Remi's Recap: the 49th Edition of the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma

The 49th edition of the Festival du nouveau cinéma took place this year from Oct. 7-31. It was sad to see theatres close down again on Oct. 1 because these festivals work great on a big screen with an audience. However, there was always the plan in place to have the festival go on, even if it meant as a virtual film festival online.  Relying more on international films and a few classics, the Festival du nouveau cinéma allows cinephiles a chance to explore something that they won’t get from regular festivals. 

Siberia, a film from director Abel Ferrara, is a psychological meditative drama where Willem Dafoe stars as an innkeeper of a tavern in Siberia. He must come to terms with his own past through meditative moments shot through Ferrara’s lens, as he reconciles with his past and present. This film is a must-see, as Dafoe is one of the talented actors today taking on more independent film roles, challenging the stereotypical Hollywood roles that he is known for. 

This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection was recommended to me as a film not to miss by this year's programming director Zoé Protat when I interviewed her this year about the festival. The film deals with death and the burial ceremony in a village community of Lesotho, which is completely bordered by South Africa. An 80-year old widow who has lost everyone most close to her has to protect the village from resettlement due to reservoir construction. With a newfound will to live she ignites a movement to protect the land and the customs. Unlike conventional narrative structures, the film is a great exploration of sound design, which in turn gives the film its narrative. Part of this is the implementation of tribal instruments or the community coming together through song to provide the narrative dialogue.

From the late Jóhann Jóhannsson comes a posthumous directorial debut Last and First Men. Jóhannsson in the past has worked on the scores for films including most of Denis Villeneuve’s including Arrival and Sicario. The film is an art feature in black and white of shots of architecture monuments and landscapes of socialist-era Yugoslavia, alongside Jóhannsson’s score. It explores the concept of a not so distant future of humanity being extinct. However, there is also a hopeful message alongside a history of how humanity began through a contemplative voice over from acclaimed actress Tilda Swinton. The film provides a transcendental journey for viewers through lush landscapes and soundscapes, which are used in innovative ways in this art-science fiction film. We are ultimately reminded of the brilliance of the late Jóhannsson not only as a composer, but now as a director  as well as the great Swinton as a voice over actress. 

What I enjoyed about the festival this year was the fact that I did not know any of the films taking place. Normally the Festival du nouveau cninéma has a way of getting in some big award contenders, however with the awards and Oscars still in limbo it was great to discover some hidden gems in the international scene. This is the case with the Festival du nouveau cinéma, as it has always allowed me to discover new filmmakers and international films. Here’s hoping that things will be different next year when the festival celebrates a milestone 50th edition and that the theatre's venue will be there to greet the audience on such an occasion. I hope for the same experience that I had sitting in the very front row of a towering screen watching Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma back in 2018 alongside a full house at the Cinéma Impérial.

Remi and Danny host At the Movies which features everything new and noteworthy in the world of cinema. The show goes live every Tuesday at 8:00AM.