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Claus Mueller

Claus Mueller is  Senior New York Correspondent

He is based in New York where he covers the festival scene, professor at Hunter University, accredited member of the Foreign Press Center,  U.S. Department of State NY.


New York Film Festival 2022 wrapped


Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the New York Film Festival (NYFF) continues to rank as one of the most important film festivals in the United States. NYFF 2022 operates very differently from its early 60s origins and the expansive program reflects this. One of the co-founders of NYFF, Amos Vogel, quoted by Manohla  Dargis, emphasized in 1965 that the mission of the festival was to reflect the most interesting  trends and new works in global film making. For Vogel, the commercial status of a film and box office success was secondary. NYFF 2022 celebrated the theatrical experience of the audience, and selected films were not chosen for passage to mainstream theaters. As observed by Stephen Follows, of the independent films released in the USA between 1999 and 2018, 90% never screened in cinemas.  Virtually all productions in the main slate programs had already been acquired. After the festival several films will be shown on streaming services, such as Noah Baumbach’s opening feature WHITE NOISE set to be released on Netflix around Christmas 2023.

Managed by its executive director Eugene Hernandez, who has since departed to run the 2023 Sundance festival, and Dennis Lim the NYFF artistic director, NYFF 2022 was presented by Film at Lincoln Center from September 30 – October 16, lasting 7 days longer than Cannes. Films were screened at six Lincoln Center venues and at five partner venues in all five New York City boroughs in addition to the Mayles Documentary Center in Harlem.  Apart from online screenings of some productions for members of the press and industry, there was no access to films beyond theatrical venues. The hybrid NYFF 2020 format with on-line screenings and drive-ins was no longer applied. This year, the program grew again including 120 productions with 73  featured in 5 sections. Many of the principal films were made by established film makers or had been presented before at major film festivals like Cannes, Venice, the Berlin International Film Festival and Sundance.  A viewer looking for world premieres could find them only in the Spotlight (6) and Currents (1) sections but not among the main slate titles.


The Main Slate section had 32 of the most exciting new feature films from around the world, including 7 from the US.  As quoted in the program the, 12 Spotlight films “show the season’s most anticipated and significant films” which included 5 world premieres and 7 US films. With 15 productions, Current Features “complemented the main slate with an emphasis on new innovative forms and voices” with one US co-production. The Current Shorts section had 8 productions.  Revivals carried 14 films “from renowned filmmakers, digitally remastered, restored and preserved with the assistance of generous partners”. This section included  the 1964 Brazilian film BLACK GOD AND WHITE DEVIL by Glauber Rocher, Jacques Tourneur’s 1946 US film CANYON PASSAGE, the Finnish 1972 production EIGHT DEADLY SHOTS by Mikko Niskanen, and the 1973 French film THE MOTHER AND THE WHORE directed by Jean Eustache.

The expansion of the NYFF program was accompanied by the addition of more interaction between audiences and filmmakers in the NYFF Talks presented by HBO. Tickets for the talks were free and their videos could be accessed on the Film at Lincoln Center’s YouTube Channel.  Throughout the festival, 17 talks were arranged including the 2022 Amos Vogel Lecture by Cauleen Smith. Viewers also benefited from Noah Baumbach’s in depth analysis of how he adapted Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise,  Nan Goldin reviewing the roots of her photography’s radical humanism,  a discussion with Annie Ernaux, the 2022 Nobel Prize winner in Literature, about  her writing career,  Alice Diop and Frederic Wiseman reviewing the differences between French and American narrative cinema as a systematic critique, and the 2022 NYFF wrap up by the editors of Film Comment.

The list of corporate partners for the festival and of the specific curated programs they are sponsoring has also expanded for NYFF’s 60th anniversary. Official partners are HBO, Campari, and the New York Times,  as Benefactors Netflix, Citi, and American Airlines are identified. Supporting corporations are Bloomberg Philanthropies, Topic Studios and Hearst.  Among contributing companies are Dolby, TCM, MUBI, Infiniti, and UniFrance as well as federal, state, and city agencies. Media partners include Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, the WNET Group, and Indie Wire.  To identify some specific programs sponsored:  HBO backs the documentary features and the NYFF Talks, Campari presents the Opening Night selection, Topic Studios funds the NYFF Industry Program, and MUBI sponsors the NYFF feature film. Expanding Netflix presence further the original content series FLC Luminaries presented by Netflix will be changed to a yearlong series introducing artists from NYFF60 selections to discuss cinema.

There were numerous outstanding films in the 2022 program with some overflow press screenings. Among this reviewer’s favorites were SLAUGHTERHOUSES OF MODERNITY by Heinz Emigholz, a 2022 German documentary which world premiered at NYFF and ALCARRÀS by Carla Simon coproduced by Spain and Italy in 2021, this year’s Berlinale Golden Bear winner.

SLAUGHTERHOUSES OF MODERNITY chronicles and editorializes the development of architecture over the last one hundred years against superbly filmed examples from different countries and placing them in the political-economic contexts of their times. Viewers are reminded of long forgotten or repressed elements of the German past going back to emperor Wilhelm II and his crimes. As visually demonstrated by Emigholz, architecture cannot be disconnected from the dominant political and capitalist ideologies which impact the construction of public buildings and spaces. In his prologue, Emigholz maintains that due to modern science, individuals no longer relate to and comprehend space in a traditional way; that “terms such as tradition, modernism, and postmodernism have become detached from real life society”. With the collapse of Western imperialism, the confusion among intellectuals became paramount. Instead, an end of history was propagated where everything was feasible. Dominant styles in the past were defined by religious ideologies. They faded, and the order of western architecture imposed by economic factors reflected a process of disconnection between public tastes as demonstrated in Argentine, Bolivia, Italy, and Germany. In the thirties, massive structures celebrating concrete, including churches, were built without color. In Argentine, the same held for huge, now abandoned, slaughterhouses. Brutalism prevailed as did the shift to absurd functionalism except in Italy where Mussolini insured that postal and railway structures retained color and elements of the Bauhaus. In his editorial comments accompanying the visual material, Emigholz recounts a Latin American poet’s story of the intellectual formation of a concentration camp commander by German philosophers and the lessons he and other Germans learned about  the power of experiencing violence in the creation of the New Man, der Neue Mensch.  These lessons were already outlined by emperor Wihelm II who admired Hitler. He held that no prisoner be left alive when German troops went to China in 1900. He ordered he first concentration camps be built in 1905 to exterminate African Herero and Nama tribes who were fighting the German occupiers, and he was the first leader to authorize military use of poison gas in 1915 at Ypres. Emigholz outlines the politics that determined the destruction of the Berliner Stadtschloss by the DDR in 1950, a royal palace inhabited until 1918 by the Hohenzollern rulers. In 1976 the DDR constructed its replacement, the Palace of the Republic, facing East. The Palace was razed in 2006 by the newly formed German Federal Republic for asbestos contamination. In 2012 the New Palace or Neues Schloss was rebuild facing West in the traditional style with some old elements but adding new features in a style reminiscent of Third Reich approaches. Humboldt Forum was the neutral name of the new complex. Emigholz ends his visual documentation and commentaries by introducing sone of the sixty buildings designed by Freddy Mamani Sylvestre since 2008 in Bolivia’s highest city, El Alto. These buildings cannot be identified by any style and reflect mixtures of multishape arrangements using a bright assortment of primary colors.  As Emigholz proposes, the vast lower space below the shopping and living section of the Sylvestre building could be used as a show room for cars and huge consumer items or a large disco could be installed. Economic factors prevail.

The impact of unreflected economic factors is a dominant strain in Carla Simon’s film ALCARRÀS. Urban renewal in the US from the thirties through the fifties, driven by commercial considerations, supported by politicians, trade unions, and construction companies, resulted in the large-scale destruction of residential neighborhoods. Minority groups were often the victims. I wonder how many of the upscale individuals enjoying the arts at Lincoln Center realize the massive displacement of the people who used to live there and the social costs they had to bear for this institutional cultural gentrification. The destruction of urban communities is similar to what happens in rural regions.

ALCARRÀS won the Golden Bear as the best feature film at the 2020 Berlinale.  The film depicts the demise of traditional farming in Spanish Catalonia through an ensemble portrait of the Solé family. Another family, the Pinyols, dispossess the Solé’s of their family land and uproot the plantation where the  large Sole family has cultivated peaches for generations. The family is served an eviction notice despite the grandfather, Rogelio, having had an oral commitment from the Pinyol owners whose life he saved during the Spanish war. The land dislocation problem of Solé’s mirrors a global process.  Economic factors like the industrialization of farming, high yield real estate developments, lower cost imports, and the absence of legal protections have diminished the viability of family farming. The moral notion that those who work the land should own it has no legal basis. Carla Simon grew up in a large family which had also cultivated peaches in Alcarràs and knows the dynamics and problems of farming family life. Despite this, she has retained her attachment to agriculture. Her biographical experience was the basis for the film. As she points out, “It [the film] was conceived as an ensemble piece due to express what it means to be part of a huge family. Crossed dialogues, opposed energies, chaos, small but meaningful gestures, emotions that cause domino effects. Each member of the Solé family tries to find their own place just as they are about to lose their common identity”.  To develop the authenticity of the Solé family, Carla Simon decided to cast only non-professional actors from Alcarràs with a family farming background. In the recruitment process, she went to all village fairs in the region and interviewed more than 9.000 individuals.

The impending loss of their family land is known to all of the Solé family members. There are some angry exchanges between the grandfather and his son about Rogelio’s  failure to get a written title to the land they farm, but to the very end, even when bulldozers are razing the land next to their home while they gather on the outside for a meal, the family continues acting as though nothing will change; they cling to the reality they had taken for granted for so long. They continue to farm, their children play, there are family disputes, meals, and events, and they continue to work. The performances by the actors are naturalistic and authentic. The pacing of ALCARRÀS adds to its appeal by bringing to light the disappearing rural extended family, unknown to most audience though perhaps familiar through the lens of the declining urban nuclear family.


Claus Mueller, New York


About Claus Mueller