New Directors/New Films, which opened in New York on Wednesday with Blue Caprice and is screening Tower once more tonight, rolls out another three this evening (following yesterday’s batch, Emperor Visits the Hell, Küf, and The Color of the Chameleon), all of them screening a second time on Sunday.
“As much a nail-biting thriller as an experiment in narrative dualism, [Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking] tells the story of a Danish vessel taken hostage by a group of Somali terrorists somewhere on the Indian Ocean,” wrote Michal Oleszczyk in a dispatch from Thessaloniki to the House Next Door back in November. “The subsequent ransom negotiations between the hijackers and the shipping company form a push-pull pattern that could seem all too familiar, save for one detail: The drama’s two key participants never meet each other, nor do they share the same screen space. The ship’s cook, Mikkel (scruffy and hirsute Johan Philip Asbæk), is a mere head shot hanging on the wall of the company’s CEO, Peter (scrubbed and pinched Søren Malling), who heads the nerve-wrecking negotiations from an office back in Denmark. Still, the two men are linked in a way that neither of them is fully aware of. The ordeal they both sustain, though different in nature and circumstance, will change them forever—even as their respective traumas will stay squarely on separate sides of a disparate class divide.”
“Lindholm’s long takes and handheld cinematography provide a docudrama sheen that’s never intrusive,” writes Nick Schager in Slant, “and his plotting has a taut and methodical inner logic in which every development has a clear cause-effect relationship to that which has come before. Despite the obvious melodramatic pitfalls that such material invites, A Hijacking is sober in addressing its various players’ plights, be it the increasingly numbing trauma suffered by Mikkel, the immense stress and responsibility shouldered by Peter, or the emotional misery of the hijacked seamen’s families, whose anguish is suitably addressed without ever being milked for excessively manipulative bathos.”
Similarly, A.O. Scott in the New York Times: “Lindholm, a writer for the much praised series Borgen, observes the unfolding drama with a detached, procedural eye, and manages to convey intense tedium without reproducing it. He also invites you to think about the meaning of the hijacking — as an act of violence, a test of manhood and an episode of class warfare in a time of globalization—without lecturing or preaching.”
More from Todd Brown (Twitch), Celluloid Liberation Front (Cinema Scope), Stefan Dobroiu (Cineuropa), Guy Lodge (Variety), Oliver Lyttelton (Playlist), and Neil Young (Hollywood Reporter).
“Not everyone in the black Christian and north-African Muslim communities of Paris that comprise the milieu of Rachid Djaïdani’s Rengaine oppose intermarriage between the two groups, but enough do to make things considerably difficult for the film’s would-be couple,” writes Andrew Schenker in Slant. “Detailing the troubles facing the Algerian Sabrina (Sabrina Hamida) and her fiancé, a struggling black actor named Dorcy (Stéphane Soo Mongo), after word of their impending nuptials makes the rounds of the north-African neighborhood where Sabrina’s family lives, the film complicates matters by juxtaposing the prevailing disgust with a range of more tempered viewpoints. But as Djaïdani reaches for some last-minute, dramatic soul-searching on the part of one of his most skeptical characters, Rengaine can’t overcome its sketch-like quality, which rarely allows it to transcend the superficial grounding of its Romeo and Juliet narrative.”
But Scott Foundas, writing in the Voice, disagrees, noting that “novelist, actor, and former boxer” Djaïdani “spent a decade preparing this no-budget film. The result crackles with the fire of necessity—a movie that seems to have poured out of its maker, that could no longer be contained. It is searing, honest, funny, and lyric—a rush of short, sharp scenes shot with a whirring handheld camera, and rhythmic dialogue that is at once conversational and poetic (‘I’m dead already. Dying a second time won’t bother me’). Djaïdani ends Rengaine with an on-screen dedication: ‘Dear cinema, I love you.’ Judging from the evidence here, the feeling is entirely mutual.”
More from Howard Feinstein (Filmmaker), Chris Knipp, Ben Nicholson (CineVue), and Jay Weissberg (Variety).
Update, 4/12: Laura Reeck talks with Djaïdani for Bomb.
“A short burst of a film shot over 11 days with minimal equipment, Burn It Up Djassa only falters when setting its sights on more than what its shaky digital camera can capture,” writes Tomas Hachard for Slant. “The Ivorian film follows Tony (Abdoul Karim Konaté), a 25-year-old cigarette vendor living with his sister, Ange (Adélaïde Ouattara), a reluctant hairdresser moonlighting as a prostitute. Their older brother, Mike (Mamadou Diomandé), a police detective, watches over them, though his attempts to keep them on the straight and narrow do little to deter them from the opposite route…. Director Lonesome Solo intersperses Tony’s story with scenes of locals singing, drinking, and playing music…. If the film is too unfocused when capturing Abidjan street life generally, it hits its stride telling the condensed story of Tony’s rise and fall.”
This is “direct, vibrant filmmaking,” finds Chris Knipp.
For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @KeyframeDaily on Twitter and/or the RSS feed. Get Keyframe Daily in your inbox by signing in at fandor.com/daily.