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Claus Mueller


Claus Mueller is a Film Festival Ambassador to filmfestivals.com

He is based in New York where he covers the festival scene.


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New York: New Directors New Films 2019

The Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center held the 48th edition of New Directors New Films from March 27 – April 7. The program included 35 feature and short films from 29 countries with numerous premiers and debuts by first time feature film directors. It is significant that New Directors New Films does not build its program from submissions. The six members of the MoMA feature film committee and the Film Society select  films from the large number of film festivals they attend, with several hundred possibilities scrutinized  carefully. This contrasts with the rapidly growing submissions for Sundance and Tribeca, including short films amounting to more than 13 and 9 thousand productions respectively this year.  MoMA and the Film Society do not have to operate under the constraint of submission fees that are an important part of the income covering the costs of most other festivals.  New Directors New Films is organized by MoMA and the Film Society with major contributions from various foundations as well as support from the National Endowment for the Arts and New York State agencies.         

 

PRESENT.PERFECT, Zhe Shegze, USA/Hong Kong, 2019,  US Premiere

Live-streaming attracts an audience of 422 million viewers in China where interactions between virtual audiences and streamers who share most aspects of their everyday lives are commonplace. Zhe’s production focuses on marginalized groups including family portraits, street performers, coping strategies of facially disfigured and handicapped individuals, a single mother’s survival plans, and the solicitation of gifts from audiences.  The filmmaker assembled his production from 800 hours of live-streaming footage to provide a portrait of China. But PRESENT. PERFECT is restricted by its selective emphasis on outsiders and their mode of interaction with the virtual medium. CHINESE PORTRAIT by Wang Xiaoshuai provides a much better example of non-fiction film making. The film has no narration and conveys the diversity of the Chinese people. Wang’s lens captures the Chinese people in their everyday life through an assemblage of hundreds of brief segments that Wang recorded over the last 10 years.

CLEMENCY, Chinonye Chukwu, USA, 2019, New York Premiere

This feature is a celebration of traditional film. The outstanding performance of Alfre Woodard as Bernadine, a prison warden in charge of death row, superb story telling, and a carefully balanced articulation of moral issues tied to capital punishment converge in this film.  CLEMENCY makes no compromises in presenting the psychic toll on Bernadine as she presides over the execution of prisoners. The film received the Jury Prize of the 2019 Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition.

MONOS, Alejandro Landes, Columbia/Argentine/Netherlands /Germany/ Sweden/ Uruguay, 2018, New York Premiere

MONOS was chosen from Sundance, having received a special Jury award. It offered a harrowing version of child soldiers engaged in revolutionary warfare in the jungles of a Latin American country, battling a rarely seen governmental military enemy. Superbly filmed by Jasper Wolf in 30 locations from high plateau mountains to rapid rivers, it relies on natural light and employs divergent visual perspectives.  MONOS is a tour de force production with an original score. The narration emerges from the interaction between the adolescent members of the guerrilla group, conflicts prompting violence against outsiders and each other, attempts to escape, and the struggles of growing up immured in brutal actions without moral boundaries.  In the jungle’s wilderness they seem to enact a story regressing into savagery.

 

MIDNIGHT FAMILY, Luke Lorentzen, Mexico/USA, 2019 NY Premiere

Produced over a period of three years, this extraordinary documentary with strong ethnographic overtones was first presented at Sundance. The film portrays the everyday life and work of a family running a private ambulance service in Mexico City. There are but a few dozen public ambulances operating. Shot with two cameras, frequently in the crammed space of an ambulance, the two-person film crew captured without commentary or judgment the ordeal of the high speed struggles to transport wounded, and often dying, victims to the next hospital. We observe attempts to collect money from the hospitals and the victim’s families. In some cases, the ambulance workers fail to get paid, and we are reminded that it is the only income for their family has. Their work is not predictable, needing to bribe the police and follow ever changing regulations for private ambulances. The filmmakers were able to gain the trust of the family driving the ambulance and could film sensitive footage without violating ethical norms.

 

Claus Mueller  filmexchange@gmail.com

 

 

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