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BEST FILM NOT PLAYING AT A THEATER NEAR YOU @MOMA THIS WEEKEND

by
in Filmmaking
on Nov 20, 2009

Contributing Editor Brandon Harris has posted on his blog a new preview of Filmmaker and MoMA’s annual “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You” program, which unspools at the museum this week. Screening will be the five films that will be competing for the Gotham Award we sponsor on December 1. (For schedule and film descriptions, visit MoMA’s site.)

Brandon writes that this year’s program is the strongest we’ve put together in the six years of doing this series, and I agree. This isn’t to say that previous years haven’t been strong, but in the past we’ve always been able to indulge ourselves with some element of whimsicality in the selection process, including films that would truly be offbeat pictures in a theatrical context. This year, however, we have five films that all play great on the big screen and all herald important new talents. That these films don’t have broader distribution is shocking.

Ry Russo-Young’s You Won’t Miss Me, starring Stella Schnabel, is a hypnotic film collage taking us into the inner life of a fascinating yet tough-to-like downtown actress. Russo-Young made the film in bits and pieces over a period of months, and it contains a lovely, unforced mixture of emotions, from happiness to despair, anxiety to abandon. Read Alicia Van Couvering’s interview with the director here.

October Country is our lone doc. (One other strong doc was in contention up until the end but withdrew when it finalized distribution plans.) Like Russo-Young, filmmakers Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher (chosen this year for our “25 New Faces”) have made a film that seems to burrow under the psychic skin of its characters. A portrait of Mosher’s own splintered upstate New York family, October Country impresses with the mysterious visual language it creates to connect its lost fathers, sons, mothers and daughters.

First-time filmmaker Damien Chazelle’s Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench is an unexpected charmer, a film that will delight fans of street-level indie filmmaking as well as those who love music and movies about music. When I wrote about it for the blog, I referenced Once, and despite the film’s more stringent formal ambitions, I don’t think I’m that far off. Read the rest of what I wrote here.

San Francisco-based d.p. Frazier Bradshaw makes his feature debut with Everything Strange and New, and this was the film that was a discovery for many of us on the panel. Bradshaw’s is an experimental portrait of a stultifying marriage seen through the eyes of its construction worker husband, who struggles to make ends meet while wondering what he’s lost by accepting more commitment in his life. It’s an American indie that seems especially attuned to the economic anxieties rippling through the nation right now.

Finally, Tariq Tapa’s Zero Bridge is an astonishing debut, made by the director (another “25 New Face”) out of his backpack (literally) in the Indian-occupied city of Srinagar, Kashmir. The neorealist tale tells the story of a teenage pickpocket, Dilawar, who plans to escape from both Kashmir and his strict uncle but whose plans are complicated when he forms a bond with a woman whose passport he has stolen. The film tells a human story while remaining attuned to the geo-political realities of the region, and it demonstrates the global ambitions of much current American independent film.

Members of our editorial staff are hosting the Q and A’s (I’ll be there Saturday afternoon and evening) so please stop by, see one or more of these movies, and then say hello.

Watch this preview of the series.

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