It’s kind of like an all-star game with no dunks.

The Museum of the Moving Image will screen 16 international films during the ninth-annual First Look series from Wednesday, March 11, through Sunday, March 15.

The films were selected by David Schwartz, a former Moving Image employee who founded First Look, and four experts who still work at the museum: Eric Hynes, Curator of Film; Edo Choi, Assistant Curator of Film; Becca Keating, Director of Development; and Sonia Epstein, Associate Curator of Science & Film.

This year’s theme is work that seeks to redefine the art form while engaging in a wide range of subjects and styles. As always, the program is as diverse as the borough with features, documentaries and experimental shorts from several European countries along with Canada, Colombian, Madagascar, South Africa, Taiwan, and Turkey. Some are making world premiers while most are showing for the first time in North American, the United States or New York State. Plus, directors and producers will be present for Q&A sessions on certain nights.

The New York premiere of “Epicentro” is scheduled for Opening Night on March 11, at 8 p.m. The recent winner of a Grand Jury Prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival offers a complex view of Cuban history, culture and modern life. In English and Spanish with English subtitles, the documentary goes back to the sinking of the USS Maine in 1898 to pinpoint the origins of geopolitics that overlap with the origins of cinema. As part of the fun, director Hubert Sauper and producer Martin Marquet will be on hand to discuss their work.

General admission is $20 for Opening Night, but $15 for the rest of First Look with discounts for seniors and students. Here’s the rest of the schedule.

The North American premiere of “About Some Meaningless Events” on March 12 at 6 p.m. In Arabic with English subtitles, this 1974 Moroccan political documentary was banned on release and long considered lost. Then it was found in the archives at the Filmoteca de Catalunya in Barcelona in 2018. It contains scheduled and man-in-the-street interviews about Moroccan cinema. Plus, Schwartz, who founded First Look, will chat with Omar Berrada, a writer and curator who teaches at Cooper Union and is the director of Dar al-Ma’mûn, a library and artists residency in Marrakech.

The North American premiere of “Ridge” with directors John Skoog and Blake Williams in person on March 12 at 8 p.m. In Polish and Swedish with English subtitles, Skoog looks at the small Swedish community of his childhood over the course of a summer. The audience meets farmers, tourists, migrant workers, video gamers, and drunks. It’s preceded by the 12-minute “2008” by Williams which shows blooming cherry blossoms re-photographed off the screen of an obsolete televisual device.

The tenth anniversary screening of “October Country” is on March 13 at 6 p.m. This film depicts an American family struggling with the ghosts of war, teen pregnancy, foster care, and child abuse.

The U.S. premiere of “Bird Talk” with director Xawery Zuławski and collaborator Andrzej Jaroszewicz in person is on March 13 at 8 p.m. In Polish with English subtitles, this film mixes a history teacher who is a stickler for inconvenient facts, another teacher whose sense of justice gets him fired for physically confronting student, a cleaning lady, a florist, a composer suffering from leprosy, and an aspiring student filmmaker.

On the Silver Globe” with director Jaroszewicz is on March 14 at noon. This beleaguered masterpiece was the largest Polish production of its time with shooting in the Tatra and Caucasus mountains, the Crimea, the Baltic coast, and the Gobi Desert. But within a year and a half, the Ministry of Culture ceased filming and the director returned to self-imposed exile in France.

The U. S. premiere of “Transnistra” with director Anna Eborn in person is on March 14 at 3 p.m. In Russian, Romanian, and Ukrainian with English subtitles, this documentary follows a group of Ukrainians as they become adults over a cycle of seasons. Tanya, a headstrong and sensitive young woman surrounded by a ragtag group of young males, is at the center. Each male seems to be in love with and dependent upon her.

The New York premiere of “Phases of Matter” with director Deniz Tortum in person is on March 14 at 4:30 p.m. In Turkish with English subtitles, this piece depicts Istanbul’s Cerrahpaşa Hospital, where Tortum was born and his father is a doctor.

The U.S. premiere of “Nofinofy” with director Michael Andrianaly in person is on March 14 at 5 p.m. In Malagasy with French and English subtitles, a hairdresser’s struggles after his salon is destroyed by the municipality. Over time, the main characters reveal the challenges of living amid Madagascar’s corruption, poverty, and political unrest.

The North American premiere of “Stories from the Chestnut Woods” with director Gregor Božič in person is on March 14 at 6:30 p.m. In Slovene and Italian with English subtitles and set in the forests along the Yugoslav-Italian border in the years after World War II, a stubborn old carpenter’s self-preoccupations blind him from his wife’s rapid descent into illness.

The U.S. premiere of “Four Stories” with directors Yaara Sumeruk, Carmine Grimaldi, and Derek Howard in person is on March 14 at 7 p.m. These mini-documentaries cover issues ranging from a honey harvest in Kenya to family issues in Colombia.

The U.S. premiere of “Ghost Tropic” with director Bas Devos in person on March 14 at 8:30 p.m. In French with English subtitles, 58-year-old Khadija falls asleep on a subway train after a long day at work. When she wakes up at the end of the line, she has no choice but to make her way home through Brussels on foot.

The New York premiere of “In These Times: Experimental Shorts” with directors Roger Beebe and Talena Sanders in person is on March 14 at 8:30 p.m. Landscapes, cityscapes, bodies, technology, sexuality, feminism, and anti-capitalist are themes.

The New York premiere of “Maggie’s Farm” is on March 15 at 1 p.m. Twenty-four three-and-a-half-minute shots of the parking lot, stairwell, corridors, and rear loading dock of the CalArts building, divided sequentially into eight exteriors, eight interiors, and eight exteriors.

The U.S. premiere of “A Rifle in a Bag” on March 15 at 1:15 p.m. In Gondi, Madiya and Hindi with English subtitles, a young family of ex-revolutionaries lives in a jungle, pardoned and resettled under a government surrender policy for Maoists.

Don’t Touch Me” with director Christophe Bisson in person is on March 15 at 3:30 p.m. In French with English subtitles, this film shows the lives of marginalized people.

The North American premiere of “The Viewing Booth” with director Ra’anan Alexandrowicz in person is on March 15 at 3:30 p.m. Alexandrowicz invites viewers to watch and comment upon videos portraying life in the occupied West Bank—some generated by Palestinian citizens, others by the Israeli government—before fixing on Maya, a young Jewish American woman whose responses prove compelling, thoughtful, varied, and disconcerting enough to warrant a repeat visit.

The New York premiere of “A Beautiful Summer” with director Pierre Creton in person is on March 15 at 5:45 p.m. In French with English subtitles, two African migrants wash up on a beach in France.

The North American premiere of “Searching Eva” is on March 15 at 5:45 p.m. In German, English, and Italian with English subtitles, Eva Collé is a writer, model, queer activist, sex worker, and social media personality.

The North American premiere of “Comets” is on March 15 at 7:45 p.m. In Georgian with English subtitles, Irina returns to the summer house of her youth after a few decades away. She encounters Nana, who has lingered in her memory. Irina and Nana were once inseparable, sharing a friendship that raised eyebrows in their small community. Nana remained in the town, married, and raised two children, including a grown daughter also named “Irina.” It’s preceded by the U.S. premiere of the five-minute flick “The Harvesters.”

The finale is “Nina Wu” on March 15 at 8 p.m. In Mandarin with English subtitles, this film follows its namesake, an aspiring actress who gets her big break in a spy thriller, but she experiences a psychological breakdown during the shooting, which includes explicit sex scenes and an insensitive, impatient director. She returns to her family home, where she dreams of rekindling a close relationship with a childhood friend, but realizes that she’s haunted by a memory.

Working On It

For the first time ever, First Look will co-present Working on It with Reverse Shot, the museum’s in-house publication, from March 11 to March 13. This series focuses on cinema’s creative process, and certain directors will participate in lectures, master classes, conversations, live performances, podcasts, and works in progress. The goal is that the museum function as a laboratory for film development and dialogue, exploring aspects of production, criticism, and distribution, bringing together festival guests, filmmakers, and the general public.

Sauper from “Epicentro,” Midi Z from “Nina Wu” and Jaroszewicz from “Bird Talk” are among the scheduled participants.

Prices to attend Working on It events run from $10 to $100.

Museum of the Moving Image’s entrance is at 36-01 35th Ave. in Astoria’s Kaufman Arts District.

Images: Museum of the Moving Image


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