The Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced the lineup for the sixth edition of its Art of the Real film festival. Art of the Real is a celebration of nonfiction and “hybrid” filmmaking, priding itself on its redefinition of documentary. Opening April 17th and continuing through the 28th, Art of the Real features innovative and diverse voices from all over the world.
This isn’t just a documentary festival. Nor is it an experimental film festival. It is unbounded by genre, taking a cinephile’s appreciation and eye for nonfiction cinema and materializing the two by providing limitless perspectives from around the globe.
“Our sixth edition ranges widely in themes and formal approaches—from epic investigations into religious violence in India and cartel murders in Mexico to intimate accounts of local myths and practices,” said Film Society Director of Programming Dennis Lim.
This year’s highlights include the festival’s Opening Night selection of Frank Beauvais’ personal new feature, Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream, for the film’s American premiere. Fitting into the realm of hybrid filmmaking, it is comprised of clips from more than 400 movies that Beauvais watched while living in seclusion in the countryside of France.
No Data Plan is a film made by Miko Revereza that was completely shot on an Amtrak train he was riding from sea to shining sea. Revereza made the precarious decision to travel cross country as an immigrant who’s been living here illegally for 20 years. When he sees border patrol agents approach and board his train, the film snowballs into an inadvertent commentary on the state of our nation. Revereza has said that he does not want this to be an “issue film” but to instead be an observation of the world around us, like the view of the passing country through the dirty train window.
An epic appraisal of Mexico, Julien Elie‘s award-winning Dark Suns is a film in chapters that paints the morbid picture of a country quite literally turned into a mass grave by gangs and state authorities. The concept of collective memory is heavily investigated in instances of historical atrocities — something that is, sadly, universal.
While We Are Here, another film of the hybrid variety, is reminiscent of this shared cultural experience. It takes the freedom of fiction and integrates it with very real correspondence via letters and voiceover between a Brazilian woman, a dweller of New York for 10 years, and a Lebanese woman who is recounting her experiences as a new inhabitant of the city. While an imaginative premise, it seems like a travelogue composed of shared memories and letters, making for an exploratory rumination on what connects us.
A further aspect of this festival is that it is providing a platform for directors with feature-length debuts. Lebanese artist Ghassan Halwani is one of these new directors to pay attention to with his film Erased, _____ Ascent of the Invisible, which details the disappearance of thousands during the Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1990 and the hole left by these lost individuals in modern-day Beirut.
Walden, another debut, offers a complex social commentary on the absurdity of economic rationale. Through the eyes of a Brazilian fir tree on its journey beginning at the point of being turned into planks of wood, Swiss filmmaker Daniel Zimmermann takes on globalization. The tree’s voyage continues in reverse order of transport to the end of the film landing in the Brazilian rainforest by simply visualizing the process and through the use of 13 individual 360-degree shots.
Art of the Real will also be paying homage to two late filmmakers who made an impact on the nonfiction sphere. Jocelyne Saab was a Lebanese journalist turned filmmaker known for her poetic essay forms illustrated in her Beirut trilogy, comprised of Beirut, Never Again, Letter from Beirut, and Beirut My City, which will be screened in full at the festival. A variety of Japanese avant-garde filmmaker and critic Toshio Matsumoto’s works will also be honored for his deep and exhilarating experimentation in nonfiction.
The event will again be in partnership with the streaming service MUBI to heighten accessibility for those of us outside of New York City. The selection of titles to be made available will be revealed at a later date.