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New York Film Festival 2020: 10 Films We Are Most Excited to See

Sep 14, 2020
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If this were non-pandemic times, the film community would be abuzz with new anecdotes and reviews trickling in from the first fall film festivals: Venice, Telluride, and Toronto. Two out of three of those are happening within social distancing parameters (Telluride chose to cancel this year’s festival outright). But the spirit of a film festival is hard to recreate without a sense of community. This can feel isolating at times, but film festivals have worked hard to adapt by presenting movies in a variety of different forms, such as socially distanced in-person, drive-ins and digital screenings. This year, Film at Lincoln Center’s 58th New York Film Festival is no exception to these changes.

With a lineup of similar size to last year’s event, NYFF is utilizing drive-in theaters in the city’s boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens and a digital platform hosted by Shift72. Regardless of viewing options, this year’s film selections are nothing less than extraordinary. Whether you’re looking for a world premiere, a low-key flick, or a restoration of a classic, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

With so many new and hyped films, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by such an extensive lineup. Below are the 10 films we are most excited to see as chosen by one of UTR’s film critics, Kaveh Jalinous.



The Woman Who Ran

Main Slate

Who: South Korean auteur, director Hong Sang-soo; frequent acting collaborator Kim Min-hee

What: “The film follows Gamhee as she travels without her husband for the first time in years, visiting a succession of friends: two on purpose, one by chance.”

Why: A return for Hong Sang-soo to the film festival circuit with his usual hallmarks of short runtime, minimalist yet powerful conversations, and themes on life and connection.


City Hall

Main Slate

Who: Frederick Wiseman, one of the most skillful and prominent cinéma vérité documentary filmmakers.

What: “Wiseman trains his gaze on the inner workings of the city of Boston, taking viewers into the public and backroom discussions that can either inspire or stall municipal action.”

Why: Long-time Wiseman fans and newbies alike can expect a lot of long-takes, little camera movement, and almost too much content to take in – which are the things that Wiseman does best.


David Byrne’s American Utopia


Who: Groundbreaking director Spike Lee; Iconic Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

What: “A film of [Byrne’s] acclaimed Broadway show, American Utopia.”

Why: If Byrne and Lee have proved anything in their extensive careers, it’s that they can make magic out of the simplest things. Plus, the performance’s soundtrack includes both Byrne’s solo work and Talking Heads classics such as “Once In A Lifetime” and “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody).” We’ll be singing all the way through this crown jewel of the festival’s elite “Spotlight” series.




Who: Famed Hungarian director Béla Tarr, director of the seven-hour long Sátántangó (1994) and the acclaimed Wrekmeister Harmonies (2000).

What: “The story is a kind of desiccated film noir, focusing on the efforts of a dour loner, Karrer (Miklós Székely B.), to steal back his estranged lover—a lounge singer (Vali Kerekes) in a funereal bar named Titanik—from her debt-addled husband.”

Why: This critically acclaimed 1988 masterpiece is absent from all streaming services, leaving cinephiles scrambling to locate one of Tarr’s most famous pieces of work. With a new restoration by the Hungarian National Film Institute, the film can finally be seen again, in its most pristine format showcased in “Revivals,” NYFF’s series focused on restored classics.



Main Slate

Who: Chloé Zhao, returning after her subtle and fresh sophomore film The Rider in 2018; Frances McDormand, Fargo star and Academy Award winner for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

What: “A year in the life of Fern (McDormand), a stoic, stubbornly independent widow who, having spent her adult life in a now-defunct company town, repurposes an old van and sets off in search of seasonal work.”

Why: The film is an insight on both America’s bureaucratic systems and its natural beauty, and finding your sense of belonging between the two. This year’s centerpiece at the festival, Zhao’s final film before her Marvel Cinematic Universe directorial debut should definitely be an interesting one to watch.


The Monopoly of Violence


Who: Famed French author and director, David Dufresne.

What: “An essential and timely work, showing the dangers of police serving the state rather than the people, and identifying the growing tendency among Western democracies to enact totalitarian methods to keep the populace under their control.”

Why: Few films on this year’s lineup seem more timely than The Monopoly of Violence, and the synopsis of the film almost guarantees that it will be an educational and emotional experience.


The Inheritance


Who: The feature film debut of Ephraim Asili, filmmaker and DJ.

What: “A community of young people have come together to form a collective of Black artists and activists.”

Why: While we don’t have a lot of hints about the film’s narrative, the film is best known for being set in one house in West Philadelphia for a majority of its runtime. The film is also the opening night selection of the new “Currents” lineup, a section of the festival focused on the boldest new films in contemporary cinema.


Red, White and Blue

Main Slate

Who: Steve McQueen, acclaimed director of Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave and the underrated Widows of 2018; Star Wars star John Boyega.

What: “John Boyega plays real-life figure Leroy Logan, a member of the London Metropolitan Police Force who both witnessed and experienced firsthand the organization’s fundamental racism.”

Why: Red, White and Blue, Lovers Rock and Mangrove are three of McQueen’s five-part anthology miniseries premiering at the festival. Of the three, Red, White and Blue looks the most promising. This particular episode seeks to use McQueen’s powerful cinematic voice and techniques to showcase a story that is impossible to forget.




Who: Starring titular characters Orson Welles and Easy Rider director, Dennis Hopper, the film is one of the former’s many unfinished directorial features, completed by the same production team that resurrected Welles’ 2018 Netflix film The Other Side of the Wind.

What: “In November 1970, two movie mavericks, one already a legend (Orson Welles) and the other on his way to mythic status (Dennis Hopper), met for an epochal conversation.”

Why: The idea of listening to these two icons of cinema discussing art, life, and the meaning of film sounds nothing less than fantastic, and we can’t wait to see how the production team restores and revitalizes this piece of art.


The Human Voice


Who: Pedro Almodóvar, just over a year after his massively successful Pain and Glory, which propelled Antonio Banderas to his first Oscar nomination for lead actor, this new film stars Tilda Swinton.

What: “Tilda Swinton swallows up the screen as a woman traumatized by the end of a relationship in Pedro Almodóvar’s first English-language film.”

Why: Almodóvar is back, and in English! Plus, for a movie that’s only 30 minutes long starring Tilda Swinton, Almodóvar’s adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s one-act play has a lot going for it. It should be exciting to see how the director captures audiences using such little material.


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