New American Cinema in Seattle Film Festival 2016

in 42nd Seattle International Film Festival

by Marco Lombardi

“New American Cinema” is a very interesting section of Seattle International Film Festival that shows artistic excitement of independent cinema in the States. In the 2016 edition not all movies were “perfect” but it’s been interesting pointing out a common trend that is sociological too; although they don’t directly deal with burning contemporary themes as terrorism, economic crisis and discrimination all of them unveil a deep collective anxiety that implodes on itself, creating a sense of frustration that prevents any kind of reaction and weakening our natural “joie de vivre”. The film that highlights that is the one we awarded, Middle Man which tells the story of a fellow who would like to be a comedian, but manages to make people laugh only when he narrates his real dramas, as if the tragedy was funnier than comedy and art couldn’t be anything but a way to show human suffering. Americana is on the same page.  In this claustrophobic and paranoid Lynch style drama the main character, a movie director, has to face his personal ghosts just when he is asked to complete editing a film.

As we can notice in The Exorcist the sphere of the family seems to be the better lens to watch and analyze contemporary collective anxiety. Above all in Free in Deed which won an award at Venice last year and looks at the incessant and inexplicable lamentations over an autistic child that symbolizes human suffering. Following this interpretative path, the attorney protagonist of  The Night Stalker – which travels through the psychological atmosphere of  The Silence of the Lambs – connects with the serial killer. He raises memories of violent experiences in her younger years.

The adolescents in As You Are come from broken families as well. A stepfather is ex-military amd considers guns his everyday tools.

Family also seems to be the catalyst for social anxiety in The Architect. A married couple come face to face with their unhappiness when they hire an architect to design a new house for them.  This architect follows his own private plans and there is a sense of homelessness. Event this film, that is the only pure comedy in New American Cinema section, is not able to be positive about “modern life”.

Pure love should be a solution to contemporary fears, but the independent American cinema selected by SIFF 2016 doesn’t think so.  The wife and mother in Claire in Motion falls into a net of uncertainties when her husband mysteriously disappears.  She begins to doubt her marriage and her feelings in spite of her son who should be a milestone in her life.

All the Birds Have Flown South says that loving means killing if the person you are crazy for is desperate and “not savable”. That’s what the protagonist of this  touching, grotesque (and wonderful) film decides to do after his mother’s death. He acts on the belief that the greatest way to love is putting an end to another’s suffering instead of helping him to live in a better way.

A deep disorientation is also revealed in the remaining films. The protagonist of  11:55 is a young soldier just back from Afghanistan can’t live a normal life as he has to reckon with a murder he committed in the past. Transpecos’ intense photography transforms the story of three border patrol agents bored by the lack of action into a thriller that raises anxiety when one of the agents must let drugs pass into the US as his family has been marked by a deadly Mexican cartel.

It’s anothetr example of family at the center of a contemporary chaos that even the law can’t solve.

Edited by Anne Brodie