The American Essentials festival will return to Brisbane this May, celebrating the latest indie gems and a slew of newly restored American classics.

American Essentials’ program of 31 films spans everything from thriller to melodrama, comedy to body horror, and symphonic documentary to visual art.

Artistic director Richard Sowada says the program reflects the impressive range of independent cinema produced in the the US.

“The 2017 American Essentials program showcases the vitality and incredible talent of some of the most exciting young directors today, such as Kentucker Audley & Albert Birney (Sylvio), Kogonada (Columbus) and Xander Robin (Are We Not Cats),” Sowada says.

“These directors strive to present new perspectives and approaches, while honouring the rich traditions of American storytelling.

“These are bold works by filmmakers who are unquestionably voices we’ll hear well into the future — films that take no prisoners in their analysis of the current political environment, and films that dazzle in their capacity to entertain audiences of all shapes, sizes, tastes and ages.”

The program will open with 20th Century Women, Oscar-nominated director Mike Mills’ acclaimed tale of a mother doing her best to bring up a teenage son, starring Annette Bening and Greta Gerwig.

Other highlights of the narrative feature program include Are We Not Cats, a celebration of romantic magical realism; wilderness drama Walking Out; lean and mean thriller Detour; and Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut, an adaptation of Philip Roth’s sprawling American Pastoral.

The documentary line-up is headlined by Josh Greenbaum’s Becoming Bond, a laugh-out-loud docu-drama about Australia’s one-and-done James Bond, George Lazenby; as well as Kevin Ford, Smriti Keshari and Eric Schlosser’s symphonic political documentary The Bomb, composed of footage spanning the early days of atomic bomb development to deep space exploration, set to a thundering score from electronic outfit The Acid.

The documentary stream also includes G-Funk, Karam Gill’s star-studded retrospective on West Coast hip hop, featuring interviews with Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Warren G, Ice Cube and the late Nate Dogg; You Never Had It: An Evening With Bukowski, made up of previously lost tapes of writer Charles Bukowski; and David Lynch: The Art Life, an exploration of the legendary director’s creative process by Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivia Neergaard-Holm.

David Lynch

Image: David Lynch: The Art Life

The seven retrospective tiles featured in the Masters and Masterpieces section include three movies celebrating their 40th anniversary — Andy Warhol’s Bad, David Lynch’s Eraserhead and a new 4K restoration of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall — as well as Postcards From The Edge, the 1990 adaptation of the late Carrie Fisher’s autobiography detailing her struggles with drugs and alcohol in Hollywood, starring Meryl Streep.

Pairing the old with the new, the festival will also present two double bills — You Never Had It: An Evening With Bubowski will be paired with a 30th anniversary screening of Barfly; and David Lynch: The Art Life will screen with the restoration of Lynch’s Eraserhead.

The American Essentials film festival will screen at Palace Centro (39 James Street, Fortitude Valley) from Wednesday 17 May to Sunday 28 May. Tickets will go on sale at americanessentials.com.au this Thursday 12 April.