Film festivals in New York are like multiple roommates. In a studio apartment. Living on top of each other.
Between the partnerships (BAM CineFEST and Rooftop Films, Northside Film Festival and Animation Block Party), shared venues (Indiescreen) and overlapping schedules, it may be that only the most ardent cinephile can handle it.
Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Indiwire, Eugene Hernandez, believes that local film festivals are essential to getting independent films seen by wider audiences. Some of the films featured in these festivals have the low-budget, inward-focused feel of the films dubbed mumblecore, which critics alternately laud and revile. Hernandez sees mumblecore as the beginning of a movement that might be known in the future by a different name, but ultimately speaks to and of a specific generation.
If you're game, here's a rundown and some highlights of the festivals:
Brooklyn International Film Festival
The 13th annual festival includes 100 films competing for prizes totaling $50,000 and the holy grail for independent filmmakers at this point -- an audience. Experimental films, animation and shorts are in the mix, along with straight-up features.
If there's any audience that understands the value of space to live in, it's New Yorkers. Our House is a documentary by Greg King and David Teague about an unlikely community of misfit squatters and the space they share.
If you can get beyond the ironic moustaches and lackadaisical artsiness, Gabi on the Roof in July is the kind of film that captures the aesthetics and values of a moment. We're not sure what history books will say about hipsters just yet, but this film looks like it could go in the time capsule.
Northside Film Fest
Paired with gallery exhibits and concerts, this is the first year that Northside is showing films. The draw here is that tickets to the entire festival (music and art included) are $50, which is low as far as festivals are concerned, and then there are x-factors like a controversial student film directed by James Franco featuring naked basketball and a lot of heavy breathing (showing June 26). It's $10 to attend individual films, with Q & A sessions following some selections.
The Imperialists Are Still Alive (as well as the film's director, Zaina Durra) is steeped in the 1970's revolutions in the Middle East - maybe that's why the 16mm film and disco sountrack have a nostalgic feel. The film's main character, Asya, navigates a world where identity, lifestyle and history are completely tangled up. You know, like most of us.
Why yes, that pink rubber eraser is God and mom and dad do have bagels for faces. The Back Brace, by Andy and Carolyn London is one of 20 animated films showing at Northside Film Festival made to remind audiences that making a film with plain old human actors is just too easy.
In its second year, BAM's film festival will have 20 new feature films, two programs of shorts and a rooftop film, among other events. In typical BAM style, the festival pulls big names in their off-brand roles catering to an audience that doesn't need the red carpets (or red tape) of the Tribeca or New York Film Festivals.
With Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill and John C. Reily, Cyrus, has the heartfelt and homespun feel that may end up being what we remember about romantic comedies of that awkwardly hard-to-reference decade that ended in January. Somebody laced Hollywood's cosmo with YouTube, independent Kool-Aid, and it seems audiences are the better for it.
And in symbiosis with your existential hipster discontent, BAM's partnership with Rooftop Films is showing Tiny Furniture, winner of SXSW's Jury Prize. Don't overlook it just because the main character marches around in cut-offs with a messy rat's nest on her head - it seems the story of young people with useless college degrees trying to figure out what to do with their lives is going to be relevant for a long time.