First Look 2017 Lineup
The sixth edition will run from January 6 through 16.
The 2017 edition will run from January 6 through 16. With descriptions from the festival and a few additional notes and links…
FRIDAY, JANUARY 6
First Look 2017 will open with the New York premiere of Hirokazu Kore-eda's After the Storm. We gathered a first round of reviews when it premiered in Cannes, and the film has a current Critics Round Up rating of 84/100. The Museum notes that it "establishes a style and tone all its own, alighting on comedy, family drama, and shaggy-dog noir. Dwelling on his past glory as a prize-winning author, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) wastes the money he makes as a private detective on gambling and can barely pay child support. After the death of his father, his aging mother (Kirin Kiki) and beautiful ex-wife (Yoko Maki) seem to be moving on with their lives. Renewing contact with his initially distrusting family, Ryota struggles to find his footing and maintain a relationship with his young son, until a stormy summer night offers them a chance to truly bond again. Preceded by Untitled (Dir. Bjorn Kammerer. 2016, 4 mins. 35mm). Austrian avant-garde filmmaker creates a shimmering study in geometry and light through the slats of a Venetian blind. And Balloonfest (Dir. Nathan Truesdell. 2016, 6 mins.). In 1986, Cleveland sought to lift spirits by launching a record 1.5 million balloons into the sky, but unpredictable winds and a boat accident in Lake Erie brought what might have been a harmless publicity stunt crashing down to earth."
Richard Boeser and Tomasz Kaye's video game, Chalo Chalo (2016), "is a minimalist tactical racing game for three to eight players that wrings tense and exciting gameplay out of snail’s pace action. Players plot a route and navigate their racer across a dynamically generated landscape of grass, ice, rock, and lava to beat opponents to the goal. Chalo Chalo—intended for players of all experiences—is easy to learn but holds deep play potential." US premiere.
"Set on an asteroid in outer space," Irrational Exuberance (2016), a VR experience from Ben Vance, "is purely experiential—a mysterious, visceral, zero gravity playground without goal or objective. One of the most effective experiments in virtual reality to date, Irrational Exuberance is wholly transportive, brimming with wonder and tactile delight." NYC premiere.
"Presented as a series of brief vignettes," Paolo Pedercini's A Short History of the Gaze (2016) "operates as a virtual reality essay that explores the history of looking and its long relationship with violence, from the dawn of evolution to our self-inflicted panopticon. Eschewing hand-held controllers, A Short History of the Gaze responds only to where your gaze lands, implicating you, the looker, in damning and often unsettling ways." World premiere.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 7
Screening Sound: The Radio Atlas Adaptations is a "selection of radio documentaries, including Ladies of the Manor (2011, 53 mins). Sometimes answering one question accomplishes much more than that, and opens new avenues for creativity and discovery. Radio Atlas, an Internet hub which originated in the United Kingdom, ingeniously provides screen-based English subtitles for foreign-language audio documentaries, making works of sound art suddenly accessible to wider audiences. They offer a practical solution that engenders an exciting side effect: a new and unique form of cinema. Radio Atlas’s Eleanor McDowall presents a selection of absorbing audio works from around the world, all accompanied by visually inventive titles to create a theatrical experience unlike any other."
Sincerely (Atentamente) (2016). "If Camila Rodríguez Triana’s title brings to mind the necessity of careful thoughtfulness as well as the emotionally reserved farewell to a letter, it is because feelings are indeed at the core of the film. The setting of this delicate and deeply moving film is a retirement home where we follow two elderly residents, Libardo and Alba. Within the simple setting, the film captures the quiet activity of daily life that is pervaded by memories. As time passes, punctuated by the romantic lyrics of songs on the radio, or the dialogues of the telenovelas that the residents are watching, a love story emerges between Libardo and Alba, and the man’s quest to gather the 15,000 pesos needed to allow them a double bed in their own room."
Out There (2016). "Tokyo. Or perhaps, Taipei. A hybrid of fiction and documentary, and navigating mysteriously between the two cities, Takehiro Ito’s beguiling film follows a director looking for a new actor, so that he can resurrect a stalled film project. This actor is Ma (as himself), born in Taiwan, who wanders around Tokyo on roller blades. More than searching for a place, he is searching for an emotion: the feeling of being home. The two men wonder how one can exist in this world. Travelling back and forth through secret gates between Tokyo and its former colony, Taiwan, Out There is in turns a documentary, a film within a film, a love story, and a story about wandering. Following Edward Yang’s footsteps (the film starts from a failed documentary project on this Taiwanese director), Ito has also created a film in which the cities are among the main characters." With Chun Chih Ma, Haruo Kobayashi, Ayu Kitaura, Ryuzaburo Hattori and Natsumi Seto. And Takehiro Ito will be there.
Fear Itself (2015). New York premiere. "Half-heard whispers. A creaking door. Darkness itself. From Vertigo to Videodrome, the scariest movies exploit our greatest and most basic fears. Narrated by a woman haunted by things she has seen and cannot unsee, Fear Itself weaves together clips from cinema’s most terrifying moments to explore how filmmakers scare us—and why we let them. As with his debut film Beyond Clueless, English director Charlie Lyne’s second feature is both a probing collagist essay and deft, whip-smart provocation, exploring the soul of cinema from the inside out. Preceded by Copycat (Lyne, 2015, 9 mins). In the summer of 1990, a teenage filmmaker successfully raises $100,000 to shoot a pioneering horror film. 25 years later, he tells the story of a cult classic that never was."
"A unique experiment in live theater and film, César Vayssié’s remarkable collaborative project UFE (Unfilmevenement)  centers on a group of young people who plan spectacular artistic, and political, actions, attacking the role of television in an effort to create social chaos. A kidnapped TV anchor is held hostage in a remote villa in the Alps. The location becomes an arts workshop and a base camp for political action, populated by actors, revolutionaries, and a rock band. While it evokes the cinematic essays of Jean-Luc Godard and the theatrical playfulness of Jacques Rivette, UFE is a unique and timely experience that exists only in one copy at a time."
SUNDAY, JANUARY 8
"In 1927, French poet Henri Michaux travelled across Ecuador and jotted down his impressions in a diary as he discovered the country’s landscapes and populations. With Territorio [2016, New York premiere], Alexandra Cuesta took this fragmented account as her starting point starting, as she journeys from the ocean, across the mountains, and into the jungle. Each frame is composed with great subtlety, and throughout the journey, an unspoken bond forms between the filmmaker and the people who are being filmed or waiting to be filmed. Cuesta, who studied film with James Benning, carefully emphasizes the contract between both sides of the camera. With great mastery, she reveals a sometimes humorous picture of her home country that is both fragmented and visionary. Preceded by Recordando El Ayer (Dir. Alexandra Cuesta, 2017. 9 mins.), an experimental portrait of Jackson Heights that questions the meaning of 'home,' and A Model Family in a Model Home (Dir. Zoe Beloff, U.S., 22 mins., 16mm), an uncompleted Bertolt Brecht 1940s film project inspired by a Life magazine article about a “model family” of American Midwestern farmers forms the basis for a beguiling and historically fascinating blend of documentary material, drawings, puppets, photographs, home movies, and other material that draws a line between the House Un-American Activities Committee and the 2008 housing crisis."
"Three young goat farmers adapt to the seasons and come to terms with the physical and emotional grit required to live at the mercy of the land. Told without aid of interviews or expert analysis, this empathetic and experiential film is a visceral meditation on a lifestyle born of self-reliance, a sensual homage to the heart and soul of a farmer. Gorgeously filmed by director and renowned still photographer Christopher LaMarca, and with a knockout sound design to match, Boone  makes for an enrapturing sensorial experience.
Preceded by Animals Under Anaesthesia: Speculations on the Dreamlife of Beasts (Dirs. Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky. 2016, 14 mins.) Part lyrical document, part farce, part Buñuelian fantasia, this visually and sonically audacious film explores the imagined unconscious of animals. Images of sex, death and the natural world are made manifest in the murky and disquieting dreams of a dog, a cat, a pig and a rabbit."
FRIDAY, JANUARY 13
John Wilson’s New York. "In possession of a truly singular voice, John Wilson creates films from the aspects of culture that most of us hurry past, treating his own low-fi recordings of city life as folk-art found footage. Whether in creating instructional videos for infuriating tasks (How to Live with Bed Bugs), enacting a pretend lawsuit to get on a pretend legal show that pretends to be shot in L.A. (Los Angeles Plays New York), or following a thread from extraneous messaging on dollar store electronics packaging to the saddest trade show in Las Vegas (The Spiritual Life of Wholesale Goods, receiving its Festival Premiere), Wilson exults in the surreality of modern life, offering his own hilariously shambling voiceover as both ineffective commentary and dryly comedic counterpoint. Wilson will be on hand to present his films and other collected media."
On Resistance: International Avant-Garde Films & Videos, a program of short films introduced by guest curator Mónica Savirón:
- Granular Film – Beirut. Charles-André Coderre. 2016, Canada/Lebanon, 35mm, 7 mins. US premiere.
- Malaise. Don Levy, 1963-64, UK, 16mm, 3 mins. NY premiere.
- Ñores—sin señalar (Misters—Without Blame). Annalisa D. Quagliata, 2016, Mexico, 16mm on HD, 3 mins. North American premiere.
- This Bogeyman. Pere Ginard, 2016, Spain, Super8mm on HD, 3 mins. World premiere.
- Mirage. Atoosa Pour Hosseini. 2015, Iran/Ireland, Super8mm on HD, 4 mins., North American premiere.
- Calypso. Annalisa D. Quagliata, 2016, Mexico, 16mm on HD, 5 mins. North American premiere.
- De falso a legal en una toma (From False to Legal in One Take). Diego Lama, 2015, Peru, DCP, 4 mins. North American premiere.
- River in Castle. Sandy Ding, 2016, China/Croatia, 16mm, 4mins. U.S. premiere.
- Sakura, Sakura (Cherry Blossom, Cherry Blossom). Ute Aurand, 2015, Japan, 16mm, 3 mins. New York premiere.
- Stadt in Flammen (City in Flames). Schmelzdahin (Jürgen Reble, Jochen Müller & Jochen Lempert), 1984, Germany, 16mm, 5 mins. NY premiere.
- L’en-Dedans (Inside the Inside). Philippe Cote, 2002, France, Super8mm on 16mm, 18 mins. North American Premiere.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 14
Ken Jacobs will present a program of new films, and writes: "Obvious as the facts may be, (and available on the web; tap in the expression Reichstag 9/11), we are all wonderfully free to ‘make up our own minds.’ The title aligns the Neo-con anticipated ‘new Pearl Harbor’ with the infamous Reichstag fire the Nazis exploited to solidify their power. The images of Reichstag 9/11 [2016, US premiere] are derived from eyewitness recordings on the web. Deception upon deception, this time optical." Preceded by Windbreaker (2016, 6 mins., World premiere); Cyclops Observes the Celestial Bodies (2016, 16 mins. U.S. premiere); Popeye Sees 3D (2014, 22 mins. NY premiere).
Havarie (2016). "Out in the Mediterranean Sea, a few dozen miles off the Spanish coast, a frail little skiff full of men is identified by a cruise liner. A camera zooms in on the refugee boat far in the distance, but the picture remains indistinct. German director Philip Scheffner takes a few minutes of eyewitness video and slows it down to feature length, such that every frame registers as a separate pixelated, and metaphorically pained still. Meanwhile the soundtrack offers an ambitiously textured, multilingual account of the historical and cultural forces that gave rise to this confluence of participants and witnesses, such as terrorism in Algeria in the 1990s, the Irish troubles, and the war in the Ukraine. Scheffner orchestrates a moment suspended in time, in which the viewer is invited to appreciate the full complexity, and tragedy, associated with a brief picture caught at sea. Preceded by It Could Be a Film (Kumjana Novakova, 2016, 8 mins). Subtly ruminating on the definition of film itself, this provocative short explores variances of sound while fixing on a single elusive image."
Helmut Berger, Actor (2015). "Pushing the very limits of 'intimacy' in the documentary film, Austrian director Andreas Horvath delivers a frank and unblinking portrait of the legendary actor and former Luchino Visconti muse Helmut Berger. At the height of his stardom and handsomeness Berger epitomized the exuberant jetset lifestyle of the 1970s, but in recent years he has settled for a more secluded and modest lifestyle in a rundown, two-room apartment in the outskirts of Salzburg. Moody, mercurial, and performative to his core, Berger lashes out against but also ravenously consumes the attention of Horvath, his patient but not entirely silent witness. 'Maybe the best motion picture of the year is also the worst? The rules of documentary access are permanently fractured here,' said John Waters about the film."
Depth Two (2016). North American premiere. "In 1999, while NATO was bombing Yugoslavia, a truck containing 53 dead bodies plunged into the Danube near the border with Romania. Where did the bodies come from, how did they wind up on a truck near the Danube, and what horrors led to their deaths? Pairing powerful, masterfully edited audio testimony with present-day footage of deceptively banal locations, Serbian director Ognjen Glavonic pieces together the story of a nation’s mass crime against its own people and elaborate cover-up. Undeterred by a sparse visual record, Depth Two answers with an extraordinary assertion of cinema."
SUNDAY, JANUARY 14
Silencio (2016). "In his empathetic and beautiful film, Christophe Bisson finds a new way to create images appropriate for capturing the experience of homelessness. Working in the city of Porto, Portugal, he chose a surprising setting: The whole film takes place in a few large rooms of a once-glorious palace. Within this setting, a group of homeless men and women create a theater space, and share their stories. The film evokes, at times, historical paintings, and works by Samuel Beckett and Luis Buñuel. Ultimately, the film allows its subjects to reveal their deepest feelings and their inner beauty.
Preceded by Something About Life (Dir. Nebojsa Slijepcevic. Croatia. 2016. 30 min. U.S. Premiere. In Croatian with English subtitles) Even within her cohort of troubled teens in Slavonia, Croatia, fourteen-year-old Ivana is a girl apart. Once a week, a professional drummer comes to their shared home to teach them to drum in unison, but Ivana refuses, preferring instead to take out her aggressions through boxing. Slowly Ivana starts to reveal herself, constantly weighing her attraction to the idea of a movie being made about her life, and wary of what it may capture."
Between the Fences (Bein gderot) (2016). "In the middle of the Negev Desert in Israel, African asylum seekers languish indefinitely in a detention facility. With the help of theater director Chen Alon and the active participation of filmmaker Avi Mograbi, they begin to use Theater of the Oppressed techniques to express their experiences, thoughts, and frustrations. What leads men and women to leave everything behind and go towards the unknown? Why does Israel, land of the refugees, refuse to accept people exiled by war, genocide and persecution? And can these artists—and by extension the audience—put themselves in the refugee’s shoes? Mograbi’s reflective, reflexive, and surprisingly exhilarating documentary is not just a call for empathy and understanding, but an unapologetic act of the same. Preceded by A Short Family Film (Igor Bezinovic, 2016, 20 mins) Marica is a voluble older woman eager to open her home and share her life with a visiting documentary crew. But it does not take long for her story to open up into some surprising territory, including a self-reenacted altercation involving her daughter-in-law and a kitchen knife. Staring out through his sober yet stylized frames, Croatian director Igor Bezinovic rides the line between hilarity and mortal unease."
How Heavy This Hammer (2015). Reviews from Toronto. CRU: 85. "The second feature by Canadian filmmaker Kazik Radwanksi (Tower, 2012) is an intense, intimate, and ruefully funny portrait of masculinity at a crossroads. A married father of two nearing middle age, Erwin (Erwin Van Cotthem) finds the only outlet for his shapeless, sublimated rage in online gaming and bloody rugby action. Withdrawing further and further into his own world, and in danger of completely alienating the people closest to him, Erwin is conscious of and frustrated by his stunted existence, but struggles to pull himself out of his rut."
How I Fell in Love with Eva Ras (2016). North American premiere. "Up in the cramped projection booth of an old cinema in Sarajevo, Sena presides over her domain. She cleans, eats, naps, and spools out reels of vintage prints. Portuguese filmmaker Andrew Gil Mata has fashioned a film that celebrates and uncannily evokes a swiftly disintegrating milieu, employing long takes both of Sena’s ritualized behavior and of the Yugoslavian films she is projecting into the theater. Subtly, entrancingly, we drift into parallel dreams of a forgotten world. Preceded by Panoramis Paramount Paranormal. (Dirs. Constanze Rhum, Emelien Awada, 2015, 23 mins.) The ghost of movie history pervades this impressionistic film photographed at a modern residence that used to be the site of a movie studio."
MONDAY, JANUARY 14
Film After Film: Shorts Program I:
- It Could Be a Film (Kumjana Novakova, 2016, 8 mins). Subtly ruminating on the definition of film itself, this provocative short explores variances of sound while fixing on a single elusive image.
- Untitled (Dir. Bjorn Kammerer. 2016, 4 mins). Austrian avant-garde filmmaker creates a shimmering study in geometry and light through the slats of a Venetian blind.
- Animals Under Anaesthesia: Speculations on the Dreamlife of Beasts (Brian M. Cassidy & Melanie Shatzky, 2016, 14 mins) Part lyrical document, part farce, part Bunuelian fantasia, this visually and sonically audacious film explores the imagined unconscious of animals. Images of sex, death and the natural world are made manifest in the murky and disquieting dreams of a dog, a cat, a pig and a rabbit.
- Panoramis Paramount Paranormal (2015, 23 mins.) The ghost of movie history pervades this impressionistic film photographed at a modern residence that used to be the site of a movie studio.
- A Model Family in a Model Home (Zoe Beloff, U.S., 22 mins., 16mm) An uncompleted Bertolt Brecht 1940s film project inspired by a Life magazine article about a “model family” of American Midwestern farmers forms the basis for a beguiling and historically fascinating blend of documentary material, drawings, puppets, photographs, home movies, and other material that draws a line between the House Un-American Activities Committee and the 2008 housing crisis.
Strange But True: Shorts Program II:
- Balloonfest (Dir. Nathan Truesdell. 2016, 6 mins). In 1986, Cleveland sought to lift spirits by launching a record 1.5 million balloons into the sky, but unpredictable winds and a boat accident in Lake Erie brought what might have been a harmless publicity stunt crashing down to earth.
- The Spiritual Life of Wholesale Goods (John Wilson. 2016, 15 mins). An investigation into the source of extraneous spiritual messages on dollar store electronics packaging leads a thrifty Brooklyn filmmaker to the saddest trade show in Las Vegas.
- Copycat (Charlie Lyne. 2015, 9 mins). In the summer of 1990, a teenage filmmaker successfully raises $100,000 to shoot a pioneering horror film. 25 years later, he tells the story of a cult classic that never was.
- A Short Family Film (Igor Bezinovic, 2016, 20 mins) Marica is a voluble older woman eager to open her home and share her life with a visiting documentary crew. But it doesn’t take long for her story to open up into some surprising territory, including a self-reenacted altercation involving her daughter-in-law and a kitchen knife. Staring out through his sober yet stylized frames, Croatian director Igor Bezinovic rides the line between hilarity and mortal unease.
- Something About Life (Nebojsa Slijepcevic. Croatia. 2016. 30 min. U.S. Premiere. In Croatian with English Subtitles.) Even within her cohort of troubled teens in Slavonia, Croatia, 14 year-old Ivana is a girl apart. Once a week, a professional drummer comes to their shared home to teach them to drum in unison, but Ivana refuses, preferring instead to take out her aggressions through boxing. Slowly Ivana starts to reveal of herself, constantly weighing her attraction to the idea of a movie being made about her life, and wary of what it could reveal.