New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

WSN’s guide to the 61st New York Film Festival

In anticipation of this year’s New York Film Festival, WSN has put together a list of must-see movie premieres you will want to secure tickets for before they sell out.
Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in critically-acclaimed director Todd Haynes’ new drama, “May December.” (Courtesy of @2023 Netflix)

From Sept. 29 to Oct. 15, the New York Film Festival celebrates its 61st anniversary, marking a long tradition of highlighting cinematic excellence from all corners of the world. NYFF, first held in 1963, is one of the longest-running film festivals in the United States, and remains one of the city’s most anticipated cultural events. 

While NYFF will be hosted primarily at Lincoln Center theaters, the festival has also partnered with venues all across New York City for select screenings. Alternate screening locations include the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Maysles Documentary Center and the Museum of the Moving Image.

Artistic director Dennis Lim and his team have curated a lineup of this season’s most anticipated releases. While the program features American giants like Michael Mann and Sofia Coppola, the festival also includes a diverse selection of artistic talent. Whether it’s through international luminaries like Alice Rohrwacher and Wang Bing, or rising stars like NYU alum Raven Jackson, this year’s festival continues its mission in promoting all facets of cinema. 

With the festival’s four main categories — Main Slate, Spotlight, Currents and Revival — stacked with promising releases, WSN has put together a list of noteworthy films to keep an eye on. Additionally, NYFF is also hosting Talks, featuring in-depth conversations with filmmakers from this year’s lineup. Tickets are currently available for purchase on the festival’s website.  

Main Slate

As the core of the festival, Main Slate features a roster of much-awaited films from rising stars and industry titans — showcasing the very best of cinema in 2023.  

“May December” directed by Todd Haynes

To kickstart this year’s festival, Todd Haynes’ newest drama has been selected as opening night film. In the film, television actor Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) embeds herself in the life of Gracie (Julianne Moore) and Joe (Charles Melton), a couple that was once at the center of a tabloid scandal. With two Hollywood powerhouses at the helm of the movie, Haynes constructs a world obsessed with celebrity, scandal and trauma.

“Perfect Days” directed by Wim Wenders

Arthouse icon Wim Wenders’ latest film, a Japanese-German co-production, finds muted beauty in the quotidian. Wenders has long drawn inspiration from Japanese New Wave director Yasujirō Ozu, even exploring the revered auteur’s filmography in his 1985 documentary “Tokyo-Ga.” As part of the filmmakers’ long-running cinematic discourse with Ozu’s films, this latest entry is not only homage to the Japanese auteur, but also an examination of life in the shifting sands of urban cityscapes. With the venerable Koji Yakusho, who won the Best Actor award at Cannes Film Festival this year, playing the lead, Wenders’ film explores Tokyo and its inhabitants through the contemplative lens of a reserved yet compassionate toilet cleaner.  

“The Zone of Interest” directed by Jonathan Glazer 

Loosely based on Martin Amis’ novel of the same name, visionary British filmmaker Jonathan Glazer’s latest feature garnered critical praise at its Cannes premiere where it won the Grand Prix. Starring Sandra Hüller and Christian Friedel, “The Zone of Interest” examines idyllic domesticity at the site of Auschwitz. Known for his early work in directing award-winning music videos for the likes of Radiohead and Jamiroquai, Glazer is also responsible for crafting modern cinematic masterpieces such as his last full-length feature, “Under the Skin.” 



In addition to the “Main Slate” premieres, “Spotlight” brings audiences even more highly anticipated releases from around the world. 

“The Boy and the Heron” directed by Hayao Miyazaki

For the first time in 10 years, Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki makes his triumphant return to the silver screen. Set during World War II, the movie depicts teenage boy Mahito, who lives with his stepmother Natsuko in the tranquility of a mundane rural estate. However, as Mahito settles into his new life in the countryside, reality and fantasy soon begin to collide, revealing a subterranean world of epic proportions and infinite possibility. Like in several of his previous films, Miyazaki blends a historical, wartime backdrop with a boundless dreamscape, encapsulating audiences in a realm of fantastical imagination and breathtaking detail. 

“Strange Way of Life” directed by Pedro Almodóvar 

Spanish auteur and NYFF favorite Pedro Almodóvar delivers a sexually charged Western melodrama as his entry to this year’s program. Starring Ethan Hawke as a middle-aged sheriff and Pedro Pascal as his former lover, this short is an explosion of torrid passion and stylish visual flair. Having recently premiered his feature-length film “Parallel Mothers” (2021) at NYFF59, Almodóvar continues to display his commitment to delivering some of the boldest films in world cinema. 

“Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus” directed by Neo Sora

With the loss of musical trailblazer and cultural titan Ryuichi Sakamoto this March, his filmmaker son, Neo Sora, has put together a cinematic eulogy. Using footage from one of Sakamoto’s last recorded performances, the film weaves together some of his most touching piano solos in a melancholic monochrome. As fans around the world continue to grieve Sakamoto’s passing, Sora carries out his father’s legacy as the silver-haired musician with his Yamaha grand piano lives on in this final, visceral performance. 



“Currents” focuses on highlighting new and innovative artistic voices from outside the mainstream. 

“Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell” directed by Pham Thien An 

Recipient of the coveted Camera d’Or, the best debut film award at Cannes, Thien An Pham’s deeply spiritual road movie takes audiences on a transcendental journey through the natural landscape of rural Vietnam. In the film, a middle aged man Thien (Lê Phong Vũ) is tasked with returning his sister-in-law’s remains back to their hometown. As the camera floats across misty jungles and old dirt roads, memories from the past and questions of religious faith come cascading forth. 

“Nowhere Near” directed by Miko Revereza 

Experimental director Miko Revereza’s latest film is an exercise of abstract artistic reflection. Having lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines, Revereza draws from his experiences to create what he calls a “psychogeographical journey,” transporting audiences between distant locales and into the fractured lives of illegal immigrants in the United States. An evocative piece of avant-garde filmmaking, Revereza’s film unravels a poignant visual tapestry of a painful personal history. 



With the help of generous foundations and donors, “Revivals” features cinematic gems that have been digitally remastered, restored and preserved. 


“Household Saints” directed by Nancy Savoca

Remastered by the Lightbox Film Center at the University of the Arts (Philadelphia), “Household Saints,” a quintessential New York story, is given a new license on life. Based on Francine Prose’s novel, Nancy Savoca’s 1993 Italian American domestic drama depicts a familial conflict with itself, religion and the modern world. With notable performances by Tracey Ullman, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lili Taylor and Michael Imperioli, “Household Saints” remains a unique entry into the American indie canon.

Contact Mick Gaw at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Mick Gaw, Film & TV Editor
Mick Gaw is a junior double-majoring in History and Public Policy. When he’s not holed up in a cinema, he's probably perusing the aisles of an Asian grocery store, wandering around museums or taking ugly pictures of his meals. You can find him on Instagram as @gawmick and occasionally on Letterboxd as @micks_canon.
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