Review: ‘Parallel Mothers,’ starring Penélope Cruz, Milena Smit, Israel Elejalde, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Rossy de Palma and Julieta Serrano

January 2, 2022

by Carla Hay

Milena Smit, Penélope Cruz and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón in “Parallel Mothers” (Photo by Iglesias Más/El Deseo/Sony Pictures Classics)

“Parallel Mothers”

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Madrid, Spain, from 2016 to 2019, the dramatic film “Parallel Mothers” features an all-Hispanic cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two single mothers (one middle-aged and one teenage) and the teenager’s mother find their lives intertwined and affected by secrets and lies.

Culture Audience: “Parallel Mothers” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, star Penélope Cruz and well-acted movies that explore the highs and lows of family histories.

Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit in “Parallel Mothers” (Photo by Iglesias Más/El Deseo/Sony Pictures Classics)

“Parallel Mothers” is more than a drama about the relationship between two single mothers. On a much broader level, it’s about how secrets can be damaging to families. Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, “Parallel Mothers” is one of his most emotionally moving and effective movies in his illustrious filmography. “Parallel Mothers” had its world premiere at the 2021 Venice International Film Festival, where “Parallel Mothers” star Penélope Cruz won the Volpi Prize for Best Actress. The movie’s North American premiere was at the 2021 New York Film Festival.

“Parallel Mothers” (which takes place from 2016 to 2019) begins and ends with a very personal family quest by a Madrid-based photographer named Maria Janis Martinez Moreno, also known as Janis (played by Cruz), who is trying to find the anonymous mass grave where her great-grandfather was buried, after he was murdered in the Spanish Civil War. Janis, who is 39 when this story begins, comes up against a lot bureaucratic stonewalling from government officials who seem to want to erase this shameful part of Spanish history where thousands of murdered people were buried in unmarked graves without notifying the dead people’s family members. It’s important for Janis and her family to give her great-grandfather’s body a proper burial, according to their Catholic traditions.

The only details that Janis knows about the grave are from what her grandmother told her: It’s an unmarked grave, where 10 men were buried. Janis’ grandmother gave her the names of the other men who are said to be buried in the same grave. Janis’ great-grandfather was not in the military during the Spanis Civil War, which lasted from 1936 to 1939. He was a teacher and a photographer, who went missing during the war. The family got the news that he was murdered, but his body was never found.

During her search for this grave, Janis ends up doing a studio photo session with a forensic entomologist named Arturo (played Israel Elejalde), who works for the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory. It’s a group that decides its projects years in advance, and it has the authority to decide which unmarked graves can be excavated. Janis asks Arturo what he can do to help her start the process to excavate a grave that she’s fairly certain is where her great-grandfather is buried. Arturo says he can talk to his management supervisors about this issue.

There’s some sexual attraction between Janis and Arturo. Not long after this photo session, they begin having an affair. Although Janis is completely single, Arturo is not. He’s up front in telling Janis that he’s married, but he and his wife are having marital problems. The movie later has some back-and-forth drama over whether or not Arturo and his wife (who is never seen in the film) will break up or not.

Soon after Janis and Arturo begin their affair, Janis unexpectedly gets pregnant. Janis is at an age when she thought she would never have children, so she’s elated by this unplanned pregnancy. Arturo is not. In fact, he questions if he’s the father of the child and asks Janis to consider having an abortion.

Janis is so insulted that she breaks up with Arturo and tells him she wants to raise the child without any financial help from him. Janis also tells Arturo that she won’t have a paternity test done for the child, and that she doesn’t Arturo in the child’s life. Arturo accepts this decision, but he seems hurt that Janis wants to completely cut him out of her life. Without giving away too much information, it’s enough to say that Janis and Arturo aren’t completely out of each other’s lives after she gives birth to their child.

When it comes time for Janis to give birth, she checks into a maternity ward at a local hospital. Janis knows that her baby will be a girl and already has decided that her daughter’s name will be Cecilia. Janis’ roommate is another single, expectant mother who’s about to give birth to her first child that was the result of an unplanned pregnancy.

Janis is sharing a room with Ana Manso (played by Milena Smit), who’s about 16 or 17 years old. Unlike Janis, Ana is not excited to be a mother. Ana is terrified and reluctant about parenthood. Ana doesn’t feel that she’s ready for this big change in her life. Ana also tells Janis that she regrets getting pregnant, while Janis tries to get Ana to think about the positive benefits of being a parent.

Janis has her somewhat-comical best friend Elena (played by Rossy de Palma) as a support system during this pregnancy. Ana is under the care of her divorced and domineering mother Teresa (played by Aitana Sánchez-Gijón), who greatly disapproves that Ana is going to be an unwed, teenage mother. Teresa thinks that Ana is headed down the wrong path in life, and she frequently berates Ana about it.

Teresa is a busy actress who often has to travel for her job. She does a lot of work on plays that tour. It’s not stated what Teresa’s ex-husband Alex (Ana’s father) does for a living, but he makes enough money to give financial support to Ana and Teresa. During Ana’s stay in the hospital, Ana says to Teresa that Teresa should tell Alex that he needs to increase his child-support payments, now that Ana is about to become a mother who is still underage.

Despite their very different attitudes about their impending motherhoods, Ana and Janis become fast friends in the maternity ward. Their bond becomes stronger when they both end up giving birth to daughters on the same day. Ana names her daughter Anita. Ana is overwhelmed by being a new mother, but she loves Anita and wants to do what’s best for her. Janis is also a doting mother to Cecilia.

The friendship between Ana and Janis continues after they both leave the hospital. When Ana’s mother Teresa temporarily goes away because of a job in a play, she thinks it’s a good idea for Ana to stay with Janis, who has plenty of room in her home. Janis also has a comfortable living situation because she has a nanny and a housekeeper to help.

Janis and Ana become closer and eventually confide some secrets to each other. Ana, who is a self-admitted “wild child,” tells Janis how she really got pregnant. Janis tells Ana that Janis’ seemingly upstanding family has some shady history: Janis’ father was a Colombian drug dealer. As a sign that Ana wants to start a new life and possibly appear to be more mature, Ana cuts her hair short and dyes it gray.

Ana and Janis initially bond over being two mothers of two daughters who share the same birthday. Their friendship turns into a more intimate relationship when Janis and Ana become lovers while they live together. They do not put a label on their sexuality. Janis has told Ana about Arturo from the beginning. It should come as no surprise when Arturo seems to want to come back into Janis’ life, Ana gets very jealous.

But the real test of the relationship between Ana and Janis is when Janis finds out a shocking secret that she knows could very likely ruin her relationship with Ana if Janis tells Ana. Much of the suspense in “Parallel Mothers” is about whether or not Janis will tell anyone this secret. And if she does, what will happen?

During all of this drama, Janis still has not lost sight of looking for her great-grandfather’s grave. Janis learns more about her family history from her Aunt Brígida (played by Julieta Serrano), who keeps a lot of the family’s ancestral mementos and records. One of the most emotionally moving aspects of “Parallel Mothers” is showing how the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath resulted in thousands of missing people who were presumed murdered but whose families never got proper closure over these disappearances. These disappearances and the untold number of unmarked graves have left an immeasurably sad impact on families and on Spain as a country.

“Parallel Mothers” is not a political film that points fingers at the right-wing Nationalists who won the war, or at Francisco Franco’s regime that ruled Spain until Franco’s death in 1975. Instead, the movie brilliantly weaves the stories of Janis, Ana and Teresa together as examples of what can happen when dishonesty, love and pride have long-term effects on relationships. And what Almodóvar does so well, in very nuanced ways, is show that the “Parallel Mothers” is also about another mother—a mother country called Spain and the effects of dishonesty, love and pride on this mother.

All of the cast members do commendable jobs in their roles, but Cruz is a clear standout because of how authentically she expresses the range of emotions that her Janis character goes through in this story. Simply put: Cruz gives one of her best performances in “Parallel Mothers,” which has a knockout ending that will stay with viewers long after seeing the movie. Considering the movie’s subject matter and Janis’ secret, “Parallel Mothers” could have easily devolved into into a mawkish soap opera. But under Almodóvar’s artistic and thoughtful guidance, “Parallel Mothers” makes an impactful statement about trying to heal from emotional scars, whether they are from personal battles or national wars.

Sony Pictures Classics released “Parallel Mothers” in select U.S. cinemas on December 24, 2021.

2019 New York Film Festival: special events, shorts, talks announced

August 23, 2019

Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker” (Photo by Nikos Tavernise)

Film at Lincoln Center announces the complete lineup for the Special Events, Shorts, and Talks sections for the 57th New York Film Festival (September 27 – October 13).

Special Events will feature Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club Encore, an extended version of his portrait of the eponymous Harlem nightclub where legendary black musicians like Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, and Duke Ellington performed for an exclusively white clientele. Coppola recovered lost negatives to restore sound, image, and the film’s intended length, and will appear in person for a Q&A.

Joker, the highly anticipated origin story of Batman’s arch enemy, starring a brilliant Joaquin Phoenix as the nefarious villain, will screen in a special sneak preview. Phoenix will join audiences for an extended Q&A along with director Todd Phillips and the creative team behind this stunning new vision of Gotham.

Roee Messinger’s American Trial: The Eric Garner Story envisions the fictional but unscripted trial of recently fired officer Daniel Pantaleo for one of the nation’s most disturbing recent tragedies: Eric Garner’s 2014 murder by police chokehold in Staten Island, which galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement. The film features the testimony of real-life witnesses and friends of Garner, and the participation of two legal teams. American Trial will make its World Premiere at NYFF with a free screening and extended panel, featuring the director and a number of the film’s participants.

Special Events also includes a Screenwriting Master Class with Olivier Assayas, a fixture of the New York Film Festival, who will discuss the process of adapting real events into creative fictions, such as his newest film, Wasp Network, playing in this year’s Main Slate.

This year’s four Shorts programs feature a mix of narrative and documentary films from established and emerging artists, with 9 world premieres, including all titles in the annual New York Stories program and Theo Anthony’s Subject to Review (Program 2). Highlights include new work from NYFF alumni Yorgos Lanthimos, Gabriel Abrantes, Gaston Solnicki, Qiu Yang, Martin Rejtman, Pia Borg, Joe Stankus, Adinah Dancyger, Jay Giampietro, Ricky D’Ambrose, and Joanna Arnow.

NYFF Talks return with On Cinema, wherein festival director Kent Jones sits down with world-renowned filmmakers for an in-depth discussion about films that have influenced and inspired them, illustrated with film clips. This year Film at Lincoln Center presents two such talks: with Martin Scorsese, director of Opening selection The Irishman, and Pedro Almodóvar, a festival veteran and director of Main Slate selection Pain and Glory. Directors Dialogues are special Q&As with filmmakers from NYFF57, discussing the ideas and the craft behind their buzzed-about newest works. This year’s participants are Bong Joon-ho, the Palme d’Or–winning director of Parasite, and Mati Diop, who makes her NYFF debut with Atlantics.

Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones, also includes Dennis Lim, FLC Director of Programming, and Florence Almozini, FLC Associate Director of Programming. Shorts are programmed by Tyler Wilson and Madeline Whittle.

HBO is the presenting sponsor of NYFF Talks, which bring wide-ranging conversations with directors featured in NYFF57 to the public and include Directors Dialogues and On Cinema. HBO also sponsors NYFF Live, which will be announced in September.

As part of their commitment to celebrating filmmaking talent, Warby Parker is proud to return this year as the presenting partner of the Screenwriting Master Class.

The NYFF Shorts section is presented by Netflix.

As previously announced, the NYFF57 Opening selection is Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is the Centerpiece, and Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn will close the festival. The complete lineup for the Main Slate, Projections, Convergence, and Spotlight on Documentary can be found here.

Tickets for Special Events and the On Cinema Talks are $30 for General Public and $25 for Members & Students. Some exceptions may apply for select programs, including Joker and the Screenwriting Master Class. Tickets for Shorts and the Directors Dialogues are $17 for General Public and $12 for Members & Students. Visit here for more information.

Tickets for the 57th New York Film Festival will go on sale to the general public on September 8. Festival and VIP passes are on sale through today, August 23rd and offer one of the earliest opportunities to purchase tickets and secure seats at some of the festival’s biggest events, including Opening and Closing Night.

SPECIAL EVENTS DESCRIPTIONS

American Trial: The Eric Garner Story
Dir. Roee Messinger, USA, 100m
World Premiere

The idea is powerfully simple: engage the services of two actual legal teams to create a rigorous, legally based fictional—yet unscripted—trial that never happened for one of the nation’s most disturbing recent tragedies. The accused is Officer Daniel Pantaleo (only recently fired by New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill), charged in the July 17, 2014 death of Eric Garner with reckless manslaughter and strangulation in the first degree. The judge is played by a seasoned defense lawyer, while the officer is played by the only actor in the cast (Anthony Altieri). Eyewitnesses, bystanders, friends, and his widow, Esaw Snipes, all come to testify; meanwhile, credible expert witnesses who would have likely been called to testify in a real trial provide their testimonies for both the prosecution and the defense to create fair judicial proceedings. Roee Messinger’s film goes deep into the case, placing the audience in the position of the jury. American Trial is a one-of-a-kind film, and this special screening will be free to the public.

The Cotton Club Encore
Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, U.S., 1984, 139m

It’s now clear that Francis Ford Coppola’s eighties constituted his most fruitfully experimental period of filmmaking, when he used the clout from such behemoth masterpieces of the previous decade as the Godfather films and Apocalypse Now to try his hand at films of various genres and budget levels. At the time, The Cotton Club, Coppola’s stylish throwback to those 1930s Hollywood standbys the gangster film and the musical, was considered a costly disappointment, altered seemingly irrevocably due to behind-the-scenes conflicts with producers and financiers. Yet this sophisticated, witty, wildly ambitious movie, starring Gregory Hines and Richard Gere, about the titular Harlem nightclub, where legendary black musicians like Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, and Duke Ellington performed for an exclusively white clientele, was always something special, a rousing American entertainment that was both an evocation of the work of such directors as Raoul Walsh and William Wellman and a loving recreation of the period itself. The brilliance of Coppola’s vision is more apparent than ever in this “reawakened” version, The Cotton Club Encore, for which the director recovered lost negatives to bring the film back to its original length and luster, with restored sound and image.

Joker
Dir. Todd Phillips, USA, 122m

The Joker began life on April 25, 1940 as the anarchic enemy of DC Comics’ Batman, and his appearance was possibly inspired by Conrad Veidt’s permanently, demonically smiling face from the 1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs. The Joker has gone through many transformations and iterations, but his origin story has never been as vividly or shockingly imagined and realized as it is here, in one of the most anticipated films of the year. Join us for a special screening and discussion with the creative team behind this stunning, truly disturbing vision, led by director Todd Phillips and his brilliant star, Joaquin Phoenix. A Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and BRON Creative release.

Screenwriting Master Class with Olivier Assayas

Presented by Warby Parker
The amazing and eclectic career of French filmmaker Olivier Assayas has encompassed autobiography (Cold Water, Summer Hours, Something in the Air), contemporary meta-fiction (Irma Vep, demonlover, Clouds of Sils Maria), literary adaptation (Les destinées sentimentales), and in the case of the epic Carlos and his latest film in this year’s festival, the exhilarating Wasp Network, about a ring of Cuban refugees functioning as spies for the Castro government while living in Miami in the early nineties, intimate narratives based on true stories. In this special discussion, Assayas will talk about the process of turning real events into creative fictions. Starring Penélope Cruz and Édgar Ramirez, Wasp Network is based on Fernando Morais’s meticulously researched 2015 book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War.

SHORT FILM DESCRIPTIONS

Program 1: International (TRT: 89m)
A mixture of narrative and documentary, this program showcases bold, new films by emerging and established filmmakers working in international cinema today.
Programmed by Tyler Wilson.

Party Day / Dia de Festa
Sofia Bost, Portugal, 2019, 17m
Portuguese with English subtitles
North American Premiere
A cash-strapped single mother is pulled into an unresolved family conflict as she struggles to host her daughter’s seventh birthday party. Sofia Bost’s 16mm-shot drama, filled with illuminating performances, renders a complicated depiction of motherhood and the inconsolable grievances inherited by each generation.

Blessed Land / Một Khu Đất Tốt
Phạm Ngọc Lân, Vietnam, 2019, 19m
Vietnamese with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Searching for her deceased husband’s grave, a mother wanders with her son through a cemetery that has been partially remade into a golf course. Phạm Ngọc Lân’s intricately staged single-location film merges two disparate time periods, creating unnerving harmony between sociopolitical conspiracy and the natural erosion of memory, spiritual calm and modern decadence.

Circumplector
Gastón Solnicki, Argentina/France, 2019, 3m
U.S. Premiere
Gastón Solnicki’s miniature of Notre-Dame—filmed days before the fire—impressionistically links various media the cathedral evokes, including still-life painting and Baroque music, to present-day footage of work and performance.

San Vittore
Yuri Ancarani, Italy, 2019, 11m
Observing security guards as they search and escort children through Milan’s oldest prison, San Vittore depicts the lingering effects of the institution on its visitors. Visual artist Yuri Ancarani’s short documentary remains firmly immersed in a child’s-eye point of view, evoking the young subjects’ increasing understanding of the institution’s purpose with quiet, disturbing tension.

She Runs / Nan Fang Shao Nv
Qiu Yang, China/France, 2019, 19m
Chinese with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Set in Changzhou, a city in China’s southern Jiangsu province, She Runs follows a young student after she tries to quit her school’s aerobic dance team. Eschewing close-ups for long shots—around building corners, or from entirely different rooms—Qiu Yang’s Cannes-winning short follows its protagonist’s mounting desperation, implicating the underlying foundation of Changzhou as much as people inhabiting it.

Shakti
Martin Rejtman, Argentina/Chile, 2019, 20m
Spanish with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Not long after his grandmother dies, a twenty-something man in Buenos Aires breaks up with his girlfriend and begins obsessing over her unexpected reaction—but then he meets someone else. The stylistic exactness, narrative shrewdness, and droll pacing emblematic of Martin Rejtman’s cinematic sensibility are perfectly at home in this short comedy of peculiar minutiae and casual digressions.

Program 2: Documentary (TRT: 68m)
This documentary program connects the imperfections of the human experience to the influence of technology and mass media by pairing Pia Borg’s chilling account of the Satanic Ritual Abuse Panic of the 1980s with Theo Anthony’s wry, imaginative essay film about the instant replay system of professional tennis.
Programmed by Tyler Wilson.

Demonic
Pia Borg, Australia, 2019, 30m
North American Premiere
The real and the imagined fold together in Pia Borg’s horror-documentary about the Satanic Ritual Abuse Panic of the 1980s, a mass hysteria during which people around the world “recovered” memories of debauchery and human sacrifices related to satanic cults. Using a cunning combination of archival media coverage, audio footage, and historical recreation by way of computer animation and 16mm, Demonic reframes our current moment of misinformation and distrust, revealing the forces at play between psychiatry, media, and false memory.

Subject to Review
Theo Anthony, USA, 2019, 38m
World Premiere
The latest from Theo Anthony (Rat Film) charts the rise and development of the instant replay system Hawk-Eye in professional tennis, cleverly relating innovative technology and the imperfections of the human experience to the history of cinema, sports entertainment, and humanity’s desire to objectively interpret the world. Featuring music by composer Dan Deacon, Subject to Review is another odd, imaginative, and accessible documentary essay from the Baltimore-based filmmaker.

Program 3: Narrative (TRT: 96m)
From absurdist thrillers and political fantasies to lo-fi sci-fi and body horror, these seven shorts from emerging and established international filmmakers make up this wildly eclectic narrative program.
Programmed by Tyler Wilson.

Automatic
Emma Doxiadi, Greece, 2019, 10m
Greek with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Two young women convince each other they are under threat after accidentally photographing what they believe to be a concealed automatic rifle. Shot in drawn-out, static takes, Emma Doxiadi’s comical mystery comments on Greece’s ongoing refugee crisis in real time, pointing squarely at foolish knee-jerk reactions.

Mthunzi
Tebogo Malebogo, South Africa, 2019, 9m
North American Premiere
While walking home from the store, a young man is prompted to help a seizing woman, and unknowingly demonstrates the danger of doing the right thing. Cape Town–based filmmaker Tebogo Malebogo’s briskly tense script and direction elevate Mthunzi from a simple morality tale into a nervous thriller about implicit biases in unfamiliar circumstances.

Control Plan
Juliana Antunes, Brazil, 2018, 15m
Portuguese with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Set shortly after former President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, Control Plan follows a young Brazilian woman who uses her cell phone’s teleportation service to flee the country. Politically serious but always funny, this lo-fi sci-fi from Juliana Antunes (Baronesa) is as much a commentary on the fraught paradigm shifts of 2016 as it is a pointed takedown of limited data plans.

Nimic
Yorgos Lanthimos, Germany/UK/USA, 2019, 12m
North American Premiere
Matt Dillon stars as a professional cellist whose seemingly innocent question to a stranger results in weirdly repetitive consequences to his daily routine. Working with cinematographer Diego García (Cemetery of Splendor), Lanthimos lends his distressing, absurdist vision to the instruments, patterns, and lonesome gestures of modern city life.

Please Speak Continuously and Describe Your Experiences as They Come to You
Brandon Cronenberg, Canada, 2019, 9m
Brandon Cronenberg uses only in-camera effects to tell the hilarious, house-of-mirrors horror story of a patient at an experimental psychiatric facility (Deragh Campbell) who receives a brain implant that allows her to revisit dreams.

Austral Fever / Fiebre austral
Thomas Woodroffe, Chile, 2019, 21m
U.S. Premiere
After an injury places a teenager on bed rest, he and his adult caretaker develop an unusual attraction to his wound. Filmed mostly in dimly lit spaces with southern Chile’s mountain range as its backdrop, Austral Fever is a slow-burning, quietly perverse fantasy about cabin fever, addictive pleasures, and the mysteries of the human body.

The Marvelous Misadventures of the Stone Lady / Les Extraordinaires mésaventures de la jeune fille de Pierre
Gabriel Abrantes, France/Portugal, 2019, 20m
North American Premiere
A female sculpture escapes from the Louvre to experience the aggressive streets of contemporary Paris in this fairy-tale pastiche from Gabriel Abrantes. Slyly raising questions of liberation through crisply rendered CGI characters in direct contact with the harsher outside world, Abrantes critiques the power structures of venerable institutions without ever forgoing his ability to entertain.

Program 4: New York Stories (TRT: 98m)
This program, now in its fifth year, showcases work from some of the most exciting filmmakers living and working in New York today, including established names and ones to watch.
Programmed by Madeline Whittle and Tyler Wilson.

Good News
Joe Stankus, USA, 2019, 10m
World Premiere
Novelist Evan is excited to share the news that he’s been accepted to a prestigious summer writers’ colony with his husband and their friends over an intimate dinner party. But the big reveal doesn’t go as planned in this finely calibrated domestic-drama-in-miniature.

Caterina
Dan Sallitt, USA, 2019, 17m
World Premiere
Dan Sallitt intimately crafts a small-scale portrait of an inquisitive and compassionate young woman in this subtly episodic slice of life, following the eponymous protagonist through her ongoing, everyday search for connection among friends, lovers, and fellow travelers.

Moving
Adinah Dancyger, USA 2019, 8m
World Premiere
The act of transporting an old mattress into a new walk-up apartment becomes absurdist, cinematic one-woman choreography in this wordless vignette from Adinah Dancyger, full of humor and pathos, and painfully familiar to city-dwellers.

Foreign Powers
Bingham Bryant, USA, 2019, 17m
World Premiere
A nameless young woman recounts a peculiar dream, set in a mysterious fictional city and populated by her real-world friends and acquaintances, in Bingham Bryant’s vivid, precisely conceived exploration into the uncanny logic and banal strangeness of our subconscious wanderings.

the thing that kills me the most
Jay Giampietro, USA, 2019, 5m
World Premiere
Faces, voices, light: language itself is rendered abstract in this impressionistic fugue about fraught interpersonal dynamics at a weekly social engagement, narrated in retrospect by an exasperated fellow guest.

The Sky Is Clear and Blue Today
Ricky D’Ambrose, USA, 2019, 16m
World Premiere
Ricky D’Ambrose brings his trademark marriage of formalist rigor and sly narrative wit to this faux-documentary account of an American director developing an experimental film for German television about the events of September 11, 2001.

Fit Model
Myna Joseph, USA, 2019, 20m
World Premiere
In Myna Joseph’s deft depiction of a woman fiercely determined to get by on her own terms, Lu Simon (Lucy Owen) is a thirty-something struggling actor navigating day jobs and errands across the city, while juggling negotiations with an unhelpful hospital billing department.

Laying Out
Joanna Arnow, USA, 2019, 5m
World Premiere
This tersely lyrical meditation on sex and gender roles from Joanna Arnow features two fed-up mermaids lounging on a beach, drinks in hand, as they vent and commiserate over underacknowledged frustrations and unspoken desires.

TALKS DESCRIPTIONS

On Cinema: Martin Scorsese

In these annual special events, New York Film Festival Director Kent Jones sits down with world-renowned filmmakers for in-depth talks about films from other directors that have influenced them, their discussion illustrated with film clips. In the first of two On Cinema events that the festival is pleased to present this year, Jones will talk with Martin Scorsese, whose epic crime drama The Irishman is this year’s highly anticipated opening event. Scorsese, known as much for his work as a film historian as for his unparalleled, decades-spanning cinematic career, will guide the audience through a selection of films that inspired this remarkable new work.

On Cinema: Pedro Almodóvar

Among the world’s most beloved auteurs, Pedro Almodóvar has shown films at the New York Film Festival eleven times over the past four decades. This year’s selection is perhaps his most personal film yet: Pain and Glory, starring a Cannes Film Festival–awarded Antonio Banderas in the role of a director—essentially a surrogate Almodóvar figure—who has reached a creative block. As with all of his films, there is a deep wellspring of emotion in Pain and Glory, as well as a rich tapestry of allusions and references to a cinematic past, which this conversation will help elucidate.

Directors Dialogues
The Directors Dialogues are the New York Film Festival’s annual series of intimate conversations, in which a selection of filmmakers from this year’s festival sit down for special Q&As to discuss the ideas and the craft behind their buzzed about newest works. Participating directors include:

Bong Joon-ho

The South Korean filmmaker, whose unpredictable and diverse filmography has taken us from the gonzo monster movie The Host to the intense, bloody melodrama of Mother to the graphic novel action of Snowpiercer, has created perhaps his masterpiece with this year’s Palme d’Or–winner Parasite. Bong will discuss his spring-trap-loaded comedy-drama-thriller with a social conscience—so make sure you see it first to not spoil its many surprises.

Mati Diop

The French-Senegalese director made perhaps the year’s most talked-about debut feature with Atlantics, which earned her the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. Both ghost and love story, the film feels unlike any other, hypnotic and supernatural yet grounded in the realities of life as it’s experienced by those living in contemporary, working-class Dakar. Diop will be on hand to discuss how she negotiated these registers and how she constructed her singular film.

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