I admire the NYFF’s commitment to what they deem the “avant-garde”. Extensive programming in this sidebar make it a rarity amongst modern high profile festivals. NYFF features no “midnight madness” section for horror, and comedies were few and far between, but if you’re interested in movies that the general public consider “boring” and “strange” then NYFF is for you. I unfortunately did not get to catch more than a very small sampling, but what I did manage to see was enticing and illuminating.
Two of these that make a compelling double feature are Manakamana and Costa da Morte? Both are very sparingly shot examinations of a natural landscape that has likely never seen before by most western audiences. The former, isn't actually a part from the avant-garde showcase, although it really ought to be, comes from the Sensory Ethnography Lab, responsible for such daring and captivating cinema as Sweetgrass and this year’s Leviathan. From directors Stephanie Spay and Pacho Velez, Manakamana lacks the immediate gut-punch reaction that those other two had. It works more or less like an omnibus film, featuring eleven mini-films taken from within the cablecars that take worshippers to the titular mountaintop temple.