The 53rd annual New York Film Festival is finally here. That means all those big, noisy summer movies have finally been given a drink of water and sent off to bed. It’s time for serious film to let its hair down and party, and nothing screams prestigious cinema more than this event. The NYFF carries serious sway in the movie industry. This two-week event is where top ten best film lists and award nominations come from. The lineup for 2015 should leave both critics and audiences enthralled.
The NYFF’s inception in 1963 was the brainchild of two founding members of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Amos Vogel and Richard Roud. The films curated for the festival are carefully chosen by the Society. From its start, the festival offered a predominantly strong lineup of international fare, leaning heavily on European films. The NYFF played a pivotal role introducing American audiences to the works of some of the greatest filmmakers in the world: Roman Polanski, Jean Luc-Goddard, Bernardo Bertolucci, Akira Kurosawa, Milos Forman and Francois Truffaut. Over the years there has been a gradual shift in the selection process generating a balance between the domestic and international fare.
The Festival runs this year from September 25th through October 11th, 2015. The event is considered non-competitive. No films premiering here will be bestowed with awards as they are at Cannes or Sundance. The NYFF does, however, offer a spotlight for several films during the two-week run. There is much fanfare for the opening night, the centerpiece and closing night film premiers. Some films that have previously been given these honors are: Badlands, The Last Tango in Paris, Pulp Fiction, The Social Network, No Country for Old Men, Ran and Mystic River.
The NYFF is committed to maintaining a contemporary, cutting edge image. This year’s event is replete with film retrospectives and revivals, interactive art installations, filmmakers in residency programs, film artists’ dialogues, documentaries, independent films, gaming, animation and the experimental. All this can be quite bit overwhelming. Below is a short list of the many highlights to keep an eye open for.
Film Galas (September 25- October 11th)
This year’s films spotlight films are all biographical. Robert Zemeckis opens the festival in his usual dazzling fashion with the larger than life tale, The Walk. A film about acrobat Phillip Petite, who stunned the world with his amazing tightrope walk between the two towers of NYC’s World Trade Center in 1974. The centerpiece film will be Danny Boyle’s Jobs, the life of Apple computer founder and visionary Steve Jobs. The festival will close with actor/director Don Cheatle film on the life of jazz great Miles Davis in Miles Ahead. Other films of note: Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, Todd Hayne’s Carol, Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next, and Thomas Bidegain’s Les Cowboys – a contemporary reinvention of the John Ford’s classic film, The Searchers.
Projections (October 2-4)
Projections is the premier of several experimental film and video treatments. This project will focus on expanding our notion of what visual and auditory mediums can do. It is a collision of narrative, art, ethnographic realms, poetry, avant-garde, all in an attempt to create new art forms.
Convergence (September 26-27)
Convergence is another platform that blurs the lines of traditional and new artistic formats. This year’s edition will be more interactive by mixing old storytelling formats with new platforms and technology such as gaming and virtual reality. There will be panel discussions with artists on hand.
NYFF Live (September 25- October 11th)
NYFF Live is a daily talk series that provides the public with a free dialogue with actors, writers, producers and directors participating in the festival. It will be held at the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center Amphitheater at 7 PM each day of the festival. Some of the highlights include talks with Michael Moore and Todd Haynes. Tickets can be purchased on the website.
Revivals, Retrospectives and Special Events (September 25-October 11th)
The great filmmaker Brian DePalma, known for his lush, visual, Hitchcockian style, will be in the spotlight this year. A screening of one of his classic films, Blow Out, will be shown on September 30th. A documentary on this bad boy of cinema will also be premiering, helmed by two well-respected filmmakers in their own rite, Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow. Other highlights include Paul Thomas Anderson’s documentary, Junun, and special screenings of Joel and Ethan Coen’s classic Brother Where Art Thou and Akira Kurosawa’s magnificent Ran. The majority of the films will be shown at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and venues on the Lincoln Center Plaza Campus. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office.
The NYFF is a special event for anyone who knows the difference between movies and film. Any upstanding, self-respecting cinephile should make the pilgrimage at least once. If not for the love of the event, then at least for potential name-dropping, cocktail party banter.
By Michael McGrath
Michael McGrath is a life long New Yorker and has the scars to prove it. He lives with his wonderful wife and know-it-all son in Brooklyn.