Highlights of the 2017 New York Film Festival

Brian Sloan
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Every fall for the last 55 years, the New York Film Festival has presented its lineup of the best in contemporary films to an audience of thousands here in NYC. The festival has a long tradition as a showcase for early Oscar favorites (like last year’s Moonlight) and for the best in world cinema (such as 2016’s controversial French film Elle). 

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This year features world premieres by a trio of celebrated American filmmakers: Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying screens opening night; Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck is the festival centerpiece; and Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel, a period drama set in 1950s Coney Island, concludes the proceedings. 

Running from September 28 through October 15, the festival screens 22 other feature films in its main slate, along with a host of sidebars that focus on documentaries, avant-garde work, shorts, revivals and the movies of Robert Mitchum. Below are some highlights of this year’s primary lineup. For a full schedule, visit filmlinc.org

BPM (Beats Per Minute). Courtesy, The Orchard

BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Dir. Robin Campillo)
This French period drama set in the 1990s follows a group of AIDS activists who are members of ACT UP as they fight for their lives and fall in love. As much a love story as a testament to the characters’ heroic efforts, this intense feature celebrates the political movement that ultimately saved millions of lives.

Call Me by Your Name. Courtesy, Sony Picture Classics

Call Me by Your Name (Dir. Luca Guadagnino)
A breakout indie hit at the Sundance Film Festival, this feature from Italian director Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) stars Armie Hammer as an American grad student visiting Northern Italy who falls for his professor’s son. The script was adapted by James Ivory (of Merchant & Ivory fame) from the award-winning 2007 novel by André Aciman. 

The Florida Project. Courtesy, Marc Schmidt & A24

The Florida Project (Dir. Sean Baker)
Baker’s follows up his iPhone-shot breakthrough, Tangerine, with this Orlando-set story. It’s about a single mom and her daughter living just outside of Disney World in a motel, whose manager is played by Willem Dafoe. Advance word is that the real star of this indie movie is 7-year-old Orlando native Brooklynn Prince, in her film debut.

Lady Bird. Courtesy, A24

Lady Bird (Dir. Greta Gerwig)
Two-time Oscar nominee (and Bronx born) Saoirse Ronan plays the titular role in this character study of an artistic high school senior in Northern California. Set in the early 2000s, this semi-autobiographical story is the solo directorial debut for actress Greta Gerwig, after co-directing Nights and Weekends with Joe Swanberg almost a decade ago. 

Let the Sunshine In. Courtesy, Netflix

Let the Sunshine In (Dir. Claire Denis)
French auteur Denis’ latest film focuses on the romantic midlife of a divorced Parisian artist, played exquisitely by Juliette Binoche. In May, the film debuted at Cannes to raves for Binoche’s performance and Denis’ smart take on sex, romance and relationships for the over-50 set. It also features a fun cameo by Gallic superstar Gérard Depardieu. 

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The Meyerowitz Stories. Courtesy, Atsushi Nishijima & Netflix

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Dir. Noah Baumbach)
NYC-based director Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) brings yet another New York story to the screen. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson star in this comic drama as the heads of the Meyerowitz clan, who gather with their three middle-aged kids (Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and Elizabeth Marvel) for an event to celebrate the artistic achievements of the family patriarch.

Mudbound. Courtesy, Netflix

Mudbound (Dir. Dee Rees)
After debuting at Sundance to plaudits, this feature from director Dee Rees (Pariah) was bought by Netflix for a record-breaking $12.5 million. The historic epic is getting serious Oscar buzz for its tale of two families set in the Deep South. Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund and Mary J. Blige star in this story of racial tension between white farm owners and African-American sharecroppers during World War II.

The Other Side of Hope. Courtesy, Janus Films

The Other Side of Hope/Toivon tuolla puolen (Dir. Aki Kaurismäki)
Filmmaker Kaurismäki has been making quirky features with their own inimitable style for nearly 30 years. Now he brings his deadpan mise en scene to a contemporary story of a political refugee from Syria who ends up in Finland (where Kaurismäki hails from). This timely tale is contrasted with a parallel story of a local gambling man who wins big and takes over a local restaurant. 


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