This is essentially a continuation of the previous entry, but I've already posted two addendums (addenda?) down there and am concerned that this one might get overlooked.
Anyway, while I remain disappointed with the way TONY chose to cover ND/NF this year, after talking privately with a couple of the "culprits" I'm willing to concede that I overreacted a little. Not only did I fail to consider (see addendum to previous post) that they might not have been at the press screenings because they were watching the films on video, but I also mistakenly assumed that what I saw in the print magazine represented everything they planned to offer. As it turns out, David Fear has posted the specific recommendations I sought on TONY's film blog. I still contend that this material should have been in the print magazine—as a faithful reader, in all honesty I almost never look at the website—but I accordingly withdraw some of my harsher remarks. I should have checked with them before venting. This is precisely why I'm a critic and not a reporter.
The thing is, this festival does matter. Yes, I kick off every year's intro by noting that most of the films suck. And most of them do suck, frankly, which is why we need venues like TONY and the Voice to steer us toward the few that don't. But the list of notable filmmakers first introduced to New York audiences by New Directors/New Films is vast and hugely impressive. I just skimmed my viewing logs over the last decade or so and here's what I came up with:
Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Guillermo Del Toro
And that's a pretty selective list. I didn't include Neil LaBute, for example, because most people would agree that it's been all downhill for him since In the Company of Men (though Lakeview Terrace is more interesting than you think). Nor did I include folks like Lance Hammer who have yet to even make film #2. Point is, any New York cinephile striving to remain current needs to take ND/NF seriously. Even if there are only two or three truly significant films shown in any given year, those two or three films tell us where we're headed. It's a film critic's job to identify them for us. Not that critics will always agree, of course—I was actually stunned to find that Slant gave Home a fairly positive review—but how can a consensus even begin to form if there aren't a multitude of sharp writers doing the necessary legwork? So the fact that major publications are increasingly blowing off comprehensive review-based coverage in favor of interviews and profiles remains troubling.