Posted: 09/25/2002


The 40th New York Film Festival

by Parama Chaudhury

The 40th New York Film Festival runs from September 27 through October 13, 2002. The Film Society of Lincoln Center, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023-6595. 212-496-3809.

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The 40th annual New York Film Festival, which gets under way on September 27th, has often been accused of severe Franco-philia. French films, and films from Francophone countries made either by the French themselves or by a local director steeped in the French filmmaking tradition, seem to dominate the program in most years. Not that there’s anything wrong with being attracted to the people who gave us some of the most memorable moments on film, but the film festival of one of the most cosmopolitan city in the world has a higher standard to live up to. Fortunately, selections for this year’s festival, show a breadth which is worthy of this city and the multiple cultures that thrive in it.

The festival opens with About Schmidt, directed by Alexander Payne of Election and Citizen Ruth fame, and showcases Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love, starring Adam Sandler. While both films are being pulled into the mainstream glitz and glamour by the media insisting that Jack Nicholson, the star of About Schmidt, and Sandler are up for Oscar contention, it will be interesting to see how these hugely popular actors manage on a smaller canvas and with innovative directors. Since new American films are often overlooked at the festival, the inclusion of these films along with Jennifer Dworkin’s documentary on recovering a drug addict, Love and Diane, is a promising sign. The closing night film, Talk to Her, is directed by festival staple, Pedro Almodovar, but the program includes a fourteen-film tribute to veteran Indian actress, Shabana Azmi. In this Bollywood-crazed time, it is important for a festival like this too highlight serious Indian cinema, which is mysteriously missing from the line-ups of many important festivals. Most of Azmi’s work, including Mandi, Paar and my personal favorite, Khandhar, is from the eighties, which stands out as a phenomenally creative period in the history of Indian cinema.

Several other big names are represented including Abbas Kiarostami (Ten), Manuel de Oliveira (The Uncertainty Principle), Claire Denis (Friday Night), and the Dardenne brothers (The Son). At the same time, there are two films on civil war (Bloody Sunday from Ireland and Divine Intervention from Palestine), a documentary on Hitler’s secretary (Blind Spot) and another on Bob Crane, the star of the TV show Hogan’s Heroes (Auto Focus), and a couple of love stories from China (Unknown Pleasures and Springtime in a Small Town). There is also a special screening of Murnau’s 1926 adaptation of Goethe’s Faust, a session of shorts, and a separate session called Views from the Avant-Garde, which allows experimental directors from around the world to present their work on the frontiers of film. All in all, the perfect menu for a tasty treat.

The films were selected by Richard Pena, Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the film critics John Anderson (Newsday), Manohla Dargis (Los Angeles Times), and Dave Kehr (New York Times), and Kent Jones, associate programmer at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Grand Marnier is sponsoring the festival, and a total of 26 features and 17 shorts from 25 countries will be shown at the Lincoln Center, ending on October 13, 2002.

Parama Chaudhury is a graduate student, an ex-writing instructor and a budding freelance writer, based in New York City.

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