Ania Trzebiatowska has recently joined the University as the festival director of Sands – International Film Festival of St Andrews. I am delighted to have her as a member of this film community, and invited her to contribute a playlist. She was generous enough to agree, and it’s a splendid one.
Themed Playlist: Discovery and Beginnings
One of the things I love about the work I get to do as a film curator is the opportunity to discover exciting new voices – filmmakers who are willing to experiment and push the boundaries of storytelling in whatever way they find inspiring. They often present us with worlds I never even imagined existed.
This is the type of discovery Sands is hoping to encourage. We would love for our audiences to have the chance to see original new work from international filmmakers at the beginning of their careers. Our programme will focus on first and second feature films that stand out. We want to showcase bold, engaging, unique stories that challenge the status quo. And we hope to bring these talented risk takers to St Andrews so we can hear more about their approach to what they do and why.
In honour of such risk takers, I dedicate this Playlist to some of my favourite debuts of the last decade.
Pariah (Dee Rees, 2011)
I remember seeing Pariah when it premiered at Sundance and being in awe of just how beautifully nuanced and layered this story was. This is not your typical coming-of-age film and Dee Rees’ confident direction, clear vision and authentic voice stayed with me to this day.
Bombay Beach (Alma Har’el, 2011)
It feels appropriate that an observational documentary about the myth that is the American Dream would appear dream-like in its form and its narrative. Alma Ha’rel’s stunning vision of one of the poorest communities on the shore of a man-made sea in the middle of a Southern California desert is a visual poem made with love and respect for all the characters we encounter.
Bombay Beach is available for rent or purchase on Vimeo.
The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczyńska, 2015)
Two sisters who happen to be carnivorous mermaids set out on a journey to explore life on dry land. This genre-bending musical is like nothing I had ever seen before – a bold statement on sexuality, feminism, and the search for one’s identity.
The Lure is available to stream on Netflix
Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 2015)
More sisters! But this time they’re not after human flesh, only their right to choose how they live. Mustang is an insightful and eloquent exploration of tradition and intergenerational conflicts, and an emotional rollercoaster of a film with stunning performances and haunting photography.
Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson, 2016)
A directorial debut of an experienced director of photography, Kirsten Johnson, is a visual collage and an autobiography of sorts. A striking collection of moments, people and circumstances, a provocative exploration of what it means to be looking and how the camera’s gaze alters the way we see things. Unusual, full of meaning, unhurried storytelling that defies any and all narrative clichés.
Cameraperson is available for rent or purchase on Amazon.
The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019)
I remember that during the screening of Lulu Wang’s The Farewell I kept thinking that I didn’t want the film to end. I was enjoying the company of these characters so much and felt moved and charmed by the way in which the director so lovingly showed them in all their complicated glory. This is the type of a film that makes me laugh and cry because it feels authentic and elegant in how it portrays the essence of human nature.
The Farewell is currently streaming on Netflix.
Time (Garrett Bradley, 2020)
Bradley tells the story of Fox Rich – a fearless mother and wife who, over the course of twenty one years, fights for the release of her husband from an unjust prison sentence of sixty years. Fox is a true force of nature and an inspiration, but it’s Bradley’s relationship with the family and the trust she gained in the process of filming them that made this incredibly intimate film so powerful and moving.
Time is currently streaming Amazon.
Ania Trzebiatowska is the festival director of Sands – International Film Festival of St Andrews, as well as a feature film programmer for the Sundance Film Festival. Most recently, she was the Sales & Acquisitions Executive for the doc sales agency, Autlook Filmsales. Prior to that she was with the NYC-based agency, Visit Films, where she served as the Senior Director of Acquisitions since 2015. Aside from her work at Sundance, Ania was the artistic director of the Off Camera IFF (Krakow, Poland), which she programmed between 2008-2020. She trained in production and post-production at the BBC and the British Museum, and holds a Masters degree in film studies as well as an M.A in Digital Culture and Technology.
To learn more about Sands, visit the festival’s website [https://sands-iff.com] and check out the University announcement [https://news.st-andrews.ac.uk/archive/hollywood-director-backs-new-st-andrews-international-film-festival/].