Founded in New York City in 1988 by film lovers Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo, Zeitgeist Films would quickly distinguish itself as a distribution company that would both take big risks in acquisitions and provide hands-on care in its release rollout. Now in its 35th year, and with five Academy Award-nominated films, including one winner, to their name, Zeitgeist is well-established as an incubator of emerging talents (Todd Haynes, Guy Maddin, Laura Poitras, and Olivier Assayas) and standard-bearer of curatorial curiosity and excellence—a tradition we salute in this anniversary celebration that reviews the highlights of a remarkable collection of films.
Zeitgeist Films co-founders Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo discuss their retrospective at Metrograph.
A queasily comic meditation on sex and death, in which two zoologist widowers become obsessed with decomposition, experimenting on animals and crafting time-lapse films of decaying flesh.
A nonfiction group portrait of a family of nine who find themselves evicted from their home in the wild and forced to adapt to life in the capital.
Bachwal’s visually ravishing investigation into just what happens when you get hit by lightning.
A revealing examination of the Swedish painter and mystic Hilma af Klint.
A vibrant work of courage and clarity in which voices read a poetic text by Jarman—who was dying of AIDS, and would be gone within a year— over an unceasing, monochromatic blue frame.
Egoyan’s second film tells the story of one man’s dissolution and reunion through a variety of video images
Rainer’s landmark second feature tells the story of a woman whose sexual dissatisfaction masks an enormous anger.
Kudlacek’s film provides a penetrating insight into the mind of its legendary subject, artist and filmmaker Maya Deren.
Illuminated by a lead performance from critic Annette Michelson, Rainer’s revelatory fourth feature was inspired by her experiences living in West Berlin in the late ’70s.
Lixin Fan’s moving documentary traces the mass phenomenon that is the annual homecoming journeys of Chinese migrant workers to celebrate Lunar New Year.
An intimate portrait of the peripatetic American writer Paul Bowles, shot in New York and his adopted home of Tangier.
Rainer’s debut feature film announced her shift from the world of dance towards avant-garde cinema, and what would become a career-long interest in “women’s stories” and the teasing machinations of melodrama.
Sculptor Louise Bourgeois often turns cryptic in interviews, but thanks to Wallach’s patient, observant approach to her sometimes spiky subject, Bourgeois reveals much.
Rainer’s last feature is also one of her most personal, inspired by the lows and highs of a breast cancer diagnosis in the early 1990s, and the surprise of a burgeoning lesbian relationship.
A lyric documentary about the nature of debut, inspired by Margaret Atwood’s vital nonfiction book Payback.
A landmark of New Queer Cinema, Todd Haynes’s first feature is a trio of intercut stories inspired by the patron saint of all queer outlaw art, Jean Genet.
A delightfully anarchic autobiographical meta-film exploring the power dynamics underpinning experience, memory, and the manner in which women’s stories are told.
A sensitive portrait of an African American left-wing activist who was also a tireless media watchdog.
Rothemund’s riveting historical drama features Julia Jentsch in an award-winning performance as the most member of anti-Nazi German student group the White Rose.
Working-class family man Ricky is struggling with debt after the 2008 financial crisis in Ken Loach’s deeply empathetic drama exploring the dark side of the gig economy.
A coruscating kaleidoscope tangled relationships, the confusion of life, and its filmed reflection.
Greenaway’s breakthrough, a 17th-century murder mystery in which an aristocratic wife commissions a young artist to sketch her husband’s seemingly idyllic property while he is away.