While year 49 isn’t quite a golden anniversary, the 49th annual New York Film Festival has plenty to celebrate. From Friday, Sept. 30 through Sunday, Oct. 16, the Film Society of Lincoln Center hosts NYFF, which showcases films from all over the world in celebration and promotion of cinematic art. With shining new theaters and a reinvigorated film slate, NYFF should have a banner year—and there are many ways for students to get the most out of it.
The question of how to use the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s beautiful new digs—the three theaters that comprise the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (70 Lincoln Center Plaza, between Broadway and Amsterdam)—only created new opportunities.
“We do have new spaces and I don’t think we just wanted to repeat films,” said Film Society of Lincoln Center programming director and Columbia professor Richard Peña. “We wanted to figure out how we could expand intelligently—how we could expand in such a way that we did not lose our identity but in fact that we were moving into new areas and doing more things.”
These new theaters have brought to life the festival’s outer spheres: retrospectives, such as a 37-film tribute to the Japanese film studio Nikkatsu, discussions, and panels. This year’s panels feature everything from a fun “The Royal Tenenbaums” reunion to a tribute to late film critic Pauline Kael.
That is not to say that the main slate is lacking. This year, NYFF features some of the most exciting film selections seen in recent years—from anxiously awaited commercial films like Lars Von Trier's dreamy “Melancholia” to the intense Iranian feature “Nader and Simin, A Separation.” The latter has already won awards for best film (gold), best actress (silver), and best actor (silver) at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Choosing which films to see is no easy task. After the dedicated festival selection committee narrows the over 2,800 film applications down to 27, every film is worth watching. “I think there are several different ways of … approaching the New York Film Festival,” Peña said. “One is to really see which films have distributors and which ones don’t. Films that have distributors of course will—within the next few months, at least within the next year—be opening, and you’ll be able to see them then. Other films in the program that don’t have distributors—this might be your last chance to see them on a big screen.”
If the $25 festival tickets seem a bit out of reach, there are other ways to gain access to NYFF. Although not prominently listed on its website, NYFF offers rush tickets. One hour before the showtime of any film, open tickets are released at a reduced price of $10. Although not guaranteed, most films do have extra tickets, and the price is hard to beat.
Also, in an attempt to strengthen its social media presence, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Twitter account (@FilmLinc) offers daily trivia questions that allow participants to win free tickets.
While it may be too late for this year, the best way to truly gain firsthand NYFF experience is to volunteer.
“Almost all the volunteers were film majors from city schools,” Winn Periyasamy, BC ’13, said. “It’s great for their résumé, gives them a place to see some really amazing films and meet some amazing people, and gives them a great chance to discuss their own films and their love of films with other students.” Periyasamy is a second-year volunteer.
Aside from networking, volunteering comes with major perks. “You get the chance to see press screenings and actual premieres of some really cool films, sit in on some amazing panels—I got to see the post-screening discussions for ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Inside Job,’ for example—and meet some incredible people in the industry that you might not be able to meet otherwise,” Periyasamy said.
Peña said the opportunities for volunteering range from staffing the green room to checking in press, but he maintains that the “other duty is of course to attend.”
With many showings over the next two weeks that still have available tickets and rush prices comparable to AMC’s ticket deals, not even midterms should deter film-loving students from taking advantage of the simply great cinema at the 49th New York Film Festival.
MOST BUZZ-WORTHY AT NYFF
The Loneliest Planet
As a couple (Gael García Bernal and Hani Furstenburg) hikes through the Caucasus Mountains with a guide, a singular event changes them forever. It is a meditation on the strength of human bonds and frailty of human instinct. This complex sophomore film from director Julia Loktev doesn’t have a distributor yet, so this might be the last chance to see it—and its immense landscapes and silently huge performances demand to be seen on the big screen.
A Dangerous Method
One of the most talked-about films of the festival, David Cronenberg’s tale of Freud and Jung appeals to more than just psych majors. With big-name stars like Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Viggo Mortensen, the movie is a feast for the eyes and the mind. Of all the high-profile films premiering at this year’s festival, “A Dangerous Method” is by far the most intellectual, as well as the most anticipated.
Mexico’s entry into this year’s Academy Awards race features a star-making performance from newcomer Stephanie Sigman. She plays a dazed beauty queen wannabe who inadvertently gets caught up in a dangerous Mexican gang.
From Morning Till Midnight
A great example of NYFF’s dedication to cinema history, this radical, silent film will appeal to anyone who enjoyed the eerie expressionism of “Cabinet of Doctor Caligari.” Following a provincial embezzler who flees to the city and enters into a downward spiral, this extreme German expressionist film was thought lost. Recently recovered, it is brought back to life with live accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra.