Highlights from the Festival du nouveau cinéma

The Student, a Russian film based on a German play, takes a look at religion and atheism in Russia.

Here’s a look at a few of the festival’s films that have stood out so far for their remarkable storytelling

In this second week of the Festival du nouveau cinéma, let’s take a look back at some of the best films screened so far—some of these will be screened again, and all are expected to play in theatres.

American Honey

Undoubtedly one of the best films of the year, American Honey is the worthy winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes—the third such win for English director Andrea Arnold. It is a wild and memorable alcohol-fueled road trip through an invisible America, one of social outcasts and abandoned youth. Don’t let the 162-minute running time scare you away—this is an experience that deserves to be stretched out. For its startling authenticity and social realism, it demands comparison to the Dardenne Brothers’ best work. While it presents characters and situations that often feel all but hopeless, it never loses sight of the light at the end of the tunnel—one that is sometimes just a flicker, but can grow into a camp fire. Also, this film should end the debate on whether or not Shia Laboeuf can act. Spoiler alert: he can.

The Student

This is a rare and important look at religion in Russia—a once atheist country that is no longer averse to embracing fundamentalism when it suits a political purpose. It is odd to realize the film is based on a German play, when everything in it feels topical and adapted to the reality it depicts. A high school student suddenly and inexplicably becomes a Christian fanatic, interpreting the Bible as a call to arms in this tense and staggering story. If the film is somewhat didactic in its approach, it feels not preachy, but well-measured—in fact, much of the dialogue is lifted straight from the Bible—with the sources, such as book and chapter numbers appearing on the screen, and the structure seems to reference the great anticlerical texts of the Age of Enlightenment, something out of Voltaire.


Nowhere near an ordinary biopic—or even, perhaps, an ordinary film—this is a fittingly poetic exploration of Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda’s persona and art, depicting an episode of Chilean history through playful, contemplative experimentation with form and content. Luis Gnecco, as Neruda, on the run when Chile outlaws the Communist Party to which he belongs, and Gael García Bernal, as the inspector on his trail, are exquisite in ways that transcend the conventional cat-and-mouse relationship you would expect. The unnatural colours and dreamlike editing create a distinct environment in which truth and fiction overlap in tribute to a larger-than-life character.


Controversial in Brazil, its country of origin, for political reasons that have more to do with the filmmakers than with the film itself, this is a sensitive character study elevated by a career-defining role for aging legend Sonia Braga. A woman refuses to give up her apartment when the building is being bought up by a conglomerate that plans to destroy it. She hangs on to the apartment as a piece of the disappearing world she was once a part of. She knows she will die, and she knows the building will eventually be gone, but she will not allow it to happen on her watch. The accumulation of subtle details and elements of the woman’s life creates a portrait that conjures up feeling and respect for her.

American Honey will be released on Oct. 14. Neruda will be released on Dec. 16. Aquarius will screen again Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. at Cinéplex Odéon Quartier Latin (with French subtitles). Release dates for Aquarius and The Student have not yet been announced.

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