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AFI Fest 2015: Mediterranea, James White & Krisha Among New Auteurs and American Independents Films Lineup

A pair of sections that we’ve been covering almost since its inception, the American Film Institute (AFI) announced their selections for the New Auteurs and American Independents line-ups and we’ve got a noteworthy, eyebrow-raising sampling of award-winning items from the Cannes played hellish immigration drama Mediterranea from Jonas Carpignano to Sundance (Josh Mond’s James White) to SXSW (Trey Edward Shults’ Krisha) winners. Since Park City days, our Nicholas Bell has reviewed a good chunk of these titles, but we’ll still likely have a couple of more reviews once the festival begins. Here are the selections and jury members.

NEW AUTEURS SELECTIONS (11 Titles)

FROM AFAR – When a middle-aged man is assaulted and robbed by a young criminal, an unlikely relationship develops. DIR Lorenzo Vigas. SCR Lorenzo Vigas. CAST Alfredo Castro and Luis Silva. Venezuela/Mexico. U.S. Premiere

DISORDER – Matthias Schoenaerts plays an ex-soldier who becomes locked in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with ski-masked home invaders at a wealthy estate. DIR Alice Winocour. SCR Alice Winocour. CAST Matthias Schoenaerts, Diane Kruger, Paul Hamy, Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant, Percy Kemp, Victor Pontecorvo, Mickaël Daubert, Franck Torrecillas, Chems Eddine, Philippe Haddad, Jean-Louis Coulloc’h. France/Belgium

EVOLUTION – On an island inhabited only by women and boys, a 10-year-old receiving strange medical treatment investigates the horrific things the women do at night. DIR Lucile Hadžihalilović. SCR Lucile Hadžihalilović, Alanté Kavaïté, Geoff Cox. CAST Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier. France

THE GULLS (CHAIKI) – In winter near the Caspian Sea, a fisherman’s wife becomes free of her suppressed domestic existence after a life-altering event. DIR Ella Manzheeva. SCR Ella Manzheeva. CAST Evgeniya Mandzhieva, Sergey Adianov, Evgeny Sangadzhiev, Lyubov Ubushieva, Dmitry Mukeyev. Russian Federation. North American Premiere

IXCANUL – A young Mayan woman becomes pregnant outside of an impending arranged marriage, throwing her and her family’s future into dire uncertainty. DIR Jayro Bustamante. SCR Jayro Bustamante. CAST María Mercedes Coroy, María Telón, Manuel Antún, Justo Lorenzo, Marvin Coroy. Guatemala/France

LAND AND SHADE (LA TIERRA Y LA SOMBRA) – An aging farmer returns to rural Colombia where the family and land he long ago abandoned have been devastated by industrial progress. DIR César Augusto Acevedo. SCR César Augusto Acevedo. CAST Haimer Leal, Hilda Ruiz, Edison Raigosa, Marleyda Soto, José Felipe Cárdenas, Edison Raigosa. Colombia/France/Netherlands/Chile/Brazil. U.S. Premiere

MEDITERRANEA – In this timely film, a migrant from Burkina Faso makes a perilous journey from North Africa to Europe. DIR Jonas Carpignano. SCR Jonas Carpignano. CAST Koudous Seihon, Alassane Sy, Adam Gnegne, Davide Schipilliti. Italy/France/USA/Germany

MOUNTAIN – To escape her troubles at home, a young Orthodox Jewish woman falls in with a nocturnal community of prostitutes and drug dealers in the ancient cemetery atop Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives. DIR Yaelle Kayam. SCR Yaelle Kayam. CAST Shani Klein, Avshalom Pollak, Haitham Ibrahem Omari. Israel/Denmark. U.S. Premiere

MUSTANG – Five Turkish sisters must fight back against harsh societal restrictions when a seemingly innocent act is blown out of proportion. DIR Deniz Gamze Ergüven. SCR Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Alice Winocour. CAST Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan, Ayberk Pekcan. France/Germany/Turkey

SWORN VIRGIN (VERGINE GIURATA) – A young Albanian woman bucks her destiny by appealing to an ancient regional law allowing her to live free as a man if she takes an oath of eternal virginity. DIR Laura Bispuri. SCR Francesca Manieri, Laura Bispuri. CAST Alba Rohrwacher, Flonja Kodheli, Lars Eidinger, Luan Jaha, Bruno Shllaku, Ilire Celaj, Drenica Selimaj, Dajana Selimaj, Emily Ferratello. Italy/Switzerland/Germany/Albania/Republic of Kosovo

UNTIL I LOSE MY BREATH – A Turkish teenager dreams of leaving her abusive home and moving in with her father, a long-distance truck driver. DIR Emine Emel Balcı. SCR Emine Emel Balcı. CAST Esme Madra, Rıza Akın, Sema Keçik, Gizem Denizci, Ece Yüksel, Uğur Uzunel, Yavuz Pekman, Pinar Gök, Yavuz Özata. Turkey/Germany. North American Premiere

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS (9 Titles)

BOB AND THE TREES – A middle-aged logger gambles his personal and professional livelihood on harvesting an unyielding piece of land. DIR Diego Ongaro. SCR Diego Ongaro, Courtney Maum, Sasha Statman-Weil. CAST Bob Tarasuk, Matt Gallagher, Polly MacIntyre, Richard Bradley, Winthrop Barrett. USA

FIELD NIGGAS – Khalik Allah’s stylized documentary chronicles summer nights spent at the intersection of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue in Harlem. DIR Khalik Allah. USA

FUNNY BUNNY – A trio of people look to make meaningful connections in this sweet natured comedy. DIR Alison Bagnall. SCR Alison Bagnall. CAST Kentucker Audley, Joslyn Jensen, Olly Alexander, Louis Cancelmi, Josephine Decker, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Grace Gonglewski, Caridad de la Luz, Nicholas Webber. USA

H. – Two different Helens of Troy live parallel lives in this brilliantly unnerving apocalyptic vision. DIR Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia. SCR Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia. CAST Robin Bartlett, Rebecca Dayan, Will Janowitz, Julian Gamble, Roger Robinson. USA/Argentina

JAMES WHITE – A young New Yorker is forced to take control of his self-destructive lifestyle as he navigates his mother’s fight with a serious illness. DIR Josh Mond. SCR Josh Mond. CAST Christopher Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, Scott Mescudi, Makenzie Leigh, Ron Livingston. USA

KRISHA – Estranged relative Krisha shows up to a family Thanksgiving to make amends, but as the day unfolds she can’t escape her dark past. DIR Trey Edward Shults. SCR Trey Edward Shults. CAST Krisha Fairchild, Robyn Fairchild, Bill Wise, Trey Edward Shults, Chris Doubek, Olivia Grace Applegate, Alex Dobrenko, Chase Joliet. USA

MEN GO TO BATTLE – In this indie American period piece, two farming brothers in 1861 are torn apart by the encroaching Civil War. DIR Zachary Treitz. SCR Kate Lyn Sheil, Zachary Treitz. CAST David Maloney, Timothy Morton, Kate Lyn Sheil, Rachel Korine. USA

SONGS MY BROTHERS TAUGHT ME – A brother and sister living on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation cope with the loss of their father in very different ways. DIR Chloé Zhao. SCR Chloé Zhao. CAST John Reddy, Jashaun St. John, Irene Bedard, Eleonore Hendricks, Taysha Fuller, Cat Clifford. USA

STINKING HEAVEN – When a new member arrives at a home for sober living, a self-destructive spiral begins. DIR Nathan Silver. SCR Nathan Silver, Jack Dunphy. CAST Deragh Campbell, Keith Poulson, Hannah Gross, Eléonore Hendricks, Tallie Medel, Henri Douvry, Jason Giampietro, Jason Grisell, Eileen Kearney, Larry Novak. USA

This year’s New Auteurs jury features Inkoo Kang (TheWrap), Sheri Linden (The Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times) and Nigel M. Smith (The Guardian).

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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