Film

Fifteen Films Not to Miss at the 2016 New York Film Festival

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Manchester by the Sea

Grief endures, and so does life, in this heartbreaking family drama from director Kenneth Lonergan (Margaret, You Can Count On Me). Casey Affleck is terribly moving as a man who returns to his seaside hometown to settle his late brother’s affairs and ends up struggling with demons from his own past. Michelle Williams, as his ex-wife, gets just a couple of scenes, but they are beyond unforgettable.

Dir. Kenneth Lonergan. Screens Oct. 1, 2, 11.

I Am Not Your Negro

A meditative cinematic essay on race, built around James Baldwin’s final unfinished work. By examining the lives and deaths of his friends Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X, Baldwin hoped to explore both the history and future of race in America. He may not have completed his work, but the film furthers his mission in poetic fashion.

Dir. Raoul Peck. Screens Oct. 1, 2.

I, Daniel Blake

Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winner is both an unrelenting social drama and a bitter comedy. An aging man doing battle with Britain’s enormous, Kafkaesque welfare bureaucracy makes common cause with an impoverished single mother. You can’t help but giggle at some of the absurdities Loach lays bare, even if the laughter quickly turns to rage.

Dir. Ken Loach. Screens Oct. 1, 2.

Moonlight

A young African-American man comes to terms with his identity and sexuality in inner-city Miami. In this three-part film, director Barry Jenkins follows his troubled protagonist through different stages of his youth, as he finds love, acceptance, heartbreak, and even something resembling hope.

Dir. Barry Jenkins. Screens Oct. 2, 3.

Paterson

An unknown, quiet poet of the everyday, played by an excellent Adam Driver, finds rhythm and beauty in the smallest things. Could this be director Jim Jarmusch’s artistic manifesto? His look at how mundane details become transcendent through repetition and imagination feels like an explanation for his entire aesthetic.

Dir. Jim Jarmusch. Screens Oct. 2, 3.

I Called Him Morgan

The life and death of trumpeter Lee Morgan, seen through the eyes of his wife, Helen, who shot and killed him in 1972. This film is less a history lesson than an immersive documentary about what it was like to live through that heady, turbulent time.

Dir. Kasper Collin. Screens Oct. 2, 3.

Toni Erdmann

An ambitious management consultant has to deal with her loose cannon of a prankster father while also trying to make her way in the business world. That description does little justice to director Maren Ade’s shape-shifting, expansive comedy-drama, which has a real feel for both the incessant drone of corporate bullshit and the unspoken terrors of family relations.

Dir. Maren Ade. Screens Oct. 2, 4.

Certain Women

Three intimate tales about women, work, and transformation in Montana. The connections among these short stories — based on the work of author Maile Meloy — are subtle, and their emotional trajectories somewhat incomplete. But director Kelly Reichardt’s filmmaking and the performances captivate you, and the movie lingers in your mind long afterwards.

Dir. Kelly Reichardt. Screens Oct. 3, 4.

The Rehearsal

Performance intersects with life in the world of young actors at drama school. It’s nice to have director Alison Maclean (Jesus’s Son) back in the world of narrative features; her sensitivity to performance and mood makes this an unusually unsettling film.

Dir. Alison Maclean. Screens Oct. 5, 6.

Fire at Sea

The daily routines of a Mediterranean island, contrasted with the harrowing experiences of refugees arriving by the boatload. Gianfranco Rosi’s hypnotic observational documentary won a well-deserved Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

Dir. Gianfranco Rosi. Screens Oct. 7, 8.

Julieta

A woman reflects on her troubled history with her estranged daughter and tries to understand the reasons for their separation. Pedro Almodóvar’s sensitive, twisty film is a family melodrama that flirts with becoming a film noir. Its playful sense of foreboding at first seems like a disconnect, but ultimately proves quite powerful.

Dir. Pedro Almodóvar. Screens Oct. 7, 8.

Aquarius

Brazilian superstar Sonia Braga gives the performance of her life as a retired music journalist whose struggle to keep her apartment becomes a fight for the value of the past. An intimate, textured drama that respects the specificity of its tale, even as it reflects the broader changes taking place in Brazil and around the world.

Dir. Kleber Mendonça Filho. Screens Oct. 9, 11.

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets The Poseidon Adventure meets South Park. Dash Shaw’s twisted animation looks at the carnage and chaos that ensues after our nerdy, status-obsessed protagonist’s school falls into the ocean. Funny, gross, and, yes, heartwarming — but in a funny, gross kind of way.

Dir. Dash Shaw. Screens Oct. 10, 11.

Graduation

An upstanding doctor cuts ethical corners to ensure his daughter’s future, and becomes that which he most despises. An ornate, surprisingly tense Romanian drama that interrogates the entitlement of elites, without ever losing sight of its characters’ humanity.

Dir. Cristian Mungiu. Screeens Oct. 11, 12.

Karl Marx City

Director Petra Epperlein looks into her own family’s past to learn if her father might have been an informant for the East German secret police. More than a movie about one family’s history, or even about one country’s history, this is a fascinating conversation about history itself, the very act of forgetting, and the persistence of memory.

Dirs. Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker. Screens Oct. 14, 15.