Festival du Nouveau Cinéma 2019: Three Highlights

The Concordian’s selection is coming to our big screens this fall

With the end of the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (FNC) last week comes excitement about the films we will have the chance to see this fall. The Concordian picked three of its favourites from the 2019 programming, which spanned Oct. 9 to 20.

Although some other impressive films also caught our attention, we decided to focus on the ones we will be able to see outside of the festival.

Bacurau – Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, Brazil, 2019

This story of a small Brazilian town which finds itself in the middle of a bloody and spooky manhunt is a must-watch. It certainly deserves all the praise it has been getting this year.

Winner of the FNC Temps Ø Public’s Choice Award and Jury Prize at Cannes, Bacurau is a unique and provocative picture.

Named after the small and isolated village of Bacurau, the film starts as its inhabitants are grieving their matriarch Carmelita. As we get to know its strange characters, we begin to sense an imminent danger. More and more people mysteriously disappear. Even the village itself somehow vanishes from all maps and gets cut from civilization.

The inhabitants of Bacurau suspect extraterrestrial involvement or a divine intervention of some sort, but never what really causes their town’s disintegration

The film manages to provoke one of the most surprising, exhilarating and funny finales of this year’s FNC lineup. The last 30 minutes of Bacurau are worth the movie ticket, encompassing murder, mystery, vengeance, psychedelic drugs and occult forces.

Although it might seem innocent and joyful at the beginning, Bacurau becomes a profound meditation on social inequality and colonial violence towards the end, while remaining coherent, unpretentious and entertaining.

Pain & Glory – Pedro Almodóvar, Spain, 2019

If Pain & Glory were to wind up as Pedro Almodóvar’s last film, it would end the filmmaker’s career beautifully. But after watching the Spanish artist’s last opus, one is undoubtedly touched and has to want to see more.

Pain & Glory relates the existential tribulations of Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), an old and deprived filmmaker who struggles to get past his health problems and to get to work again. It is very close to the director’s own life and ruminations. Antonio Banderas said it himself as he received his award for best actor at Cannes last year, “it is no secret that Salvador Mallo is Pedro Almodóvar.”

The film goes back in time, showing the young Mallo growing up in a small village in the south of Spain. We also see many characters of the director’s past reappearing in his present life. One scene is particularly moving and feels very personal to Almodóvar, as Mallo meets his ex-boyfriend who he had not seen in decades. They talk about love, sexuality, growing old and battling drug addiction in a thoughtful and beautiful way.

The movie also charms with the naïveté and liveliness emanating from its use of light and color, specific to the work of Almodóvar.

The very last shot of Pain & Glory feels like one of the most dazzling and bittersweet movie endings of the year. Probably our favourite picture of the entire 2019 FNC programming.

I lost my body – Jérémy Clapin, France, 2019

With I lost my body, Jérémy Clapin creates a poetic, yet relatable and universal first animated feature film.

It starts as Naoufel, a young man trying to survive by himself in Paris, remembers his childhood. He appears scared by the loss of his parents but also marked by a rigorous musical education from his mother. We see him fascinated with various sounds of nature as a child, recording everything he encounters.

In parallel, a lonely hand escapes from a lab, where it is being stored. We then embark on two journeys, which connect at the end of the movie. We see Naoufel doing everything in his power to seduce a young woman named Gabrielle, as well as the hand, roaming the streets of Paris in search of the body it was once attached to.

Although its narrative is sometimes predictable, and dialogue somewhat cheesy, I lost my body still deserves attention. It shows beautiful poetic imagery, and impressive sound design. The sound effects and music immerse the viewer in the story and embellish the often dark and dirty streets of Paris suburbs.

While it does not have more screenings planned in Montreal yet, I lost my body will be available on Netflix later this year. The trailer is already on the website and really inspires to see the full picture.

Praised Canadian content to follow

Canadian films from across the country were also very much put forward by the festival this year, some of which will be in cinemas in Montreal this fall.

The Grand Prix of the National Competition was won this year by The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, by Kathleen Hepburn & Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. With two First Nations women as its protagonists, it raises awareness about domestic violence issues Indigenous women face in Canada. Presented at the Toronto International Film Festival and Berlinale earlier this year, it has amassed considerable critical acclaim.

The Twentieth Century, which will be presented in Montreal theatres in December, has won the most promising Canadian feature film prize at FNC this year. It takes an original look at the life and career of Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Finally, the short film The Physics of Sorrow, winner of the Prix National Dada at FNC, would be another one to try to find. Theodore Ushev’s last film centers on a man remembering his childhood in the midst of an existential crisis. Winner of an honourable mention for the Best Canadian Short Film at TIFF, it is sure to attract more praise for the already successful director.

Pain & Glory will be presented all week in Spanish with English subtitles at the Cinéma du Parc and Cineplex Forum. Bacurau has been presented again at a few screenings in Montreal last week, including at the Brazilian Film Festival on Oct. 28. It will be shown in Toronto on Nov. 3 for the same festival. More screenings should follow this year.

Concordia students have a discount at Cinéma du Parc, setting the price of a ticket at $9.75. Many FNC films will be in their programming in the next few weeks. Visit for more details.


American Honey: Chasing American dreams in a hopeless place

One of cinema’s leaders in social realism, Andrea Arnold, returns with an American Indie classic

As the blockbuster season finishes and award season begins, American Honey, the fourth feature film by Andrea Arnold, emerges as an early favourite for number one movie of the year, winning the Cannes prix du jury.

An intimate American road trip movie about a few disenfranchised youths, American Honey provides a fun, sometimes horrifying look at people who aren’t often seen in cinema. It is a simple film in terms of plot, yet it is very complex in terms of character development. It is realistic without being cynical, and sympathetic to its characters without romanticizing the lower-class hero. American Honey is a special film with characters who are not romanticized as heros.

The film follows Star (Sasha Lane), an 18-year-old who is taking care of her dirtbag boyfriend’s two children. A chance encounter at a KMart with Jake (Shia LaBeouf)—in the role he was born to play—opens the door for her to escape her troubled domestic situation. She decides to go across the country with Jake and his ‘crew,’ a merry band of magazine-selling misfits. An intense romance quickly develops between Star and Jake, to the disapproval of their boss, Krystal (Riley Keough). From here on, there is not much plot—it is a mixture of a mundane work-a-day lifestyle and spring break.

Typically Arnold’s films deal with characters trapped in a society packed with symbolism related to a constant desire to be free in nature. ‘The Crew,’ as they are referred, move aimlessly around the country selling magazines while singing along to songs about making money. Star is quickly accepted by the group as one of their own, yet she still seems to not fit in completely. She is an outsider within outsiders.

Viewers who aren’t familiar with Arnold’s work should note going in that she is not a director interested in finite conclusions or plot-based stories. Rather, she is more preoccupied with observing people in the margins of society. Some viewers have been put off by the open-ended nature of her endings as well as the idleness of her plot lines, and American Honey is no different. However, the brilliance of this film is not the end of the road, but the journey itself. This is a road trip movie with no destination, because there cannot be a destination. In fact, Star’s journey is effectively just a circle which ends where it started.

While the cast, besides Lane, is entirely white and mostly heteronormative, interested viewers should be aware that this is not a nostalgic Americana love letter to the past. American Honey is a very critical look at a country built on classism—one which ignores its poor, never granting even a small hope of escaping the cycle of poverty. The film can be described as an epilogue for the American Dream.

American Honey comes to Montreal theatres on Oct.14. It will be playing at Cinema Du Parc and the AMC in limited release. 

Grade: A (4.5/5)


A different kind of survival guide

Selected as one of the movies to be part of Critics’ Week at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, The Slut is an Israeli-made film that presents the life of a promiscuous woman, Tamar, who has two young daughters. Within the first few minutes of the film, Tamar is shown having intercourse with various men. Those scenes are not only explicit, but they reinforce the fact that men only want her for sex and nothing more, presenting her as a slut.
When Tamar decides to have sex with a man, it is for survival; she wants to get something in return without having to pay for it. For example, she gets two brand new bicycles for her daughters by sleeping with the man who frequently repairs her bike.
The arrival of Shai, played by Ishai Golan, changes Tamar’s life. He starts acting as a father figure to her daughters. He proves to Tamar that she can count on him and that he is serious about their relationship. Shai, in comparison to the many other men Tamar has slept with, doesn’t only see her in a sexual light, but as the woman she truly is.
Golan plays his role beautifully. He makes us believe that it’s possible for a woman in Tamar’s position to fall in love and to have a chance at happiness. Shai is symbolic of Tamar’s chance at finally breaking free of her dependence on men, since he is giving her everything that she needs and asking for nothing in return.
Director Hagar Ben Asher tried to cast an actress to fill the role of Tamar, until she came to the realization that she wanted to make this film, in every aspect, her own. One of the techniques she uses to make her portrayal of Tamar believable is the way she transmits her emotions. She makes every action count for a reason, such as dropping the eggs she’s holding to make herself look busy when a man comes asking to have sex with her.
The movie continues with the repercussions of Tamar’s reputation as a slut as she tries to establish a relationship with Shai. Men are still approaching Tamar for sex and she must decide whether or not to give into temptation. Her decision has a strong impact on Shai, and forces him to commit an act of violence. Ben Asher describes violence as being essential in love, and vice versa. This gives us an explanation for Tamar choosing to comfort Shai after what he has done.
The Slut is definitely a film that will move you from the beginning to the end by changing your perception of Tamar. She is not promiscuous by choice. This ultimately gives the viewer a chance to wonder who the real slut in the movie is.

The Slut starts at Cinema du Parc on March 16. It will be shown in Hebrew with French subtitles. More information is available at


40 minutes or less

A still from Quebecois director Patrick Doyon's Dimanche/Sunday, which has been nominated for an Oscar.

“Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” is as good a strategy as any for predicting the winners in the live action short and animated short categories on your Academy Award ballot. The 10 nominees are rarely screened outside specialized and indie film festivals. Without “big” names behind them and with limited budgets, it’s hard for them to generate any buzz, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to gauge which films will have caught the attention of the voters.
Academy rules state that a film is considered “short” if it is under 40 minutes in length. A great short film won’t try to pack as much emotional punch in its limited run-time as its feature-length counterpart. Instead, in 40 minutes or less, it will masterfully tell a great tale that won’t leave the audience feeling shortchanged.

Live action short film
In Ireland’s Pentecost, altar boy Damian is relieved from his duties when he accidentally makes the church’s priest fall down a few stairs during mass. The boy gets a chance to redeem himself, undo the punishment his father dealt (no watching or listening to Liverpool’s finals game!) and save face in front of his other Father when he is called upon to replace an altar boy who was ejected from the church after it was discovered that he was never baptised.
Time Freak is the shortest and most inventive entry in the category. Stillman has invented a time machine, but he is stuck going back just a few hours in time to perfect interactions he has with the woman of his dreams and the man who runs his dry cleaner’s. Stillman’s friend Evan concocts a plan to get him out of his rut.
In The Shore, a man returns to Northern Ireland after 25 years in the United States to make amends with a childhood friend. Written, directed and produced by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Terry George (Hotel Rwanda, In the Name of the Father), The Shore is sweet, and surprisingly touching.
In Raju, Jan and Sarah Fischer are a German couple traveling to Calcutta to adopt an orphan boy. Before the paperwork even goes through, the boy, Raju, goes missing. The most heart-wrenching short in the bunch, Raju features an amazing performance by Wotan Wilke Möhring.
The short that I think will take home the hardware come Oscar night is Norway’s Tuba Atlantic. With just six days to live, a grumpy man with a disdain for seagulls (he shoots them out of the sky and stomps on their eggs) wants to reconnect with the brother he lost touch with decades ago. With the help of a young girl, he rediscovers his youthful energy and zest.

Animated short film
If you needed proof that not all animation is for children, look no further than U.K. nominee A Morning Stroll. At just seven minutes, the gory film starts with a man in 1959 strolling down a New York City block and noticing a chicken doing the same. Later, it’s 2009 and the times have changed. Fifty years after that, the same block is unrecognizable.
Canada is well-represented in the animated short film category with two entries, Dimanche/Sunday and Wild Life. Quebec’s Patrick Doyon directs the former, about a boy who imagines a more fun Sunday for himself than the one in which his family forces him to take part. The latter is directed by the Alberta duo Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby and tells the story of an Englishman who moves to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century and sends letters back home. The life he writes about is much rosier than the one he is experiencing.
As much as I would love to root for the Canadian films come Oscar night, they are up against some stiff competition. Pixar-backed La Luna was not available for screening by press time. It tells the story of a boy’s lunar adventure with his father and grandfather.
My pick for the win in the live action short category is The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. After a natural disaster ravages his city, Lessmore finds solace in a library where books and music give him and his townspeople culture and hope. Flying Books is incredibly animated and is a true feast for the eyes, mind and heart.


Cinema du Parc will be showing the nominated shorts as of Friday,

Feb. 10. For details, go to

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