New York Film Festival Main Slate 2019

I’ve heard from many a festival-goer that it’s possible to work through the entire New York Film Festival lineup – or at least its premier section, the Main Slate – given how the event spreads out manageably over the course of seventeen days all at Lincoln Center. But with schedule conflicts or lack of interest in certain titles, it’s a feat seldom seen or accomplished. Or, maybe given how gluttonous I feel after having done this myself, people choose not to brag about it if they do manage to pull it off.

While battling fatigue as well as exhaustion, plus countless instances of doubting if this was something I actually wanted to do, I managed to see all 29 films programmed in this year’s NYFF Main Slate. (If you’re the ranking type, I did just that over on Letterboxd.) I learned plenty about myself and some masochistic moviegoing habits after subjecting myself to this marathon of viewing contemporary cinema, but that’s a subject for another piece. It’s impossible to watch this incredible selection of films from across the globe and not have some larger takeaways about trends, patterns and parallels. Here are ten lessons from surveying the Main Slate in its entirety. Read More »

Zombi Child Review

A pufferfish is sliced. Poison is stashed into a shoe. An unwitting victim (Mackenson Bijou) puts on that shoe and walks the street of 1962 Haiti. Then he falls dead. He is buried. The corpse appears to hear the beat of dirt shoving on his casket. Inexplicably, the scene cuts to the walking corpse being dragged to a sugarcane farm. Now a “zombi,” he is forced into slavery with others like him. As automation with head bowed, the zombi slaves have no will to break from orders. Until one day, when the zombi breaks from slave labor and watches his civilization from the distance. 

This tale is lifted from the strange case of Clairvius Narcisse, a real-life documented “zombi”, a man who was buried alive before he returned to his society. (His tale also inspired Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow). “Zombi” is the Haitian-French original spelling of the widely-known “Zombie.” And the “Zombi” of Zombi Child isn’t your conventional Hollywood walking dead. While Clairvius moans, elicit glassy stares, and gaits with bodily convulsions, Clairvius’s zombi form bears flesh that looks healthy on the outside rather than visibly torn. But his pain is inward, a starving for release from an ache he cannot articulate even when he finds the will to depart from the grueling labor.

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