No New York festival introduces excellent filmmakers more consistently than MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s “New Directors/New Films.” This year’s strong contenders, running March 24 to April 4, include two of the most controversial sexual provocations of the past year, Dogtooth and Amer—plus the five auspicious debuts below.
The tragedy of Guantánamo is confirmed in this documentary, but that’s just the backdrop for the more riveting portrait of Abu Jandal, a former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden’s who now drives a cab in Yemen. While his brother-in-law, a lower-level associate, rots in Guantánamo, Jandal, a mediagenic charmer, chats amiably about Al Qaeda on Arabic TV—and to the impressionable young men he tutors at home.
Violent as the Coens, and as vérité as Ken Loach, Wheatley takes British kitchen-sink realism to gruesomely comic extremes. The lived-in naturalism begins with the cast: Co-screenwriter Robin Hill plays Karl, a petty criminal who lives at home with his psychotic parents in Brighton; his real-life dad stars as Karl’s father, a murderous gangster; his pregnant girlfriend is played by his actual wife. To reveal more would spoil Wheatley’s grisly surprise.
The Man Next Door
MARIANO COHN and GASTON DUPRAT
Shot near Buenos Aires in the landmark Le Corbusier–designed Curuchet House, this satire of the Design Within Reach set follows snobby modernist Leonardo, who is driven batty when his lower-class neighbor punches a window through the wall next door. Their absurdly escalating battle illustrates how Le Corbusier’s once-radical urban idealism has been betrayed by his ever-so-tasteful acolytes.
The Red Chapel
Other agitprop filmmakers have pranked American executives (Michael Moore) and rodeo crowds (Borat), but those are small potatoes compared to Brügger’s gamble: He heads deep into North Korea with two Danish comedians to reveal and tweak the cultural machinery of Kim Jong-il’s régime. Brügger is audacious, but the real protagonist is the Danish troupe’s Jacob, a self-described “spastic” traveling in a country where the impaired are hidden from sight.
A Kim Novak dead ringer, Candy Darling, one of the Factory’s most storied girls (memorialized in Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”), was first a Long Island boy. The superstar’s collaborations with Andy Warhol and Tennessee Williams are included, but the documentary manages to transcend mere nostalgia thanks to Jeremiah Newton, a devoted friend who preserved Darling’s effects, including a detailed and heartbreaking journal.