New Auteurs is the juried competition section of AFI FEST. The films, all made by first- or second-time filmmakers, represent some of the best of world cinema from new voices we’re excited to hear more from in the future.
We spoke with each of these 11 filmmakers about their films, and what they hope AFI FEST audiences will take away from experiencing them.
DESDE ALLÁ, winner of the Golden Lion at the 2015 Venice International Film Festival, focuses on the unlikely relationship that develops between a middle-aged man and the young criminal who assaulted and robbed him.
Lorenzo Vigas: “The Spanish title can be translated literally to ‘From Afar.’ It’s a reference to the distance and separation between Armando and the objects of his desire — his “look but don’t touch” attitude. It also has something to do with the separation with the object of his obsession, represented by the older businessman. The idea of making a film about a man who struggles to connect emotionally to others was very attractive to me.”
In DISORDER, Matthias Schoenaerts plays an ex-soldier, Vincent, who becomes locked in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with ski-masked home invaders at a wealthy estate.
Alice Winocour: “It was a sort of obsession for me to never ever leave Vincent’s point of view. I wanted the audience to be with Vincent, in his own skin, and feel the same [sense of] vertigo facing reality. The film is built on his physical perception of the events around him, like a sensory experience. You only understand what he understands, you only feel what he feels, you never have other information than those he has. I wanted the spectator to start telling himself stories like Vincent does. Because for me, doubt is the principal ingredient of the paranoid thriller, and so I tried to put doubt into everything, so that we never knew if we really hear what we hear or really see what we see.”
EVOLUTION is set on an island inhabited only by women and boys, where a 10-year-old receiving strange medical treatment investigates the horrific things the women do at night.
Lucile Hadžihalilović: “It’s a diving into my childhood, or at least a part of it, the dark part with deep fears of growing up and body changes, but also wonders and strange pleasures. I hope EVOLUTION will be a journey into a disturbing yet beautiful territory, both familiar and mysterious. I hope it will bring the pleasure of an unusual cinematographic and dreamlike experience. I hope it communicates emotions and feelings connected to the moment where we leave childhood for puberty, trying to free ourselves from the ‘maternal waters.'”
THE GULLS is set during winter near the Caspian Sea, where a fisherman’s wife becomes free of her suppressed domestic existence after a life-altering event.
Ella Manzheeva: “THE GULLS is my debut in feature-length cinema. But there is another thing, something I did not realize when I was creating this film. I never could imagine it would become the beginning of Kalmyk cinema, an enormous cultural event in the history of my small people. Kalmyks say that the protagonist of the film, Zhenya, reflected in her image the whole contemporary Kalmykia. This response is the most important for me. It was worth it to get through all of the difficulties, and now show my face to the world to get such an answer.”
IXCANUL, Guatemala’s first-ever submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar®, centers on a young Mayan woman who, after becoming pregnant outside of an impending arranged marriage, throws her and her family’s future into dire uncertainty.
Jayro Bustamante: “The film shows a raw and unjust reality, but nowadays I have the possibility to tell it to the world through a movie like IXCANUL. To show this reality and to have an audience receive it is a very optimistic message for a filmmaker.”
In LAND AND SHADE, an aging farmer returns to rural Colombia where the family and land he long ago abandoned have been devastated by industrial progress.
César Augusto Acevedo: “I think this film tries to rescue the heroic sense of the peasants, who through their everyday struggle and resistance try to conquer their dignity and freedom, which are being stolen by a paradoxical idea of progress that destroys everything in its path.”
In the timely MEDITERRANEA, a migrant from Burkina Faso makes a perilous journey from North Africa to Europe.
Jonas Carpignano: “MEDITERRANEA is a film that seeks to go beyond the headlines. It’s true that the film is very topical these days because of the ‘immigration crisis’ confronting Europe, but for those of us living in Italy, particularly in the south, this has been an omnipresent issue in our lives for many years. In making this film, I wanted to move away from the broad narrative of the ‘plight of immigrants’ and focus on a more intimate and personal look.”
In MOUNTAIN, a young Orthodox woman, attempting to escape her troubles at home, falls in with a nocturnal community of prostitutes and drug dealers in the ancient cemetery atop Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.
Yaelle Kayam: “I am interested in exploring characters through the use of landscape, and placing them in extreme settings that both limit them and enable their transformation. In MOUNTAIN, I’m exploring the physical and spiritual predicament of a woman who is a wife and a mother. A woman who is no longer desired by her husband but still desires him, in a tremendously charged location at the crossroads of the world’s three monotheist religions.”
MUSTANG, France’s submission for the 2016 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar®, centers on five Turkish sisters who must fight back against harsh societal restrictions when a seemingly innocent act is blown out of proportion.
Deniz Gamze Ergüven: “MUSTANG is fast, busy and I have often felt that the momentum of the writing and the pace of the film were entwined in a way that urged each other forward. There was an absolute sense of urgency while making this film, which grew from my profound desire to tell of what it means to be a girl in Turkey today. It’s a call for courage and an attempt to break free.”
In SWORN VIRGIN, a young Albanian woman bucks her destiny by appealing to an ancient regional law allowing her to live free as a man if she takes an oath of eternal virginity.
Laura Bispuri: “I hope that the audience will recognize the path of the inner but also physical liberation of [main character] Hana/Mark, proceeding step by step with her, feeling on the skin the same freedom that she reaches at the end of the film. I hope that everyone in the public can participate in this journey, sharing a new vision of the identity of a female who takes an arduous path to define herself free, but eventually succeeds, and asserts herself beyond the gender categories.”
In UNTIL I LOSE MY BREATH, a Turkish teenager dreams of leaving her abusive home and moving in with her father, a long-distance truck driver.
Emine Emel Balci: “When I get to the root of [main character] Serap’s loneliness and take a careful look, what I see is the image of a group of women, including Serap, piling into the dark and stuffy back of a panel van. This, for me, is the image of the society Serap lives in, and where I get the courage to make my films. This is the country where I grew up and live. And through it I wish to express my criticism about how we are utterly alienated from the concepts of gender and family. Concepts that have always been considered as sacred and therefore are never disputed. On the other hand, I hope that the ethical aspect of Serap’s act will evoke some discussions about the difficulty to decide who is more evil or hostile, and what purification or corruption means in our lives.”