The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced this morning the 25 films for the Main Slate of the 54th New York Film Festival, which is set to run from September 30 – October 16.

It was announced less than a month ago that Ava DuVernay’s documentary “The 13th” will be the festival’s Opening Night selection this year, making its world premiere at Alice Tully Hall.

“The 13th” is the first-ever nonfiction work to open the festival, and will debut on Netflix and open in a limited theatrical run on October 7.

Joining “The 13th” will be Barry Jenkins’ eagerly-anticipated “Medicine for Melancholy” follow-up,”Moonlight” – a film that’s on my 2017 list of Oscar potentials. A New York Film Festival screening (one of the most prestigious festivals, where past awards season fare screened) certainly helps thrust the film into the conversation.

Barry Jenkins
Barry Jenkins

Produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B, indie distributor A24 (“Ex Machina”) and Adele Romanski, “Moonlight” features a solid cast of actors including Naomie Harris, Andre Holland and Mahershala Ali. The trio are joined by relative newcomers Alex R. Hibbert and Jaden Piner, who were cast after an extensive casting call in the Miami area, where the film is set.

Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes and Jharrel Jerome round out the cast, with Janelle Monae also attached, her big screen debut in the film (along with Ted Melfi’s upcoming “Hidden Figures”).

The film, based on the play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by award-winning playwright Tarell McCraney, is a triptych drama about black queer youth, following Miami kids as they navigate the temptations of the drug trade and their burgeoning sexuality.

Here’s the festival’s write-up: “Barry Jenkins more than fulfills the promise of his 2008 romantic two-hander ‘Medicine for Melancholy’ in this three-part narrative spanning the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of a gay African-American man who survives Miami’s drug-plagued inner city, finding love in unexpected places and the possibility of change within himself. ‘Moonlight’ offers a powerful sense of place and a wealth of unpredictable characters, featuring a fantastic ensemble cast including André Holland, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali—delivering performances filled with inner conflict and aching desires that cut straight to the heart.”

Everything about this film, both in front of and behind the camera, suggests that it’ll be hard to ignore during awards season. I fully expected a late 2016 film festival premiere, and it appears this will be it! I’ll certainly be there, since it’s right in my backyard!