New Directors/New Films live talks launched

Ramin Bahrani, Kleber Mendonça Filho and Sara Driver are festival speakers

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Sônia Braga with her Aquarius director Kleber Mendonça Filho
Sônia Braga with her Aquarius director Kleber Mendonça Filho Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of New Directors/New Films, hosted by Film at Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, Kleber Mendonça Filho (Bacurau, Aquarius, Neighboring Sounds) spoke with Richard Peña, Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, Goodbye Solo, Plastic Bag voiced by Werner Herzog, At Any Price, White Tiger) chatted with Larry Kardish, and Sara Driver (You Are Not I, Sleepwalk, Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat) will speak with Wendy Keys in the HBO sponsored live virtual Free Talks. Sleepwalk was screened virtually for free in the New Directors/New Films at 50: A Retrospective programme.

Jesmark Scicluna in Alex Camilleri’s Luzzu screens on Sunday, May 9 at 6:00pm
Jesmark Scicluna in Alex Camilleri’s Luzzu screens on Sunday, May 9 at 6:00pm

Ramin Bahrani (producer of Alex Camilleri’s Luzzu, screening in ND/NF) joined Larry Kardish virtually last night for a wonderful in-depth conversation on his career. I sent in the following comment and question which Larry posed to Ramin.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Were there specific Persian folktales that you were told as a child that still stay with you? Your film At Any Price is even more relevant today.

Ramin Bahrani: Oh, thanks for saying that! It is. The things I love about that film are the things that I don’t think fully work. I always wish I could make it again. But it is pretty relevant. There’s a lot of great Persian ways of saying things. And it’s a very beautiful language, it sounds beautiful, which is one of the reasons probably why their poetry is so powerful. I don’t know if the person asking is a filmmaker.

Larry Kardish: She’s a critic. She’s a good critic.

RB: Okay! There’s something I always loved, which is a Persian thing. Which I find relevant to filmmaking. Which is: When this ear [Ramin touches his right ear] itches, why in the world would you try to scratch it like this [he uses his left hand, over his head, to scratch his right ear]? This one always stays with me.

During his live talk with Kleber Mendonça Filho, Richard Peña rephrased a question I had sent in earlier.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Kleber, what are some of the films (old or new) you enjoyed watching this past year?

Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighboring Sounds screened in the 41st New Directors/New Films
Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighboring Sounds screened in the 41st New Directors/New Films

Kleber Mendonça Filho: Well, something that I have really enjoyed was right from the beginning, since a year and two months ago, I established a series at 6pm with my kids. So basically I have been curating, sometimes, of course, you make a mistake and you show something that may be not so good, but I tried my best to introduce a number of wonderful films that I thought they would appreciate. So every day at 6pm we watch a film, usually here [he points behind him]. There’s a projector there and a screen, or maybe downstairs at the large monitor. And it’s great.

I’ve tried to show Japanese and French - there’s very little good Brazilian cinema for kids, so you end up fishing in American waters, which is not a bad thing, except if you show too much, they begin to think that the whole world is only based on the United States. That’s how the industry works, but we’ve seen a number of very good films. The beautiful thing is when you show The Good The Bad And The Ugly, which is three hours long, the cut which is on Blu-ray, and they see the whole film and you see the impact that the film has on you. Without you having made a big splash about what they’re going to see, they’re really fascinated by the whole film, by the music. It’s a great feeling. Tonight we will probably watch Little Shop Of Horrors, the Frank Oz version, which I think is a lot of fun and just a little nasty for them to appreciate.

Kleber, prompted by Richard about old favourites, continues: I have mostly gone back to films from the past. It’s true that over the last few months I had a go at some of the Academy films, you know, the Screening Room as an Academy member. Yeah, I saw some of the new films, but the biggest pleasure I get is to go back to the older films. You know, Ida Lupino, and of course, we must have seen 20 Hitchcocks. Hitchcock always, it never goes out of style in this home. A lot of films from the 70s. Alan Clarke I saw a number of films, incredibly tough. Monty Python, Australian films from the 70s, like the Long Weekend, which is now on MUBI, a lot of Agnès Varda, which is now on MUBI also. I saw three Fassbinders, Lola, The Marriage Of Maria Braun, and Querelle.

50th New Directors/New Films
50th New Directors/New Films

I saw just recently, which I think is being screened at Lincoln Center, In The Mood For Love, which I remember seeing at the Cannes Film Festival, the first screening. Your mind is racing and sometimes you look for comfort. It doesn’t necessarily mean the films are nice and pleasant, but comfort cinema is films you feel at home in. The Straight Story by David Lynch, The Elephant Man last week I showed the kids. You feel protected when you watch these great films. You’re in your home. There’s a pandemic and you turn the lights off and you watch The Elephant Man and something good happens in your head. I can recommend it.

My follow-up question on his favourite Hitchcock film at the moment, Kleber responded to in an e-mail to me. As it turns out, there is more than one.

KMF: My favourite Hitchcock has always been Rear Window, and over the last year rewatched The Birds, The Wrong Man, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Trouble with Harry, Topaz, Family Plot, Frenzy, Shadow Of A Doubt, Saboteur, North By Northwest, Rebecca, it’s been an endless feeling of joy since the 80s with these films, and I just keep buying them on all formats.

Sara Driver in conversation with Wendy Keys is on Friday, May 7, starting at 6:00pm.

Luzzu screens on Sunday, May 9 at 6:00pm inside the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. There will be a “special introduction” from filmmaker Alex Camilleri.

The 2021 feature committee comprises Florence Almozini (Co-Chair, FLC), La Frances Hui (Co-Chair, MoMA), Rajendra Roy (MoMA), Josh Siegel (MoMA), Dan Sullivan (FLC), and Tyler Wilson (FLC), and the shorts were programmed by Brittany Shaw (MoMA) and Madeline Whittle (FLC).

New Directors/New Films at 50: A Retrospective ran free virtually from April 16 through April 28.

The 50th anniversary edition of New Directors/New Films started on April 28 and runs through May 8 with the in-person screenings at Lincoln Center extended to May 13.

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