11 Movies You Need to Know at New Directors/New Films

‘The Great Buddha +’

THE GREAT BUDDHA+ official trailer (English subtitled) Video by 華文創MandarinVision

Using a moody, noirish monochrome palette (punctuated with garish swatches of color video) and mordant, monotone voice-over narration (interrupted by stretches of deadpan dialogue), Huang Hsin-yao composes a dark satire of corruption and class resentment in Taiwan. Two friends, Pickle and Belly Button, spend their nights in compulsive voyeurism, watching and listening to dashcam recordings of Pickle’s boss, a big shot named Kevin, as he drives around in his Mercedes looking for (and sometimes having) sex with a series of women. Pickle and Belly Button are envious, aroused and appalled by the amorality of the rich, and the viewer is at once dismayed by the cruelty of this society and seduced by Mr. Huang’s smooth and witty style. (A.O.S.)

‘The Guilty’


Jakob Cedergren in “The Guilty,” a Danish thriller.

Magnolia Pictures

The most commercial movie playing in the festival’s first week, this tight, showy thriller gives it a much welcome blast of genre filmmaking. Seated in an arid Danish call center and flanked by colleagues he barely speaks with, a cop named Asger (Jakob Cedergren) is having what is clearly another bad day among many. He’s tethered to a phone in a harshly lit room, fielding calls from a citizenry he scarcely tolerates. His bad attitude rapidly shifts when he takes a call from a frantic woman, who says she’s been kidnapped, setting off a classic race-against-the-clock rescue. The director Gustav Möller doesn’t dig deep, but he skims the surface with entertaining wit and finesse. (M.D.)

‘Hale County This Morning, This Evening’


A scene from “Hale County This Morning, This Evening.”

Sundance Institute

The closing-night film of the festival poses a quietly radical challenge to assumptions about race, class and the aesthetics of filmmaking. The director, RaMell Ross (also credited as writer, producer, editor, cinematographer and sound recorder), chronicles several years in the lives of two young African-American men and their families. Mr. Ross focuses on work, school, parenthood and other ordinary experiences, but his method is the opposite of prosaic. He glimpses arresting, at times almost hallucinatory beauty in the rural Alabama landscape, and finds nuances of emotion that grow in intensity over 75 heady minutes. The movie is framed by a bluntly political question — as the film’s website puts it, “How does one express the reality of individuals whose public image, lives and humanity originate in exploitation?” — that yields pure cinematic poetry. (A.O.S.)

‘The Nothing Factory’ and ‘Djon África’


Labor strife is at the center of “The Nothing Factory,” directed by Pedro Pinho.

Pedro Pinho

In recent years, Portugal has emerged as a laboratory for cinematic experimentation, yielding fascinating and ambitious hybrids of documentary and fiction that tackle the country’s colonial legacy, its cultural traditions, the state of its working class and much more. “The Nothing Factory,” an astonishing film by Pedro Pinho, extends this tradition. It’s an almost clinical study of working conditions and labor discontent, set at an elevator factory whose employees are in conflict with management. It’s also a musical. Mr. Pinho, shooting in 16-millimeter film, fuses nostalgia with a militant sense of novelty.

João Miller Guerra and Filipa Reis’s “Djon África,” which was written by Mr. Pinho, achieves a different kind of fusion. A road movie (involving a quest for a lost father) that passes through the thickets of Portugal’s imperialist past and present-day Cape Verde, it mixes longing with exuberance, and finds an anarchic sense of possibility in a world of pain and injustice. (A.O.S.)

‘Our House’


A scene from “Our House,” set on the coast of Japan.

Yui Kiyohara

The conceit suggests a horror movie. A house in a small town on Japan’s coast has two sets of occupants — a single mother and her adolescent daughter; a single woman and a stranger afflicted with amnesia — who are unaware of each other’s existence. Are they ghosts? Inhabitants of different dimensions? It’s never made clear, and while the film, the feature debut of Yui Kiyohara, is haunting, it’s more disquieting than terrifying. Its texture is delicately emotional and boldly, eccentrically philosophical. How do we recognize the reality of other people? How can we be sure that we ourselves are real? (A.O.S.)

‘Scary Mother’

Scary Mother Trailer | SGIFF 2017 Video by Singapore International Film Festival

Less scary than driven and dyspeptically funny, the title character of this mordant comedy is on a mission. It takes a while to figure out what that is, though clues are scribbled in pen across Manana’s arm and etched into her feverish face. She’s writing a novel, a labor of (perhaps) love that her editor, a humble stationery store owner, believes is a masterpiece. Whether both writer and editor are fantasists or not, the novel has become their shared passion and her life’s blood. It sustains Manana even as her loving if unsupportive husband and children conspire against her literary ambitions (especially after they discover her subject). With her terrific star, Nato Murvanidze, the Georgian director Ana Urushadze opens up one woman’s life with dark laughter, great feeling and truth. (M.D.)

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