‘Smoke’ opens MOMA fest

One of 13 pix by first-time feature helmers

NEW YORK — Native American odyssey “Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals” will open the 27th edition of the New Directors/New Films series, which runs March 27-April 12 at Gotham’s Museum of Modern Art.

Formerly known as “Smoke Signals,” the film nabbed the dramatic filmmakers’ trophy and the audience award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival.

Based on Alexie’s book “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” “Smoke Signals” marks the dramatic feature debut of 28-year-old Chris Eyre, a Cheyenne/Arapaho from Oregon and a graduate of NYU’s film school.

A Miramax Films release, “Smoke Signals” is one of 13 films in the New Directors program that are first dramatic features. A total of 32 pics from 16 countries will unspool in the series, which is jointly presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MOMA’s department of film and video.

The U.S. dominates the series with six features, followed by France with five entries and Britain with four.

Also opening the New Directors/New Films program March 27 is Manuel Poirier’s “Western,” which won the 1997 jury prize at the Cannes film festival. The French-language film follows two misfits — a Spaniard and a Russian — on the road in western France.

Lions Gate’s “Buffalo 66,” which was co-written, directed by and stars Vincent Gallo, will unspool at New Directors. Set against the gritty backdrop of Buffalo, N.Y., it is the story of a prodigal son who kidnaps a tap dancer (Christina Ricci) and forces her to pretend that she is his wife in order to impress his parents.

For information about the New Directors/New Films series, call (212) 708-9500.

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