The 46th edition of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Museum of Modern Art's New Directors/New Films Festival screens from March 15 through 26. As always, it's an eclectic international showcase of interesting new talents and approaches to cinematic expression.
In the gallery below are my picks of particular highlights of this year's selection. For more information, visit the festival's website.
PATTI CAKE$ (Geremy Jasper) *OPENING NIGHT FILM
This infectiously fun, rousing hip-hop tale from straight outta New Jersey overcomes its utterly predictable and overly familiar narrative arcs with its endless energy, brash brio, and the star-making central turn by Aussie emigre Danielle Macdonald as its title heroine.
Patricia Dombrowski, aka Killa P, aka Patti Cake$, save for her cultivated hip-hop lingo and swagger, could be a character out of a song by fellow Jersey native Bruce Springsteen (who is heard on the soundtrack, natch). She's counting on her dreams and her rhyme skills to get her out of her dead-end, wage slave existence in the middle of Garden State nowheresville. And she's determined not to let the fact that she's a plus-sized white girl (nicknamed "Dumbo" by neighborhood jerks) get in the way of her ambitions. However, there are mountains of obstacles in her way, not the least of which are her own mother (New York cabaret icon Bridget Everett), who drinks away most of the wages Patti brings home and bitterly mocks her daughter's life goals. But with the help of her pharmacist buddy Hareesh (Siddarth Dhananjay), a black death-metal rocker named Basterd (Mamoudou Athie), and her ailing grandma (Cathy Moriarty), Patti lays down some killer tracks that she hopes will launch her out of her hellhole.
Jasper, an erstwhile musician and music video director, puts the skills he learned at those other trades to fully effective use, injecting more than a little autobiography in his film and a keen empathy for the marginalized, downtrodden misfits mocked and disrespected by society. In this way, Jasper avoids making his film yet another indie coming-of-age movie cliche, and proves himself to be a filmmaker well worth watching in the future.