Looking Back on Some of the Best Sophomore Efforts in Cinema

This spring, we’ll see sophomore film debuts from myriad directors whose first features set the hooks in our film fancies and intrigued us as to what they would have up their sleeves next. For some, it’s taken half a decade or more for their second films to come to fruition and for others their successful first features carved the path for a speedy and welcome return. Between Shane Carruth’s shockingly brilliant Upstream Color, Antonio Campos’ hauntingly visceral Simon Killer, Zal Batmanglij’s audacious thriller The East, and a handful more, there are plenty of new films to look forward to from directors to get excited about. However, the second film is tricky territory.

Although a director’s third film may truly establish a particular autueristic style or cinematic language, the second illuminates their voice, allowing us to better gauge whether their first feature was nothing more than a one-off stroke of genius or a one-off misstep. I can say with confidence that the sophomore films debuting in the coming months—those that I have seen, anyway—more than live up to my expectations and it’s thrilled me to become infatuated with filmmakers on the cusp of something great. For even some of the most acclaimed and interesting directors haven’t always had the greatest sophomore efforts—there’s no definitive parallel necessarily. But for some, it’s their second film that established them in Hollywood as someone to watch and someone to admire, paving the way for a long career ahead. In honor of these fascinating new directors with films premiering soon, here’s a look at some of the best sophomore efforts in the history of cinema.

Harold and Maude, Hal Ashby

First film: The Landlord, Third Film: The Last Detail 

Days of Heaven, Terrence Malick

First Film: Badlands, Third Film: The Thin Red Line

Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson

First Film: Hard Eight, Third Film: Magnolia

Klute, Alan J. Pakula

First Film: The Sterile Cuckoo, Third Film: Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing

The Last Picture Show, Peter Bogdanovich

First Film: Targets, Third Film: What’s Up, Doc?

Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino

First Film: Reservoir Dogs, Third Film: Jackie Brown

A Woman is a Woman, Jean-Luc Godard

First Film: Breathless, Third Film: Vivre Sa Vie

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michael Gondry

First Film: Human Nature, Third Film: The Science of Sleep

Se7en, David Fincher

First Film: Alien 3, Third Film: The Game

Trainspotting, Danny Boyle

First Film: Shallow Grave, Third Film: A Life Less Ordinary

Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola

First Film: The Virgin Suicides, Third Film: Marie Antoinette

Five Easy Pieces, Bob Rafelson

First Film: Head, Third Film: The King of Marvin Gardens

Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater

First Film: Slacker, Third Film: Before Sunrise

Safe, Todd Haynes

First Film: Poison, Third Fim: Velvet Goldmine

The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino

First Film: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Third Film: Heaven’s Gate

The Graduate, Mike Nichols

First Film: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Third Film: Catch-22

Alien, Ridley Scott

First Film: Duellists, Third Film: Blade Runner

Looking Ahead to the 2014 Oscar Season

The 86th and 87th annual Academy Awards dates were announced this morning, and next year, the ceremony looks to fall slightly later. This year’s mid-February ceremony was a welcome relief to incessant campaigns and chatter about certain films, but in 2014, the show will be help on March 2nd, with a February 22nd air date for the following year. And although we’ve got about ten more months of films to be released and annoucned, there are already quite a few we’re excited for that will most likely and/or hopefully continue to gain recoginition. But we all know awards really mean nothing in the way of artistic merit—case in point—so here’s mainly just a list of movies we like or intend on enjoying in 2013.

to the wonder

To the Wonder
The Counselor


Twelve Years a Slave
August: Osage County
Only God Forgives


I’m So Excited
Wolf of Wallstreet
The Iceman


The Place Beyond the Pines
The Fifth Estate
Frances Ha
Laurence Anyways


Before Midnight
Upstream Color
The Great Gatsby
Inside Llewyn Davis


Sinking Into the World of ‘Upstream Color’ With Director Shane Carruth

Since its premiere at Sundance in January, critics and audiences have been speaking to the experience of watching Upstream Color as a mystifying emotional and psychological journey, both confounding and transcendent, leaving you breathless as the end credits roll. However, the first time I saw Shane Carruth’s sophomore film, the credits never rolled. There was a strange technological malfunction within fifteen minutes of the end, and for the rest of the night I was forced to carry this massive feeling around with me, this crescendo of emotion cut short. Whatever unconscious stimuli I was being exposed to filled me with an incredible sense of feeling and desire—but why or for what I couldn’t recognize. All I knew is when I walked out of the theater, I felt what can only be described as how Richard Brautigan once described the sun: like a huge 50-cent piece that someone had poured kerosene on and then lit with a match and said, “Here, hold this while I go get a newspaper,” and put the coin in my hand, but never came back. And of course, the next day I was able to see the film in its entirety, and since have seen it multiple times—each one better than the last.

But for Carruth—the writer, actor, director, editor, composer, and distributor—who stunned audiences back in 2004 with his time traveling debut, Primer, and then disappeared from our radar until now, his absence was worth the wait. As the tale of “a man and woman who are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism,” in which, “identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives,” Carruth plays the lead role of Jeff opposite Kris, played by the brilliant Amy Seimetz. And with Upstream Color, Carruth has created a tactile film in which the sounds and textures engulf you in its layered and complex narrative that’s as much about the interdependence and madness of love as it is about our inescapable connection to nature and the world around us. There’s a poeticism to the film despite its rich sense of structure and science that allows it to possess a spiritual quality that hits the heart more so than the mind.

Upstream Color is a fractured story about broken people, shattering your notion of love’s conventions and what draws one person to another. It forces you to let go and immerse yourself in their world and the story Carruth has created in a way that you rarely feel compelled to with most contemporary cinema. You sink into the story and allow it to ripple over you with its subtle yet absolute approach, and although it may fall into the realm of the metaphysical, it remains emotionally tangible. And I will freely admit that this is not simply one of my favorite films of the year thus far, but perhaps one of the most incredible films I have ever seen. There are few things I cherish more than the physical act of watching a film, and the experience of sitting down for two hours and allowing myself to be overcome. From Upstream Color‘s first moment, something clicks inside of me and I’m hooked, mesmerized and embedded into the roots of its world.

So it was a great pleasure last month to sit down with Carruth over mint tea to discuss the genesis of the film, the complex chemistry of its characters, and his creative autonomy over his work.

What was the inception of this story? Why was this something you wanted to express?
I was interested in personal narratives and identity and how they come to be and what can be done once they’re set. I got really curious about whether your environment or behavior dictates how you see yourself, or whether it’s the other way around. I meet a lot of people who have this sense of what you deserve from the world and what the world deserves from you and how you believe it’s all meant to go to what’s fair—political or belief systems or what else—it seems like once those are set, those now dictate, and there isn’t any more critical thought or puzzling apart things. So I wanted to strip that away from people and have them rebuild it based on not enough information. So that was the way into the story, and the more I started playing with it, it really seemed like such an emotional experience to have your identify toyed with and not really know which way is up. And once it went down that path I really fell into the idea and wanted to push it everywhere I could—especially in non-verbal ways because it seems like that’s what we need to be exploring.

One of the things I loved about the film was the structure and how it morphed throughout. It began in a very conventional way with dialogue to drive the story forward and as it went on everything became stripped away and it was just emotion and sound. I thought that non-verbal world it fell into where it was just music and action was so much more powerful than any dialogue could have given you. Did you plan that as you went along?
I knew that it was flipping over. I think of it in thirds, where the first third is pretty straightforward—as much as this movie is going to get, as far as setting up the plot structure and how everything works in this world—and the second is the personal relationship between Kris and Jeff and how that’s not quite going correctly because of this unknown quantity and that would become much more subjective, and then that segues into the last third which the entire thing flips over and we’re just in a completely subtextual world where all we’re doing is following through on the momentum that’s built that way. So I knew that the dialogue was reducing and I knew that we were getting to a point where nothing was being said except for lines from Walden being quoted back at each other—they’re not even talking anymore. But there was one last bit of conversation in the script near the end that I got rid of completely. It would have added a little texture, but I think what you gain by not having it far outweighs that, and it just seemed like the way it needed to go. Okay, we’re going to disappear into the ether and music and roll credits and we’re done.

It also relates to how you experience it as a viewer. In the beginning you’re trying to follow this story, and then you’re becoming invested in their relationship, and by the end, it’s as if you’re not even thinking, you’re just totally in it—which is an interesting thing, to totally fall into something, to not care if you’re understanding everything, but simply committing to the feeling. With something this tone-heavy, how did you translate that from script to screen?
I know it changed a bit getting near production and being in production. I wrote a bunch of music while I was writing the script and I think I threw half of it away in the process of coming to understand what it was actually going to feel like when we saw these events take place. Things that would be explained by maybe more plot-heavy elements, like maybe there was some kind of unspoken sinuous connection between Kris and Jeff, but that was all stripped out by playing with sound and making something more subjective. And that meant the music needed to feed that. Things did change a bit, but I just wanted there to be a really strong architecture as far as the story goes, that it would hopefully be something that even if you took it away from the movie and retold the story it would be like a myth or a fable. And once the structure is solid enough, we can explore it lyrically and play with it and swim through it. So maybe you have the freedom to play with tones that way.

And it’s so experiential. I could tell someone every plot point and every detail, but it means nothing unless you’ve seen it and felt it for yourself.
That’s great to hear. I don’t think of it as a movie you have to see more than once to understand, but I hope it’s a movie that people will want to see more than once, like the way you would put on an album and have more than just a first experience. People are always asking me how it’s supposed to work, and I only have my hopes. Was it different for you seeing it multiple times?

The first time I was just really engaged in the sound and feeling from it. The next time I was trying to analyze it much more, and then the other times I just unconsciously picked up on so many small things, little editing and narrative tricks that enhance the understanding and allow you to let go and just feel it. With films that I really do love, I tend to not want to watch them again because I’m afraid some of that initial amazing feeling will fade, but that didn’t seem to happen with this.
Well, that’s wonderful.

I love the Primer soundtrack but this was a lot more intricate and all-encompassing. And it was more than just the score. The acoustics and the sound of everything—the faucet, or the ice in the cup—the smallest things sounded beautiful. How did you craft how you wanted the film to be heard?
All I know for a fact is that it’s important. I don’t know of another movie where it’s so important.

Even in the slightest moments, say, when you walk into the print shop to see Kris and the music is swelling. It’s not some big moment, it’s just there, and it elevates the scene to a point of significance.
Absolutely. The music is really important because there is so much not being said. I typically use music to subvert, but in this instance it seemed like there’s a fine line between what they’re supposed to feel and telling them what the characters feel, so I always want to lean toward the more intimate character stuff.

Film composers say that the real power comes when you begin scoring from the characters’ point of view, and using them as an emotional conduit for the sound of a scene.
Exactly. At the very end, that’s a really interesting choice for the music because it’s telling you that she’s found something good, some solace, some ending that’s positive. But I think the text of it is horrible and really melancholy. I think there was probably a version of it in my head where the music would be matched with that, explaining that this is not what it looks like, this is not pleasant, it’s wrong in some way. When we got into production and it became clear what things would feel like, it just seemed like, well, we’ll take this moment, and the story will be known, but the cinematography and the music and the way Amy performs it, we’ll let that play positive. It will be from her perspective as if she’s having a moment of resolution.

The sound is also just everything—from the plot that there’s a guy who is sampling sound and sampling emotion, but also once Walden becomes the rough material that we pick from for imagery. It didn’t even happen that way, it happened the other way around where we’re dealing with light and sound and beasts and soil and worms and tactile stuff, and you find that stuff in Walden and you want it to mirror back. So everything’s important. The sound is important, but it’s also important from a photographic point of view to be able to have enough control over the lenses to where, if I throw a light behind Amy or whoever and then come around and let the light into the lens and let it do its thing at a very open aperture. I need that because that’s the one thing on the screen that’s telling us that there’s something off about this, there’s some presence we can’t talk about yet.

This kind of mutual psychosis between people is one of my favorite themes to explore, and although it may be a natural thing that occurs when people fall in love, it takes time. But for Kris and Jeff, this was an instantaneous connection between them beyond their control. The way they speak to each other at first, he’s very terse and straight and it’s never very romantic, it just happens as if they’ve been this way forever and they’re dealing with it. There’s no slow fall into it.
There are a couple things going on. From a plot perspective, you’re looking at two people who are thrown together because their pigs are somewhere in the world being thrown together, and so this tether is making them behave in ways that don’t quite make sense at the front of their minds. So it’s almost like they’re having their faces pushed into it, and this is the way it’s supposed to go. But it doesn’t seem to be working. That’s the way I thought about it, like in a romantic comedy this is Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock or whoever, this is the part where they would be flirting and somebody would drop a book and pick it up and it goes well, and in this, this was like the event where it’s never going to go well. There’s nothing organic about this, the strings are being pulled somewhere else. So playing with that is both fun and part of the exploration. But also, I don’t know what could be more romantic than people who have been broken to their lowest point, the romantic promise that exists when you’re just destroyed.

And this love is all there is to cling to.
Yeah, that’s intoxicating. Like The Hustler, one of my favorite movies. It took me a while to realize that I don’t really care about the pool playing, I care about these two alcoholic broken people that are very holed up.

And how long were you writing this for?
Not very long. I had accumulated a lot of the story elements over a year or so and then I sort of hit a moment where I just knew. I sort of understood the emotional implications of exploring this topic and I started falling into it. I think it was two or three months from that point to having something where I said we’re going to shoot this soon.

You two had a great, very complex chemistry together. I always told myself that if I were to write a film it would be about two strangers who fall in love and realize they have these shared memories.
Wow. There’s something about that that I still haven’t quite solved. I mean, I know why it’s in there for the plot, but there’s something else going on, that concept.

In that montage that’s focused on the memories and the starlings, we see a different side to both of the characters. They’re more free and loose and a bit stripped of fear.
I know, it’s weird. A movie like this gives you some freedom, like especially like in the middle third when you’re like—alright we already did the worm stuff now we’re going to see the repercussions of it, you get to be subjective and everything about it changes. The way it’s shot, the handheld camera work, the acting, it’s fun to be able to do that. When you have a story about people’s subjective narratives, it’s like you get to do whatever you like, whatever fits the moment, however they would have seen it.

You weren’t always a filmmaker. This is something you taught yourself, but you’ve also taught yourself to be an actor and an editor and composer and now a distributor. Is it a matter of making sure you have total artistic control over everything and that it’s cohesive?
I wish there was another way to say it but yeah. I’m hoping there’s something that happens when all of the pieces are coming from the same place.

If one person writes a film, another person edits it, a director puts their vision on it, and someone scores it from how they see it, that makes it one thing. But to have it all come from one source is powerful.
That’s the hope. Even if it’s not technically as good as works from bigger collaborations, maybe there’s an earnestness to it. As an audience member I plug into things that are singular because I know that if I do the work of trying to figure out why did that happen, why did that character do that, why did that work like this, I know that there isn’t potentially an answer that isn’t going to be like a groupthink answer, or that it’s random, everything will have been purposeful, you can count on that. From a creating perspective, I just like to know that nothing is happening by chance. If something’s in there, it’s for a reason. If our poster is the two of us fully clothed in the bathtub, I like knowing that there’s a reason for it. We could have done something to make this look more commercial. There’s guns in this movie, there’s pigs and worms and gore, there’s all sorts of stuff. There are ways to sell this.

But that’s the core of the movie, this connection between them.
Exactly, it’s like a gate, in a way. It’s like, if this is something that’s interesting to you, then this is for you. If not, we’re probably not going to live up to any genre expectations.

I went into the movie completely blind. It wasn’t too long after you’d finished it and there wasn’t a trailer or poster. I think I may have read that two sentence description while waiting for the lights to go down. I’m pleased it happened that way.
That is the best way. Catching something at like two in the morning that you didn’t expect.

How do you find acting in films you direct? Did you ever think you’d be acting?
No, it just happened. I could definitely find an actor, but it becomes a function of a bunch of things. It’s one less thing you have to worry about. When you’re shooting something at this level, the fewer logistical things you have to solve, the better. So to know that there’s always going to be an actor there, that’s not a bad thing. I don’t have a lot of experience working with actors, so if I’m in it, I get more information about how things are working in a way that’s really difficult to communicate. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the playing out of the story. It’s just really fun.

There was so much time between Primer and Upstream Color. I know you were working on other things, but do you think there was something that changed in you between then and now? Because the feel of Primer and Upstream Color is so completely different. That sense of architecture is still there, but this is so much more about feeling intermingled with that.
I think they’re very far removed from each other. But the big thing I was trying to get made, A Topiary, I spent a lot of time on it, I was really invested in it and I really had my heart broken by—not being rejected or getting a no—but just spinning my wheels for so long and not getting anything going. I spent so much time on it and there’s just so much that’s been done as far as shot lists and effects tests and music that in a way, I feel like I did make the movie. I just can’t show it to anybody, I don’t have a way to show it. And that would have been maybe a bridge between the two films, maybe it would make a little bit more organic sense because it’s pretty sweeping and emotional as well—not what Upstream Color is, but it would have been a midpoint.

Are you concerned about what the audience thinks? How do you expect people to react to this film?
The people it’s for are going to eventually understand that it exists and they’ll key into it. And I think that there are people who don’t quite know that they’re into this—I didn’t always like the type of films that I like, I came to understand that they had a different goal in mind and something else going on and I really enjoy that. So I know it’s a good work and I don’t think it’s so obtuse and crazy that no one will ever respond to. It’s tough because when you write something you can write it and put it in the corner of your room and no one will ever see it, and it almost may have never existed, or you can go to the other side and make something that everybody loves and you can make a billion dollars but maybe it doesn’t matter in ten years and will just go away. So I think this is a really earnest effort to do something that has a chance of being important or relevant for a while.

And you edited the film with David Lowery, how did that process go? Did you two have a lot of interaction?
I had this idea in my head that I would be editing concurrently while shooting. And that sort of worked for a little while but I was not sleeping and it was a round-the-clock thing and I was falling further and further behind. So I had some of it put together, at least enough to show how it was supposed to unfold, and he saved my life basically. He came in and took a look at what I had and we had a conversation about how different parts of the film are meant to feel and unfold and then I would show him my really gross storyboards I keep on the side of the script. Basically he went to work and he instilled so much confidence and had no ego whatsoever and just blew me away. Very quickly I got to the point where I just trusted him and his sensibilities. There’s such an honesty with him and I felt like I could be honest. One of the most valuable things I have in the world with David is I know that he can do this or I could do this—we could each spend a significant amount of time working on an edit, show it to the other, and it’s comfortable enough for them to go, I appreciate that but it’s not going to work and the other person goes, okay great and he knows I respect him and I think he respects me. That’s so valuable.

Does writing come naturally to you, or do you have to really work at pulling forth a story?
I feel like I’m on the cusp of something different now. There’s what I used to do and there’s what I’m doing now. I’m writing something that’s further going down this path.

You’ve said that you developed a language with this film and you want to keep exploring it.
I do. I just feel there’s emotional language. It just comes back to this really simple idea of having this architecture and being able to explore it lyrically. But it’s really cemented, so that’s what this next thing is. Now when I write, there’s something weird going on, and I don’t know how to explain it, but there are these images coming up and those bits of music coming up and they’re somehow connected. It doesn’t feel like I’m writing a story sometimes, it feels like there is story that exists and I’m chipping away everything that it isn’t, and then it’s just sort of there. But I don’t know exactly what that is anymore because I don’t want to pretend like I’m some whimsical guy throwing paint at the wall or whatever, that doesn’t feel like what it is but it doesn’t feel like this extremely calculated thing once you’re done with the architecture.

Do you write music as you write the script?
Yup. It’s fun. I don’t know how to play an instrument, but there are lots of cool tools to use.

Why did you choose to distribute the film yourself? Was that another way to not have to ask permission and keep the reins?
It was complicated how that choice came about. Things are different now than they used to be. The sheer fact that most people experience films at home in some way, it’s like that is something that’s not the most expensive thing in the world to do. So the idea of getting paired up with a distributor, it’s becoming harder and harder to hand something over to them and feel like, well they’re the only ones who have the resources to do this and there’s more pieces of the puzzle that are difficult. Booking theaters is not easy, but it’s possible.

And finally, why do you do this? What is it that you love about cinema that drives you?
I love narrative and how it exists and why it exists and how it’s meant to be used. You can come up with a paragraph full of some truth, something that’s universal, some exploration, and it can be really informative, but it’s likely to not be that interesting. But you can spin a story, you can tell a narrative, and you can infuse it with this stuff, and if you’ve done your job right, you haven’t just captured somebody’s attention long enough to take them on this journey, you’ve also figured out something about the exploration through the act of the story because that’s what we key into. So I love narrative and I think that film is the height of narrative, and I don’t know what 100 years from now looks like, but from right now, to be able to communicate non-verbally but still explore, I don’t know what would be better than that. That’s what I love about it. It’s like you’re feeding right into the main line of how we experience things.

See Upstream Color this Thursday at ND/NF or at IFC Center starting April 5th.

Looking Forward to What’s Premiering This Spring


Well, it’s March already—who knew? And as we rise out of Oscars season, it’s finally time to look forward to the myriad amazing films debuting in the coming months. March alone will see the premiere of Spring Breakers, The Place Beyond the Pines, Room 237, and Beyond the Hills. But throughout the spring, some of our most anticipated films of the year are set to roll into theaters and I will be more than pleasure to not hear the word “Argo” for quite some time. So, from Matteo Garrone’s Reality to Antonio Campos’ Simon Killer, here are the spring premieres we’re getting excited about.

Reality, Matteo Garrone

The Place Beyond the Pines, Derek Cianfrance

Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine

Upstream Color, Shane Carruth

Simon Killer, Antonio Campos

Room 237, Rodney Ascher

Before Midnight

Before Midnight, Richard Linklater

Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach

Laurence Anyways, Xavier Dolan

To the Wonder, Terrence Malick

Trance, Danny Boyle

The East, Zal Batmanglij

Beyond the Hills, Cristian Mungui

MoMA & The Film Society of Lincoln Center Announce Full Line-Up for New Directors/New Films Festival

Held between March 20th and 31st, The Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center will be holding the 42nd annual New Directors/New Films Festival. And as of today, they have announced their full line-up of innovative and challenging new films that will be showing come next month. Dedicated to showcasing work by emerging filmmakers, 25 features will be screened—19 narrative, 6 documentary—and 17 short films representing 24 countries.

Today we learn that Alexandre Moore’s debut film Blue Caprice will be the Opening Night feature with its tale of two snipers that set out on a shooting spree. The Closing Night feature will be Our Nixon, a film by Penny Lane edited from hundreds of rolls of Super 8 shot during the Nixon Presidency. Other films we’re excited for that will be showing include Shane Currath’s perplexing wonder Upstream Color, the acclaimed The Color of the Chameleon, and Rachid Djaidani’s Romeo and Juliet-esque drama Rengaine.

“The filmmakers we welcome into the New Directors family this year are remarkably engaged with issues of our time, and the history that got us here. From the scourge of gun violence, to mental illness to the aftermath of the Arab Spring, this year’s lineup feels particularly relevant to contemporary life.,” says MoMA’s Celese Bartos Chief Curator of Film, Rajendra Roy.

Here are some other highlights from the festival and for the full line-up, check HERE.


Blue Caprice
Alexandre Moors, 2012, USA, English; (Opening Night, New York Premiere)
Alexandre Moors’s taut debut feature explores the origins of the Beltway snipers, who together committed one of the most insidious incidents of gun violence in recent times.
The Act of Killing
Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012, Denmark, Indonesian/English; (New York Premiere)
What is one to make of men who freely admit their involvement in the mass killing of millions of Indonesians in a bloody anti-Communist campaign in the 1960s? The Act of Killing bypasses the usual documentary tropes of exposing injustice, instead provoking the viewer to consider the murderers’ senses of responsibility for their crimes.
The Color of the Chameleon (Tsvetat na hameleona)
Emil Christov, 2012, Bulgaria/Bulgarian (New York Premiere)
A misfit youth turned engraving plant employee (codename: Marzipan) is recruited by the secret police to infiltrate a book reading group in this blackly comic, implacably deadpan, all but unclassifiable puzzler.

Our Nixon
Penny Lane, 2013, USA, English; (Closing Night, New York Premiere)
Our Nixon offers an unprecedented, insider’s view of an American presidency, chronicling watershed events like the Apollo moon landing, the pathbreaking 1972 trip to China, and Tricia’s White House wedding, as well as more intimate glimpses of Nixon in times of glory and disgrace.
Les Coquillettes 
Sophie Letourneur, 2012, France/French (North American Premiere)
Sophie Letourneur’s comedy of arrested development is a delightfully giddy, screwball lark, a self-mocking, thirty-something French counterpart to Girls filmed on location at the Locarno Film Festival.
A Hijacking
Tobias Lindholm, 2012, Denmark/Danish, English, Somali (New York Premiere)
This tense drama switches between the claustrophobic and intensely fraught situation aboard a cargo ship held captive by pirates in the Indian Ocean and the removed negotiations by the freight company in Denmark.
Rachid Djaidani, 2012, France/French (U.S. Premiere)
A no-budget, urban contemporary Romeo and Juliet, Hold Back embodies the eternal conflict between true love and tribal loyalties, as real in 21st-century Paris as it was in the age of Shakespeare.
Jazmin Lopez, 2012, Argentina/France/The Netherlands; Spanish (North American Premiere)
In this metaphysical trance film, the verdant environment is as much a character as the five young protagonists, enfolding them as they move through it, their playful banter, word games, and ruminations filling the air.
People’s Park
Libbie Dina Cohn and JP Sniadecki, 2012, USA/China; Chinese (New York Premiere)
An immersive, inquisitive visit to the People’s Park in Chengdu, China presented in a single virtuosic tracking shot, this work of nonfiction scrutinizes the joys of communal play, exercise and free time.
The Shine of Day (Der Glanz des Tages)
Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel, 2012, Austria/German (New York Premiere)
In this followup to their semi-fictional, semi-documentary films Babooska and La Pivellina, Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel continue to demonstrate a generous and human perspective on people struggling at the fringes of showbiz—namely, the circus.
Upstream Color
Shane Carruth, 2012, USA/English (New York Premiere)
A love story embedded in a horrifying kidnap plot, Shane Carruth’s long-awaited followup to Primer represents something new in American cinema, formally exploring the surprising jumps and shocks of life’s passages and science’s strange effects. Screening with: RP31 (Lucy Raven, 5m).

Stop What You’re Doing and Listen to Shane Carruth’s Mystifying ‘Upstream Color’ Soundtrack

To fall in love with a film is a beautiful feeling. To be profoundly effected by it in a psychological, physical, and emotional way is rare and when you happen upon it, it’s something to be cherished. Usually when I find myself completely enraptured by something I see, I like to walk away from it for a short while. Leave it alone. Let it breathe. Allow my memory of the experience to seep its way into my bloodstream and live there—partly for fear that viewing in rapid succession will hinder my response to the work or somehow lessen its wonder. But with Shane Carruth’s sophomore film, Upstream Color, the rule had to be broken. 

It wasn’t a film I wanted to see again and again and again…and again to try and understand its confounding nature entirely or make myself believe I understood every intention Shane had as a filmmaker, composer, actor, writer, etc. No, I needed to see it again because watching it felt so damn good—so stimulating to the senses on every level. I could tell you every plot point, every detail, I could cut my chest open and hand you my heart and say yes, this is how the film makes me feel, this what this insane genius’ amalgamation of atmosphere, sound, light, and feeling did to me—but it would mean nothing. Nothing at all unless you’ve seen the film for yourself. It’s truly an experiential work of someone who operates with a keen sense of universal truth and understanding of the pain of love, the complexities of nature, and the questions of existence that plague us all.

And in anticipation of the film’s release in April, today the soundtrack has premiered (get it digitally or on vinyl) and you’re going to have to listen to this. Composed by Shane himself, the ambient and visceral music for the film is what elevates it entirely into the world of the ineffable and is so integral to its life. So if you’re nowhere near a grassy field at dusk or entwined with someone you love, go sit in the nearest bathtub and blast this high. It’s incredible.

The Most Anticipated Films of the Spring and Summer (Other Than ‘Before Midnight’)

For the past nine years, we’ve all been waiting to see if Jesse ever got on that plane and what became of him and Celine in Richard Linklater’s 2004 intimate walking-and-talking romance Before Sunset, the follow-up to 1995’s Before Sunrise. And now, eighteen years since that first moment in Vienna, we finally get to see where their story lands. Sony Pictures Classics have acquired Before Midnight, and to our delight it’s been revealed that the film we’ve been waiting so long with baited breath to see will finally have a limited release run starting May 24th in New York and Los Angeles. But Linklater’s decade-spanning drama isn’t the only one getting an official date. Pedro Almodovar’s follow-up to last year’s The Skin I Live in, the vibrant comedy I’m So Excited, will hit New York and L.A. on June 28th. And to top it off, as Woody Allen’s annual film will have a mid-summer’s release. Midnight in Paris and To Rome with Love both premiered in early June but his latest, Blue Jasmine (starring Cate Blanchett, Alec baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, and Louis CK), will roll out on July 26th for a limited release.

So as if you weren’t already looking forward to summer, there are plenty of fantastic films headed our way, all sure to tickle your cinematic fancy. So while you’re cracking open your planner, take a look at what else is set to premiere in the season and what we’re most excited about—from Shane Carruth’s haunting sophomore feature to Danny Boyle’s latest masterpiece.

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance’s epic triptych drama about a motorcycle stunt rider who turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover and their newborn child, a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop navigating a department ruled by a corrupt detective. 

Upstream Color

Shane Carrauth’s confounding and stunnigly complex sophomore effort about a man and woman who are drawn together and become entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives. 


Matteo Garrone’s larger-than-life surrealist follow-up to Gommorah, the film is set in the world of reality television and follows a Neapolitan fishmonger who participates in Grande Fratello, the Italian version of Big Brother

To the Wonder 

Terrence Malick’s latest sprawling poem of images is a romantic drama that tells the story of a couple who move to Oklahoma, where problems arise as we watch the natural progression of love’s painful ebb and flow.


Frances Ha 

Co-written by director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig, we get a black-and-white look a a floundering young woman who works as an apprentice in a dance company and wants so much more than she has but lives life with unaccountable joy and lightness.


Danny Boyle’s vibrant and mystifying heist of the mind drama about an art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals that partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.

Simon Killer

Antonio Campos’s psychologically distrubing yet visually beautiful drama about a recent college graduate who travels to France, where he becomes involved with a young prostitute.

Beyond the Hills

Cristian Mungiu’s third feature that centers on the friendship between two young women who grew up in the same orphanage; one has found refuge at a convent in Romania and refuses to leave with her friend, who now lives in Germany.

The East

Zal Batmanglij’s sophomore effort is a psycholigically challenging eco-thriller about an operative for an elite private intelligence firm who finds her priorities irrevocably changed after she is tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group known for executing covert attacks upon major corporations.

Laurence Anyways

Xavier Dolan’s ornate transgender epic about a man who reveals his inner desire to become his true self: a woman. Spanning through the late 1980s into the early 1990s, the story chronicles a doomed love affair.


Tim Sutton’s subtly poignant and ethereal film plays out almost silently as it tells the story of Max, who leaves his lakeside town to live with his father in suburban Arizona. 

Take a Look at the Complete 2013 SXSW Line-Up

Now that Sundance is but a distant memory, it’s time to move on to the other exciting film festivals to hit the US, and next up is Austin, Texas’ South by Southwest. Ealier in the month, we annouced the slate for the film and music festival thus far that included Steve Carell and Jim Carey’s new comedy, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone to open the festival, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers wreck havoc, and Joe Swanberg’s latest film Drinking Buddies to have its premiere as well.

But as of today, the slate has been unveiled in its entirely and is surely enough to please your cinematic palate. Naturally, the list is full of Sundance favorites like Upstream Color, Prince Avalanche, Before Midnight, and Don Jon’s Addiction but there’s also an incredible amount of new talent from all over the world, sure to shock and please. SXSW Film Conference and Festival Producer, Janet Pierson stated that, "Everyone knows that we like to have a good time at SXSW, and our 20th year is already well on track with smart, stylish and highly entertaining work." It’s safe to say, we’re definitley onboard.

Check out the highlights below and the complete 2013 line-up here.

Awful Nice
Director/Screenwriter: Todd Sklar, Screenwriter: Alex Rennie
Estranged brothers Jim and Dave must travel to Branson together when their father dies and leaves them the lake home. A series of hilarious mishaps and costly misadventures follow as they attempt to restore the house and rebuild their relationship. Cast: Alex Rennie, James Pumphrey, Christopher Meloni, Brett Gelman, Keeley Hazell (World Premiere)

Director/Screenwriter: Carlos Puga
On the eve of an annual sibling reunion, a troubled young writer is sent reeling with the arrival of an unexpected guest. Cast: Christopher Abbott, Gaby Hoffmann, Chris McCann, Dan Bittner, Emily Fleischer (World Premiere)

Improvement Club
Director/Screenwriter: Dayna Hanson
When their big gig falls through, a ragtag, avant-garde performance group with a political message struggles to find their audience—and the motivating force behind their work. Cast: Magge Brown, Dave Proscia, Wade Madsen, Jessie Smith, Pol Rosenthal (World Premiere)

Director/Screenwriter: Jonathan Singer-Vine, Screenwriter: Justin “Hongry” Robinson The story of a young man, D, as he returns to his Oakland neighborhood after two years served in prison for a robbery gone wrong… Cast: Stanley “Doe” Hunt, Koran Jenkins, Tatiana Monet, Devon Libran, Les “DJ Upgrade” Aderibigbe (World Premiere)

The Retrieval
Director/Screenwriter: Chris Eska On the outskirts of the Civil War, a boy is sent north by a bounty hunter gang to retrieve a wanted man. Cast: Ashton Sanders, Tishuan Scott, Keston John, Bill Oberst, Jr., Christine Horn, Alfonso Freeman (World Premiere)

Short Term 12
Director/Screenwriter: Destin Daniel Cretton
The film follows Grace, a young supervisor at a foster-care facility, as she looks after the teens in her charge and reckons with her own troubled past. An unsparingly authentic film, full of both heart and surprising humor. Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield (World Premiere)

Swim Little Fish Swim (USA, France)
Director/Screenwriter: Ruben Amar, Lola Bessis
Between surrealism, unusual characters, art and magic tricks, Swim Little Fish Swim is a dreamlike journey from childhood to adulthood. Cast: Dustin Guy Defa, Anne Consigny, Brooke Bloom, Lola Bessis, Olivia Durling Costello (World Premiere)

This Is Where We Live
Directors: Josh Barrett, Marc Menchaca, Screenwriter: Marc Menchaca
A struggling family’s dynamics are challenged and a unique friendship is born when a small-town Texas handyman becomes caregiver to their son with cerebral palsy. Cast: Ron Hayden, CK McFarland, Marc Menchaca, Tobias Segal, Frankie Shaw (World Premiere)

Evil Dead
Director/Screenwriter: Fede Alvarez, Screenwriter: Rodo Sayagues
Five friends, holed up in a remote cabin, discover a Book of the Dead that unwittingly summons up dormant demons which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left to fight for survival. 
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore (World Premiere)

Hawking (UK)
Director: Stephen Finnigan
A brief history of mine: a look at the life of Stephen Hawking (World Premiere)

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Director: Don Scardino, Story by Chad Kultgen & Tyler Mitchell and Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley. Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley As superstar Vegas magicians and former best friends Burt and Anton grow to secretly loathe each other, their long-time act implodes, allowing an ambitious rival street performer the big break he’s been waiting for. 
Cast: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, with Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini and Jim Carrey (World Premiere)

Spring Breakers
Director/Screenwriter: Harmony Korine
Four college girls who land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work.
Cast: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Gucci Mane

(U.S. Premiere)

When Angels Sing
Director: Tim Mccanlies, Screenwriter: Lou Berney
Michael despises Christmas. Now Christmas is getting even.
Cast: Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Chandler Canterbury, Fionnula Flanagan, Lyle Lovett, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Eloise DeJoria, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson (World Premiere)

The Bounceback
Director: Bryan Poyser, Screenwriters: David Degrow Shotwell, Steven Walters, Bryan Poyser
An outrageous comedy about love and revenge in Austin, Texas. Cast: Marshall Allman, Ashley Bell, Zach Cregger, Sara Paxton, Michael Stahl-David (World Premiere)

Director/Screenwriter: Vincent Grashaw, Screenwriter: Mark Penney
A teenage boy is sent to a juvenile reform facility in the wilderness. As we learn about the tragic events that sent him there, his struggle becomes one for survival with the inmates, the counselors, and with the retired war colonel in charge. Cast: PJ Boudousqué, James C. Burns, Chris Petrovski, Octavius J. Johnson, Nicholas Bateman (World Premiere)

Drinking Buddies
Director/Screenwriter: Joe Swanberg
Weekend trips, office parties, late night conversations, drinking on the job, marriage pressure, biological clocks, holding eye contact a second too long… you know what makes the line between “friends” and “more than friends” really blurry? Beer.
Cast: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston (World Premiere)

Go For Sisters
Director/Screenwriter: John Sayles
Bernice and Fontayne grew up so tight they could ‘go for sisters’. After twenty years apart, they are reunited when Bernice is assigned to be Fontayne’s parole officer- just when she needs help on the wrong side of the law. Cast: Edward James Olmos, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Yolonda Ross

(North American Premiere)

Good Night
Director/Screenwriter: Sean H. A. Gallagher
Leigh’s 29th birthday party takes a sudden turn when she announces that the evening maybe the last time her friends see her alive. A night of questions, coping and debauchery immediately follow.
Cast: Adriene Mishler, Jonny Mars, Alex Karpovsky, Chris Doubek, Todd Berger (World Premiere)

Grow Up, Tony Phillips
Director/Screenwriter: Emily Hagins
A comedy about a Halloween-obsessed high school senior who doesn’t think childhood passions should have an expiration date.
Cast: Tony Vespe, AJ Bowen, Devin Bonnée, Katie Folger, Byron Brown (World Premiere)

Director/Screenwriter: Jessie Mccormack
Lizzie, married and longing for a child, can’t conceive. Her best friend, Andie, single and lacking any maternal instincts, gets pregnant from a one-night-stand and offers to give her baby to Lizzie, testing the relationships of everyone involved. Cast: Michelle Monaghan, Radha Mitchell, Jon Dore, Michael Weston, Mimi Kennedy (World Premiere)

Holy Ghost People
Director: Mitchell Altieri, Screenwriters: Kevin Artigue & Joe Egender, Mitchell Altieri & Phil Flores
On the trail of her missing sister, Charlotte enlists the help of Wayne, an ex-Marine and alcoholic, to infiltrate the Church of One Accord – a community of snake-handlers who risk their lives seeking salvation in the Holy Ghost. Cast: Emma Greenwell, Brendan McCarthy, Joe Egender, Cameron Richardson, Roger Aaron Brown (World Premiere)

Director/Screenwriter: Eric Heisserer
Set mostly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hours is the story of a man who battles looters, the elements and exhaustion for two days in a hospital while his newborn daughter clings to life inside a ventilator powered only by a manual crank. Cast: Paul Walker, Genesis Rodriguez (World Premiere)

I Give It A Year (UK)
Director/Screenwriter: Dan Mazer
A brand new comedy from the writer of Borat and Bruno that lifts the veil on the realities of the first year of marriage. Cast: Rose Byrne, Anna Faris, Rafe Spall, Simon Baker, Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng, Stephen Merchant (North American Premiere)

Director/Screenwriter: Walter Strafford
Sick of his routine life, Doug sets out to climb Kilimanjaro. Cast: Brian Geraghty, Alexia Rasmussen, Abigail Spencer, Chris Marquette, Bruce Altman (World Premiere)

Loves Her Gun
Director/Screenwriter: Geoff Marslett, Screenwriter: Lauren Modery
This romantic tragedy follows a young woman’s transition from flight to fight after she is the victim of street violence, but will the weapons that make her feel safe again create problems worse than the ones she is escaping? Cast: Trieste Kelly Dunn, Francisco Barreiro, Ashley Rae Spillers, Melissa Hideko Bisagni, John Merriman (World Premiere)

Director/Screenwriter: Jacob Vaughan, Screenwriter: Benjamin Hayes
A man discovers that his chronic stomach problems are due to the fact that he has a demon baby living in his colon.
Cast: Ken Marino, Gillian Jacobs, Peter Stormare, Stephen Root, Mary Kay Place (World Premiere)

Much Ado About Nothing
Director: Joss Whedon
Shakespeare’s classic comedy is given a contemporary spin in Joss Whedon’s film, Much Ado About Nothing. Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese (U.S. Premiere)

Reality Show
Director/Screenwriter: Adam Rifkin
A darkly comedic satire that follows TV producer Mickey Wagner and his amoral attempt to re-invent the reality genre. Mickey’s big idea is to pick a family and put them under all encompassing surveillance…without their knowledge. Cast: Adam Rifkin, Scott Anderson, Kelly Menighan Hensley, Monika Tilling, Valerie Breiman (World Premiere)

Scenic Route
Directors: Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz, Screenwriter: Kyle Killen
Stranded on an isolated desert road, two life-long friends fight for survival as their already strained relationship spirals into knife-wielding madness. Cast: Josh Duhamel, Dan Fogler (World Premiere)

Some Girl(s)
Director: Daisy Von Scherler Mayer, Screenwriter: Neil LaBute
On the eve of his wedding, a successful writer travels around the country to meet up with ex-lovers in an attempt to make amends for his wrongdoings. Cast: Adam Brody, Kristen Bell, Zoe Kazan, Mía Maestro, Jennifer Morrison, Emily Watson (World Premiere)

Zero Charisma
Directors: Katie Graham, Andrew Matthews, Screenwriter: Andrew Matthews
An obsessive fantasy nerd gradually becomes unhinged when a charismatic hipster joins his D&D game. Cast: Sam Eidson, Garrett Graham, Brock England, Anne Gee Byrd, Cyndi Williams, Brian Losoya, Vincent Prendergast, Katie Folger, John Gholson, Dakin Matthews (World Premiere)



The Act of Killing (Denmark)
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
In a country where killers are celebrated as heroes, the filmmakers challenge unrepentant death squad leaders to dramatize their role in genocide.

A Teacher
Director/Screenwriter: Hannah Fidell
A popular high school teacher in Austin, Texas has an affair with one of her students. Her life begins to unravel as the relationship comes to an end.
Cast: Lindsay Burdge, Will Brittain, Jennifer Prediger, Julie Dell Phillips, Jonny Mars, Chris Doubek

Before Midnight
Director/Screenwriter: Richard Linklater, Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
We meet Celine and Jesse nine years after their last rendezvous. Almost two decades have passed since their first encounter on a train bound for Vienna, and we now find them in their early forties in Greece. Before the clock strikes midnight, we will again become part of their story.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Prior, Charlotte Prior

Computer Chess
Director/Screenwriter: Andrew Bujalski
An artificially intelligent comedy from the director of Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation. Cast: Wiley Wiggins, Patrick Riester, Robin Schwartz, Gerald Peary, Myles Paige

Don Jon’s Addiction
Director/Screenwriter: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Jon (Gordon-Levitt) loves his family, friends, church and porn. Spending hours online, Jon’s ideas of a perfect woman collide with Barbara’s (Johansson) ideas of a perfect man. They struggle to see past their wants and needs in this romantic comedy. Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza

First Cousin Once Removed
Director: Alan Berliner
A heartfelt and intimate portrait of poet Edwin Honig’s final years with Alzheimer’s disease.

Imagine (Poland, Portugal, France)
Director/Screenwriter: Andrzej Jakimowski
Ian, a special instructor for the visually impaired, has been hired by a Lisbon school to help blind children and young adults. However, his unusual teaching methods are not only challenging, but also dangerous… Cast: Edward Hogg, Alexandra Maria Lara, Melchior Derouet, Francis Frappat

Director/Screenwriter: Jeff Nichols
Two boys find a fugitive hiding out on an island in the Mississippi and form a pact to help him reunite with his lover and escape. Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon

Pit Stop
Director/Screenwriter: Yen Tan, Screenwriter: David Lowery Two men. A small town. A love that isn’t quite out of reach. Cast: Bill Heck, Marcus DeAnda, Amy Seimetz, John Merriman, Richard C. Jones

Prince Avalanche
Director/Screenwriter: David Gordon Green
Two highway road workers spend the summer of 1988 away from their city lives. The isolated landscape becomes a place of misadventure as the men find themselves at odds with each other and the women they left behind. Cast: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch

Upstream Color
Director/Screenwriter: Shane Carruth
A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism.
Cast: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins, Kathy Carruth

Check Out Eight New Sundance Short Films Online

Today marks the kick off for the annual hearding of cinema’s elite—the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. This coming week will usher in an incredible amount of new and inspiring work from across the globe, hopefully, to be picked up by distributors and infultrated into theaters around the country and abroad. This week, we expressed which upcoming Sundance films we’re most excited for—from Richard Linklater’s third installement in his decade-spanning separated love series with Before Midnight to Shane Carruth’s long-awaited bewildering sophomore feature, Upstream Color. But it’s not only the feature length debuts that will be receiving praise and recognition—the short films this year are certainly not to be missed.

Earlier in the month, we shared six of the short films that will be premiering at Sundance, now made available to watch online. But as of today, you can view a selection of eight more shorts, a treat for those of us not attening the festival. Ranging from 9-minute films by acclaimed writers like Guillermo Arriaga (featuring cinematography from frequent Steven Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski) to unconventional and noteworthy debuts, check out what’s on this year’s lineup and try not to feel too depressed that you’re not packing your bags and heading out west.

The Apocalypse (Andrew Zuchero)
Four uninspired friends try to come up with a terrific idea for how to spend their Saturday afternoon.

Black Metal (Kat Candler)
After a career spent mining his music from the shadows, one fan creates a chain reaction for the lead singer of a black metal band.

Broken Night (Guillermo Arriaga)
A young woman and her four-year-old daughter drive across desolated hills. Everything looks fine and they seem to enjoy the ride, until an accident sends them into the nightmare of darkness.

Marcel, King of Tervuren (Tom Schroeder)
Greek tragedy enacted by Belgian roosters.

Movies Made From Home #6 (Robert Machoian)
Debbie is good at playing hide and seek—so good she is often hard to find.

What Do We Have In Our Pockets? (Goran Dukic)
A most unusual love story unravels when the objects in a young man’s pockets come to life.

When the Zombies Come (Jon Hurst)
At a hardware store in the middle of no where fans of the walking dead have turned their love of zombies into an obsession which has warped the way they see the store and costumers.

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