Drive-In Theaters Go From Nostalgic to Necessary for This Year’s New York Film Festival


As film festivals around the world decide how to proceed in this time of social distancing, Film at Lincoln Center has announced their plans for New York Film Festival 58 (NYFF58). In a joint statement with Toronto International Film Festival, Venice Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival, these global cinematic events have committed to collaboration in order to bring film to a world in quarantine. 

Press screening for the event will be held in mid-September. The festival will take place via drive-ins in Brooklyn and Queens as well as online. All tickets will be sold online. All in-person events will have extensive health precautions and social distancing procedures in place. 

So far, the New York Film Festival (NYFF) has announced these three films as focal points of this year’s festival: Steve McQueen’s “Lovers Rock,” Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland,” and Azazel Jacob’s “French Exit.” On Aug. 13, Film at Lincoln Center posted the full roster of the main slate for the event. 

Via Twitter, the New York Film Festival (@theNYFF) announced on Aug. 3 that Film at Lincoln Center is partnering with Rooftop Films, Queens Drive-In, Museum of Moving Image, The New York Hall of Science, New York City Economic Development Corporation and The Brooklyn Army Terminal to present this years’ films with the boroughs of New York by way of drive-in theatres. Similarly, the Telluride Film Festival will be hosting a drive-in screening in Los Angeles.

Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen’s film “Lover’s Rock” is set to premiere this year’s NYFF scheduled from Sept. 25 – Oct. 11. As the first part of a four-part anthology titled “Small Axe,” “Lover’s Rock,” starring Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn and Micheal Ward, “tells the fictional story of young love and music at a blues party in the early 1980s,” writes Film at Lincoln Center. “Mangrove” and “Red, White and Blue” of the “Small Axe” anthology will also premiere at the festival. 

Centering the festival, Zhao’s “Nomadland,” based on Jessica Bruder’s 2017 work of nonfiction, follows Fern, played by Frances McDormand, as she sets off on a journey in a repurposed van. Along with McDormand, the cast of “Nomadland” is rife with “nonactors” and real-life nomads. 

Closing the festival is Jacobs’ adaptation of Patrick deWitt’s eponymous bestselling novel. Starring Michael Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges, as well as their feline friend voiced by Tracy Letts, this absurd film follows a New York City socialite, Frances Price, who faces fiscal collapse and flees to Paris with her son, Malcolm, and their cat, Small Frank. 

It is inspiring that Film at Lincoln Center’s dedication to celebrating the achievements of up-and-coming cinematographers holds true even through a global pandemic. Thanks to their great team, the people of NYC will have the opportunity to enjoy films in an old, but new way. The solidarity that the various film festivals around the world have shown insights hope for a more communal future for the arts.