Film Festivals

2017 New York Film Festival: What to See

Here’s our handy guide to the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 55th annual smorgasbord of cinema.

Kate Winslet in "Wonder Wheel"; Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

If you’re serious about the art of cinema, you could, conceivably, spend 50 weeks a year avoiding movie theaters like the plague. Farewell, chatty audiences, food wrappers, text beeps, and sticky floors! But to feed your cinephilia, you would have to buy a package to the New York Film Festival (Thursday, September 28–Sunday, October 15). Bingeing isn’t for everyone, but given how raucous multiplex crowds can get, it’s understandable. Plus, the New York Film Festival is curated by film experts and critics; chances are good you’ll see great work.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center recently announced the 25-film lineup for the Main Slate, as well as programming for its other categories: Spotlight on Documentary, Special Events, a Robert Mitchum Retrospective, Projections, Revivals, Shorts, and Convergence. That’s a ton of celluloid (and live stuff) to choose from.

Here is our curated list of what we are excited about at this year’s New York Film Festival. Be sure to get in touch with our experience advisers who can reserve your seats at any of them.

Last Flag Flying

Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne play Vietnam veterans who hit the road to bury Carell’s character’s son, who was killed during the Iraq invasion. Richard Linklater (Boyhood) directs this story of friendship, loyalty, and scars that don’t heal. It’s a film that reckons with life in America under George W. Bush.

The Other Side of Hope

Finnish deadpan auteur Aki Kaurismäki directs what could be the first major (fictional) film about today’s tragic migrant crisis. Having escaped bombed-out Aleppo, Syrian refugee Khlaed (Sherwan Haji) seeks asylum in Finland, only to get lost in red tape and cultural misunderstandings.


In Franco-Senegalese director Alain Gomis’s latest film, a proudly independent chanteuse from a low-rent bar in Kinshasa has to raise money for her son’s medical care following an accident. Sensual, humorous, and gripping, the movie is anchored by a fierce and unsentimental performance by Congolese singer-turned-actress Véro Tshanda Beya.


Todd Haynes’s newest is based on Hugo author Brian Selznick’s young adult novel, which follows two children on parallel paths in 1927 and 1977. A boy who just lost his mother also loses his hearing, and a 12-year-old girl journeys from Hoboken to NYC. Julianne Moore (Safe) reunites with this extraordinary director to play a dual role.

Lady Bird

Mumblecore It girl and indie-film queen Greta Gerwig makes her directorial debut with a portrait of an artistic young woman (Saoirse Ronan) trying to define herself in the shadow of her overbearing mother (Laurie Metcalf) in suburban California.


Looking for something from South America? Director Lucrecia Martel adapts Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 classic of Argentine literature. The title character is a Spanish officer in late-18th-century Paraguay who pathetically longs for a transfer to a more prestigious post.

Before We Vanish

Good news for fans of Japanese horror: This film from Kiyoshi Kurosawa is reportedly a mainstream breakthrough. It harks back to retro sci-fi such as They Live and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Three aliens journey to Earth to scout for a conquest of the planet, sucking memories and identities out of unsuspecting earthlings.

Let the Sun Shine In (Un Beau Soleil Intérieur)

This elliptical new work from director Claire Denis is not about love, heartbreak, relationships, or sex. Oh, who are we kidding? It’s a French film! The wonderful Juliette Binoche is a woman who drifts from romance to romance: with a married man, a narcissistic actor, a hairstylist, and, eventually, a fortune-teller.

The Florida Project

Director Sean Baker had an indie hit with Tangerine in 2015, a film about transgender sex workers shot on an iPhone 5. This new one is on good ole 35mm: A 6-year-old girl and her two friends explore the grounds of a week-by-week motel complex on the edge of Orlando’s Disney World. Despite the innocent plot, this is not a family film by any means. Willem Dafoe plays the kindly motel manager.

Special Events and Panels

Maybe you’re on a budget or willing to wait a few months to stream these films at home. There are festival happenings you can attend for free. Tickets will be distributed at the events’ corresponding box offices starting one hour prior to showtime (though you may want to start lining up before that) and are subject to availability.

Moviemaking meets immersive storytelling through virtual reality, interactive experiences, live labs, and demos. This program takes place September 29, 3–6 p.m., and September 30 and October 1, noon–6 p.m. in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. Admittance for Convergence installations and experiences is available on a walk-up basis.

Robert Mitchum Retrospective

Lovers of TCM and complicated tough guys won’t want to miss this tribute to actor Robert Mitchum. The series features several notable works: Angel Face, Blood on the Moon, Cape Fear, Crossfire, El Dorado, Farewell, My Lovely, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, His Kind of Woman, Home From the Hill, The Lusty Men, The Night of the Hunter, Out of the Past, Pursued, River of No Return, The Story of G.I. Joe, Till the End of Time, Thunder Road, and more.

Spotlight on Documentary

If you want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, check out these dispatches from the world of nonfiction cinema, with revealing portraits of celebrities Joan Didion, Arthur Miller, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jane Goodall. There are also riveting studies of bodybuilding, the fine art of oration, Islamophobia, and voyeurism.

Round out your evening with dinner or drinks at one of these expert-approved restaurants near Lincoln Center. Care to secure your screening tickets and dinner reservations? Chat with an experience adviser here.