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Breakthroughs

Four fresh faces at MoMA’s New Directors/New Films.

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La Zona
An exclusive gated—well, more like walled—community in Mexico City finds itself rocked by a ghastly crime when three kids from a slum infiltrate it, turning this manicured bourgeois enclave into a nightmare of simmering resentment, fear, and betrayal. Some may sniff at director Rodrigo Plá’s deliberately exaggerated style, but it makes no pretensions to authenticity. Indeed, it’s just audacious enough to work—like Crash reimagined by Rod Serling. –B.E.


Moving Midway
Godfrey Cheshire (inexplicably let go from the New York Press) is one of the country’s smartest film critics, and here he brilliantly fuses criticism and storytelling. The documentary centers on his first cousin’s antebellum slave plantation and the decision to transport it—intact!—to a location farther from the encroaching malls of the Raleigh, North Carolina, suburbs. Cheshire chronicles both the actual move (absurdly complicated) and the history of his slave-owning family. If he weren’t a critic averse to whorish blurbing, I’d write, “Moving Midway Is Supremely Moving!” –D.E.


Sleep Dealer
In a dystopian near-future where things don’t look so different for the poor, the immigration problem has been solved by science. “Cyber-braceros” now log into high-tech Mexican sweatshops, controlling robot workers across the border so that American firms may extract all that labor without complications. It’s a fantastic premise—so what if New York writer-director Alex Rivera never quite fleshes it out? His lo-fi sci-fi debut is jam-packed with sly satirical gestures that more than compensate for its more-traditional shortcomings. –L.H.


XXY
Lucía Puenzo’s moody drama about a 15-year-old hermaph-rodite coming to terms with sexual desire and alienation offers an ideal opportunity for tacky empowerment. Luckily, the Argentine writer-director downplays the clinical angle and avoids easy melodramatic pitfalls. She focuses instead on the story’s generational aspects—particularly the ways in which an angsty teen inevitably collides with even the most well-meaning and open-minded parents. Oh, and did we mention that this film flaunts one of the freakiest sex scenes we’ve seen in a while? –B.E.


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