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Spring Bouquet At New Directors/New Films

Day Night Day Night

Thursday, March 29----With Spring (finally) making its arrival after an unexpected early March frost and series of snowstorms, one of the rites of Spring in New York is the NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS festival, which is entering its final weekend with a spring bouquet of films. The series, which is celebrating its 36th anniversary, is a joint presentation of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art, with screening at both MoMA and the Film Society's flagship Walter Reade Theater. So, after taking the walk through Central Park to see the budding trees and the first signs of crocuses and daffodils, enjoy the season in the dark with an abundance of cinematic treats.

One of the first films to sell out in the series comes this weekend. REPRISE, by Norwegian director Joachim Trier, is an impressive first feature that traces the parallel adventures of two best friends in their early 20s. While films with a slight slacker tone among the twenty-something set is hardly new (Kevin Smith has made a career of it in that genre alone), the film is fresh and passionate, about literature no less (I mean, do people still read? other than these web postings, of course). In the film, the friends are young writers hungry to have their manuscripts published, and who react in their own distinct ways to the joy, despair and defeat that is the lot of any young artist. The film won the Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and Best Director honors at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. New York audiences can catch the film on Saturday at the Walter Reade Theater, with a repeat screening on Sunday at MoMA.

On a very different subject and with a much more serious tone, DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT by debut director Julia Loktev, tells the harrowing story of a 19-year old girl who is being prepared by her handlers to become a suicide bomber. Target: Times Square, the center of Manhattan (and only a few blocks away from its MoMA/Lincoln Center screenings, so take a deep breath.) This thriller presents her training and preparations to become a martyr with a detached view that never makes clear her personal circumstances or her politics. This simple eloquence is powerfully embodied in the deadpan performance of novice actress Luisa Williams (one that will surely be remembered for next year's Independent Spirit Awards, if not Oscars). The film screens on Friday evening at MoMA and on Saturday evening at the Walter Reade.

The Grand Jury Prize winner from this year's Sundance Film Festival is an American indie that is almost entirely in the Spanish language. PADRE NUESTRO by Christopher Zalla, adds a moving coda to the current debate over illegal immigration from an intensely first-person perspective On the run from a gang in his native Mexico, Juan makes a quick getaway by jumping on a truck, not knowing that it is carrying illegal migrants to New York City. After meeting another illegal, Juan sets about trying to find his travel companion's  long-absent father (pretending to be his long-lost son)  and to reinvent himself on the mean streets of New York City. The film screens on Saturday evening at the Walter Reade Theater, with a reprise on Sunday afternoon at MoMA.

Another Sundance film making its New York debut is THE GREAT WORLD OF SOUND, a meditation on fame and the obsession in America to make it big. Debut director Craig Zobel gamely skewers the rags-to-riches aspirations of amateur musicians as they audition American Idol-style for a pair of young producers, who are both innocents and deceptive "players" working a cruel music-recording scam on the hapless aspirants. The film screeens on Saturday afternoon at the Walter Reade, with a final screening on Sunday afternoon at MoMA.

The series closes with a rich tapestry of a film from Argentina. MEANWHILE by Diego Lerman focuses on a group of young men and women as they go through their lives in contemporary Buenos Aires. The old expression that life is what happens in between important milestones is very much the aesthetic here, with the ordinary in-between moments captured with unusual intimacy and poignancy. The characters move in and out of each other's orbits, in the best ensemble acting style, creating a portrait of a generation of young Argentinians, still shaky from the economic crises of the past decade, but forever hopeful about the promise of the future. And if that is not a film theme for Spring..........

For more information on all the films screenings in the series, which ends on Sunday, April 1, visit the websites of the Film Society of Lincoln Center:  www.filmlinc.com and the Museum of Modern Art: www.moma.org.

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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(International Media Resources)

The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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