Festival opens March 11 with Hubert Sauper’s Epicentro; closes March 15 with Midi Z's Nina Wu—with directors in person
New York, N.Y. (February 11, 2020) — Museum of the Moving image announces the main lineup for First Look 2020, its acclaimed festival of innovative, new international cinema, with sixteen features and a selection of new nonfiction and experimental shorts, hailing from countries including Belgium, France, Italy, Ukraine, Poland, Georgia, Germany, Madagascar, Canada, Sweden, Slovenia, Taiwan, Turkey, Colombia, South Africa, and the United States. The festival, now in its ninth year, runs from March 11 through 15, 2020.
Opening Night, on Wednesday, March 11, features the New York premiere of Epicentro, recent winner of the Grand Jury Prize, World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance FIlm Festival. Director Hubert Sauper and producer Martin Marquet will appear in person.
Closing Night, on March 15, will be the New York premiere of Midi Z's Nina Wu, which premiered in the 2019 Cannes Un Certain Regard competition, with the director in person.
First Look 2020 is organized by Eric Hynes, Curator of Film; Edo Choi, Assistant Curator of Film; David Schwartz, Curator-at-Large; Becca Keating, Director of Development and curator of Persistent Visions program; and Sonia Epstein, Associate Curator of Science & Film.
FIRST LOOK 2020 LINEUP
Except for opening night, tickets are $15 with discounts for seniors and students / free for MoMI Members at the Individual level and above. Advance tickets will be available at movingimage.us/firstlook2020
OPENING NIGHT FILM
With director Hubert Sauper and producer Martin Marquet in person
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 8:00 P.M.
Dir. Hubert Sauper. Austria, France, United States. 2020, 108 mins. DCP. In English and Spanish with English subtitles. The latest film from Academy Award–nominated director Hubert Sauper (Darwin’s Nightmare) offers a typically complex and frankly bracing consideration of the past, present, future, and mythology of Cuba. Sauper dials back to the sinking of the USS Maine in 1898 to pinpoint the origins of destructive geopolitics that also overlap with the origins of cinema, and thus with the origins of cinematic misinformation, as an entry into presenting his own new (and mindfully fraught) images of the people of Havana. Epicentro challenges viewers to get beyond received notions of a society ambered and isolated in time—notions that locals are more than familiar with—by following wise young people who are angling for a future. Sauper never floats a question without casting it upon himself, and never makes a picture without inviting us to scrutinize how and why it was made, making his cinema—and Epicentro especially—an invaluable, morally vital arena for reflections on the state of film, humanity, and the world. Shot and edited by the director himself, it is also a gorgeously handmade work of art. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize, World Cinema Documentary Competition, 2020 Sundance Film Festival. New York premiere.
Tickets: $20 ($15 Museum members / free for Aficionado level and above).
CLOSING NIGHT FILM
With Midi Z in person
SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 8:00 P.M.
Dir. Midi Z. Taiwan, Malaysia, Myanmar. 2019, 103 mins. DCP. In Mandarin with English subtitles. With Wu Ke-Xi, Sung Yu-Hua, Hsia Yu-Chiao, Shih Ming-Shuai. After eight years toiling in bit parts, aspiring actress Nina Wu finally gets her big break with a leading role in a spy thriller set in the 1960s. The shoot is challenging—there are explicit sex scenes and the director is impatient and insenstitive—but the film proves to be a professional and critical breakthrough. Yet Nina’s psychological resolve begins to crack. In light of two family crises, she rushes back to her family home, where she dreams of rekindling a close relationship with her childhood friend Kiki while suffering from visions of a mysterious woman stalking and attacking her. As Nina clings to memories of happier times, it seems that there is one crucial memory that she is repressing. A Film Movement release.
New York Premiere
About Some Meaningless Events (De quelques événements sans signification)
Introduced by Omar Berrada
THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 6:00 P.M.
Dir. Mostafa Derkaoui. Morocco. 1974, 76 mins. In Arabic with English subtitles. Banned on release, and long considered lost, Moroccan filmmaker Mostafa Derkaoui’s film is an astonishing experiment in political documentary filmmaking, destined to find its place now as a milestone of African cinema. A group of filmmakers argue about what a true Moroccan cinema should be; the discussion flows from a bar into the streets, as passers-by are interviewed. An act of violence by a dock worker dramatically raises the stakes, and adds a layer of complexity to a truly audacious film that is as inventive as its free-jazz score. An exciting rediscovery, the film was found in the archives at the Filmoteca de Catalunya in Barcelona in 2018. The screening will be introduced by Omar Berrada, a writer and curator who teaches at Cooper Union and is the director of Dar al-Ma’mûn, a library and artists residency in Marrakech, and followed by a discussion. North American premiere.
Preceded by 2008
With John Skoog in person
THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 8:00 P.M.
Dir. John Skoog. Sweden. 2019, 71 mins. In Polish and Swedish with English subtitles. Aron Skoog, Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Billie Åstrand, Gitt Persson, Grzegorz Falkowski, Artur Krajewski, Mateusz Wieclawek. At once communal and personal, patiently observational and cinematically inventive, Ridge sees debut filmmaker John Skoog encountering and collaborating with the small southern Swedish community of his childhood. Over the course of a summer, we encounter farmers, tourists, migrant workers, young video gamers, and drunks, all comprised from among a constant mix of real-life neighbors, performers, and the director’s own family members. Skoog’s choices are uniquely his, emergent from this time and place and supported by a tone—deadpan, reserved, grayly comedic, somewhat ominous—that is also sui generis. Nevertheless, there is a sense of craft at play, of framing and color and movement, of contrapuntal subterranean sound, that cannot help but call to mind the very masters of the form. Winner of the 2019 CPH: DOX Grand Jury Prize. U.S. premiere
Preceded by 2008 (Dir. Blake Williams. Canada. 2019, 12 mins.) “Pictures of blooming cherry blossoms, radiant color fields, and domestic miscellany are re-photographed off the screen of an obsolete televisual device. Images rise ever upward, the left greets the right, and a new season arrives, telling an impressionistic story of transition, unity, and companionship.”—BW
Bird Talk (Mowa ptaków)
With director Xawery Żuławski and DP Andrzej J. Jaroszewicz in person
FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 8:00 P.M.
Dir. Xawery Żuławski. Poland. 2019, 138 mins. DCP. In Polish with English subtitles. With Sebastian Fabijański, Eryk Kulm Jr., Jaśmina Polak, Sebastian Pawlak, Żaneta Palica, Andrzej Chyra, Marta Żmuda Trzebiatowska, Borys Szyc, Daniel Olbrychski, Katarzyna Chojnacka. Working from an unrealized script by his father, the late master Andrzej Żuławski, award-winning Polish filmmaker Xawery Żuławski unleashes Bird Talk, a wild, urgent, friskily entertaining explosion of cinema. In a society increasingly leaning towards conformity, faith, and reactionary politics, we encounter characters operating on the fringes: a history teacher who is a stickler for inconvenient facts, another teacher whose sense of justice gets him fired for physically confronting a student, a cleaning lady, a florist, a composer suffering from leprosy, and an aspiring student filmmaker. Frenetic, referential, unapologetically verbose, stylistically elastic, and spilling into hybrid nonfiction in ways that feel shocking at times, Bird Talk has a headlong, anarchic spirit that honors the elder Żuławski’s legacy while also feeling entirely of the moment. With cinematography by longtime Andrzej Żuławski collaborator Andrzej J. Jaroszewicz (Possession, On the SIlver Globe). United States premiere.
With Anna Eborn in person
SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 2:30 P.M.
Dir. Anna Eborn. Sweden, Denmark, Belgium. 2019, 96 mins. In Russian, Romanian, and Ukrainian with English subtitles. Shot on 16mm and set in the self-appointed nation of Transnistria (Priednestrovia)—a narrow strip of land adjacent to Ukraine that is defined by its Soviet heritage—Transnistra follows a group of 16-year-olds over a cycle of seasons, witnessing the end of their youth and their first attempts forging futures either within or beyond their small community. At the center of the film is Tanya, a headstrong and sensitive young woman, surrounded by a ragtag group of young males, each of whom seems to be in love with and dependent upon her. In limbo between school and employment, which is hard to come by, the crew explores abandoned construction sites as well as bucolic lakes, talking candidly with each other throughout, and by extension with Swedish director Eborn and the audience. Their lives are not easy, but the youths’ collective generosity towards Eborn’s documentation that makes Transnistra a bounteous privilege to behold. Among observational works of nonfiction, this is a rare and precious object. U.S. premiere
With Michael Andrianaly in person
SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 4:30 P.M.
Dir. Michael Andrianaly. France, Madagascar. 2019, 72 mins. In Malagasy with French and English subtitles. DCP. When his hairdressing salon is destroyed by the municipality, Romeo must leave the high street of Toamasina for a harder-to-find shack in a residential neighborhood. Loyal customers keep him going, but he still dreams of building a permanent salon. Intimately, personally observed and yet somehow effortlessly reflective of issues confronting Madagascar at large, Nofinofy is a marvel of formal economy as well as of patient, thoroughgoing empathy. Over time, Romeo, along with his family, neighbors, and customers, reveal the challenges of living amid corruption, poverty, addiction, and political unrest, with Andrianaly’s film implicitly serving as an illuminating and energizing factor of resistance. New York premiere
Phases of Matter (Maddenin Halleri)
With Deniz Tortum in person
SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 4:45 P.M.
Dir. Deniz Tortum. Turkey. 2020, 71 mins. In Turkish with English subtitles. This immersive depiction of Istanbul's venerable Cerrahpaşa Hospital, where the filmmaker himself was born and where his father has long worked as a doctor, passes coolly through its darkened corridors from the physical spaces of morgue, operating and observation rooms to the virtual spaces of vital-signs monitors and X-ray machines. With a formal sense of camera movement that simultaneously embraces the unplanned and unexpected, Tortum crafts a vision pitched between the eerily posthuman and the urgently humanist. North American premiere
Stories from the Chestnut Woods
With Gregor Božič in person
SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 6:30 P.M.
Dir. Gregor Božič. Italy, Slovenia, Germany. 2019, 81 mins. In Slovene and Italian with English subtitles. DCP. With Massimo De Francovich, Ivana Roscic. Set amid the forests along the Yugoslav-Italian border in the years after World War II, and timelessly shot on gloriously vivid Super 16mm and 35mm film, Stories from the Chestnut Woods emerges from all manner of in-betweens. Unfolding as a fable but historically located in Slavia-Veneta during the post-war confusion of redrawn borders and newly emergent nations, the film follows Mario (Massimo De Francovich), a stubborn old carpenter whose self-preoccupations blind him from his wife's rapid descent into illness. He ruefully begins to turn his attention to Marta (Ivana Roscic), a woman who has been left to tend to her family’s chestnut groves after her husband’s departure. The two try to take stock of the past while contemplating a deeply uncertain future, caught in an environment that suddenly seems as elusive as a dream. U.S. premiere
Four Stories: New Nonfiction Shorts
With Yaara Sumeruk, Carmine Grimaldi, and Derek Howard in person
SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 7:00 P.M.
These four formidable shorts speak to the durability and elasticity of the documentary form, traversing, and complicating, the distance between the personal and the ethnographic, the gestural and the observational, and finally the particular and the general. Running time: 68 mins.
Dir. Derek Howard. Kenya, Canada. 2019, 6 mins. This richly sensory film renders each stage of a honey harvest by three Maasai men with hypnotic concentration. New York premiere
If We Say That We Are Friends
Dir. Yaara Sumeruk. United States, South Africa. 2019, 17 mins. In English and Xhosa with English subtitles. In Capetown, the Dine with Khayelitsha supper club invites suburban white Capetonians to break bread with black Capetonians in the townships. Scrutinizing the frank encounters that result, Sumeruk’s film reconnects with the simultaneously curious, confrontational, and optimistic spirit of cinéma vérité. New York premiere
When Two or Three
Dir. Carmine Grimaldi. United States. 2019, 22 mins. Bagdad, Arizona: Norman and Kay are the last members of their church; nearby, men extract copper from the mountains and throw dust in the sky; they search for god in a scarred landscape. New York premiere
Aquí y allá
Dir. Lina Rodriguez. Canada, Colombia. 2019, 22 mins. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Weaving together 16mm footage, mini-DV tapes, and personal photos to construct a patchworked map of impressions of time spent with her family in Chipaque, Colombia, Rodriguez fashions a sensory reverie that deliberately confounds logical remembrance. U.S. premiere
With Bas Devos in person
SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 8:30 P.M.
Dir. Bas Devos. Belgium. 2019, 85 mins. In French with English subtitles. DCP. With Saadia Bentaïeb.
After a long day at work, 58-year-old Khadija falls asleep on the last subway train. When she wakes up at the end of the line, she has no choice but to make her way back to her home in Brussels on foot. On her nocturnal journey she finds herself compelled to ask for help, as well as to look out for other inhabitants of the night. The latest from award-winning director Bas Devos is an evocative and compassionate tale comprised of encounters that invariably take us to unexpected places. Absorbently captured in lowlight on 16mm, Ghost Tropic flows forward over a single night but lingers long afterwards. The film premiered at the 2019 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. A Cinema Guild release. New York premiere
In These Times: Experimental Shorts
With Roger Beebe and Talena Sanders in person
SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 8:30 P.M.
An exploration of landscapes, cityscapes, bodies, technology, sexuality, feminism, and anti-capitalist themes in search of meaning, connection, the self, resolve, and greater ideals. The program of shorts concludes with a projector performance by Roger Beebe paying tribute to the filmmaker Norman McLaren. Following the performance and discussion, Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby, of Duke and Battersby, will screen a work-in-progress of their most recent film.
We Carry With Us Our Mother
Dir. Olivia Ciummo. United States. 2019, 5 mins. Planetary events and blood red landscapes blend with ethereal sounds as text leaves clues about difficulties with the mind and body. New York premiere.
Garden City Beautiful
Dir. Ben Balcolm. United States. 2019, 12 mins. One sunny afternoon in the Midwest, suspended in a time between, two commuters daydream about a life lived otherwise. New York City premiere.
Dir. Mike Holbloom. United States. 2020, 5 mins. In a series of simple frames, the often misunderstood practice of Zen takes shape as basketball bliss. Now in retirement, the greatest defensive player of the amateur leagues continues to practice on a remote island, far from the madding crowds. His techniques and dedication undergo continual refinement, revealed here in this startling exposé. North American premiere.
Dir. Talena Sanders. United States. 2019, 5 mins. Eastern State brings a found archive of decades of footage documenting the lives of the patients and employees of one of the oldest mental health institutions in the United States into dialogue with Barbara Loden's 1970 film Wanda. Through digital video corruption, VHS artifacting, stroboscopic effects, direct animation, and overlays, this collage film considers the fidelity of nonfiction media to represent lived experiences of isolation. New York premiere.
Standing Forward Full
Dir. Alee Peoples. United States. 2020, 6 mins. A helter skelter is an amusement ride with a spiral slide built around a tower. Like this film, an exorcism attempt of an unrequited desire, itʼs either moving too fast or at a complete standstill. Disorienting but exciting. New York premiere.
Dir. Jesse McLean. United States. 2019, 8 mins. The language and imagery related to celebrity perfumes (both descriptive and visual) are a starting point to think about consumer desires and the corruptness of branding. “Give us your songs, your smells, and we will give you everything.” The rich get richer, everyone smells poorer. New York premiere.
Dir. Ariel Teal. United States. 2018, 8 mins. Embodying a body after trauma. Blowjobs, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and memory are interwoven in an attempt to process and find bodily autonomy. Content warning: The film contains text dealing with sexual trauma. New York premiere.
LIVE PERFORMANCE: Lineage (for Norman McLaren)
Dir. Roger Beebe. USA. 2019. 15 mins. 16mm projector performance. Lineage is a loop-based “orchestral” film performance for four 16mm projectors. Using as a point of departure Norman McLaren’s abstract animations in Lines Horizontal as well as reworked footage from two documentary portraits of McLaren in his prime and in his later life, the film explores the ways in which abstract marks made in a variety of ways—laser printing and etching, contact printing and hand-processing—result in strange and surprising sounds. New York premiere.
WORK-IN-PROGRESS: Civil Twilight at the Vernal Equinox
Dirs. Emily Vey Duke, Cooper Battersby. Canada.
SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 1:00 P.M.
Dir. James Benning. United States. 2020, 84 mins. DCP. If landscape is a function of time as James Benning has held throughout his career, then this serene study of the parking lot, stairwell and corridors, and rear loading dock of the CalArts building where Benning has worked for 33 years comprises more than the sum of its 24 three-and-a-half-minute-long shots, divided sequentially into 8 exteriors, 8 interiors, and 8 exteriors again. Recorded in a single day, the suggested rhythm of the filmmaker’s own quotidian life over decades merges dreamily with the real-time rhythms of this institutional space, where sometimes the music of Bob Dylan and Linda Ronstadt is overheard. “Filmed at California Institute of the Arts on July 4, 2019 where I have worked since 1987. Maggie's Farm is a portrait of a place I know quite well.”—James Benning. North American premiere.
Preceded by The Harvesters
SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 1:30 P.M.
Dir. Tamar Shavgulidze. Georgia. 2019, 71 mins. In Georgian with English subtitles. With Nino Kasradze, Ketevan Gegeshidze, Ekaterine Kalatozishvili, Nina Mazodier, Mariam Iremashvili.
More than three decades after leaving, Irina (Nino Kasradze) returns to the outskirts of Tbilisi, to the summer house of her youth, as well as to the person who has lingered heavily in her memory. Irina and Nana (Ketevan Gegeshidze) were once inseparable, sharing a bond beyond friendship that raised eyebrows in their small community. During the years since, Nana remained, married, and raised two children, including a now-grown daughter also named Irina (Ekaterine Kalatozishvili). Back in the yard where they spent their teenage years, the air is dense with the unspoken and the unrequited, their past selves enfolded into the reality of who they have become and might yet be. Georgian director Tamar Shavgulidze’s second feature is a marvel of economy, allowing import to develop over time and on her actors faces, before confidently employing an ingenious formal gambit to sensitively gesture toward the inexpressible. U.S. premiere
Preceded by The Harvesters (Dir. Derek Howard. Kenya, Canada. 2019, 5 mins.)
Don’t Touch Me (Noli mi tangere)
SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 3:15 P.M.
Dir. Christophe Bisson. France. 2019, 80 mins. In French with English subtitles. In his spellbinding body of work, Christophe Bisson has forged a cinema of empathy, closely filming the lives of marginalized people with unobtrusive artistry. In the masterfully edited Noli mi tangere, he creates a tapestry out of filmed portraits of men and women who are social outsiders. “Playing the piano, caressing photographs, squeezing pieces of stale bread before feeding them to the ducks, drawing a skewed map of Paris like a psycho-geographer haunted by monuments, tracing the route of a piece of one’s life over a map of Italy, writing a letter to one’s sister to reassure her… Such are the paradoxes of touch and distance: It is by filming hands and gestures as closely as he can that Bisson, without extorting any secret, gains access to silent or sometimes whispered pains. Hands keep touching again and again, to keep in contact with existence, to stay alive in spite of everything.” (FID Marseille) North American premiere
The Viewing Booth
With Ra'anan Alexandrowicz in person
SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 3:30 P.M.
Dir. Ra'anan Alexandrowicz. United States, Israel. 2020, 73 mins. DCP. What are we actually seeing when we look at images? To what degree do we believe our eyes, and what extra-sensorial factors define our doubts and investments in what is visible? Minimalist in approach yet far-reaching in its application and consequence, The Viewing Booth triangulates an on-screen director, an on-screen viewer, and the viewer in the audience, all reckoning with disputed images. In a lab-like editing suite, director Ra'anan Alexandrowicz invites a series of viewers to watch and comment upon videos portraying life in the occupied West Bank—some generated by Palestinian citizens, others by the Israeli government—before fixing on Maya, a young Jewish American woman whose responses prove compelling, thoughtful, varied, and disconcerting enough to warrant a repeat visit. Throughout, Alexandrowicz walks a razor-thin line of instigation and openness to his own process, allowing viewers of The Viewing Booth to wrestle and identify with the issues that surface, echoing with a worldwide media crisis in which measures of truth have been utterly destabilized. New York premiere
A Beautiful Summer (Le bel été)
SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 5:30 P.M.
Dir. Pierre Creton. France. 2019, 81 mins. In French with English subtitles. With Gaston Ouedraogo, Sophie Lebel, Yves Edouard, Sébastien Frère, Mohamed Samoura, Amed Kromah, Mathieu Amalric.
Pierre Creton lives and works in a lush farmhouse near the ocean in Normandy. While his films are suffused with the verdant beauty and gentle rhythms of the place, they are also remarkably unpredictable hybrids, mixing fiction and observation in unique ways. In A Beautiful Summer, two African migrants who wash up on the shore are invited into the home of Simon and Robert. Other people drift in and out of the story, including the pig from Creton’s Va! Toto (First Look 2018) and Mathieu Amalric as a motorcycle repairman. The film feels at once like an escape—from conventional cinema and from the turmoil of our media-saturated world—but also a timely and quietly urgent reflection on the place of refugees. North American premiere.
SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 5:45 P.M.
Dir. Pia Hellenthal. Germany. 2019, 84 mins. DCP. In German, English, and Italian with English subtitles. Eva Collé is a woman who lives in public. A writer, a model, a queer activist, a sex worker, a social media personality—all of these apply to the Italian-born Eva. And though all are represented in the film, director Pia Hellenthal takes care to never define Eva, whose notoriety is dispersed among various social media platforms and avatars and purposely avoids being pigeonholed into a fixed identity. It makes for a distinctly voracious exploration of a person, in which our protagonist is not revealed over time—no core personality is revealed after peeling back layers but rather new aspects and identities keep getting added, right until the end. The result is nimble and inventive, but also densely cumulative, incorporating sequences as varied as self-contained musical montages, intimate sexual encounters, and observational portraiture, all of it seemingly, and crucially, conspiratorial between filmmaker and star. Winner of a Special Mention at the 2019 CPH:DOX Awards and nominated for a 2020 Cinema Eye Honor for Outstanding Achievement in a Debut Feature Film. New York Premiere
First Look is about discovery, about illuminating the artistic process, inviting audiences to participate in an ongoing dialogue about new cinematic possibilities. This year, in addition to appearing in person at screenings, filmmakers will participate in a range of master classes, workshops, and performances throughout the Museum. These programs will be announced later this week.
First Look Sponsors:
The Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism; The Harriman Institute at Columbia University; The BFA Film Department, School of Visual Arts; The Polish Cultural Institute New York; Captain Lawrence Brewery; Bridge Lane Wine; Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program; The Collective Paper Factory.
Press contact: Tomoko Kawamoto, firstname.lastname@example.org or 718 777 6830.
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