Miss N

New York Film Festival ’11 – Of Growing Cities and Crowning Queens

A friend I made while on a junket in LA recently described the New York Film Festival to me as the best place watch some of the films that one didn’t manage to see at other festivals around the world during the year. Well, it’s my first time attending this film fest and I’m so glad to have the chance to play catch-up.

First up, I saw A Separation, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in January. It’s directed by Iran’s Asghar Farhadi, and is a searing portrait of divorce and family anguish, couched in the specificities and nuances of life in Iran, but universal in the impact it has on all those involved, especially children. Farhadi was on hand to introduce the film, telling the audience to forget everything they’d heard beforehand about it and just to think of it as a way to pass the time before a 4pm appointment (the next screening time). He also said it’s more difficult for a filmmaker to talk about his film than make it – something I, an interviewer of directors, did not like hearing!

Le Havre is more enjoyable to watch in the sense that it’s more comedy than drama, although it centers on the issue of immigration and features a wife who has a seemingly incurable disease. Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki restores my faith in human kindness and has created a charming delight of a film.

The film is Finland’s official entry to the Oscars and it won the International Federation of Film Critics prize at Cannes.

Aki Kaurismaki

Another movie that had buzz around it in Cannes this year is Miss Bala. What I really liked about this action-paced look at the drug war in Mexico is that it avoided the usual guns-and-torture scenes to comment on the issue in a different way. It’s the story of a young woman clinging on to her dream to become a beauty contest queen who is inadvertently caught up in the country’s organized crime ring. The director Gerado Naranjo, who spoke about the film after the screening, says it was inspired by a real-life newspaper article that implicated a beauty queen in such activities. It’s a clever and thrilling film.

There’s lots more to come. The film fest continues until October 16.

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