Every year, the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Film Comment magazine publishes a list of critically-acclaimed films that have not received US distribution. Many of these films are avant-garde, experimental; others are stirring portraits from regions of the world either not considered commercial, or commercially viable, by American distributors.
During the month of June, Filmatique has curated a collection of these films— bold works from new directors alongside clever and meditative documentaries from established filmmakers. Michael Haneke's film editor Monika Willi cut together documentary footage from her longtime collaborator Michael Glawogger, after his untimely passing, to form Untitled, an evocative portrait not just of the world but an artist seeking to understand it. In Austerlitz, celebrated Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa visits Sachsenhausen with a camera that observes, in uninterrupted takes, the ways in which tourists behave at former concentration camps, the way history informs us today. Nicolás Pereda's Minotaur navigates social class and modern ennui vis-à-vis a love triangle in a Mexico City apartment, while Ben Rivers' The Sky Trembles and The Earth is Afraid and The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers blurs the lines between fiction and documentary when FIPRESCI-winning French-Galician filmmaker Oliver Laxe goes missing from the set of his 2016 film Mimosas.
Featuring two directorial debuts, Filmatique's Best Undistributed Series surveys the complex and ever-shifting landscape of contemporary cinema through the eyes of some of its most daring auteurs.
Untitled, Michael Glawogger & Monika Willi / Austria-Germany, 2017
In late 2013, filmmaker Michael Glawogger set off to Africa, the Balkans and Italy to create an image of the world— one that "can only emerge by not pursuing any particular theme, by refraining from passing judgment, proceeding without aim. Drifting with no direction except one's own curiosity and intuition." Rather than sticking to identifiable themes, Glawogger sought to absorb his surroundings, to create something organic and free. Four months and nineteen days into his journey, he perished in Liberia from an acute case of malaria.
Two years later, Glawogger's longtime collaborator and renowned film editor Monika Willi (The White Ribbon, Amour) harnessed his footage, and his personal diary, in search of this vision. Glawogger's final posthumous work premiered at Berlin, Hong Kong, and Madrid; Graz, where it won Best Cinematography; DocsMX, where it won a Special Mention; and Belgrade, Fünf Seen and Vienna, where it won Best Documentary. Untitled also won the Austrian Film Award for Best Documentary, Best Score, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Editing.
Minotaur, Nicolás Pereda / Mexico-Canada, 2015
Two young men and a young women occupy a flat in Mexico City. They spend their days reading alone, reading aloud, and sleeping. From time to time, a maid arrives to tidy their quarters. Time and even space cease to exist; there is only the present somnambulant moment, drifting between sleep and wakefulness.
Nicolás Pereda's seventh film is a wraithlike fantasy that studies both the nearly-obsolete ritual of cloistering oneself from the world to read, and the social status that would make such an activity possible. Minotaur premiered at both the New York Film Festival and Toronto.
Austerliz, Sergei Loznitsa / Germany, 2016
Sachsenhausen, 2016. Tourists filter off buses, walk through the parking lot and between the gates of a former Nazi death camp. They observe what remains of the architecture. They pose for photographs— some smiling, some somber. They take selfies. In crisp black and white, the camera observes the behavior of a few among thousands of tourists who visit sites increasingly relinquished to the annals of history.
A bold, inquisitive but at times darkly humorous film, Austerlitz holds a mirror between the past and the present, memory and forgetting. Prolific Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa's eighth documentary premiered at Venice, Cartagena and Traverse City Film Festival, where it won Best Avant-Garde Film. Nominated for Indiewire Critics' Poll for Best Undistributed Film; it won 8th place.
The Sky Trembles and The Earth is Afraid and The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers, Ben Rivers / UK, 2016
Filmmaker Oliver Laxe is directing his latest film on a remote set in the Moroccan Sahara. A caravan of travelers wind through the vast, beautiful landscape, proclaiming "The sheikh is dead"— until someone calls cut. Meanwhile the desert is littered with the remnants of abandoned sets that recall films from decades past. Suddenly, the filmmaker jumps into his 4x4 and takes off into the landscape of wild nothingness, becoming a character in another story of subjugation that can end only in violence and madness.
A singular exploration of authorship and anthropological exploitation within Morocco's wild Atlas Mountains and much-filmed desert, Ben Rivers' feature film debut collapses fiction and documentary, dream and reality into a stunning meditation on the nature of filmmaking itself. The Sky Trembles and The Earth is Afraid and The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers premiered at Locarno, Toronto, Rotterdam and New York, and was nominated for Indiewire Critics' Poll for Best Undistributed Film, for which it won 5th place.