From January 6-16, the Museum of the Moving Image will present its First Look Festival, which this year features films from over twenty countries, most of which are NY premieres. Now in its sixth year, the festival is a great showcase for cinema that pushes the medium forward; best seen in how several of the titles defy categorization or genre. While we could make a case for why each and everyone of the films in the series should be watched, here are the five we deemed essential.
A husband, and father of two young boys, Erwin (Erwin Van Cotthem) is his own worst enemy. Overweight, impatient and stubborn to no end, his only serenity is found in the computer games he loses hours of sleep over. Avoiding the doctor like the plague, when his wife (Kate Ashley) pressures him to get checked out he opts to leave her instead. Canadian director Kazik Radwanski’s film can be a frustrating experience as you watch a man destroy everything that is good in his life, but it’s that challenging nature that makes it all the more engaging. Erwin is extremely flawed yet because Radwanski’s depiction of a family is so fully realized you can’t help but want it all to work out. - Joseph Hernandez
Ryota is failing to pay child support to his ex-wife and struggling to give back to his lonely mother all the while swindling money from clients as a half-rate private detective and fabricating claims of a great new novel he has in progress. After the Storm folds the many pressures of Ryota’s life together with the utmost candor, patience, and humor. It is a film concerned with the concessions that must be made between family and fortune, between what we really want and who we really are. - Christopher Rivera
At first we’re not sure what we’re looking at, then as the amorphous object bobs up and down in the dark blue waters, we confirm our fear was true: we are watching a boat full of refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean. Philip Scheffner’s harrowing documentary, explores the refugee crisis by focusing on this three-plus minute video and turning it into a 90 minute loop, which he overlaps with people talking about the crisis. But this isn’t a PSA-style film, the people we hear from have contrasting approaches, and some disagree with what the problems are. The effect of the film is what haunts, as we eventually feel frustrated and anxious wondering if these poor souls will ever reach their destination. The psychological/moral implications that come from our discomfort could elicit an entire book of their own. - Jose Solis
Reeling from a traumatic experience that cost the life of a loved one, an unseen narrator (Amy E. Watson) finds herself obsessing over horror films in search of answers. Using clips from films current and dating back to the silent era, Fear Itself poses the questions: Why do we enjoy being scared? How does a horror film work? What does our love of them say about us psychologically? Taking a more scholarly approach, director Charlie Lyne’s script cleverly uses the movie clips to serve as supporting imagery, complementing the dialogue with added layers of intrigue. This visual work of film analysis works simultaneously as an ode to a beloved genre while also wondering out loud if there is a far more terrifying reason for its existence. - Joseph Hernandez
Can you celebrate someone’s past glory while showing their grotesque present? That seems to be the question at the center of Andreas Horvath’s documentary, which has the director follow Luchino Visconti’s former muse - one of the most beautiful men that ever was - as he goes on some trips in Europe, having turned from an adonis into a gorgon. But the film isn’t necessarily fixated on the physical aspects, instead it shows how the love for past glory often turns Berger into a belligerent fool who demands oral sex and begs the director to expose himself to him. As the filmmaker and his subject engage in battle for alpha maledom, we are exposed to a part of celebrity we rarely see, and such are its horrors and decadence, that we are left wondering if we might not in fact have just been in the presence of Berger’s best performance yet. - Jose Solis
For more information on First Look 2017 visit their official website.