Preview of Science Films at NYFF

The 61st New York Film Festival (NYFF) begins September 29, bringing some of the season’s most eagerly anticipated films to Lincoln Center and venues in other boroughs—including Museum of the Moving Image— through October 15. Listed below, with descriptions quoted from the festival programmers, is our selection of the festival’s science or technology-related films.

Among our selection are two star-studded adaptations, one looking to the past and one to the future. The ever-distinctive Yorgos Lanthimos’s POOR THINGS, an adaptation Alisdair Gray’s 1992 novel of the same title, explores the personal and scientific ambitions of a Frankenstein-esque young woman in the Victorian era. Garth Davis’ adaptation of Ian Reid’s 2018 novel FOE contemplates the prospect of human relocation to space and personal relationships with A.I. in the year 2065.

Sloan Science & Film will be covering the festival citywide, so stay tuned.


THE BEAST. Dir. Bertrand Bonello. U.S. Premiere. “Using Henry James’s haunting 1903 short story The Beast in the Jungle as his film’s provocative inspiration, Bertrand Bonello (NOCTURAMA, COMA) has created a dynamic and disturbing parable that jumps between three different time periods (1910, 2014, and 2044) and tells the story of a young woman (Léa Seydoux) who undergoes a surgical process to have her DNA—and therefore memories of all her past lives—removed.”

LA CHIMERA. Dir. Alice Rohrwacher. “With her customarily bewitching mixture of earthiness and magical realism, Alice Rohrwacher (HAPPY AS LAZZARO) conjures a marvelous entertainment starring Josh O’Connor as a ne’er-do well Englishman, handsomely rumpled and recently out of prison, who returns to a rural town in central Italy where he hesitantly reconnects with a ragtag group of tombaroli (tomb raiders).”

Still from LA CHIMERA. Courtesy of NYFF.

EVIL DOES NOT EXIST. Dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. U.S. Premiere. “In his potent and foreboding new film, Oscar-winning director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (DRIVE MY CAR) reconstitutes the boundaries of the ecopolitical thriller with the tale of a serene rural village that’s about to be disrupted by the construction of a glamping site for Tokyo tourists."

POOR THINGS. Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos. “In his boldest vision yet, iconoclast auteur Yorgos Lanthimos creates a punkish update of the Frankenstein story set in an alternate 19th century on the cusp of technological breakthrough, in which a peculiar, childlike woman named Bella (Emma Stone) embarks on a journey of self-actualization.”

Still from POOR THINGS. Courtesy of NYFF.


FOE. Dir. Garth Davis. World Premiere. “In this superbly rendered, sensationally acted science-fiction drama set in 2065, a married midwestern couple (Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal) are given the chance to transcend their climate-change-destroyed world. Building to a devastating climax, director Garth Davis (LION) expertly interrogates essential questions of our time about environmental apocalypse and the rise of artificial intelligence.”


LAST THINGS. Dir. Deborah Stratman. “An active decentering of the human or animal, Deborah Stratman’s mesmeric new film is a geohistorical inquiry into life on earth from the perspective of rocks: those formations of crystal and mineral that existed before the existence of people—and will one day outlive us.”

THE NIGHT VISITORS. Dir. Michael Gitlin. World Premiere. “Film and video artist Michael Gitlin (THE EARTH IS YOUNG) magnifies the surreal beauty and ecological significance of moths in his eye-opening and richly philosophical experimental documentary/essay film that explores a crucial element of our planet’s biodiversity that many of us may never consider.”


Note: All of the following shorts will play as Currents: Shorts Programs 1 and 2.

ABATTOIR U.S.A.! Dir. Aria Dean. North American Premiere. “The interior of an empty slaughterhouse—rendered using 3D computer graphics tools—becomes the set for artist Aria Dean’s investigation of death and industrialization. Blending historical and contemporary architectural programs with hyper-realistic and non-Euclidean spatial configurations, Abattoir, U.S.A.! explores this site as both material and metaphor, a locus for the intersection of the human, the animal, and the machine.”

SENSITIVE CONTENT. Dir. Narges Kalhor.U.S. Premiere. “. . .the Iranian people use their cell-phone cameras to capture scenes of urgent protest and brutal retaliation by the regime. In the act of bearing witness, they risk the loss of their vision, as authorities are known to target the eyes of their victims. Narges Kalhor aggregates these images, which have been flagged as ‘sensitive content’ on various social media channels, a form of censorship that sanitizes and erases violent events from the record.”

NAMELESS SYNDROME. Dir. Jeamin Cha. North American Premiere. “Young women are subjected to a series of medical procedures: diagnostic tests, rehabilitation exercises, and fittings for prosthetic devices, demonstrating the medical industrial complex’s dehumanizing reliance on empirical evidence to validate people’s subjective bodily experiences of pain. Accompanied by key critical texts on the phenomenology of illness—from Anne Boyer to Carlo Ginzburg—Jeamin Cha’s deconstructed medical procedural problematizes the alienated choreography between patient, technician, and machine.”

SHROOMS. Dir. Jorge Jácome. “. . . Jorge Jácome’s leisurely portrait film follows an amateur forager and breeder of carrier pigeons in his quotidian routines, searching the woodlands on Lisbon’s outskirts for psilocybin mushrooms and rhapsodizing about their therapeutic properties. With its soundtrack of insect chatter, birdsong, cat purrs, and whirly tubes, SHROOMS traces circuits of habit, attention, and care between the animal, fungal, and human worlds.”

Still from SHROOMS. Courtesy of NYFF.

THE FAR AND NEAR. Dir. Justin Jinsoo Kim. U.S. Premiere. “Exploring both the abstractions of astrophotography and the documentary possibilities of classical Korean landscape painting, The Far and Near is a cosmic voyage into seemingly empty space, in which Kim collages and distorts inkjet prints of images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope into chimeric space-scapes that evoke the oneiric spaces of Ahn Gyeon’s Dream Journey to Peach Blossom Land. . .”

SLOW SHIFT. Dir. Shambhavi Kaul. U.S. Premiere. “Amid the ruins of the 14th-century city of Hampi in southwestern India—fabled site of the ancient Monkey Kingdom—troops of langurs observe a world in flux. Intercutting observational footage with constructed sequences, filmmaker Shambhavi Kaul juxtaposes human, simian, and geologic timescales, marking a place where history, mythology, and nature conspire and collide."

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