New York Film Festival: 12 Movies You Must See

PHOTO: Gael Garcia Bernal in NO.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics/NYFF

One of my favorite film festivals kicks off today with Ang Lee's Life of Pi in 3D and this year, there's more than one reason to be excited. The New York Film Festival celebrates 50 years and bids farewell to its Selection Committee Chair (and Film Society of Lincoln Center Program Director) Richard Peña, who is retiring at the end of the year.

The die-hard New Yorker (of Spanish and Puerto Rican descent) has been at the helm of NYFF for the last 25 years, and knows more about world cinema than any of us will in three lifetimes. It was through him that many New Yorkers were introduced to Pedro Almodovar's body of work when, in his inaugural NYFF in 1988, Peña opened with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. It was the first of many films the iconic Spanish director would bring to the festival. Check back in with us next week for our interview with Peña, where he looks back on his tenure and schools us on the real Latin American cinema classics. You'll be surprised to learn he enjoys some commercial blockbusters, too!

Peña, who will continue to teach film at Columbia University, will be feted with a gala on Oct. 10 at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. Nicole Kidman, who stars in Lee Daniels' The Paperboy, will be honored with her own gala on Oct. 3.

Peña's final line-up is full of gems, eight of which have been submitted to the Oscars for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category! Here are some I'm really excited to see and you should too.

The fest runs from Sept. 28 through Oct. 14.

Amour (Austria)

The winner of the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival is a portrait of a couple adapting to old age.

Barbara (Germany)

Set in 1980, this Cold War-thriller centers on a doctor secretly trying to flee East Germany and how it affects her personal and professional relationships.

Caesar Must Die (Italy)

As a huge fan of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, I'm extra hyped about this story of convicts putting on a production of the classic play, from the directing duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani.

Fill The Void (Israel)

A woman's point of view of Tel Aviv's ultra-orthodox Hassidic community from the inside.

Here and There (Mexico)

The story of a man who returns to his small rural village in Guerrero, Mexico, after years of working in the U.S. Life is good, but the temptation to come back remains.

Life of Pi (U.S.)

The fest kicks off with what people are calling Ang Lee's "visual feast," based on the beloved book. Watch the livestream of the panel discussion with Lee and author Yann Martel, which happened earlier today and was moderated by Peña. Ah, the wonders of technology!

Night Across The Street (Chile)

You may recall the sad news of prolific Chilean director Raul Ruiz's passing in August 2011. Lucky for us, he left this final masterpiece.

NO (Chile)

Chile's official submission for Best Foreign Film at the 2013 Oscars stars Gael Garcia Bernal as a brilliant ad exec who heads up a campaign to end Augusto Pinochet's rule in 1988. Sony Pictures Classics will screen it in US theaters in February 2013.

Not Fade Away (U.S.)

Suburban kids in 1960s New Jersey try to start a rock band and James Gandolfini as dad doesn't approve, in Sopranos creator David Chase's first feature film.

Passion (U.S.)

Noomi Rapace (who's part Spanish and is the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) is one of the most exciting young actresses of our generation. She's deliciously vengeful here as Rachel McAdams's assistant, who won't put up with her ideas being stolen. And yes, they make out. It's Brian de Palma, what do you expect?

The Dead Man and Being Happy (Spain/Argentina)

It's being described as a "screwball road movie that Borges would've loved." I'm in!

The Paperboy (U.S.)

Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, and John Cusack star in this intricate tale of social injustice that lands an innocent man on death row, based on Pete Dexter's novel. A grown-up Zac Efron is reason enough to see it.

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