Get a head start on this year’s groundbreaking video art.
The Museum of the Moving Image hosts the First Look Festival in Astoria’s Kaufman Arts District from Jan. 6 through Jan. 16. This sixth annual showcase features films from more than 20 countries (including many New York premieres) and new art installations.
The show’s themes are sound, performance and experimentation, so some movies use audio as a central element, while others explore theatricality. And as in past years, there are several examples of avant-garde cinema.
Opening night’s feature film is the New York premiere of “After the Storm” by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda on Friday at 7 p.m., followed by a reception. This tale depicts a prize-winning author who wastes his money on gambling and can hardly pay child support. After his father dies, he tries to improve his relationship with his son amid his initially distrusting family.
The rest of the lineup — without descriptions of a few shorts — follows:
- “Sincerely” (Jan. 7, 2 p.m.) is a Colombian movie set in a retirement home where two elderly residents find love, prompting the male to raise money so they can get a double bed in their room.
- “Screening Sound: The Radio Atlas Adaptations” (Jan. 7, 3 p.m.) is a selection of radio documentaries hosted by Eleanor McDowall of Radio Atlas, an internet hub that provides screen-based English subtitles for foreign-language audio documentaries.
- “Out There” (Jan. 7, 4 p.m.) is a hybrid of fiction and documentary that explores wandering by following a director looking for a new actor in Tokyo and Taiwan. The director, Takehiro Ito, will be in attendance.
- “Fear Itself” (Jan. 7, 5:30 p.m.) weaves together terrifying scenes from old movies to explore how filmmakers scare us. It’s narrated by a woman haunted by things she has seen and cannot unsee. The director, Charlie Lyne, will attend this New York premiere.
- “UFE” (Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m.) centers on a kidnapped TV anchor who is held hostage in a remote villa in the Alps. The location becomes an arts workshop and a base camp for political action, populated by actors, revolutionaries and a rock band.
- In “Territory” (Jan. 8, 2 p.m.), Alexandra Cuesta journeys through Ecuador, from the ocean, across the mountains, and into the jungle.
- “Boone” (Jan. 8, 7 p.m.) is about young goat farmers who adapt to the seasons and come to terms with the physical and emotional grit required to live at the mercy of the land. The director, Christopher LaMarca, will be there.
- “John Wilson’s New York” (Jan. 13, 7 p.m.) includes shorts about topics such as how to walk in Manhattan, how to live with bed bugs and how to act on reality TV. The director, John Wilson, will be there.
- The program On Resistance: International Avant-Garde Films & Videos (Jan. 13, 7:30 p.m.) consists of short films from 15 different countries.
- “Reichstag 9/11” and other new films by Ken Jacobs), an experimental director who will be there, will be screened (Jan. 14, 2 p.m.)
- “Havarie” (Jan. 14, 4 p.m.) zooms in on a refugee boat in the Mediterranean Sea, a few dozen miles off the Spanish coast. German director Philip Scheffner takes a few minutes of eyewitness video and slows it down to feature length so every frame registers as a separate pixelated and metaphorically pained still. The soundtrack offers a multilingual account of the reasons why the subjects are leaving their home countries.
- “Helmut Berger, Actor” (Jan. 14, 4:30 p.m.) is a documentary on the eponymous German actor. When he was a hot, handsome star, Berger epitomized the exuberant jetset lifestyle of the 1970s, but later he opted for a secluded and modest lifestyle in a rundown, two-room apartment in Salzburg. The director, Andreas Horvath, will be on hand.
- “Depth Two” (Jan. 14, 6:30 p.m.) explores a 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. A truck containing 53 dead bodies plunged into the Danube near the border with Romania. Serbian director Ognjen Glavonic, who will be in attendance, pieces together the story of the crime and cover-up.
- “Silencio” (Jan. 15, 2 p.m.) follows a group of homeless men and women in Portugal who create a theater space to share their stories.
- “Between Fences” (Jan. 15, 4 p.m.) is a documentary on African asylum seekers in a detention facility in Israel’s Negev Desert.
- “How Heavy This Hammer” (Jan. 15, 4:30 p.m.) is an intense, intimate and funny portrait of masculinity at a crossroads. A married father of two nearing middle age finds the only outlet for his rage in online gaming and bloody rugby action. The director, Kazik Radwanski, will be there in person.
- “How I Fell in Love with Eva Ras” (Jan. 15, 6:30 p.m.) follows a lady as she cleans, eats, naps and spools out reels of vintage prints in the cramped projection booth of an old cinema in Sarajevo.
- Film After Film: Shorts Program I (Jan. 16, 2 p.m.) consists of five mini-movies that push against the bounds of traditional cinematic form to explore new territories, whether it’s blurring the lines between truth, fiction and fantasy, or testing the materiality and temporality of film.
- Strange but True: Shorts Program II (Jan. 16, 3:30 p.m.) features out-of-the-box documentaries that employ a sense of humor and play to exult in the absurdities of life as a way of reflecting on larger ideas and universal experience.
Tickets are $15 each, but $20 on opening night. A festival pass, good for admission to all films, is available for $45.
Front image: AFC–Austrian Films (Helmut Berger, Actor)