bold but somehow blurred. Yet the shadowy edges point to something indistinct that lurks within. Beautiful and alluring, there’s a faint intimation of the potential danger that lies dormant, awaiting to be awakened.

The two young lovers jauntily skate the surface of the local culture in a provincial Georgian town. Even though they interact with the locals, it is obvious that they see their foray into the culture as a lark. Everything about Nica and Alex’s interactions in the beginning is light, impulsive, giddy – it’s not a problem that their linguistic limitations make them outsiders, they are bound together by their frivolity, unabashed love-making and shared foreignness. Against this backdrop, they begin their trip through the mountains with Dato.

For the first part of their excursion we’re treated to panoramas of the backpackers against a chiseled background, Nica, Alex and Dato walking evenly spaced along the trail. But when the first music passage in the film plays, it has a haunting effect. The chromatic Eastern tones cause us to wonder how long this arcadian idyll will last. As we see the characters in widescreen slowly navigating a narrow path, we become acutely aware of the depth of the landscape, a hint of the potential for their isolation to envelope them fully. Despite a few frisky scenes—such as Nica and Alex playing footsie and getting it on in their tent – an intense sense of remoteness gradually creeps in.

What’s to come is augured by a brightly-lit post-coital moment with Nica reading a quote:

The rise of the road increases, the mountains close in more and more tightly, and it seems as though there is no longer any hope; only a bit of sky is visible above our heads. It has a disheartening effect on us; we are overwhelmed and keep silent. Suddenly, at a sharp turn in the road, a huge chasm opens up on our right…

Shortly after, an altercation on the trail opens subtle perforations in the characters’ relationships with each other. What Nica, a modern liberated woman, wants and expects is in direct contrast to what Alex is able to give her. A fragility develops between them that calls into question how far our three travelers can trust each other. Language devolves into a taciturn void, used sparingly and often insipidly. Ironically, it is Dato with his limited English, who becomes the most expressive of the three. 

The more our lovers traverse obstacles of sharp rocks and icy rivers the greater the rest of the journey evolves, as they circumnavigate the newfound knowledge they have uncovered about each other. The visual vistas mirror the hidden creases that exist in their relationship.

Like Nica, as an independent woman traveling alone or with a partner, I often trusted the journey would be nothing more than a harmless adventure. When I found myself in scary situations, I was lucky enough to get by with only a few scrapes. There have been times, though, when I’ve found myself in precarious predicaments, dependent on others in ways I had never before imagined, my view of myself and the world around me shaken to the core. THE LONELIEST PLANET also took me on this kind of sojourn, where the story lay not just in the proverbial journey, but in the intersection between how the raw contours of landscape—both inner and physical—shape our relationships with others.

Katie Datko is an LA-based writer who has written for the L.A. Weekly, and the LohDown on Science

Exploring Uncharted Territory


Chinese 6, 11/7/2011, 10:00 PM
Chinese 3, 11/9/2011, 4:45 PM
Egyptian-Rigler, 11/10/2011, 4:00 PM

By Joey Ally

If you’ve seen the wickedly evocative posters for Athina Rachel Tsangari’s ATTENBERGtwo young girls with tongues thrusting provocatively toward each other ring a bell?—you are undeniably intrigued, though likely for the wrong reasons.  WhileATTENBERG has its racy moments, including a couple of full-monty shots, the true shock value of writer-director Tsangari’s sophomore feature lies in its refreshingly innovative take on the crisis of reaching adulthood.  The film is a coming-of-age story caged within a pseudo-anthropological/sociological study of contemporary human behavior; if the British naturalist Sir David Attenborough (ATTENBERG's eponymous—if mispronounced—figure) honed in on the contemporary 20-something, it would look like this.

Starring as the alternately vulnerable and volatile Marina is the quietly excellent Ariane Labed, whose performance garnered her the Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival.  As ATTENBERG opens, we find the 23 year-old Marina entrenched in somewhat crushing life circumstances: she’s virginal, motherless, losing her father Spyros (an exceptional Vangelis Mourikis), working a meaningless job, and friendless save one girl, Bella (Evangelia Randou), who she labels both “a little slut” and “insufferably pedestrian.” Her situation is mirrored by the oppressive postindustrial landscape of the grey seaside town in which she resides; things aren’t just bleak, they’re downright purgatorial.

Marina seems a bit of an odd duck.  Borderline obsessed with Attenborough’s nature documentaries, Marina is a bit of a naturalist in her own life: she prefers critically examining, rather than engaging in, social conventions.  When Bella attempts a lesson on kissing-with-tongue, Marina’s reaction is one of disgust—not for her best friend, but for the mechanics of the act itself, which she dissects as though it were eating a snail or some similarly inessential and polarizing experience. Later, strewn half-naked across an even less-dressed traveling businessman suitor (played by DOGTOOTH writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos), Marina delivers a state-of-her-union so lengthy and detailed as to nearly shut matters down entirely, so to speak.

Meanwhile, whatever is killing Spyros is never directly discussed; the conversation between father and daughter steers, instead, through topics such as Marina’s hatred of penises, or “pistons” as she prefers to call them, and her “disappointment” in Spryros’s having (and satisfying) a sexual appetite since her mother. After signing off on his own cremation—a ridiculously involved procedure that will require his dead body to be sent to another country to a “funeral home for alternative Christians who are scared of worms” (cremation is illegal in Greece)—Spyros remarks that he is donating his body to their next “fish soup.”  One of the father-daughter’s word games ensues.  Marina’s retort?  “Spyros soup.”  Spyros, of course, fires back, “Bouillabaisse.”

Brilliantly woven nonverbal scenes reveal a different Marina—one who cuts fresh aloe to rub into Spyros’s hands at his hospital bedside, who quite literally pretends to be an animal from a documentary, who performs elaborate dances evocative of ancient femininity rituals with Bella, and who knowingly, if nervously, drives to the hotel to seek out her newfound lover.  She may attempt otherwise, but Marina feels feelings, longs longings, and fears fears, just like the rest of us.

Marina remarks in the end that, as a kid, she thought she’d be an astronaut working for NASA, discovering a new planet—literally speaking, she couldn’t be farther from this path, but in another sense she’s already an astronaut of sorts.  We are mixing metaphors here, to be fair, but the thread is consistent—astronauts, naturalists, and Marina are all, at their roots, just explorers mapping out the assigned territory. Marina’s experimentation with her businessman, and Bella, may as well be treks across a strange landscape; her subsequent chats with Spyros, or her moment-to-moment reporting on her feelings, are closer to field notes than simple conversation.

The synthesis of Marina’s scientific approach and ultimately unavoidable humanity is what makes ATTENBERG such a satisfying little film.  In bringing us this educated, vocal 23-year-old on the brink of begrudging independence and sexual awakening, Tsangari encourages us to re-examine our own growing-up through the lens of someone uniquely equipped to analyze those universal events.  Marina is neither a teenager too stupefied by the perils of adolescence to attain objectivity, nor a jaded adult desensitized to the inevitability of her own orphaning, but rather someone in between whose struggle to make sense of it all sheds light on the irrationality that accompanies basic humanness.  Marina is our Attenborough—our Attenberg—guiding us through the jungle of modernity toward a greater understanding of society, each other and ourselves.

Joey Ally is a writer and actor who comes from New York City, lives in Silver Lake, and has driven cross-country three times in the past year-and-a-half.  Joey was Jesse Pinkman for Halloween, and can be found on twitter at @joellenally.

Assured Filmmaking in OSLO, AUGUST 31

Olso, August 31

Chinese 6, 11/7/2011, 7:15 PM
Chinese 1, 11/8/2011, 9:30 PM 

By Sean Batton

OSLO, AUGUST 31 is an assured film that yet poses some interesting ambiguities. Its story concerns Anders, a once-promising writer recovering from a half-decade of drug addiction, who is given a day’s leave from his secluded rehab clinic and returns to Oslo for a series of encounters that illustrate the stabilizing mediocrity that has gradually consumed the lives of his middle class family and friends. Loosely based on Pierre Drieu La Rochelle’s 1931 novella Le feu follet, director Joachim Trier goes beyond merely transposing the story from Paris to contemporary Oslo. He uses its premise as a skeleton on which to graft his own preoccupations and experiences, transforming Drieu’s disgust with the bourgeoisie into something more complicated and more interesting.

As a director, Trier has matured noticeably since his debut feature REPRISE. The New Wave touches he employs have less flair but greater effect. For instance, as Anders and an estranged friend part after a fragile reconciliation, the images sneak away from the dialogue for a brief moment of lyrical asynchrony, a disruption of time and space that nevertheless maintains the film’s naturalism. There is a mesmerizing sequence a little later set in a very modern, glass-walled café where Anders has come to brood. We enter his sensorium as he eavesdrops on the upper-middle-class patrons and passersby; in a few cases we follow them home in mini-narratives that may be from Anders’ imagination. Here the filmmaking foregrounds itself with atypically smooth dolly shots and selective sound editing.

It’s all very impressive, but Trier’s fluency in tasteful arthouse stylistics also threatens to negate OSLO's sincerity. The right aesthetic notes are struck so consistently as to risk feeling rote and the product of a studied academicism divorced from real-life experience. At such moments, the thought creeps in that we may be seeing a mere recital of one director’s favorite auteurist “moves.” And yet, the film maintains an edge. What protects it from charges of simple pandering to bourgeois taste is the palpable investment the director has in the film’s location and milieu. Anders’ stubborn and doomed resistance to the stifling mediocrity of Oslo’s middle class can be read as an allegory for the film’s own struggle to reconcile its social concerns with its duty to perform well as an object for that same class’ consumption.

The most interesting sequence in the film occurs before the story proper gets underway. Trierintroduces the city of Oslo with a montage that incorporates shots from Norwegian films, news broadcasts, home movies, and YouTube-era video, accompanied by a succession of unidentified voices reminiscing about their impressions of the city. The indiscriminate combination of professional and amateur footage is analogous to the way we struggle to distinguish received images and ideas from lived experience. It’s a fitting prologue to the film that follows.

Sean Batton lives in Los Angeles.


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