NY Film Fest 2022: 37.5% of Main Slate Films are Femme-Helmed – Jennifer Merin reports

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Film at Lincoln Center has announced the 32 films that comprise the Main Slate of the 60th New York Film Festival (NYFF), taking place September 30–October 16 at Lincoln Center and in venues across the city. This year’s Main Slate showcases films produced in 18 different countries, featuring new titles from renowned auteurs, exceptional work from returning NYFF directors as well as filmmakers who are making their NYFF debuts, This year’s roster includes films that have screened and received acclaim at festivals worldwide, including Cannes and Berlinale Festival prizewinners.

Selected by a committee chaired by Dennis Lim and Eugene Hernandez, Florence Almozini, K. Austin Collins, and Rachel Rosen, the 2022 program of 32 Main Slate films includes 11 films directed by women and one that was co-directed by a woman — equaling 37.5 percent. In comparison, New York Film Festival’s 2021 Main Slate roster of 32 titles included eight films directed by women, two films co-directed by women — or 31.25 percent.

The femme-helmed titles in this year’s Main Slate program represent a diverse selection of styles, genres and themes. Laura Poitras’ documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is featured as the festival’s centerpiece. The program includes Cannes winners Claire Denis’ Stars at Noon and Charlotte Wells’s debut feature Aftersun, as well as Carla Simón’s Berlinale Festival-winnning Alcarràs. Directors whose work has previously been screened at New York Film Festival include Mia Hansen-Løve, Joanna Hogg, Kelly Reichardt and Véréna Paravel. First appearances at New York Film Festival include Margaret Brown, Laura Citarella, Alice Diop and Marie Kreutzer.

Here, quoting NYFF’s descriptions, is a rundown of the films:

Aftersun – Directed by Charlotte Wells

    In one of the most assured and spellbinding feature debuts in years, Scottish director Charlotte Wells has fashioned a textured memory piece inspired by her relationship with her dad, taking place over the course of a brooding weekend at a coastal resort in Turkey. The charismatic Paul Mescal and naturalistic newcomer Francesca Corio fully inhabit Calum and Sophie, a divorced father and his daughter often mistaken for brother and sister, who share a close and loving bond that creates an entire world unto itself. Wells employs an unusual and gorgeous aesthetic that brings us into the interior space of this parent and child, even as she judiciously withholds details, an approach that finally grants the film a singular emotional wallop. Aftersun reimagines the coming-of-age narrative as a poignant, ultimately ungraspable chimera, informed by the present as much as the past. Winner of the French Touch Prize of the Jury at this year’s Cannes Festival. An A24 release.
Still from AFTERSUN

Alcarràs – Directed by Carla Simón

    Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale Festival, Carla Simón’s follow-up to her acclaimed childhood drama Summer 1993 is a ruminative, lived-in portrait of a rural family in present-day Catalonia whose way of life is rapidly changing. The Solé clan live in a small village, annually harvesting peaches for local business and export. However, their livelihood is put in jeopardy by the looming threat of the construction of solar panels, which would necessitate the destruction of their orchard. From this simple narrative, pitting agricultural tradition against the onrushing train of modern progress, Simón weaves a marvelously textured film that moves to the unpredictable rhythms and caprices of nature and family life. A MUBI release.
Still from ALCARRAS

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – Laura Poitras (Centerpiece)

    In her essential, urgent, and arrestingly structured new documentary, Academy Award®–winning filmmaker Laura Poitras (Citizenfour) weaves two narratives: the fabled life and career of era-defining artist Nan Goldin and the downfall of the Sackler family, the pharmaceutical dynasty greatly responsible for the opioid epidemic’s unfathomable death toll. Following her own personal struggle with opioid addiction, Goldin, who rose from the New York “No Wave” underground to become one of the great photographers of the late 20th century, put herself at the forefront of the battle against the Sacklers, both as an activist at art institutions around the world that had accepted millions from the family and as an advocate for the de-stigmatization of drug addiction. Illustrated with a rich trove of photographs by Goldin, who mesmerizingly narrates her own story, including her dysfunctional suburban upbringing, the loss of her teenage sister, and her community’s fight against AIDS in the eighties, Poitras’s film is an enthralling, empowering work that stirringly connects personal tragedy, political awareness, and artistic expression.
Still from ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED

Corsage – Directed by Marie Kreutzer

    In a perceptive, nuanced performance, Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread) quietly dominates the screen as Empress Elizabeth of Austria, who begins to see her life of royal privilege as a prison as she reaches her 40th birthday. Marie Kreutzer boldly imagines Elizabeth’s cloistered, late-19th-century world within the Austro-Hungarian Empire with both austere realism and fanciful anachronism, while staying true and intensely close to the woman’s private melancholy and political struggle amidst a crumbling, combative marriage and escalating scrutiny. Star and director have together created a remarkable vision of a strong-willed political figure whose emergence from a veiled, corseted existence stands for a Europe on the cusp of major, irrevocable transformation. An IFC Films release.
Still from CORSAGE

De Humani Corporis Fabrica Directed by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor

    In their thrilling new work of nonfiction exploration, Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, best known for such aesthetically and ethnographically revelatory films as Leviathan and Caniba, burrow deeper than ever, using microscopic cameras and specially designed recording devices to survey the wondrous landscape of the human body. More transfixing than clinical, the film, shot in hospitals in and around Paris, eschews the normal narrative parameters for medical documentation in favor of a rigorously detached, expressionistic look at our tactile yet essentially unknowable flesh and viscera. With its unshakable images of biopsies, cesarean delivery, endoscopic procedures, and the little-seen crevices inside all of us, De Humani Corporis Fabrica both demystifies and celebrates life and death. A Grasshopper Film and Gratitude Films release.
Still from DE HUMANI CORPORIS FABRICA

Descendant – Directed by Margaret Brown

    In 1860, decades after the U.S. banned the practice of kidnapping and importing humans for enslavement, yet five years before the 13th amendment emancipated the nation’s already enslaved people, a ship named the Clotilda docked in Mobile, Alabama. There, it unloaded more than one hundred African souls before it was ordered destroyed and sunk to eradicate evidence. Freed in 1865, yet unable to return to their homeland, the survivors founded Africatown—a testament to their strength which persists today despite the town’s governmental neglect and economic disparity. This long submerged history symbolizes a nation’s forgotten atrocities in this poignant and cathartic documentary from nonfiction veteran Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths). Reckoning with the legacy of this history and giving voice to the descendants of these enslaved people, Brown’s intricately drawn film tells an urgent tale of community revitalization, environmental action, and racial justice. A Netflix release.
Still from DESCENDENT

The Eternal Daughter – Directed by Joanna Hogg

    One gloomy night, a middle-aged filmmaker and her elderly mother arrive at a fog-enshrouded hotel in the English countryside. An ominously brusque clerk, an apparent lack of other guests, and disturbing sounds from the room above theirs bode a less-than-welcome arrival. Yet all is not what it seems on this increasingly emotional trip into the past for these two women, one of whom has definitely been here before. Joanna Hogg (The Souvenir), among today’s foremost filmmakers, uses this Victorian gothic scenario for an entirely surprising, impeccably crafted, and, finally, overwhelming excavation of a parent-child relationship and the impulse toward artistic creation. And Tilda Swinton, in a performance of rich, endless surprise, turns in one of the most remarkable acting feats in her astonishing career. An A24 release.
Still from THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER

One Fine Morning – Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve

    One Fine Morning. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
    Few filmmakers are as adept at exploring the contours of modern love and grief as Mia Hansen-Løve (Bergman Island), whose intensely poignant and deeply personal latest drama stars Léa Seydoux as Sandra, a professional translator and single mother at a crossroads. Her father (Pascal Greggory), rapidly deteriorating from a neurological illness, will soon require facility care, and her new lover (Melvil Poupaud) is a married dad whose unavailability only seems to draw her nearer to him, despite—or because of—the fact that she’s going through an overwhelming time in her life. Hansen-Løve, so finely observant of the small nuances of human interaction, creates, in harmonious concert with a magnificent Seydoux, a complicated portrait of a woman torn between romantic desire and familial tragedy that is a marvel of emotional and formal economy. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
Still from ONE FINE MORNING

Saint Omer – Directed by Alice Diop

    Rama (Kayije Kagame), a successful journalist and author living in Paris, has come to Saint Omer, a town in the north of France, to attend the trial of a young Senegalese woman, Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanga), who allegedly murdered her baby daughter. Although she admits to killing the child, she cannot or will not provide motivation, claiming it was a kind of sorcery out of her control. Rama’s plan to write about Laurence in a book inspired by the Medea myth increasingly unravels as she becomes overwhelmed by the case, and reckons with memories of her immigrant mother as well as her own impending motherhood. In her consummate fiction feature debut, Alice Diop (We) constructs an arresting yet highly sensitive, superbly acted film of constantly revealing layers. Saint Omer is at once a tense courtroom drama, a work of abstracted psychological portraiture, an inquiry into human agency, and a provocative examination of the limits of myth and cross-cultural knowledge.
STILL from SAINT OMER

Showing Up – Directed by Kelly Reichardt

    Continuing one of the richest collaborations in modern American cinema, director Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women) reunites with star Michelle Williams for this marvelously particularized portrait of a sculptor’s daily work and frustrations in an artists’ enclave in Portland. Lizzy (Williams) struggles to put the finishing touches on her latest pieces for a gallery show, all the while juggling admin work at the local art school; dealing with the neglect of her well-meaning landlord (a funny and nuanced Hong Chau), who also happens to be a rising-star conceptual artist; and tending to the emotional wellbeing of her increasingly fragmented family. Christopher Blauvelt’s patient camerawork, Reichardt’s precise cutting, and Williams’s physically transformative performance coalesce to create something remarkable in Showing Up, a delicately humorous drama of the experience of being a creative person that avoids all clichés that plague films about artists. An A24 release.
Still from SHOWING UP

Stars at Noon – Claire Denis

    A dissolute young American journalist (Margaret Qualley) and an English businessman (Joe Alwyn) with ties to the oil industry meet by chance while on different, mysterious assignments in modern-day Nicaragua. The two tumble into a whirlwind romance despite knowing little about each other’s true professional identities—all while abstract forces close in on them as they desperately try to book it out of a country that won’t seem to let them leave. Stars at Noon, based on the 1986 novel by Denis Johnson, represents a new mode for director Claire Denis, a contemporary thriller suffused with political intrigue and languid eroticism, moving entirely to the tactile rhythms of its actors, especially rising star Qualley, who gives a live-wire performance of fervid spontaneity and mercurial passion. Winner of the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. An A24 release.
Still from STARS AT NOON

Trenque Lauquen – Directed by Laura Citarella

    In her dazzling and enormously pleasurable new opus, Laura Citarella takes the viewer on a limitless, mercurial journey through stories nested within stories set in and around the Argentinean city of Trenque Lauquen (“Round Lake”) and centered on the strange disappearance of a local academic named Laura (Laura Paredes). Through initial inquiries by two colleagues—older boyfriend Rafael and a driver named Ezequiel with whom she had grown secretly close—we learn about her recent discoveries, including a new, unclassified species of flower and a series of old love letters hidden at the local library, which may help them track her down. Yet as flashbacks and anecdotes pile up, we—and the film’s intrepid investigators—begin to realize that this intricately structured tale is larger and stranger than we could have imagined. Citarella, a producer of the equally remarkable shape-shifting epic La Flor, has confidently crafted a series of interlocked romantic, biological, and ecological mysteries that create parallels between past lives and present dangers, invoke the rapture of obsessive pursuit, and salute the human need to find personal freedom and happiness. Trenque Lauquen is told in 12 chapters spread across two feature films.
Still from TRENQUE LAUQUEN

As part of 60th anniversary celebration, the 2022 New York Film Festival will offer festival screenings in all five boroughs of New York City in partnership with Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (Staten Island), BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) (Brooklyn), the Bronx Museum of the Arts (Bronx), Maysles Documentary Center (Harlem), and the Museum of the Moving Image (Queens). Each venue will present a selection of films throughout the festival; a complete list of films and showtimes will be announced later this month.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).